No one left to lie to

by Ted on May 18, 2004

Christopher Hitchens has just put up a piece in Slate. It’s a response to Sy Hersh’s most recent New Yorker story about the connection between Abu Gharib and Rumsfeld’s policies. Here’s Simpler Christopher Hitchens:

What Went Wrong: The flaw in Seymour Hersh’s theory.

I, Christopher Hitchens, present Sy Hersh’s story as such: Rumsfeld was frustrated at the legal obstacles that (for example) prevented combat forces from firing at a convoy that they believed contained the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammed Omar. Rumsfeld loosened the rules. The loosening of the rules led to the torture of Iraqi prisoners.

I, CH, believe that this is an incoherent story. There is no necessary link between overruling the combat restrictions that I have highlighted and prison abuse. Furthermore, regardless of the decisions of Rumsfeld, there would still have been bad apples in the military.

Shouldn’t opponents of the war have some explaining to do? Now they say that the Bush Administration should have killed the leaders of al-Qaeda. I believe that, had the Bush administration taken the steps necessary to take out the leaders of al-Qaeda during major combat operations in Afghanistan, they would have opposed them. Therefore, they are hypocrites.

The struggle against terrorism will be long and difficult. Rumsfeld should treat the soldiers who abused the Iraqi prisoners as traitors and enemies.

P.S. I’d like everyone to look at the bomb with sarin in it, and the uncovery of a mustard gas weapon in Iraq.

If anyone thinks I’ve misrepresented Hitch, please pitch in in the comments. Because if I understand him correctly, this is a truly shameless piece of misdirection.

The lynchpin of Hitchens’ argument, “the flaw in Seymour Hersh’s theory”, is that Hersh doesn’t show a connection between Rumsfeld’s policies and torture in Iraq. Hitchens doesn’t spend a lot of time on this point, but it seems to be the heart and soul of his case. Here’s Hitchens, in his original words:

Thus, from the abysmal failure to erase Mullah Omar comes the howling success in trailer-porn tactics at Abu Ghraib. More than one kind of non sequitur is involved in this “scenario.”

But Hitchens is deceiving his readers. Hersh lays out the connection between Abu Ghraib and Rumsfeld’s policies quite directly. Hersh’s piece only mentions the combat restrictions as a launching point for his real subject- how Rumsfeld and the Administration loosened the restrictions intended to ensure the humane treatment of Afghan prisoners, and later, Iraqi prisoners. Fred Kaplan summarizes:

This operation stemmed from an earlier supersecret program involving interrogation of suspected al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. A memo to President Bush from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales—excerpted in Newsweek—rationalized the program by noting that we need “to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American citizens.” This new sort of war, he went on, renders the Geneva Conventions’ limitations on interrogating enemy prisoners “obsolete” and “quaint.”

This program, Hersh reports, was approved by the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the National Security Council. President Bush was “informed” of it. Hersh also notes that its harsh techniques yielded results; terrorists were rounded up as a result. So, last spring, after Saddam’s regime fell in Iraq and Rumsfeld grew frustrated over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction or to learn anything about the insurgents who continued to resist the U.S.-led occupation, he put the same program in motion in Iraq.

That’s when all hell broke loose, and conventional prisoners of war—whose wardens had up to that point been following Geneva rules—were suddenly treated like terrorists whose deadly secrets must immediately be squeezed out. Hence, the ensuing torture.

It’s impossible that Hitchens didn’t know this.

Now, Hitchens might find Hersh unconvincing. He might argue that his sources have lied to him. Or, he might argue that the revised policies about prisoner treatment in Abu Gharib were still sufficient to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners, and that blame shouldn’t flow upward. I can’t say that I’d consider these to be good arguments, but at least they’re arguments.

Instead, he highlights a detail in the piece, the restrictions that probably prevented the killing of Mullah Omar. He’s comfortable defending Rumsfeld’s decision to overrule these restrictions. (I would be, too.) He pretends that this story was the heart and soul of Hersh’s piece, failing to mention any changes to the rules about the treatment of prisoners. Hitchens asserts that there is no logical connection between these combat restrictions and the torture of prisoners. Well, no. There isn’t, but that’s not Hersh’s argument. It’s only Hitchens’ deceptive cartoon that doesn’t make sense.

He caps his piece off with some Michael-Moore bashing, saying that opponents of the war wouldn’t have approved of techniques that would have led to the capture or killing of al-Qaeda leaders. But Rumsfeld got what he wanted in terms of combat overrides. Has Hitchens noticed any outrage among war opponents about that? If so, this paragraph would have been a good place to mention it.

The more I read this, the angrier I get. Who, exactly, does Hitchens think he’s fooling?

Here’s the DCCC petition to encourage Rumsfeld to resign. I’ll link to the “Hitchens must resign” petition as soon as I can find it.

{ 67 comments }

1

The Editors 05.18.04 at 8:04 pm

Didn’t Orwell once call Sy Hersh “a muckraking liar and a sorry excuse for an America-hating yellow journalist Saddam-coddler”? I think he probably did.

