Christopher Hitchens has been a thinker whose thoughts I value for a while now, both before and after his dramatic (if disappointing, and arguably petty) break with the Nation. On Iraq, as on many issues on which I’ve strongly differed with him in the past couple years, I found him to make the opposing case more meaningfully and persuasively than most, in part because when it comes to portraying the war as a matter of humanitarian intervention, it helps to have demonstrated a concern with human rights before September 11. But this article should shake the man’s credibility across the spectrum. Whereas a profile last weekend wrote:

No wonder he doesn’t give a hoot about the WMD brouhaha. That wasn’t why he supported the liberation of Iraq. Nonetheless, even though confronted by a reluctant congress and dithering allies, he wishes the Bush administration had stated its case for war in more explicitly moral terms instead of using “scare tactics”. “But what if the Left had not been abstentionist? What if it thought we can’t postpone a reckoning with Saddam Hussein?”

But in a Salon column whose Sadaam-as-Dahmer motif is worthy of a lesser writer, he shares a different logic:

The wailers will settle for nothing less than the full-dress conspiracy theory. It’s true that they have been helped in this, in some respects, by elements in both the Blair and Bush regimes that banged the drum a little too loud. But this is not to compare like with like. In 1990-91, during the occupation of Kuwait, U.S. officials circulated a graphic atrocity story to the effect that Iraqi forces had taken Kuwaiti babies out of hospital incubators and dumped them on the cold floor. It was one of the great sob stories of all time, and it undoubtedly affected the Senate vote in favor of war, but it was completely made up by a Kuwaiti public relations firm with links to the Bush administration. People were understandably upset when they were shown to have been emotionally stampeded. But soon after, Kuwait City was recovered by U.N. forces who unearthed atrocities and massacres 50 times as foul.

Now Hitch is suggesting first, that the penchant of some to try (in his eyes) overzealously – even blindly – to find fault with the actions of the most powerful men in the world is a greater act of intellectual dishonesty than than for the most powerful men in the world to intentionally manipulate their citizens with disinformation for the sake of sending them to war – and second, that the production of falsehoods to serve political goals by political leaders is irrelevant if other truths may exist which would serve as well as the falsehoods in retrospect.

The Trial of Henry Kissinger was a searing indictment of the man not only for contravening international law through terrorism-by-proxy, but also for contravening democracy through deceit and manipulation. Hitch closed the book in eager anticipation of the eventual opening of Henry’s sealed records after his death and in fervent hope that our country could someday catch up with the Latin American countries we ravaged by holding our own Truth and Justice Commissions.

Hitch wrote last fall:

I would, however, distinguish myself from people like David Horowitz – who has been friend and enemy by turns and whom I respect – in this way. David repudiates his past. I am slightly proud of the things I did and said when I was on the left, and wouldn’t disown most of them. I am pretty sure that I won’t change on this point, and don’t feel any psychic urge to recantation. And, if it matters, I have felt more in tune with my past when helping the Iraqi opposition and the Kurdish rebels, as I have been doing for the past several years. There must be some former Trotskyists among Andrew’s readership: I think they’ll guess what I mean..

I’ll accept compliments from the Right when they agree that Henry Kissinger belongs in the dock, and when they admit that this failure on their part is also sheltering Saddam Hussein from an indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and when they acknowledge that their trashing of the International Criminal Court is a betrayal of the whole ethos of “regime change”. And after that, I have some other bones to pick with them…

Articles like this most recent one force one to question which values from his (self-described) “Fellow traveler” period he still finds relevant and which (transparency in government – or basic appearances of democracy, at the very least) have become inconvenient. And after that, I have some other bones to pick with him…

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