The Silver Christopher

This one falls under the category of the right man in the right place:

A War to Be Proud Of,” Christopher Hitchens, Weekly Standard, September 5/September 12, 2005

Onward Christian Soldiers! Onward Enemies of Islamo-Fascism, Talibanism and Baathism! World-Historical Smiters of Expansionist, Theocratic, Totalitarian Ideologies Everywhere!

Letters to the Weekly Standard

For untold millennia, Christopher Hitchens was the faithful Herald of the Tyrant- and Genocide-appeasing Trotskyist Left. His humanity lost to him. His past, his very soul imprisoned behind mental barriers erected by his amoral Master. Then, on an isolated little planet known as Earth, populated by primitives, it all changed. There, the conflict between Good and Evil stirred his slumbering soul. His humanity and morality awakened. He could no longer serve his amoral Master in the intergalactic Appeasement and Genocide that had been his duty until then. After many years and endless attempts, he escaped. The barrier broken, he was free to soar the stars once more. The Silver Christopher was born. Now, exiled by himself to the tiny Earth, he champions the True and the Good and above all Justice to atone for his past crimes against Life.

For more on the Silver Christopher, Past, Present, and Future.

Morality’s Avenging Angels: The New Humanitarian Crusaders,” Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ZNet, August 30, 2005

The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens,” Richard Seymour, MRZine, November 26, 2005

The Silver Christopher,” ZNet, August 31, 2005

Postscript (September 2, 2005): At his best, Christopher Hitchens relies obsessively on a small number of droopy and disheveled mantra. Among the most obsessive, tired, and tiring (though not at the Weekly Standard or the Project For A New American Century, please note well) is his resolute defense of American state-violence according to a crusader-type rhetoric of smiting Evil which, more graphically and demonically labeled Islamo-Fascism—a phrase for which Hitchens himself apparently deserves the credit of invention—is nothing short of Clash-of-Civilizational. Hence, Hitchens’ own peculiar style of reciting at the outset of his commentary the names Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and Osama bin Laden; of the Rushdie incident, “Greater Serbia,” the allegation that the French are “uniformly hostile to any resistance to any aggression;” and his conviction about the statesmanship shown by Tony Blair as early as the spring of 1999, drawing attention to the “inescapable confrontation that was coming with Iraq,” and by “Bush and Blair’s decision to put an end at last to this intolerable state of affairs”—namely, to pre-invasion Iraq—”not just as a belated vindication of long-ignored U.N. resolutions but as some corrective to the decade of shame and inaction that had just passed in Bosnia and Rwanda.”

Now. Take the following paragraph from Hitchens’ “A War to Be Proud Of“—his 13th paragraph overall:

Childishness is one thing–those of us who grew up on this wonderful Edwardian author were always happy to see the grown-ups and governesses discomfited. But puerility in adults is quite another thing, and considerably less charming. “You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire.” I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra. It takes ten seconds to intone the said mantra. It would take me, on my most eloquent C-SPAN day, at the very least five minutes to say that Abdul Rahman Yasin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center attack in 1993, subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad; that Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam’s senior physicist, was able to lead American soldiers to nuclear centrifuge parts and a blueprint for a complete centrifuge (the crown jewel of nuclear physics) buried on the orders of Qusay Hussein; that Saddam’s agents were in Damascus as late as February 2003, negotiating to purchase missiles off the shelf from North Korea; or that Rolf Ekeus, the great Swedish socialist who founded the inspection process in Iraq after 1991, has told me for the record that he was offered a $2 million bribe in a face-to-face meeting with Tariq Aziz. And these eye-catching examples would by no means exhaust my repertoire, or empty my quiver. Yes, it must be admitted that Bush and Blair made a hash of a good case, largely because they preferred to scare people rather than enlighten them or reason with them. Still, the only real strategy of deception has come from those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem.

1. For years, Abdul Rahman Yasin has been called “The Man Who Got Away” because the FBI questioned him in the immediate aftermath of the February 26, 1993 bombing of the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center, then released him, only for Yasin to be indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Manhattan for a role in the bombing, with the American President eventually placing a $25 million bounty on his capture.

But might Hitchens explain to us what Yasin’s presence inside Iraq at any time after the first World Trade Center bombing (i.e., Hitchens’ line that Yasin “subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad”) add to Hitchens’ or to anybody else’s case in defense of the March, 2003 American invasion of Iraq? To quote the right-wing American journalist Robert Novak (“No Evidence Against Iraq,” Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 15, 2001): “The final rationale for unilateral U.S. military action against Saddam is alleged Iraqi sponsorship of the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center. Intelligence sources told me this connection is hypothetical and certainly not proved. The only credible link is Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was indicted on 20 counts in the 1993 bombing and fled to Baghdad. Saddam’s failure to surrender a fugitive to a country with whom he has very unfriendly relations is hardly surprising.”