2

Rob Farley 05.18.04 at 8:06 pm

Am I wrong to wonder why anyone still takes Hitchens seriously? I appreciate the hammering of his argument, but what’s the point? Why does he still have the credibility to make such a hammering necessary?

3

jdw 05.18.04 at 8:08 pm

I think you’re summary’s pretty fair. I especially enjoy how Hitchens accuses Hersh of a non sequitur, apparently on the grounds that it’s possible for a skilled polemist like Hitchens to boil down a 3000 word article into 2 sentences which, taken together, don’t necessarily make sense.

I say this as a pro-war liberal: isn’t it time for the Hitch to become a black-booted Baptist, and formally accept an editorial position at National Review? I was kinda surprised he didn’t call Rumsfeld “Rummy”.

4

Russell Arben Fox 05.18.04 at 8:17 pm

I just read the Hitchens piece, and I honestly thought it was truly the weakest thing I’ve ever read from the man’s pen. He has genuinely bottomed out.

5

asdf 05.18.04 at 8:23 pm

Oh, come on, Ted. Clearly the man is too drunk to write these days.

This is a mean spirited attack on a man who is too far gone to defend himself.

6

David 05.18.04 at 8:36 pm

I was amused by this train wreck of a sentence:

“But Hersh’s article wants to argue that the fish rots from the head, as indeed it very often does (even though, metaphorically speaking, one might think that the fish’s guts would be the first to decay).”

7

matt 05.18.04 at 8:36 pm

The summary is fair but Hitchens’ point seems to be the hypocrisy of the chattering left. Yes, we may have been able to get the Mad Mullah and OBL, but that would have required swift, pre-emptive action – the same sort of action that has the left all riled up now vis-a-vis Iraq. By the way, didn’t Hersh’s anonymous source conclude that Rumsfeld most likely had no way of knowing the Abu Graib abuses were taking place?

“The former intelligence official made it clear that he was not alleging that Rumsfeld or General Myers knew that atrocities were committed.”

8

John Isbell 05.18.04 at 8:38 pm

It appears worse than futile for folks like Hitchens to be writing demagogic puff pieces like this for the Rumsfeld doctrine. Since it seems, with Newsweek now joining Hersh, that the entire edifice is crashing down around their ears, the best they can expect out of their awful timing is more mud deservedly smeared on their already-tarnished name and a sinecure with the lunatic right. That’s a living, but it reminds me of Nader destroying his reputation for a new spot you’d expect him to be less than fond of.

9

Morat 05.18.04 at 8:52 pm

I tightened that up a bit: Shorter Hitchens: “First you complain that Bush didn’t move fast enough, now it’s too fast. Make up your mind, hypocrites!”.

That little tag about sarin annoyed me the most, because Kaplan had posted on Slate earlier that Bush neglected taking out Zaraqawi. And if the man can make ricin, he can make sarin. It’s not that tough.

I do have to admit Hitchens for one thing: Every time I read him, I’m certain he can’t top himself. And he always does.

10

Randy Paul 05.18.04 at 8:53 pm

Dead on as usual, Ted. Hitchens has jumped the shark.

11

Nat Whilk 05.18.04 at 9:02 pm

It seems to me that this “shorter” business that is so popular on CT is tailor-made for creating strawmen. (Of course, strawmen arguments fit in pretty well with ad hominem statements about Hitchens being a lush.) The Hitchens piece is only 1000 words long; why not point people to it, let them take the 3 minutes required to read it, and then discuss the flaws in Hitchens’ argument?

12

drapeto 05.18.04 at 9:03 pm

But Rumsfeld got what he wanted in terms of combat overrides. Has Hitchens noticed any outrage among war opponents about that? If so, this paragraph would have been a good place to mention it.

Was he always this way? Self-serving with evidence, I mean. That doesn’t seem like a quality one would develop all of a sudden, and yet I do not recall him being that way.

13

Adam Kotsko 05.18.04 at 9:17 pm

I like Hitchens’ “retro” book reviews in Atlantic Monthly. They’re actually the first thing I read when I get it in the mail, usually. (I subscribed for some fundraising thing and will be getting it for the next two years — I wish I had made a different choice.)

14

Steve Carr 05.18.04 at 9:32 pm

The really mystifying part of Hitchens’ argument is that I think Hersh himself thought that lifting the combat restrictions on going after people like Mullah Omar was a good idea. At least the pieces he wrote in The New Yorker in the wake of 9/11 made it sound as if the combat restrictions were absurd. As Ted says, Hitchens’ equation of lifting the restrictions on prisoner treatment with lifting combat restrictions (if you’re for the latter, you should be for, or at least, understanding of the former) is utterly deceptive . Bizarre piece.

15

jdw 05.18.04 at 9:34 pm

_It seems to me that this “shorter” business that is so popular on CT_

Since when?

_is tailor-made for creating strawmen._

Which is what’s wrong with Hitchens’s piece, isn’t it?

