The Hitch is still fighting despite cancer

Christopher Hitchens, witnessing the Portugal 1974 revolution:

It was the last fall of the curtain on the last act of the 1968 style, with its “take your desire for reality” wall posters and its concepts of work as play. For me it was also the end of the line with my old groupuscule. I had developed other disagreements, too, as the old and open-minded “International Socialists” began to mutate into a more party line sect. But Portugal had broken the mainspring for me, because it had caused me to understand that I thought democracy and pluralism were good things in themselves, and ends in themselves at that, rather than means to another end….

… Conor Cruise O’Brien had phrased it better than I could then hope to do:

“Are you a socialist?” asked the African leader. I said, yes.

He looked me in the eye. “People have been telling me,” he said lightly, “that you are a liberal…”

The statement in its context invited a denial. I said nothing.

And yet, as I drove home from my interview with the leader, I had to realise that a liberal, incurably, was what I was. Whatever I might argue, I was more profoundly attached to liberal concepts of freedom – freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom, independent judgment and independent judges – than I was to the idea of a disciplined party mobilising all the forces of society for the creation of a social order guaranteeing more real freedom for all instead of just a few. The revolutionary idea struck me as being more immediately relevant for most of humanity than were the liberal concepts. But it was the liberal concepts and their long term importance – though not the name of liberal – that held my allegiance.

George Galloway during a furious debate about the Iraq war, in 2005, famously called Hitchens “a drink-soaked former Trotskyite popinjay” (link). Drinked soaked, yes by his own admission, but a Trotskyite, not for long. Hitchens flirtation with the IS (International Socialists) may have served to prejudice him against Mao (how uncontrarian for such a contrarian to be against the Cultural Revolution without any analysis whatsover) but his far deeper attachment to freedom enabled him to break from the Trotskyite inclination of sabotaging united fronts. So he ended up supporting the liberation of Iraq (which required a very broad united front) and modernity in general. Hitchens is the iconic modern man. His warts and all bio, Hitch-22, is a mixed bag but contains some wonderful anecdotes and analytical gems.

59 Responses to “Hitch-22”

  1. 1 patrickm

    Vale Christopher Hitchens.

  2. 2 Bill Kerr

    Pity. I heard he was having an new experimental treatment so there was some hope but not to be. Anyway, from reading his bio I think his politics was all over the place but I’ll remember him fondly – as well as his stand on Iraq – for his audacity, humour and amazing debating / verbal skills. Check out some of his online videos for the latter.

    Here is an old 2005 link which demonstrates his humouress side, a discussion with his brother: When Christopher met Peter

  3. 3 jim sharp

    marx said:
    epicurus said ’tis no misfortune for him how dies,
    only for those left behind so vale hich be an expresssion of one being unable to deal with ones own imminent mortality

    The late Christopher Hitchens posted by lenin

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but the glowing tributes to Christopher Hitchens are both tasteless and incorrect. Have some decency. The boring wisdom has it that Hitchens broke the mould intellectually. He did not. For all the unique saleability of the Hitchensian idiolect (or intertext), he was a very conventional thinker, in addition to being a provincial.
    source>> http://www.leninology.blogspot.com/

  4. 4 Bill Kerr

    The failure from “Lenin” Jim is that he’s trying too hard to say something original so has to make up a straw man:

    The boring wisdom has it that Hitchens broke the mould intellectually

    If you actually read the obituaries (the positive ones, there is plenty of hate mail there too) that isn’t the main thrust at all. It’s more that he took on a variety of issues (death, religion, iraq war, clinton, kissinger) and argued them passionately and resourcefully / even brilliantly. He was a very good journalist and master of the written and spoken word. He was very widely read, had an excellent memory (which stood up to drink) and was a surprising and humouress man. He was a successful public intellectual, which is no mean feat. Also he was modest, at times, about his abilities and possibly had a good self knowledge of his strengths and weaknesses:

    RD (Dawkins): I’ve been reading some of your recent collections of essays – I’m astounded by your sheer erudition. You seem to have read absolutely everything. I can’t think of anybody since Aldous Huxley who’s so well read.

    CH (Hitchens): It may strike some people as being broad but it’s possibly at the cost of being a bit shallow. I became a journalist because one didn’t have to specialise. I remember once going to an evening with Umberto Eco talking to Susan Sontag and the definition of the word “polymath” came up. Eco said it was his ambition to be a polymath; Sontag challenged him and said the definition of a polymath is someone who’s interested in everything and nothing else. I was encouraged in my training to read widely – to flit and sip, as Bertie [Wooster] puts it – and I think I’ve got good memory retention. I retain what’s interesting to me, but I don’t have a lot of strategic depth.
    A lot of reviewers have said, to the point of embarrassing me, that I’m in the class of Edmund Wilson or even George Orwell. It really does remind me that I’m not. But it’s something to at least have had the comparison made – it’s better than I expected when I started.

  5. 5 Bill Kerr

    Most of us have lost friends or family to cancer so this article which mentions new experimental anti cancer technologies (admittedly without going into much detail) may be of interest:
    With Death, Christopher Hitchens And Steve Jobs Showed Us The Limits Of DNA Sequencing
    DNA sequencing cures is a step down the path of us humans mastering or conquering (choose your poison) nature.