But it gets even better than this. In May, 2002, CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes conducted an interview with Yasin in Baghdad itself. (It later aired as “The Man Who Got Away,” June 2, 2002. Also see the accompanying CBS News report, May 31, 2002.)

And do you know where CBS conducted the interview? At a Baghdad prison, where Yasin was in the Iraqi Government’s custody. (Abu Ghraib, I presume?)

Here’s how CBS News’s Lesley Stahl introduced the interview:

[H]ere he is, one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, in prison pajamas under heavy guard. Yasin is actually an American citizen born in Bloomington, Indiana, where his Iraqi father was getting a PhD. But he grew up in Baghdad. So when he fled after the bombing, he was coming home. After a year of freedom, he was arrested by the Iraqi authorities in 1994. He’s never been charged with a crime, but the Iraqi intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat, says he’s been in custody for the past eight years.

And later in the program:

According to the Iraqis, Yasin has lived here in this prison on the outskirts of Baghdad for the last eight years, something we were unable to verify. Iraqi officials say they allowed our interview because they have nothing to hide.

Although I cannot tell you where Abdul Rahman Yasin resides today, I do not believe Christopher Hitchens’ quip that Yasin “sought and found refuge in Baghdad” is credible in the least. Indeed. Abdul Rahman Yasin’s name doesn’t even turn up in (i.e., did not merit mention by) The 9/11 Commission Report (July, 2004). This suggests to me that Yasin has been out of circulation for a very long time. And this despite the fact that the FBI maintains a website on this gentleman as part of its Most Wanted Terrorists list.

However, about one additional point I am quite confident: Passing along garbage no better than this is the most we can expect from Hitchens. Even on his “most eloquent C-SPAN day.”

2. In evidence of his eloquence, Hitchens writes that “Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam’s senior physicist, was able to lead American soldiers to nuclear centrifuge parts and a blueprint for a complete centrifuge (the crown jewel of nuclear physics) buried on the orders of Qusay Hussein.”

I honestly do not know what Hitchens believes he is talking about. Notwithstanding the cover story in the current issue of Mother Jones, either—another exposé about nothing. (Cynically-manipulated fears aside, that is. Packaged as “scoops.”)

When the Iraqi nuclear scientist Mahdi Obeidi surfaced for the international media during the first weeks of the American-led occupation of Iraq (actually, Obeidi had been mentioned in news accounts before the start of the war, as a figure of interest to UNMOVIC – IAEA inspectors due to his role in Iraq’s nuclear ambitions back in the 1980s, and his efforts to acquire gas centrifuges from foreign suppliers), there was little credible about the reports surrounding his activities, and nothing of substance to them, even if they proved 100 percent accurate. The revelations were made jointly at a news conference on June 25, 2003 by Bush Administration officials and the Institute for Science and International Security—the latter very much an arm of the U.S. Government on the questions that fall within realm of interest. “American officials were quite right to stress that the discovery of nuclear-related components and plans buried in an Iraqi scientist’s garden in Baghdad is not a ‘smoking gun’ that proves that Iraq had a nuclear weapon or an active program to develop one,” the New York Times editorialized two days later (“The Nuclear Finds in Iraq,” June 27). “Indeed, it looks more like the opposite, namely evidence that Iraq had abandoned for more than a decade its efforts to build a nuclear weapon but was hoping to start the program again later.”

What we must understand here is that the White House portrayed the Obeidi revelation—which very well may have been apocryphal, staged—but, for the hell of it, let us say that this “Bomb in My Garden”-business was true for the dismantled centrifuge and blueprints—in keeping with the longstanding White House line that the former regime in Baghdad had never abandoned its nuclear weapons program—the reason the war had to be waged. It therefore came as no surprise to anyone who has observed the trajectory of Hitchens’ career over the past 15 years that within days of this “Bomb in My Garden”-event, Hitchens was writing with extreme credulousness in Slate (“Saddahmer Hussein,” July 7, 2003) not only that Obeidi had provided “evidence of a larger and wider design to fool the international community and to wait for a better day to restart Saddam’s nuclear program.” But also that

This breakthrough, which comes quite early in the inspection process and which will not be the only one of its kind, might possibly quiet the idiotic and premature wailings of the “anti-war” side, who have been saying for weeks that the whole indictment of Saddam Hussein was a put-up job.