_(Of course, strawmen arguments fit in pretty well with ad hominem statements about Hitchens being a lush.)_

That should be “statement”, shouldn’t it? And are blogs responsible for their comment threads?

And it’s not like Hitchens is shy about his drinking, incidentally.

The Hitchens piece is only 1000 words long; why not point people to it,

Ah, you must have missed the link at the top of the post.

let them take the 3 minutes required to read it,
and then discuss the flaws in Hitchens’ argument?

Oh, and the part where Ted says to post something to the comments if they think he’s misrepresenting Hitchens.

That’s 5 mistruths in only 3 sentences, by my count — nice ratio.

16

Neil 05.18.04 at 9:43 pm

It’s renmarkable the bitterness that so-called liberals n this site feel towards people with different ideas.

17

Nat Whilk 05.18.04 at 9:53 pm

Ted Barlow wrote:

“Rumsfeld got what he wanted in terms of combat overrides. Has Hitchens noticed any outrage among war opponents about that? If so, this paragraph would have been a good place to mention it.”

It’s possible he didn’t mention outrage about that because he thought it was common knowledge. For example, how many people who follow the news don’t recall any outrage among war opponents to the Hellfire missile attack on the carful of Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen in November 2002?

18

Ted Barlow 05.18.04 at 9:59 pm

Nat,

I follow the news, and I don’t recall any outrage. Was there? Do you have a link or anything?

19

Morat 05.18.04 at 10:07 pm

Speaking for myself, I use the “shorter” version as ridicule, not a point by point refutation. And I always link to the main piece.

I took several paragraphs to discuss his two-line addendum about Sarin, while dismissing the rest of his piece with a quick “shorter”.

Why? Because the bulk of his piece wasn’t worth my time, but the two lines were (and not because they were somehow less stupid).

But I have a nice link there and everything, and anyone interested can go read the piece themselves.

20

bull 05.18.04 at 10:12 pm

My copy of the New Yorker hasn’t arrived in the mail yet, so I can’t comment directly on this Sy Hersh piece, but since all of Mr. Hersh’s articles about Afghanistan or Iraq contain at least a few non sequiturs that leave me mumbling in disbelief, Hitch is probably spot on in asserting that there is more than one kind in this particular article. But again, I have to plead ignorance, just as I would if I were to predict, based on experience, that the sun probably will rise in the east tomorrow.

21

Nat Whilk 05.18.04 at 10:33 pm

noaddressgiven@yahoo.com wrote:

‘It seems to me that this “shorter” business that is so popular on CT’

Since when?

You’re kidding, right? Just in case you’re not:

“Shorter Peter Ramus: My whole argument is crappy but if I lay on the postmodernism thick enough maybe no one will notice.” (4/25/2004, 3:30 a.m.)

“Shorter Tombo[:] Krugman (or Quiggin, these guys all sound alike) says we can’t conquer our way out of the oil problem, but what about invading Venezuela or engineering a takeover of the Saudi ruling class?” (5/8/2004, 12:39 a.m.)

“Shorter Den Beste: a priori, I am an empiricist.” (5/5/2004, 10:44 a.m.)

“[S]horter Brooks: Silly Washingtonians waste time on trivial pursuits, like investigating how we got into the hole we now find ourselves in, when they really should be pitching in to help with the digging.” (4/28/2004, 3:26 p.m.)

Would you like to say “Uncle” now, or would you like more quotes?

‘is tailor-made for creating strawmen.’

Which is what’s wrong with Hitchens’s piece, isn’t it?

Surely there are better ways to combat strawmen then by building strawmen.

‘(Of course, strawmen arguments fit in pretty well with ad hominem statements about Hitchens being a lush.)’

That should be “statement”, shouldn’t it?

Yes. Only one of the ad hominem statements cited Hitchens’ drinking.

And are blogs responsible for their comment threads?

No.

And it’s not like Hitchens is shy about his drinking, incidentally.

True, but I’m not sure what that has to do with the ad hominem nature of attacking him as a lush.

“‘The Hitchens piece is only 1000 words long; why not point people to it,

Ah, you must have missed the link at the top of the post.

Nope. By saying “Why don’t you do A, let people do B, and then do C”, I am recommending the process as a whole (most importantly, with the tendentious paraphrasing omitted); I’m not saying that components of that process weren’t already done.

“‘let them take the 3 minutes required to read it, and then discuss the flaws in Hitchens’ argument?’

Oh, and the part where Ted says to post something to the comments if they think he’s misrepresenting Hitchens.

Was that intended to be a sentence?

That’s 5 mistruths in only 3 sentences, by my count — nice ratio.

Please explicitly enumerate these mistruths for me.

22

Brett Bellmore 05.18.04 at 10:55 pm

“And if the man can make ricin, he can make sarin. It’s not that tough.”

Right. And after having homebrewed your own sarin, the obvious next move IS to build a home-made binary nerve gas shell, carefully crafted to look like a mass produced munition, to use as a roadside bomb.

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. LOL

23

Sven 05.18.04 at 10:56 pm

Ted, I think Hitch’s misrepresentation of Hersh is even deeper than you suggest.