  6. 6 jim sharp

    b.k.i remember hitchens diatribe against his supposed just dead friend edward no link
    seymour as form taking hitch down a peg or 6 which won’t appealhere
    the Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens by Richard Seymour
    The Lighter Side of Mass Murder
    Picture a necrotic, sinister, burned-out wasteland — a vast, dull mound of rubble punctuated by moments of bleak emptiness and, occasionally, smoking. Those of you whose imaginations alighted instantly on the Late Christopher Hitchens have only yourselves to blame, for I was referring to Fallujah. The “city of mosques” was sacrificed in November 2004 during an all-American war movie: the MacGuffin, an obscure yet deadly figure known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who, predictably, “escaped” with his wily confederates into the deserts.1 Before the operation, the city was bombed to “encourage” its evacuation, and shortly thereafter sealed off — any male of fighting age (ten years old and upwards by present occupation standards) was prevented from leaving. During that operation, white phosphorus was used against civilians since, as one US soldier explained, anything that walked or breathed was considered an enemy combatant. It is reasonable to suppose that some of the melted bodies discovered had suffered agonizing deaths as the material sizzled their flesh to the bone. Others may have been more lucky — if they inhaled the substance, it will have blistered their mouths, throats, and lungs, suffocating them to death before they had to suffer the pain of flesh melting away both inside and outside. It is indeed hard to overstate what was pitilessly inflicted on Fallujah: a hospital deliberately bombed;2 another occupied;3 more than half of the houses damaged or destroyed;4 150,000 people obliged to flee to live in rough tents on the outskirts of the city as they were bombed and their water and electricity cut off;5 those returning to the devastated city were to be subjected to forced labor.6 While the US military only admitted to having killed 1,200 insurgents,7 initial civilian tolls were as high as 800.8 Lately, Iraqi NGOs and medical workers have estimated as many as 6,000 deaths, mostly civilians.9 In the face of all these facts, Christopher Hitchens remarked: “the death toll is not nearly high enough . . . too many [jihadists] have escaped.”10
    source>> http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2005/seymour261105.html

  7. 7 informally yours

    Don’t know about DNA sequencing but they ought to have tried DIM. Diindolyl methane. DIM has scientific data indicating it as a T cell regulator I use it – DR prescribed, as i have a pre-cancerous condition.

  8. 8 informally yours

    Sorry folks. Can’t find the research for DIM as T cell regulation, but found other as oestrogen balancer for men and women – thereby at least not giving the cancer/precancer the fast ‘growth hormone’. I’ll keep looking for a reference re. T Cell regulator. I suggest anyone interested google it further.

  9. 9 Bill Kerr

    I might be wrong in saying that Hitchens didn’t break the conventional mould. He wasn’t the member of a tribe. No one can really claim him as theirs because he often was interesting and surprising whether right or wrong. I think his defining personal feature was how widely read he was combined with a retentive memory. Then he mixed that with a healthy gut reaction against totalitarianism. You are right Jim in that he was your enemy because he was genuinely anti totalitarian and prepared to wage war against fascism. He understood that aspect of the big picture. So, do your best and join the queue of those who are pissing on his fresh grave just as he pissed on plenty of fresh graves (http://prospect.org/article/christopher-hitchens-contradiction) Plenty of commentaries out there now saying where did he go wrong, how could a leftist have ended up supporting the Iraq war. Not only that but doing it in style and still remaining widely read and popular. What a puzzle, eh? How could a leftist support the removal of Saddam, the world’s worst fascist? Piss away Jim. It’s annoying that Hitchens influenced a lot of people to think outside the square, isn’t it.

  10. 10 Bill Kerr

    Moving tribute from Ian McEwen, who incidentally in his novel “Saturday”, raised the question of the plastic goodness of those anti Iraq war “not in my name” demonstrations by inserting a character who had been tortured by Saddam.

    Old habit die hard. Hitchens, while dying, was still anxious to meet deadlines and still absorbing new knowledge: Christopher Hitchens: ‘the consummate writer, the brilliant friend’

  11. 11 jim sharp

    b.k. gude try but then you seem to like the yesteryearers who are in lockstep with each other. mcewen & hitch were plumb in the gob i.s. posh varsity gits.& sure he was prepared wage war with pen & ink & gob just so long as it we proletarians who kill & get killed in his own boozh-wah class interests when imperial fascism suits those interests he wefts & weaves like billyo

    Hitched In History To Crimes Against Humanity

    by Maniza Naqvi source>> http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2011/12/hitched-in-history-to-crimes-against-humanity.html#comments

  12. 12 Dalec

    “How could a leftist support the removal of Saddam, the world’s worst fascist?” world’s worst fascist? Oh yes Hitler was just a pussy by comparison – FFS.

    From the early 80’s untol 1990 (the Kuwait invasion) this “world worst fascist” was supported by the US tooth and nail. Did he suddenly become the “world worst fascist” in 1990?
    Fascist he certainly was but why did we have to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis just to remove him?
    The argument that we had to kill so many Iraquis to remove the “worlds worst fascist” is just total bullshit.

  13. 13 barry

    dalec, you’re inability to comprehend astounds me. When he was overthrown, Saddam was the world’s worst fascist. Get it? Yes, the US propped him up for a long time – why is that supposed to make him a lesser fascist?

    Culpability for the deaths and suffering in Iraq during the anti-fascist war there, rests squarely with the remnant Baathists and jihadists. Presumably you blame the British and Soviets for all those deaths in Germany during WW2 as well.

    It’s amazing, but highly educational politically and philosophically, to see how you, dalec, have moved from someone who once supported the overthrow of fascist regimes, especially those created with US support, to someone who objectively supported them (to borrow Orwell’s and Hitchens’ use of “objective support”).

    Hitchens was actually in the 1930s left-wing tradition of supporting united fronts against fascism, even when it involves uniting with imperialism. How much further to the Right can dalec go?

    Some of us actually prefer US administrations that turn on the fascists they once propped up, and overthrow them, to those administrations that keep the tyrants in power. Meanwhile, those pesky Iraqis just keep on voting…. And other countries in the region fight for precisely what they have achieved in terms of inclusive electoral democracy (even down to the purple fingers, in Tunisia).

  14. 14 steve owens

    Barry I wouldn’t gloat so soon. WE are one day post the US withdrawl and we have seen the courts issue an arrest warrant for the vice President on the charge that he is running a death squad. Really? the Sunni Vice President is running a death squad? There are people who have been running death squads. Last time I looked they were key supporters of the government. I expect warrants for their arrests will follow shortly.