Of course, another factor worth considering here is the way this Obeidi has lived more or less in the custody of the Americans since (I believe) shortly after the start of the war, now getting close to 30 months ago. Iraq’s “nuclear program could have been reinstituted at the snap of Saddam Hussein’s fingers,” Obeidi has written (“Saddam, the Bomb and Me,” New York Times, Oct. 6, 2004—notice where a copy of this op-ed has been electronically archived). In my eyes, Mahdi Obeidi looks like a graduate of the same old school of American “intelligence” that numbers characters such as “Curve Ball” and Ahmad Chalabi among its alumni. But whereas they graduated in the pre-invasion years, Obeidi is a graduate of the post-invasion years.

Does Christopher Hitchens honestly believe a riposte named Mahdi Obeidi to win the match over the inescapability of the American and the British invasion of Iraq?

(“Blah, blah, pants on fire.”)

Nuke program parts unearthed in Baghdad back yard,” CNN.com, June 26, 2003
Saddahmer Hussein,” Christopher Hitchens, Slate, July 7, 2003
Restating the Case for War,” Christopher Hitchens, Slate, November 5, 2003
Final Offer: Why Iraq’s last-minute peace overture was a sham,” Christopher Hitchens, Slate, November 10, 2003
The Buried Truth: A new book shows that Saddam didn’t have nuclear weapons—yet,” Christopher Hitchens, Slate, October 8, 2004
In Front of Your Nose,” Christopher Hitchens, Slate, October 25, 2004
In the Garden of Armageddon,” Kurt Pitzer, Mother Jones, September/October, 2005 [$$$$$]

3. “Saddam’s agents were in Damascus as late as February 2003,” Hitchens avers, “negotiating to purchase missiles off the shelf from North Korea.”

Aside from the fact that I once again don’t know what particular incident Hitchens has in mind (if any), consider what Hitchens’ point might be. That Iraq, if it were successful in this (alleged) attempt to purchase North Korean ballistic missiles “off the shelf” in Damascus, then would have possessed North Korean ballistic missiles—but still no weapons of mass destruction with which to arm them? Wherever The Duelfer Report – Volume 2 deals with the evidence of Iraqi negotiations with North Korea, it is careful to emphasize (unlike Hitchens) that the Iraq Survey Group has no evidence that any North Korean ballistic missile systems were ever purchased by Iraq from 1991 on. Let alone actually delivered to Iraq. Nevertheless. Committed disinformationists are free to tell tall tales of missile deals gone awry all that they like. In the end, it doesn’t mean a thing. So what, then, is Hitchens’ real point?

Additionally, I wonder from which fragment of which version of which pre-war campaign of disinformation Hitchens lifted this allegation about “Saddam’s agents…in Damascus”? From then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton’s rendevous in February, 2003, with Israeli Government officials such as Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Ephraim Halevy, who (it has been alleged) told Bolton that Damascus was hiding weapons of mass destruction on Baghdad’s behalf? As the Jerusalem Post reported, “Bolton and the Israelis ‘will talk about the Iranian nuclear weapons program’, the senior US official said. ‘A lot of the focus will be thinking about how to deal with weapons-of-mass-destruction proliferation post-Saddam Hussein’. The US plans, with the help of coalition forces, to locate and destroy Saddam’s WMD stockpile rather than turn the function over to an international agency like the UN.” (“U.S. arms official to visit on Mideast WMD probe,” Janine Zacharia, February 4, 2003.) Well. Guess what! The occupying forces didn’t have to locate and destroy any WMD stockpiles, because years of UNSCOM inspections already had accomplished the mission. Remember?

(Quick aside. The chief reason that American and Israeli “intelligence” dragged Damascus into this WMD mix at the time was to extend the American threat of force against Iraq (soon to become a full-scale invasion) to the other members of the “Axis of Evil” (Iran and North Korea)—and to Syria.—Don’t you find it amusing that, even this many months later, Hitchens is still dealing from the same deck of cards? (“Syria now top US target for ‘regime change’,” Toby Harnden, Daily Telegraph, April 8, 2003; “If Syria isn’t next on America’s hit list, it certainly should be,” Stephen Pollard, Daily Telegraph, April 15, 2003; “Bush vetoes Syria war plan,” Julian Borger at al., The Guardian, April 15, 2003; “Syria Fears the Unknown: What’s Behind U.S. Threats,” Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, April 15, 2003; “Senior U.S. Official to Level Weapons Charges Against Syria,” Judith Miller, New York Times, September 16, 2003; “For the Iraqis, a Missile Deal That Went Sour,” David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, New York Times, December 1, 2003; “President Imposes Sanctions On Syria,” Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, May 12, 2004.))