The only judgement Hersh casts on the secret intelligence program in his article is that “some of its methods were troubling and could not bear close scrutiny, however.” He notes that it was effective against al Qaeda, and in subsequent appearances on the talk shows he goes out of his way to point that out. His central thesis is that the program was sloppily transferred to Iraq, where it spun out of control because it was operated by untrained reservists and applied to non-terrorists. Here’s how he explained it to Wolf Blitzer:

HERSH: The question, obviously, is, was there a covert program that was operating around the world collecting terrorists, a very secret program, very successful, was part of that program diverted to the Baghdad prison system? And of course nobody in the Pentagon would have authorized the kind of stuff you had [noted that was going on at Abu Gharib].

What happened is you changed the system. You brought in some people. We also read in some of the military intelligence people in the prison system in Baghdad, we read them into this program which got people in the program very upset.

This is a small, little unit. And you started the ball rolling. And you know, and there’s clearly — I can tell you that by the end of October, maybe a month or two after this program began, I’m telling you categorically the CIA, on the advice of its general counsel, bailed out. They said, “We’re out of this stuff. It’s too crazy.”

They didn’t bail out of the covert program around the world because it’s too valuable for us. It’s a very important piece of the war on terrorism. They pulled their people out by the end of October from the interrogation program going on at Abu Ghraib and other prisons.

24

Andy 05.18.04 at 11:18 pm

Btw, folks, David Kay thinks the sarin shell is leftover ordnance from the Iran-Iraq War, and I know he knows more about such things than I do—though perhaps less than some of the expert commenters here.

25

Nat Whilk 05.18.04 at 11:43 pm

Ted wrote:

I follow the news, and I don’t recall any outrage. Was there? Do you have a link or anything?

Here are some random examples:

“YEMEN: US commits terrorist outrage BY ROHAN PEARCE
On November 3, six men in Yemen were murdered in cold blood by a US “hellfire” missile launched from a remote-controlled Predator aircraft. The men were “suspected” of being al Qaeda members. . . .” (_Green Left Weekly_, 11/20/2002)

“[New Zealand] Green MP Keith Locke is calling for the CIA to be classified a terrorist group after destroying a car carrying six al Qaeda members in Yemen.” (_NZCity News_, 11/7/2002)

“This week the CIA assassinated six al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen. To kill individuals in a country where there is no war heralds a new era for the United States and yet harkens to the recent past. . . When the enemy was communism, government-sanctioned murder was wrong, and it is wrong now.” (_The Sydney Morning Herald_, 11/9/2002)

“. . . The Yemen attack violates basic rules of sovereignty. It is an act of war where no war has been declared. It killed people, some of whom who may have been criminals, but who will never now face trial. It assassinated men who may have been planning attacks. But who can tell? It is, at best, irresponsible extra-judicial killing, at worst a premeditated, cold-blooded murder of civilians. . . .” (_The Guardian_, 11/6/2002)

26

dan 05.19.04 at 12:00 am

Ted wrote: “I follow the news, and I don’t recall any outrage. Was there? Do you have a link or anything?”

Here are a few more examples of rhetorical “fire and brimstone” regarding Rumsfeld’s “Hellfire tactic”:

SEYMOUR M. HERSH, in an earlier New Yorker article: “…many past and present military and intelligence officials have expressed alarm at the Pentagon policy about targeting Al Qaeda members…’They want to turn these guys into assassins,’ a former high-level intelligence officer told me. ‘They want to go on rumors—not facts—and go for political effect, and that’s what the Special Forces Command is really afraid of. Rummy is saying that politics is bigger than war, and we need to take guys out for political effect: “You have to kill Goebbels to get to Hitler.” ‘ With regard to Rumsfeld, he added, ‘The military is saying, “Who is this guy?” There’s a major clash of wills as to what is the future of Special Forces.’….Referring to criticism of Rumsfeld’s insistence on targeting individual Al Qaeda members, the adviser said, ‘I know you’ve been getting this from the Joint Staff. Some of the snake eaters in Special Forces are against it, too. Of course, I’ve heard this—’It’s not American’—from the military leadership.’ Anna Lindh, the Swedish foreign minister, declared that the American military attack, even with Yemeni approval, ‘is nevertheless a summary execution that violates human rights.’ She added, ‘Even terrorists must be treated according to international law. Otherwise, any country can start executing those whom they consider terrorists.’ Amnesty International also questioned ‘the deliberate killing of suspects in lieu of arrest, in circumstances in which they did not pose an immediate threat.” (http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?021223fa_fact)

THE LA TIMES, via globalsecurity.org: “M. Cherif Bassiouni, professor of international law at DePaul University in Chicago, who headed the UN commission investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslav federation, said the most appropriate comparison would be if a US drug agent killed a narcotics trafficker rather than arresting him and putting him on trial. Bassiouni said that any living relatives of those killed in Yemen might be able to sue US officials who approved or participated in the attack under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The attack ‘is a dangerous precedent,’ Bassiouni said. ‘It suddenly puts governments at the same level as terrorists. If we come down from the moral heights and start wallowing in the same mud as the terrorists, we have lost our legitimacy and we can no longer marshal the claim of moral authority for us and immorality for them.’ (http://www.globalpolicy.org/wtc/targets/2002/1105yemen.htm)