  15. 15 steve owens

    Dalek I think that the US never intended to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. I think that they honestly believed that it would be the cake walk they said it would be. Even supporters like Arthur publicly estimated the death toll to be as low as hundreds.
    These people or rather the Iraq people were the victims of the war parties optimism.
    Hitchens supported the slaughter only to describe the politicians who came to power as pygmies. I think that we are about to find how short in stature they really are.

  16. 16 Bill Kerr

    On reading obituaries of Christopher Hitchens
    The author has gone to a lot of trouble in reading many obituaries of Hitchens and attempts an all round assessment of his contribution with some reflections under a variety of sub-headings such as Drink-Soaked Popinjay, Former Trotskyist Bushite, Bloodthirsty maniac, Traitor, Antisemite, Zionist, Parochial and provincial. ie. it’s a tribute worthy of an argument or real discussion.

    I followed the links provided there to Peter Hitchens, the brother who argued, and Harry’s Place – oh, does anyone remember Harry’s Place 😉

  17. 17 Dalec

    You are a superb sophist.
    When he was overthrown Saddam was hiding in a hole, he certainly was not the world worst fascist at that particular point in time.” When he was overthrown, Saddam was the world’s worst fascist.”
    Historically I venture to say Saddam was not in the same fascist league as Hitler etc.
    I would also say, partly from personal experience that the Saudi regime is largely Fascist. No doubt you will defend it until such time as it is no longer compliant and then it too will turn into the “world’s worst fascist”.


  18. 18 barry

    dalec, (sigh), when Saddam was hiding in that hole – he was already defeated. Thanks to the Iraqi people and their allies who provided the necessary superior military force.

    The region hasn’t been the same since but, hey, the overthrow of the region’s worst tyrant could not possibly have had any influence whatsoever on subsequent events, despite what Saad Eddin Ibrahim, one of the finest intellectual leaders of the Egyptian revolution, might say: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/14/AR2010061404435.html

  19. 19 Dalec

    Barry, I note that Saddam has now been downgraded from ” world’s worst fascist” to “region’s worst tyrant”. I agree with that description of him when he was in power.
    Now the elephabnt in the kitchen when it comes to Fascism in the ME is Saudi Arabia.
    How come you never mention those really nice guys in the Saudi Royal family? Oh of course, they are buddies with the Bush family and thus beyond criticism.

  20. 20 barry

    dalec, I really think I’ve used the term ‘fascist’ often enough with Saddam Hussein – ‘tyrant’, ‘fascist’, ‘overthrown by the Iraqi people and their allies who provided the required superior military force’… you’d get the drift by now.

    The Saudi Royal family opposed the US led war against the Iraqi dictator.

  21. 21 Bill Kerr

    I think Nick Cohen has summed up the political Hitchens eloquently and fairly accurately, strengths and weaknesses, he has nailed it:

    More than any other modern intellectual, Hitchens revolted against the sinister absurdity of a time when feminists, democrats and liberals in the poor world and immigrant communities were more likely to find their reactionary enemies indulged and excused by the left rather than the right.

    To paraphrase Wilde, whom Hitchens adored, “on an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to betray the left. It becomes a pleasure.” I won’t give you any guff about the left leaving Hitchens rather than Hitchens leaving the left. He walked out and slammed the door with barely one regretful glance over his shoulder. He remained a friend of and inspiration to many leftish writers, but for the “anti-imperialist left” that embraced life-denying, women-hating, gay-killing Islamists, he had nothing but contempt. Its indulgence of religious reaction had ruined it beyond redemption.

    For all the finality of his farewell, to divide his thought into the pre- and post-9/11 Hitchens is to miss the consistency of his writing and the true source of his enormous appeal. Hitchens’s Marxism was of the romantic Trotskyist variety. He had no interest in economics – a strange omission for a Marxist, but there you are. He was, instead, enchanted by the bravery and prescience of Victor Serge, George Orwell and the other left oppositionists of the early 20th century who opposed communism and capitalism equally. Ex-Trotskyists are now among the most dishonest people in politics, but their predecessors in the 1960s still had the integrity to teach him an invaluable lesson. Leftwing dictatorships were “Stalinist” in their theology, and a true Trotskyist should have no qualms about fighting them as fiercely as he or she fought the racist and repressive regimes and ideas of the right.

    By an alchemy that worked its magic on hardly any of his comrades, Hitchens developed this unexceptional thought into a loathing of party-line thinking in whatever form it took. He would no more condemn Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell and Philip Larkin just because they were conservatives than he would make excuses for Raymond Williams and John Berger just because they were socialists. He no more approved of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians when he was “rightwing” than he approved of Fidel Castro’s oppression of the Cubans when he was “leftwing”.

    I cannot overemphasise how much he loathed people who stuck to a party line and tried to tell me, you or especially him what we must think; how every kind of bureaucrat, archbishop, rabbi, ayatollah, commissar and inquisitor roused in him the urge to fight…

  22. 22 steve owens
  23. 23 Bill Kerr

    “say no more”, Hitchens would disagree there

    > to see Mao Zedong relegated like a despot of antiquity

    Yes, that is Hitchens too, but I’ve never seen any real analysis to back it, always just the throwaway line. I’ve always seen the cultural revolution as a fight against totalitarianism. I’d recommend Mobo Gao’s The Battle for China’s Past (review) for a comprehensive reply to most of Mao’s critics.

  24. 24 Brennan
  25. 25 Bill Kerr

    The Platypus article is a good find Tom, that Hitchens remained at the relative high point of The Enlightenment but that somehow we need to transcend that. The Marc Cooper link is interesting too: http://marccooper.com/remembering-christopher/

    There is a basis in the Platypus, Spencer A. Leonard piece, for anyone who still has the knowledge and energy to engage with this:

    … it was chimerical to imagine that one could both side with the Bush regime’s war and, at the same time, retain critical independence from it

    chimerical = existing only as the product of unchecked imagination

    The above is said without supporting analysis but I did notice this from Marc Cooper:

    I wrote at the time that if Hitchens and Ignatieff were the U.S. Secretaries of Defense and State I might support the war. But they were not and I did not. I knew that the Bush administration were the wrong people to trust on this matter and I wanted no part of it.