Notice, moreover, that where I wrote that Bolton flew to Israel to be briefed by Israeli Government officials about what they knew, I just as truthfully could have written that it was agents of the U.S. Government who first briefed the Israelis about this—a “Curveball”-like figure, or a Chalabi, or an Allawi—with the Israelis, in turn, briefing Bolton, thus making the loop complete. Such was the viciously circular nature of pre-war “intelligence” on Iraq. But all of it pointed in one direction, and one only: The very same direction in which Hitchens’ loopy repertoire still points, sad to say, now some two-and-one-half years after the invasion.

(Another “eloquent C-SPAN day” it won’t be.)

Report on the Committee of Enquiry into the Intelligence System in Light of the War in Iraq, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, March, 2004 (a.k.a., Steinitz Report)
Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, Charles Duelfer et al., Iraq Survey Group, September 30, 2004

Israeli Intelligence and the War with Iraq,” ZNet, June 16, 2004

4. Last but not least: “Rolf Ekeus, the great Swedish socialist who founded the inspection process in Iraq after 1991, has told me for the record that he was offered a $2 million bribe in a face-to-face meeting with Tariq Aziz.”

I do not recall having come across this claim before. Therefore, we very well may owe this revelation to Hitchens. If it is false, surely Ekeus will make an effort to correct the record. But if it is true, what can it possibly provide beside the material for a future trivia question?

Besides, what might the offer of a $2 million or a $20 million bribe to the former head of UNSCOM from its inception until the middle of 1997 mean? That, when combined with what Hitchens alleges about Abdul Rahman Yasin, Mahdi Obeidi, and “Saddam’s agents…in Damascus,” a sizeable bribe by Iraq’s former Deputy Prime Minister shows us that Hitchens is right, after all?

Not only that Bush and Blair’s decision to put an end to the Iraqi regime should be hailed. And that this was a “war to be proud of.”

But also that “coexistence with aggressive regimes or expansionist, theocratic, and totalitarian ideologies is not in fact possible”? Indeed, “is not desirable, either”?

(“Well, ha ha ha, and yah, boo.”)

Postscript (November 27): For a superb commentary on the “genocidal imagination” of the late Christopher Hitchens:

Yet it is not just that Hitchens has slyly detached himself from those aspects of reality that he cannot bring himself to accept. It is not merely that he has moved so far to the right that he has internalized the virtues of aggressive American militarism and rapacious American capitalism. Or that he has become a calumniator, a ridiculous liar, and a back-stabber. It is not even the unpleasant confluence of the way in which his literary flair has declined in proportion to his political nous. On the strength of the evidence, his left-wing convictions weren’t all that invulnerable from the start, while he has never been terribly shy of supporting gunboat diplomacy. This is not a noble mind overthrown, although there may have been some kind of regime change post-9/11. What is most alarming is that Hitchens has a new audience: he purveys his deranged fantasies about killing more and more evil-doers for the mass ranks of Republican twenty-somethings. Malodorous macho assholes who nevertheless like to think that their myopic nationalism and sociopathy has something to do with liberation and freedom — or just, indeed, something. This is his audience today — a collection of barely post-pubescent neophytic imperialists, and bumpkin billionaires who read the Weekly Standard. The sort of degraded, hallucinatory nonsense that this poetaster of genocide exudes these days ought not to be exposed to daylight, never mind offered up as intellectual sustenance for a class of powerful men. Hitchens can’t change, of course, and he will just have to live with the thought of what a hideous figure he has become. Or, more probably, die with it, perhaps suffocating on the impacted faecal matter that is perpetually welling up inside him. Let’s just say that when that tumescent cadaver finally explodes, the left should be grateful to think of what new friends he will surprise.

—- “The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens,” Richard Seymour, MRZine, November 26, 2005

My only caveat is that Hitchens’ demise occurred long ago—and much longer ago, in fact, than it appears that anyone cares to admit. For example, I don’t believe that Hitchens ever authored a single commentary on the breakup of Yugoslavia in which there wasn’t convicing evidence of his demise. And that material dated at least from 1992 on. (If not earlier.)

But—to repeat Seymour’s wonderful summary: These days, Hitchens “purveys his deranged fantasies about killing more and more evil-doers for the mass ranks of Republican twenty-somethings.”

Indeed. Everything in Christopher Hitchens’ oeuvre ought to be read in the light of where its author has finally landed.

But there is no gainsaying the fact that Hitchens is dead. Nor any honest purpose to be served by lamenting his demise.

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