THE VILLAGE VOICE, in an article headlined “Our Designated Killers”: “Acting on that presidential authorization, ‘a pilotless Predator aircraft operated [by the CIA] fired a Hellfire antitank missile’ at a car in a remote region of Yemen, killing six, including an Al Qaeda leader, Salim Sinan al-Harethi, and ‘one suspected al-Qaeda operative with United States citizenship.’ That dead American passenger was Kamal Derwish, who, according to the Bush administration, was the leader of an alleged cell of Al Qaeda sleepers in Lackawanna, a Buffalo, New York, suburb. As syndicated columnist Charles Levendosky—a constant and accurate chronicler of the Bush shadow Constitution—wrote: ‘[Derwish was labeled] an enemy combatant, but only after his death. . . . Derwish was never accused of any crime in a court of law. Essentially, he was killed because of the company he kept’—and it was too late for him to tell his side of the story. (http://villagevoice.com/issues/0308/hentoff.php)

TIME MAGAZINE, February 3, 2002: “An American citizen not charged [with] or convicted of any crime was killed by a CIA Predator . . . It seems unlikely that being zapped by the CIA is exactly the sort of due process that the Framers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution.”

A GUARDIAN editorial headlined “Drones of Death,” 6 November 2002: “Even as the bullets ricochet, it should be said there are some problems with this approach to international peacekeeping. For a start, it is illegal. The attack violates basis rules of sovereignty. It is an act of war where no war has been declared…. It is, at best, irresponsible extra-judicial killing, at worst a premeditated, cold-blooded murder of civilians. And it is also morally unsustainable. So where next for the drones of death?… Stateles, gangster terrorism is a fearsome scourge. But state-sponsored terrorism is a greater evil, for it is waged by those who should know better, who are duty-bound to address causes not mere symptoms, who may claim to act in the people’s name.”

Another GUARDIAN editorial headlined “The Name of the Game is Assasination”: “Following the Yemen attack – what the Pentagon apparently hopes was the first of many successful operations – the third of the Pentagon’s trio of hawks, deputy secretary Paul Wolfowitz, told CNN the killing was regarded as ‘a very successful tactical operation’. That opinion seems likely to be cheered to the echo in an embattled Israel. But others will regard with profound alarm this latest systematisation of murder.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,862647,00.html)

A DAILY TELEGRAPH article headlined “‘War crimes’ fear for British troops”: “The attack in Yemen, with the CIA apparently acting as judge, jury and executioner, was typical of the type of activity over which Admiral Boyce expressed concern, defence sources said.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/11/06/nirq06.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/11/06/ixnewstop.html)

A CNN transcript:

BLITZER: David, it looks like this was a targeted killing or a targeted assassination, which is what the Israelis do with terrorist suspects that they go after. What are U.S. officials saying? How are they describing this attack?

ENSOR: The thing is, Wolf, they are not confirming. U.S. officials are not confirming that the United States was behind this attack, but I have sources that I’m confident are telling the truth that are telling me it was. So, they don’t have to discuss it and they are not comparing it with the Israeli attacks, for example. But on the face of it, off the top of one’s head, there isn’t much difference in some ways.
(http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0211/04/wbr.00.html)

An Australian Financial Review editorial (11/11): “While the US has defended the attack as a legitimate operation against an enemy, it also seems clear that the US is now in the extremely dangerous business of summary executions of individuals linked to the organization responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington. Welcome to the post-Cold War global nightmare.”

A Sydney Morning Herald editorial (11/11): “Under the broad banner of the ‘war against terrorism’, the summary execution of people in other countries has become settled policy, sanctioned by President George Bush…”

Sueddeutsche Zeitung from Germany: “This operation took place outside of the standards of the rule of law. And in a war, nobody has to show considerable consideration for arrests, interrogations and trials. Then justice is turning into lynching.”

De Standaard from Belgium (11/7): “But in Yemen, where a CIA missile killed six people, he acted solo. In Yemen, Bush took the right in his own hands – like a cowboy who shoots first and asks questions later.”

And, just for fun, from the World Socialist Worker: “On the contrary, there are clear and internationally recognized statutes that make the CIA’s action a war crime. If the government of Yemen collaborated in the operation, then both governments are guilty of a summary execution, precisely the kind of extrajudicial killings that are barred by human rights conventions. The same political interests and dictatorial methods that have ripped up democratic rights at home have led, on the world arena, to the CIA’s open return to the methods of Murder Incorporated. The Bush administration made no attempt to hide its responsibility for the assassinations.” (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/nov2002/yem-n09.shtml)

27

jdw 05.19.04 at 12:02 am

“‘It seems to me that this “shorter” business that is so popular on CT’

Since when?”

_You’re kidding, right? Just in case you’re not:_

[…]

_Would you like to say “Uncle” now, or would you like more quotes?_

Touche.