    My thinking, or the argument that initially helped persuade me to support the Iraq war was that if Mao could unite with Chiang Kai-shek against Japan (and retain independence), after Chiang’s forces had murdered 90% of the communist party in 1927, then, yes, it was possible to unite with Bush to defeat Saddam provided that Bush’s underlying motivation was to establish democracy in Iraq (and not a puppet regime). In turn, based on the analysis that previous US policy had failed, demonstrated by 9/11, and that it was very plausible that the neo-cons were initiating a new path, supporting democracy in the Middle East as the best strategy for the declining US imperialism. This analysis has been verified as fundamentally correct by subsequent events. As for retaining independence, Hitchens did that, his highly effective demonstration that water boarding was torture being one example of that. I’m sure this could be argued better, that Hitchens was not perfect, that we are not perfect, that the Iraq government is far from perfect, but the fundamentals of the analysis are sound and have stood the test of the unfolding of real world events.

  26. 26 informally yours

    “I knew that the Bush administration were the wrong people to trust on this matter and I wanted no part of it.”

    I have always thought that this argument about not trusting X, (politicians the ruling class etc.) to carry out the policy/war as a justification for not supporting the Iraq intervention/united front policies is spurious at best. It is rather like refusing to look at a solution that is based upon actual circumstances thereby relegating one’s position to the ether, and irrelevance of whingeing.ie based upon idealism and not materialism and therefore cannot possibly serve other than to hamper proletarian interests.

    Christopher Hitchens never outgrew his anti-Stalinism/Maoism, he would have been much greater if he had explored this rather than knee-jerking it. At least he had the guts to step away when it was unpopular over the Iraq mk2, but he never really worked out the wrongness of his position on Kuwait. It is a pity there are not more contrarians in the media and telling people what they don’t want to hear – Christopher Hitchens’ family can be proud of his legacy despite his flaws and the bleating of his critics.

  27. 27 Bill Kerr

    he never really worked out the wrongness of his position on Kuwait

    Hitchens as several detailed pages (far too much to quote) in Hitch-22 about how his ideas changed in the course of the before and after of Saddam’s Kuwait invasion. I think he did work out that he was wrong about Kuwait. Reading his recollections reminds me that the decision of who to support then was complex and difficult. His for and against argument with himself makes interesting reading. To a degree it does revolve his growing realisation that Saddam was the world’s worst living fascist then.

  28. 28 steve owens

    Bill I find it strange that you would take comfort in the work of Mobo Gao. So you think it a defense of Mao that when his policies were in charge ie the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution that these were the only periods post revolution where the economy went backwards.
    You think it a defense to say well at worst during the Great Leap the death rates only returned to pre revolution levels ie the Levels set by the loving care of the Japanese army and various war lords.
    Gao is keen that we blame Mao no more than we would blame Yeltsin for overseeing a stagering rise in early deaths after the fall of the USSR but clearly the policies followed by Yeltsin were responsible. Why not blame them both?
    In China during the Great Leap there was starvation and the Chinese leadership not only lied about it they were exporting basic food stuffs while it was happening and if anyone complained about the situation they could easily find themselves dead.
    That is the type of socialism you endorse. It was the type of Socialism that Hitchens found so repugnant.

  29. 29 Bill Kerr

    My point about Hitchens and Mao is that Hitchens condemns Mao not because he has studied Mao or what really happened in China but by extrapolation from an analysis he made about the Russian revolution, where he eventually came to the conclusion that Lenin’s whole project was doomed from the start. Hitchens just lost interest in the whole socialist project, the notion that a dictatorship of the proletariat, and the forms that might take, was necessary to overthrow capitalism became repugnant to him and so his bottom line became opposition to totalitarianism and fascism in general. I think the Platypus article (Hitchens and the death of the left) by Spencer A. Leonard in the section “Hitchens’s Marxism” makes a start in analysing these issues.

    wrt Mobo Gao’s analysis of the Great Leap Forward. Mobo Gao says that the GLF was a mistake, that Mao bore the primary responsibility, that Mao criticised himself for the mistake, that Mao picked up the mistake and tried to correct it before other members of the leadership did, that he challenged the lies and statistical exaggeration and struggled against others who were promoting this. Your description of what Mobo Gao says is not accurate and I conclude that you have not read his book. You also say things about what the “Chinese leadership” did without acknowledging the struggle going on there, which did later lead to the Cultural Revolution as an attempt to overcome top down authoritarian leadership. You also seem to imply that the Chinese economy went backwards whenever Mao was in charge of it, which is just weird. Suggest you read Mobo Gao’s book Steve.

  30. 30 steve owens

    Bill I can do no more than quote Mobo Gao in my “weird” attempt to link Mao to economy going backwards. “except for the Great Leap Forward years of 1959 and 1960 and the Cultural Revolution years of 1967 and 1968, Chinese ecenomic growth was not only steady but also out paced most developing countries”
    Bill when Mao was at his most influential the economy did go backwards despite his efforts to rocket the economy forward.
    Bill you cant get past the fact that when people were starving China was exporting food. A system that does that is a totalitarian system.

  31. 31 steve owens
  32. 32 steve owens

    Look Bill I understand your problem that being that the Chinese Communist Party has never acknowledged that there was a famine. Maoists have always skoffed at the idea that a famine could have occurred when the party was saying that no more than food shortages had occurred and that these were delt with. If you were to acknowledge a famine it well it would mean calling Mao a liar.

  33. 33 Bill Kerr

    Well, Steve, the thread is about Hitchens.

