The Moment of Truth — September 22, 2001

The Ever-Surprising Mister Hitchens

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen, and welcome to the Moment of Truth, the little bit of wheat that snuck in with the chaff.

Big surprise, everybody: The interdisciplinary war industry is using the tragedy of September 11 as an opportunity to go hogwild all over the world. Kaflooie! Kablooie! Explosions and death all over the world! Spend spend spend on weapons galore, and kill to your hearts’ content, you crazy diamonds! Talk about a spree! Drain that swamp, Rumsfeld, so the developers can put up their condos and strip malls atop the composted corpses of the innocent, guilty and the in-between.

Pile the bodies high in Bhagdad and Kabul! Sweet and proper is it to kill for Father Dollar, for market optimism, for public office. Infinite Justice! Endless, limitless US military activity! “I want to go get those vermin,” say the men and women who seem to think only Americans have souls. So pile the soulless bodies high, how sweet and proper it is!

But there was an unpleasant surprise recently: Christopher Hitchens, the most ethically erratic journalist ever – and that’s saying something! – has come out with a crazy critique of those to whom horrific terrorism on US soil is only surprising in the extent of its psychotic brutality. We’ve begged and pleaded for a rethinking of US foreign policy, and not just because it hurts the innocent of other countries. We’ve pleaded because the brutality of our government and its henchmen worldwide threatens our own existence as well. It has always hurt us morally, and at times it has hurt us viscerally – and never as much as it did last Tuesday.

One of Christopher Hitchens’ multiple personalities has asked, “Does anyone suppose that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would have forestalled the slaughter in Manhattan?” Well, to whichever Chris is speaking, since we still don’t know who did this, then I say: YES! I SUPPOSE SO! To suggest that those people in New York somehow deserved to die because of US policy is idiotic; therefore, no one has suggested it. Yet to deny a link between US policy and anti-US terrorism is even more idiotic, and not just because there are so many other idiots echoing that sentiment, most of them eager for war and the extermination of alien beings. One of those idiots is former Israeli Fuhrer Benji Netanyahu, who derisively referred to the “so-called grievances” of the Palestinians.

Chris, your evocation of the fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie provides a perfect example of both the connection between US policy and totalitarian Islam and the wrongness of whatever you seem to think you’re saying. You might remember that the man who issued the fatwa was Ayatollah Khomeini. You might also remember that it was the US-supported fascism of his predecessor, Reza Palavi, the infamous Shah of Iran, that created an anti-Western atmosphere poisonous enough to sprout support for Khomeini’s ascent to the dictator’s throne.

Interestingly, the crime you rightly accuse Kissinger of in Chile is the same crime committed in 1953 in Iran by our own government and that of Britain. Mohammed Mosaddeq, the democratically elected leader of Iran, was the victim of a coup supported by the US and Britain. They feared, as did Kissinger and his corporate clients in the case of Allende, that Mosaddeq would succeed in nationalizing key industries in his nation, thereby pumping profits from Iranian resources into the Iranian economy instead of stuffing it into the pockets of US and British corporations.

And I need not reiterate the connection between a similar foreign policy in regards to Afghanistan and the gestation of the Mujahadeen, whence Osama bin Laden was whelped with the aid of CIA midwives. The connection between fascistic US foreign policy and the rise of fascistic Islam of both the Shiite and Suni variety is clear to anyone with eyes to see. But be your ignorance, blindness, drunkeness and/or hypocrisy as it may, the real question is, who are these straw men, these “liberals,” who are saying that thousands of people in the World Trade Center deserved to die?

Because, you see, the two issues are separate. The culpability of the US military in breeding terrorists that have bitten the hand that fed them, that much is evident enough. That notion is at least defensible. Unarguable, even, in one of your universes, at least, I’m pretty sure. On the other hand, the implication that innocent people in the buildings destroyed last Tuesday deserved to die – who is saying that? The straw men live in a place you call the Chomsky-Zinn-Finkelstein Quarter. Is this in New Orleans? I’m not familiar with Finkelstein, but I have neither heard nor read anything by either Chomsky or Zinn that suggests the people in the Twin Towers, or even in the Pentagon, that bastion of human innocence, for that matter, deserved to die because of the unconscionable brutality of US foreign policy.

You compare the idea: “The US aided in the creation and development of both the social climate and the organizations themselves that made the terrorist attacks on September 11 possible” with the Christian right’s idea that “God punished us for allowing gays and feminists to run wild.” The difference is, the former statement is both rational and demonstrably true; the latter is a claim to know the intent of a being whose very existence, let alone her sexual preference, is open to debate even by theoretical physicists. Take a deep breath, Christopher, and a stiff slug of the hair of the dog or whatever animal bit you, and think about it. And when you’re sober, or when one or two of your personalities are, please tell me this: Why make a moral straw boogeyman out of some mythical leftists you probably hallucinated during a bout of delerium tremens?

Your antagonism to the linkage between US policy and terrorism seems perverse. Now, we in the reading public are no stranger to your perversity. We will certainly be able to distinguish between it and your more salient communications, just as we can applaud your case against Kissinger while deploring your betrayal of journalistic confidentiality in the Lewinsky case. We, the reading and writing and thinking public, are more complex than you seem to imagine.

As for what pass for “liberals” these days: You only need to look at Dick Gephart to see what kind of diseases need to cling together to form one of those, if that’s what he is. I don’t know any liberals, and I don’t hope to ever see one. But with the milk of human kindness we’re getting now, there must be a tainted sacred cow, and I’d rather see than be one.

But what I’d rather do is issue the following fatwa to others of my ilk who believe the policies of the US government helped prepare last Tuesday’s madness: to anyone who cream-pies Christopher Hitchens, Allah has a thousand virgins awaiting you in the seventh heaven.

Dulce? You, Chris? Hardly. It should be a rhubarb pie. Decorum? None expected, none received.

Have your coherent self give this other incarnation a big kick in the ass, will you? Get off this crackpot crotchet and back to the business of indicting the death-dealers, including the Taliban and bin Laden, you noisy shmuck.

With warmest regards, I’ve been mejeffdorchen with the Moment of Truth.