[…]

_Surely there are better ways to combat strawmen then by building strawmen._

So point to Ted’s strawman, please.

[…]

Ah, you must have missed the link at the top of the post.

_Nope. By saying “Why don’t you do A, let people do B, and then do C”, I am recommending the process as a whole (most importantly, with the tendentious paraphrasing omitted); I’m not saying that components of that process weren’t already done._

So he should post the link, tell everyone to come back in a half hour, then post his response? That’s nonsense. And the paraphrasing doesn’t look that tendentious to me.

“That’s 5 mistruths in only 3 sentences, by my count — nice ratio.”

_Please explicitly enumerate these mistruths for me._

I’m convinced. There’re only three. 1) Ted built a strawman to attack Hitchens; 2)he somehow didn’t point people to Hitchens and let them read it for themselves, etc.; and 3)that there were multiple ad hominem attacks on Hitchens because of his drinking, which I guess you’ve retracted. So really only 2 in three sentences. You’re a paragon of virtue.

28

Giles 05.19.04 at 12:21 am

Jeeps I never realised Hitchens aroused so much ire in so many. Why?

29

John Quiggin 05.19.04 at 12:27 am

I read the same comments as Dan, and was going to post on them. I think it’s fair to say, that, with the exception of WSW, the dominant tone is concern rather than outrage.

The main concern is that these killings, although deserved by the targets, might erode international law, leading to who-knows-what consequences in future.

Now that we know at least some of those consequences, as in Abu Ghraib, it might be worth re-examining the issues.

Other relevant instances of attacks targeted on enemy leaders include a couple of attempts on bin Laden (one by Clinton), and the attempt to kill Saddam right at the beginning of the war. In relation to the last of these, I observed at the time Given that war had effectively been declared, an attempt to end it quickly by killing Saddam was justified .I think this view was widely shared among moderate opponents of the war, and applied equally to OBL and Mullah Omar during the war in Afghanistan (more so for those of us who supported it).

In a war, the leaders on the other side are fair targets. But there are justified concerns about extending this kind of reasoning to people whose identification rests on dubious intelligence.

30

Paul Gottlieb 05.19.04 at 1:03 am

I don’t know if Chris Hitchens was ever cosidered credile, if so, it was before my time. But certainly in the last few years he has degenerated into a fatuous and dishonest windbag of the worst sort. He seems to be England’s answer to David Horowitz, which is about as low as you can getr without handing in your species membership card altogether. It’s a kind of cheap irony that a man who seems to fancy himself as the reincarnation of George Orwell should actually be the incarnation of one of the sheep from “Animal Farm”.

31

Nat Whilk 05.19.04 at 1:06 am

noaddressgiven@yahoo.com wrote:

“So point to Ted’s strawman, please.”

I phrased my original complaint about the “shorter” business so as to complain about the cheapness of the practice in general, not Ted’s particular exercise of it. (Now that I take another look at it, Ted actually said “simpler”, not “shorter”.) In my statement that preceded your response quoted above, my intended meaning was that even if Hitchens is guilty of building strawmen, that would not justify building strawmen to attack him. I don’t know of any strawmen in Ted’s original post.

“So he should post the link, tell everyone to come back in a half hour, then post his response?

No, he should post a link to Hitchens’ piece and post his response and leave out the tendentious paraphrasing.

“There’re only three [mistruths]. 1) Ted built a strawman to attack Hitchens”

I never said that, and never meant that.

“2)he somehow didn’t point people to Hitchens and let them read it for themselves, etc

I never said that.

“3)that there were multiple ad hominem attacks on Hitchens because of his drinking

Oh, right. For someone who says things like “isn’t it time for the Hitch to become a black-booted Baptist”, you make amazing demands of literalism on others.

32

alkali 05.19.04 at 1:19 am

… isn’t it time for the Hitch to become a black-booted Baptist …

Leave us Baptists alone, please.

33

Nat Whilk 05.19.04 at 1:23 am

Paul Gottlieb wrote:

I don’t know if Chris Hitchens was ever cosidered credile, if so, it was before my time.

Well, he was a columnist for _The Nation_ from 1982 to 2002. Do you think that those who kept him onboard for 20 years considered him incredible before his 9/11 apostasy?

He seems to be England’s answer to David Horowitz, which is about as low as you can getr without handing in your species membership card altogether.

That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?

It’s a kind of cheap irony that a man who seems to fancy himself as the reincarnation of George Orwell should actually be the incarnation of one of the sheep from “Animal Farm”.

Does this make him the world’s first contrarian sheep?

34

asdf 05.19.04 at 1:35 am

as the obnoxious commenter who commented on Hitch’s drinking, I can only say in my defense that, yes, he is a lush, yes, he is a jerk, yes, he is wrong, and, yes, I was sort of kidding.

35

msg 05.19.04 at 2:12 am

The shark rots from the head down.

jdw-
Noble response, dude. Well done.