    Hitchens knew how to read a book, would notice that when quoting from a book that the quote in fact supported the argument of his adversary ( “except for the Great Leap Forward years of 1959 and 1960 and the Cultural Revolution years of 1967 and 1968, Chinese economic growth was not only steady but also out paced most developing countries”), he would have a better appraisal of what totalitarian means than you do, he would know better than to provide links to hate sites as evidence (especially when the book in question is devoted mainly to rebuttal of those of those sorts of distortions) and he wouldn’t place words in the mouth of his opponents and then deride them for things they have never said, he would rely on their actual arguments and respond to them. We’ll never know how Hitchens would respond to Mobo Gao but I do know that he would do a better job than you.

  34. 34 steve owens

    Bill one of us doesnt understand what Mobo Gao means.
    Also I think that I have a clear understanding of what Hitchens means when he says that he is critical of totalitarians
    To quote Hitchens “I have one consistency, which is [being] against totalitarianism- on the left and the right. The totalitarian to me, is the enemy- the one thats absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head….”
    Bill Mao ran a totalitarian regimen. People who had bad thoughts were sent to re education camps. If re education failed execution could and did follow. This is exactly the type of totalitarian regimen that Hitchens described as his enemy.

  35. 35 steve owens
  36. 36 Bill Kerr

    Steve, I searched for those Hitchens quotes, which are not linked, on the web and couldn’t find them anywhere else. They are not really consistent with Hitchen’s general position of opposition to what he describes as totalitarianism. For all I know they could be fabrications and in the absence of further evidence I would regard them in that way.

  37. 37 steve owens

    Heres an article that contains the same quote. Its not the article I took it from as you can imagine I do a mountain of reading and where I origionally got stuff from is not always at my finger tips any how this article you can use to put it in the column on non fabricated

  38. 38 steve owens

    Bill after knowing me for 30 years I thought that you would realise that I might make mistakes but I don’t make things up. Anyhow heres the article I took the quote from its the third blocked section.

  39. 39 Bill Kerr

    Steve, In the original link you posted http://peacefulturmoil.blogspot.com/2008/04/christopher-hitchens-endorses-chinese.html the following quotations are attributed to Hitchens. I can’t see them in the 2 subsequent links you have provided.

    “One only has to look at the violent protests taking place all over the globe by and for Tibetans to grasp the futility of thinking that religious nationalism can promote peace. Mao was right – religion is poison. His tactics and his policies were abhorrent, but philosophically he was quite correct…”

    “China is the only current or emerging superpower willing to call a spade and spade and take the necessary steps to liberate humanity from its bloody infatuation with the unreasonable and the inane, which hides under the veneer of respectability associated with religion…”

    It’s just anti-atheist made up stuff from a weird religious site. btw I never accused you of making stuff up, rather you are just quoting from a site that makes stuff up. Hitchens wouldn’t say “Mao is right – religion is poison”. He was rather good with words and didn’t have to use the authority of someone he despised to make his point about religion. Your lack of understanding of Hitchens parallels your lack of understanding about Mao.

  40. 40 Bill Kerr

    correction: not “you are just quoting from a site that makes stuff up.” but:
    you are just linking to a site that makes stuff up.

  41. 41 steve owens

    Bill I cant find any cross reference for the Hitchens “quote” about Tibet. The other quote about Hitchens and totalitarians can also be found at the New Statesman.

  42. 42 steve owens
  43. 43 steve owens

    Now Bill will you accept that the totalitarian quote is real even though you who “understand” Hitchens stated that “They are not really consistent with Hitchen’s general position of opposition to what he describes as totalitarianism.”

  44. 44 Bill Kerr

    Steve, the link you initially provided was http://peacefulturmoil.blogspot.com/2008/04/christopher-hitchens-endorses-chinese.html
    It does not contain the totalitarian quote and I never disputed that that quote came from Hitchens. I have provided you with 2 made up quotes from that article, which are the only quotes attributed to Hitchens there. The Dawkins quote in that article is obviously a crude fabrication as well.

  45. 45 steve owens

    Bill you stated that you had searched for the quotes that were not linked. Seeing that I had provided a link to the tibet quote I thought that you must be talking about the quote I gave without a link seeing that you mentioned the quotes that were not linked.
    I am happy that you have exposed the linked quote as probably bogus and am also happy that you think that the totalitarian quote is genuine and reflect what type of totalitarian he was opposed to. The religious type and the left wing type ie Mao.
    for those that get my popular culture asides, say no more.

  46. 46 steve owens

    Yeah my bad that link to Hitchens on Tibet was an April fools joke.

  47. 47 steve owens

    Bill you state that I dont understand Hitchens and that I dont understand Mao. You are correct. How could I understand Mao. He lead a peasant army in an attempt to transend feudalism and warlordism. My life experiences are light years away from this stuff. He supported the invasion of Hungary and I dont understand why. He ordered people to create thousands of useless steel furnaces with no metalurgical knowledge ad I dont understand why. He exported food during the great leap famine and I dont understand why. He imprisoned the second highest ranking communist in China and let him die of medical neglect and I dont understand why.
    As to Hitchens my life experiences are much more similar. His father defended the empire during WW2, so did mine. His father was in the royal navy based at Scapa Flow as was mine. His father did it from the bridge while my dad did it from the boiler room with a shovel in his hand.
    In Hitch 22 where he goes through the authors that influenced him I go dito. Orwell was and is my favourite, Owen, Sassoon, Heller, Hemmingway, Remarque, Fitzgerald and Graves. However he does leave me cold with Graham Greene and Oscar Wilde. Really does anyone get Wilde, I dont.
    We were both members of the International Socialist Tendancy and both left for similar reasons.
    So I have some contextual reasons to understand Hitchens and I do understand that his opposition to fascism trumps everthing else but my point of departure is that anti fascism doesnt trump good sense.
    Argentina may have been fascist but the Faulkland Islands will eventually come under Argentinian sovereignty. Thatcher could and did kill many young Argentinians but its a struggle against history.
    Iraq may have been ruled by fascists but an invasion was unlikely to result in a democratic society. Whatever the outcome, at the time decisions were taken a democratic outcome was not on the cards.
    PS Hitchens and I are great fans of Bob Dylan. AS with Orwell I once owned most of his works.

