Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay

He's at it again. This makes me sad more than angry. I was once a fan. Back in the day I would even show up for his readings. When The Missionary Position came out, I went to Modern Times Bookstore in The Mission District in San Francisco to hear him read. I crammed into the small back room with about twenty or so others and listened to his pearls of wisdom. Years later, after I had moved back to New York, I went to Barnes & Noble in Union Square to see Hitchens promote The Trial of Henry Kissinger to a crowd of hundreds. I even bought both of those books. But now Hitchens has gone over to the dark side, and his considerable talents are wasted in vain attempts to squeeze some sort of logic out of George "We're fighting them over there so we don't fight them here" Bush's platitudes. His latest in The Weekly Standard (!) shows him once again running off the rails.
LET ME BEGIN WITH A simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."

I could undertake to defend that statement against any member of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and I know in advance that none of them could challenge it, let alone negate it. Before March 2003, Abu Ghraib was an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp. Now, and not without reason, it is an international byword for Yankee imperialism and sadism. Yet the improvement is still, unarguably, the difference between night and day. How is it possible that the advocates of a post-Saddam Iraq have been placed on the defensive in this manner? And where should one begin?

Where should one begin? Try Wikipedia
False choice
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The logical fallacy of false choice is a correlative based fallacy in which options are presented as being exclusive when they may not be.

It's often used to obscure the likelihood of one option or to reframe an argument on the user's terms.

What they're getting at Hitchens, is that the choice doesn't have to be Saddam's Abu Ghraib or Lynndie England's Abu Ghraib. There are other options, such as no Abu Ghraib at all. Or one run competently, without memos sanctioning torture from the president's attorney.

As for the rest of his piece, it's nothing more than a dressed-up version of every silly talking point the Republicans have been trotting out for years. A quick list:

  1. Trash the french: "French statecraft, for example, was uniformly hostile to any resistance to any aggression, and Paris even sent troops to rescue its filthy clientele in Rwanda."
  2. Trash the UN: "The United Nations, in this crisis, faced with regular insult to its own resolutions and its own character, had managed to set up a system of sanctions-based mutual corruption."
  3. We found the WMD! "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"
  4. Blame the CIA!: "I do in fact know the answer to this question. So deep and bitter is the split within official Washington, most especially between the Defense Department and the CIA, that any claim made by the former has been undermined by leaks from the latter."
  5. Mock Cindy Sheehan: "It is exactly this point that makes nonsense of the sob-sister tripe pumped out by the Cindy Sheehan circus and its surrogates."
  6. Invoke the bogeymen: "There are an astounding number of plain frauds and charlatans (to phrase it at its highest) in charge of the propaganda of the other side. Just to tell off the names is to frighten children more than Saki ever could: Michael Moore, George Galloway, Jacques Chirac, Tim Robbins, Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson . . . a roster of gargoyles that would send Ripley himself into early retirement."
  7. Invoke the Silent Majority "The second bit of luck is a certain fiber displayed by a huge number of anonymous Americans."
  8. Blame the media: "Faced with a constant drizzle of bad news and purposely demoralizing commentary, millions of people stick out their jaws and hang tight."
  9. Claim that Iraq had something to do with Al Qaeda: "The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who moved from Afghanistan to Iraq before the coalition intervention, has even gone to the trouble of naming his organization al Qaeda in Mesopotamia."
  10. Credit the Iraq War for completely unrelated victories: "The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan network for the illicit transfer of nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea."
  11. One word - Flypaper! "The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number."
  12. Two words - Clap harder! "If the great effort to remake Iraq as a demilitarized federal and secular democracy should fail or be defeated, I shall lose sleep for the rest of my life in reproaching myself for doing too little. But at least I shall have the comfort of not having offered, so far as I can recall, any word or deed that contributed to a defeat."


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