36

blogaholic 05.19.04 at 3:33 am

Am I the only one rolling on the floor laughing at JOhn Quiggin’s remark that the posts Dan dug up reflect concern rather than outrage? Jeez, talk about defining outrage down.

I’d say Dan proved pretty conslusively that Ted was dead wrong when he said that the left didn’t get outraged about rule changes and covert actions taken against terrorists.

And really, how naive do you have to be to think that the left’s going to unanimously back assasinations even if it is OBL being taken out?

The Hitchens-hating on this thread really is quite extraordinary. Over at Roger Simon’s blog, where the politics are different and there’s a discussion on the same topic, the comments about Seymour Hersh are downright civil in comparison.

37

roger 05.19.04 at 3:34 am

I’ve never exactly figured out how the hypocrisy of the left has any salience in regards to the argument that Bush’s failed to complete the one mission he was entrusted with in Afghanistan — taking out Osama bin Laden. Since Hitchens is on record as thinking that Osama bin is dead, he must think that his Pentagon friends did a wonderful job. Others, though, wonder how it is that three years after 9/11, the revived Al Qaeda forces are able to fight the Pakistan army to a draw in Peshawar.

Moore’s point seems pretty simple, to me. Hitchens point is: a., that Moore is a leftist, so b., I will pick an easy leftist position that c., I will imagine, and then d. I will show how laughable it is, thus confuting Moore, who is, did I say this?, a., a leftist. This isn’t argument, it is mere flak-ery. A little bombast in a debate is one thing, a habit of it is something else. Hitchens can’t seem to make a straight argument about Iraq.

Hitchens prose has gone South since he joined the Right. For instance, the bit about “erasing” Mullah Omar — the haughty Tory way of squashing wogs and flies, it doesn’t set well on the page any more. The journey from left to right seems to do bad things to one’s prose style — the only exception I can think of, off the top of my head, is Malcolm Muggeridge.

38

theCoach 05.19.04 at 3:41 am

I believe the “shorter” business was created by Daniel Davies (pre Timber) as a way to taunt den Beste. Den beste’s posts tend to be long, and the trick is to comically get the jist in as short a way as possible. You cite a sublime example…

which certainly places “shorter” pieces as a superior form to haikus or sonnetts.

“a priori, I am an empiricist” – I think these posts used to be followed by the word count of the original as well.

39

q 05.19.04 at 4:44 am

“But the battle against Islamic jihad will be going on for a very long time, against a foe that is both ruthless and irrational.”=Hitchens

Hitchens appears to be fighting a religious battle that many egalitarian and progressive people reject because they don’t want to fight on the same terms. Calling your opponents irrational is in my experience a rhetorical technique to stifle debate. Until the rhetoric of intolerance is removed, no common solutions can be found. Some analysts have put forward the theory that some political elements do not want a common solution. If the “rhetoric of intolerance” remains, then it seems to be the case. I apply intolerance to the SLUGS in my garden. For me, human beings have a very special precious category.

40

Patricia A. Michaels 05.19.04 at 6:33 am

I agree that C. Hitchens skipped a few steps in his logic.

Personally I think Mr. Hitchens has been engulfed in rage for a bit too long. He raged against Clinton, he raged against Kissinger and now he’s raging against a small section of the left, the vocal anti-war movement.

His piece also contains another bit of illogic.

“But the battle against Islamic jihad will be going on for a very long time, against a foe that is both ruthless and irrational.”

Standard economic theory teaches that rationality is defined as self-interested, utility maximizing individuals with access to complete information.

The Islamic Jihaddists are attempting to maximize a utility (destruction of western dominance)that is anathma to the west. It makes them rational, and a danger to US national security.

Once Mr. Hitchens can get through his period of rage (if he is able) he will be able to see this.

There may be some left-wing extremists who oppose the war for less than valid reasons. At the same time you have the right-wing extremists who take war like they do, Friday night bar room brawls. It’s entertainment to them.

Removing the opinions of both extremes from the war on terrorism debate, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that the majority of Americans support a “war on terrorism” in one form or another.

It does not necessarily mean they support the Bush Administration policies on the war.

I think, in his rage, this is the big point that Mr. Hitchens is missing.

41

t 05.19.04 at 7:28 am

bull (and anyone else who hasn’t read it yet):

the new yorker piece in question is available online at http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?040524fa_fact . the hard copy will be in the 24 may issue. it’s linked from the hitchens article as well.

42

Walt Pohl 05.19.04 at 8:12 am

I know there’s probably no real point to this, since the goal of our token rightists is probably to disrupt the comment board, not to engage in discussion, but here goes:

The left (or I should say, “the left”, since I don’t know if we could really all be said to be on the left) is not one big team. 85% of the people you would describe as “the left” would only be mildly interested on what the Guardian or the Village Voice have to say on any issue. We did not appoint them our official spokespeople. Most of us supported the war in Afghanistan; many of us initially supported the Bush administration when it bullied Saddam into allowing inspectors back into the country; some of us even supported the war in Iraq itself until that became untenable.