  48. 48 steve owens

    Bill I was wondering where you stand on the Falklands war, a war that killed or wounded almost as many people as it liberated, was it worth it? I was in England shortly after and the jingoistic nationalism as Hitchens mentions in Hitch 22 was pretty sickening.
    Looking forward to reading what was your position and what it is now.

  49. 49 steve owens

    I particularly liked the section in Hitch 22 where Christopher talks about road to Damascus conversions. His examples were good and his explanation plausable. He could have left out all that apparently hilarious stuff about him and his friends substituting words like cunt for words like man. That really was drivel and after all these years he still thinks it funny.
    Decca Aikenhead did some interesting interviews with him although I didnt find the quote that Guy Rundel refers to in his piece

  50. 50 Steve Owens

    Its gut churning to hear that David Cameron is standing by the inalienable right of the Falkland Islanders to self determination. So if your in the Atlantic you have rights but if your in the Indian Ocean well just fuck off you dirty little foreigner

  51. 51 Steve Owens
  52. 52 Steve Owens

    For WW2 buffs or anyone interested in morality

  53. 53 patrickm

    Interesting talk. Hitchens at his worst. Both missed the very timing of the atom bombing that was the smoking gun of the crime. Both missed it because of the anti Stalin blind spot. Hitch displayed the purest of Trot blindness to the Molotov /Ribenthrop pact with his midnight formula! Munich was not midnight even though uncle Trotsky said that made the M-R pact inevitable!! Grayling had the better of that exchange. (very good listening at 1.5 speed) Commander Hitchens was hostile to sending supplies to Russia etc

    Anyway thank you for reminding this WW2 buff of what was Hitchens dead end blind spot.

  54. 54 Steve Owens

    I agree that it was Hitchens at his worst. My problem with his position was the silver lining argument re Dresden bombing and his idea that area bombing was OK because it sent a message of defeat to the German people. Grayling had a good point about the pointlessness of attacking civilians in Hamburg as Hamburg had been a city where the Nazis had faced strong working class opposition as they also did in Berlin.
    Both I thought were rather weak on the idea of an airforce mutiny at being ordered to commit war crimes. BTW I still think that we should hang Harris and Le May (LeMay had the clarity of thought to admit that if the war had gone the other way he would have been hanged for war crimes)

  55. 55 patrickm

    Not just a silver lining, but presented as something to please Stalin, rather than to ‘impress’ in the sense of ‘just look at how utterly ruthless we are, so stick to your agreements in full or else!’ No mention of WW2 on the Eastern front – as a war that eventually left the old revolutionary scraping the barrel of manpower resources, while Western allied losses were incomparable. No mention of the USSR’s actual Eastern front, this battle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_of_Khalkhin_Gol that pre M/R pact shaped WW2; rather than the M/R pact being a midnight moment! No mention of Greece after the war; and so on…

    The M/R pact was, as you know, IMV the greatest diplomatic masterstroke of all time – while being up against the absolute filth of British/French and U.S. appeasement policies; designed to bring on a massive war! We can laugh at the Munich paper and skit about it like John Cleese and Cook, but the sinister reality of building a massive war, rather than working for peace slips past, and young people lose the ‘corporate memory’ of that long ago time. It is almost universally misunderstood and not just because they (the capitalist ruling classes) wanted it to be!

    Failure to understand appeasement as an active war making policy and to hold the culprits up to the world as the vicious war makers that they were; allows these modern day, phoney, ‘anti- totalitarians’ off the hook and dressed in their saintly attire, all that remains is to see how evil the AXIS powers were, and then simply rank them against the other totalitarians who naturally come in second place! Then people will not notice WW1., and Versailles, and massive if frustrated intervention in the USSR; and map making to suit ruling classes, Spain and Abyssinia etc., all dumped on the wreckage of capitalism that was the Great Depression!

    Last night I was gripped by 2 programs about Queen Victoria’s descendants. Very enlightening as to exactly what they were all up to! Good old Kaiser Willie, and Tsar Nicholas, and Lord Mountbatten etc.. Well now we have the direct rule of the Oligarchs. I can’t see how history has ended with liberal democracy and an ownership class that carries on like Abbott and Turnbull v the ALP what’s his name!?

    I don’t think I have previously emphasised just how close this pre WW2 period came to even greater disaster! Luckily, WW2 was led by Uncle Joe whose policies prevented the catastrophe. Lucky that ‘Cash My Cheque’ was over-thrown and then had to be protected by the U.S. navy in Taiwan, so the Chinese masses could then stand up! Lucky thing that everyone can work out what sort of criminals atom bombed Japan, and firebombed the civilians of Dresden in Germany – even if Hitch can’t. Lucky we can see what revisionists did to the students’ of Tiananmen Square – even if he sees them as Communists (hard for anyone to be that dopey after the coup – but some people are).

    The attempt to conceal just how bad the situation was just after WW2 can be shown by Stalin’s 1947 numbers of 7million dead -when actually there were more like 27million. World wide the ruling classes hated the Soviet Union and wanted it destroyed and worked to that end from the very start, and I remain trapped with the logic of being for the end of WW1 and Kaiser Willie and Tsar Nicholas, the bourgeoisie that brought it all on and Lord Mountbatten etc. .


    I see the millions of Chinese lifted out of short lives via Mao’s revolution and compare it to the Indians as ‘The best stats you’ve ever seen – Hans Rosling’ shows https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usdJgEwMinM where he also ‘showed that the top students knew statistically less about the world than the Chimpanzees’, and that their professors knew the same as the chimps! Just look at the big picture that greenie Hans Rosling presents, and I love his washing machine youtube presentation. There is a liberal doing good work.

    I was tending to look back on Hitch and forget that I was way ahead of his Eurocentric, liberal, Trot inspired politics. His failure to even make a fair grasp of the economic issues that Marxism founds on etc.. He looks so good by comparison to the now ridiculous pseudoleft that are standing with Assad and even Putin. Just look at the wreckage of the anti-war marchers or anti- imperialists fruitcakes!

    We cruise missile Marxists may not know how to fight our way forward using democracy, but we know that is where we are starting and have always been starting thus. Standing up to Assad as the latest of the revolutions has shown that the gun is only picked up as a last resort and then we are trapped with the requirement for a people’s army and a protracted struggle.

    The wars have unfolded and I have stuck to the knitting as far as I can see – while the world changes under us. Here we are with North Korea as a reality and China, Russia, Iran, Egypt, Israel…In oz we have Abbott proposing to move the embassy to Jerusalem if Trump does! How dopey does a ruling class rep get? He was a cabinet minister under Howard and became PM yet had not one clue about the ‘draining the swamp theory’ as the ONLY way to fight the Islamofascists and the necktie fascists. He is an unreconstructed ratbag ‘realist’. Bishop and Turnbull are thick as 2 very short planks. The only credible theory is obscure!

    In a world that is being forced into an dog eat dog, ‘defensive’ ,anti -globalization retreat, and thus is descending in many areas into gangster run reality, the foolishness of the anarchists ought to be apparent to all proletarians. Consider https://qunfuz.com/2016/10/31/anarchism/#comments and his partner that Barry has just posted on. https://leilashami.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/fighting-on-all-fronts-womens-resistance-in-syria/ . They ARE slowly learning (I have been reading them for some time) and I mentioned them a year ago as people that were very worthwhile engaging with or if you prefer wrangling with. But I have really not done so yet.

    Have you any notions of where the wrangling would be productive? I’m at a bit of a loss and think that regular articles for the MSM is probably the best direction. Thoughts?

  56. 56 Steve Owens

    Who to wrangle with?
    We are clearly here to wrangle but not always with the wranglers of our choice.
    I’m sure that like me your always on the look out for political discussions. In my day to day I come across 4 people at work who are pro Brexit. I have yet to come across a pro Trump but there’s no end of people who think that protectionism is good or that ordinary people should take a hit for the team ie team Australia or that refugees pose some sort of threat. Sure the wrangling is done in ones and twos, long ago have gone the days where I could address hundreds of Uni students and argue that we needed to take militant action today wrangling against people who wanted to put militant action on a 4 month hold.
    I will wrangle with you here and now just by putting forward the Trotsky/Stalin parallel.
    Trotsky opposed the merger with the Kuomintang, Trotsky opposed the small target strategy in Spain and Trotsky urged the unity of all working class parties to thwart Hitlerism only to be defeated by Communist who argued that the Nazis were no worse that Social Democrats.
    As to the Hitler/Stalin Border and Friendship pact with the hindsight of history I just can’t see it as a master stroke.
    OK it was designed to send the war west but the war went west not because of the pact but because England and France would appease no more but they easily could have. They could easily have made Halifax PM and wrung their hands about poor Poland.
    OK the strategy worked and the war went West at the price of giving the Nazis the raw material to make war.
    The war was a close run thing and if the Empire of Japan had attacked Stalin from the East as Hitler attacked from the west then we would all be eating sushi now.

  57. 57 Steve Owens

    OK Patrick wrangle away by giving me a critique of this

  58. 58 patrickm

    This is more interesting to me.

    March 21, 2008
    Counterfactuals and the Importance of WMD
    Matthew c Harrison

    Kanan Makiya, in a round-table discussion of mistakes in the Iraq war, writes:

    I know that I got many things wrong in the run-up to the 2003 war, but, in spite of everything, I still do not know how to regret wanting to knock down the walls of the great concentration camp that was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The nature of political action is that its consequences are unknowable. That is the source of the wonder, beauty, and ugliness that politics can bring into the world. Should I have let that unknowability determine the morality of the case for the overthrow of the regime in Iraq? Would we have had a moral war in 2003 if there had arisen an Iraqi version of Nelson Mandela, and are we now saddled with an immoral one because he did not appear? I cannot think like that. Perhaps it is incumbent upon those who now regret supporting regime change back in 2003 to tell us what the alternative moral course of action was. Was it to wait and watch until the time bomb that was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq blew up in everyone’s faces?

    In an earlier debate at Lastsuperpower.net, the cost of the Iraq war as measured by the Lancet studies was raised. A discussion followed about the uses to which such studies can be put in politics, culminating in a question about the war’s worth. I responded:

    Owenss asks ~

    “I am willing to accept the figure of 151,000 violent deaths as accurate. The question remains do you think that the benefits of the war have been worth the cost?”

    But this isn’t the question at all.

    The question is, will the outcome of the Iraq war have been worth its cost compared to the outcomes of other strategies?

    The question of the cost of the war is nearly always, and always mendaciously, put in the context of the Lancet’s propaganda about the war. Asking the question this way is simply a means of avoiding any attempt at finding the true answer.

    Niall Ferguson – no leftist true, but an able historian nonetheless – reminds us of the importance of this contextualization in his introduction to the book “Virtual History.” It is not enough to simply (and simple-mindedly) criticize historical decisions. One must also demonstrate alternate possibilities, and analyse the probability for their success.

    I point this out, on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, to illustrate the continued poverty of debate on the subject. How can it be that, despite the permanent reversal of centuries of Sunni imperialism, the widespread embrace of democracy by Iraqis, and the destruction of a regime as vicious as any in modern history, Mr. Makiya must ask, of those “who now regret supporting regime change,” what an alternative moral course of action was?

    We’ll find no such alternative with Richard Cohen, the respondent closest to policy-makers, excepting perhaps Mr. Makiya himself. What we do find are a few rambling and unrelated paragraphs on the anthrax attacks, contradictory certainty that “while Iraq once had a nuclear weapons program, it no longer did” together with the knowledge that biological and chemical weapons don’t constitute a threat of “mass” destruction and unpreparedness for “the revelation that Iraq had no WMD whatsoever.”

    This is instructive of the general level of cognitive dissonance in his response since, to the extent that the WMD argument is important to the case for invasion, he seems to be suggesting surprise at not having found working nuclear weapons in Iraq – about which all intelligence agencies were confident he didn’t have – and what else could have been “WMD” if we discount biological and chemical weapons? This is a profoundly misleading series of statements, and not just from the a-historical certainty that, prior to 2003, Iraq no longer had a nuclear weapons program. Are we to suppose the regime had simply forgotten what it had learned from the very real program we know it had engaged in prior to the first Iraq war?

    As absurd as this sounds, this is precisely what one often reads about the regime’s supposed WMD: that it had forsaken any real development, maintaing only the appearance of it through it’s systematic subversion of UN sanctions and weapons inspections, in order to intimidate it’s neighboring enemies. By pretending that the regime’s knowledge of nuclear weapons had vanished permanently, those who maintain the “WMD for appearances only” position mistake a short term truth for a longer one.

    The importance of this temporal elision becomes clear with the one lucid paragraph Cohen writes in his apologia:

    One final argument appealed to me. It was quite clear that, over time, Saddam would slip the noose of U.N. sanctions, the United States would tire of its campaign to enforce the no-fly zone, the Europeans—so worldly, so repellently even-handed about Israel, so appalled by Saddam’s excesses, and, finally, so full of shit—would do business with the regime, and Saddam would be free to use his oil wealth for weapons and war. If something were not done when it seemed that something could be done, then nothing would ever be done—until it was too late.

    Europe – France and the Chirac government particularly – were well on their rhetorical way toward this in the years before the war. The caustic toll on society that Saddam’s subversion of UN sanctions had wrought were increasingly being blamed on the UN itself, and particularly the champions of the sanctions, the US and Britain. Dominique de Villepin said of Chirac’s government in 2001, that “[w]e believe, of course respecting the international legality, we should as fast as possible try to lift these sanctions.” To an extent, the governments of the US and Britain were ready to go along with the French.

    The best one can say about the motivations for statements such as made by de Villepin is that the removal of the sanctions was a necessary carrot in order to reinstate weapons inspections. But this suggests a misplaced faith in the inspections regime to do it’s job effectively on the one hand, and on the other formalizes Saddam’s strategy of increasing the suffering of his own citizens under the pretext of the effects of the very sanctions de Villepin wanted to lift! This puts the West in the position of simultaneously (and at least in part wrongly) accepting responsibility for the toll of sanctions and Saddam’s subsequent actions, implicitly legitimizing his response to the sanctions, and thereby undermining the very tool it sought to re-establish the inspection regime with.

    Thus, the specter of a reinvigorated Hussein regime appears; and having won a significant victory over it’s Western enemies, it would have found it’s field of play greatly increased. Economically, a revitalized regime would have been freer to develop those weapons even skeptics admit Hussein needed – so much so that he risked his regime merely on the basis of needing at the very least to appear to have them – and politically able to continue to subvert the inspections program. Add to this the failure of containment in North Korea and Iran, as well as an A.Q. Khan network that would have continued to work in secrecy, aided perhaps by the fact that the West’s strategic options for containment had been significantly reduced. Taken together, these counter-factuals suggest a much more compelling reason to invade than Cohen’s supposed surprise at not finding stockpiles of nuclear warheads would suggest. The issue with regard to WMD in Iraq was not the cartoon illustrated by Cohen, but the far more sophisticated picture painted by Rolf Ekeus, who described an industry being developed for WMD which remained hidden through classical counter-espionage practices as well as behind dual-use smoke screens and “just in time” production methodologies. This is now playing out in Iran, where the political efforts at containment by the West are inevitably proving useless, even counter-productive.

    Ekeus maintained that the WMD threat from Saddam’s regime lay not in the existence of ” rusting drums and pieces of munitions containing low-quality chemicals” – the focus on which he called “bizarre,” but rather with the longer term capability to produce those weapons during wartime. This is precisely the argument Cohen seems to ignore in his Slate article.

    Presumably then for those who supported the war primarily on the basis of Iraq’s WMD, the goals of the war have either been achieved or “proven” a mistake by the absence of those rusting drums. The continued presence of Coalition troops in Iraq must seem unnecessary, even counter-productive. It is perhaps why so many on the so-called Left in American politics are so intent on removing US troops as soon as is logistically possible. Never having been taken in by the Bush Administration’s “lies,” they see no need to continue to suffer military casualties, and have long since abandoned their more legalistic claims of the responsibility to secure Iraq, and caring little for the resultant chaos the Coalition departure will bring, or despairing much that little can be done to prevent it.

    I think to the contrary that, while WMD and oil both are naturally vitally important aspects of the case for invasion, that this war was not “about” either one. What the war is about, in my view, not only transcends the arguments about WMD and oil but explains the locus of the Bush Administration’s response to 9/11 and the need for a continued Coalition presence in Iraq.



    I am just listening to Obama give his last big speech as Superstar POTUS. My fellow Americans (be still stomach) …’4 more years blah blah’ 10 more days!! A victory speech no less!! Climate clap trap!!

    At last a focus on Autocrats! (Actually Putin, who Obama was bested by!) Now he is going on about his great military victories!! Why we can not withdraw from…Russia; and China can’t match our international influence if we are not just a big bully….Democracy…

    http://strangetimes.lastsuperpower.net/?p=81 (2008) Keza had him pegged, Matthew Harrison was correct about the fool bit!

    http://strangetimes.lastsuperpower.net/?p=273 (2009) good stuff

    Look through this http://strangetimes.lastsuperpower.net/?cat=42

    and the big debate http://strangetimes.lastsuperpower.net/?p=283 Review where people were at back then!

  59. 59 Steve Owens

    Yes I’m sure that there are more interesting subjects but just humor me for the time it takes to give a critique of

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