I personally could have cared less if Omar had been killed. I didn’t care when Saddam’s sons were killed. But do I care that our soldiers tortured prisoners? Yes, I do. And you should too.

43

pepi 05.19.04 at 8:35 am

Oh dear. Ted, Ted, you done a bad thing. You posted your comments to something! Yes, you did post a link to Hitchens’s article, (surely just to pretend you’re playing fair! you sly thing, tsk…) but you had to add a _comment_ to it. That’s outrageous. Inexcusable. That’s brainwashing people without letting them make up their mind first. Who do you think you are? Who told you you can have an opinion? Only Hitchens can. You’re just one of those hypocrites of the left who think they have a right to criticise anything without understanding how important it is to export those values of democracy to Iraq. No, wait, that’s confusing… What I mean is, yes, that’s democracy, but this is war. In Iraq, fish rots faster, because it’s hotter. So there.

44

epist 05.19.04 at 9:49 am

Um, someone help me out here.

Hitch’s complaint is that ‘the left’ are hypocrites because they complain that Bush didn’t kill Zarquawi when he had the chance, but they condemn extra-judicial killings of the sort that would have been needed to kill him. Nat and Dan and others offer evidence of lefty outrage at the killing of the Al Quaeda suspects in support of this latter contention.

But surely one need not hold that assasinating Zarquawi was (or is) a good thing in order to condemn Bush for not doing so?

It seems to me that the left’s complaint with Bush here is that he is being disengenuous when he claims to be invading Iraq as part of the war on terror. And the fact that he refused to assassinate a known terrorist in Iraq, because it would weaken his case for invading Iraq, demostrates the tension between the two goals that the left wishes to highlight.

So the claim is this: If Bush were really worried about terrorists in Iraq, as he claims, he would have killed Zarquawi, regardless of what the left would have said. Remember, he had no qualms pulling the trigger on lesser suspects, as Nat and Dan have noted. The fact that he didn’t is evidence that he isn’t really concerned with terrorism in (or from) Iraq, but rather wants to invade the place, for some other reason.

So Bush’s failure to kill Zarquawi is evidence of his duplicity, not his cowardice or lack of decisive action. As such, one need not believe that such a killing is moral to condemn him for failing to do it.

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pepi 05.19.04 at 11:28 am

If Bush were really worried about terrorists in Iraq, as he claims, he would have killed Zarquawi, regardless of what the left would have said

yeah! I think that’s the idea! it’s amazing though what power individuals like Hitchens abscribe to this “left” thing. Like they’re the ones preventing Bush from doing his job or being the-best-president-there-ever-was. Gee. Funny how the concept of accountability works for some people.

Remember, he had no qualms pulling the trigger on lesser suspects…

… in countries other than Iraq, you might add. In countries where no military action has been voted upon. I believe that was the main source of complaint/outrage/whatever.

Personally I don’t have a big problem with anyone using a few million-dollar missiles in the Yemen desert either, if they do get a terrorist target, but, you know, that still doesn’t make Yemen Iraq.

46

pepi 05.19.04 at 11:32 am

… and, I should add, it’s not me or “the left” or Hitchens or anybody who makes up their own version of that thingy called “international law” or “war conventions”, faithful compliance to which is only sweared upon when convenient, after a scandal…

But the Geneva Convention according to Hitch declares that the only hypocrisy – actual or imagined – that shall be pointed out is the left’s, so, all the above should be considered irrelevant.

47

blogoholic 05.19.04 at 12:42 pm

Of course the left is not a monolithic block, just like the center isn’t and neither is the right.

However, one of Hitchen’s main points over the years, is that you have to be both self-critical and critical of the movements you are part of. I think it’s fairly safe to say that almost all the criticism of the Afghanistan war came from the left: the candlelit vigils, “the world’s richest country attacking the world’s poorest,” the “let’s talk to Mullah Omar” stuff. When you fail to acknowledge that this was a pretty big component of your political movement, you are ceasing to be honest.

Another point that Hitchens makes repeatedly is that we are not only responsible for our actions but also for our inactions. so, yes, criticize the mistakes of war (action), but also the mistakes of inaction and the consequences (not striking at Mullah Omar, allowing Saddam to remain in power.)

48

PaidByNoone 05.19.04 at 1:12 pm

I wonder how much of the 87 billion dollars for the war against {…whatever…} went on the production of Astroturf in Blogs and Newspapers Comment Sections? I assume there is a “category” for this kind of thing. Does anyone know or have a breakdown of where all the money went?

49

pepi 05.19.04 at 1:34 pm

However, one of Hitchen’s main points over the years, is that you have to be both self-critical and critical of the movements you are part of.

And he’s just the right person to lecture about self-criticism? Because he is so very critical of the movement he’s part of? And he never exploits a rhetoric trick to shift the whole weight of accountability to this powerful “left”, no matter if there’s a right-wing government in power?

It’s like Patricia said. The guy is just a polemicist, he is more fond of rage than reasoning. There’s no better propagandists for the right-wing than former leftists (far leftists, in this case) turned sour against _anything_ that can be fitted in that big wide “left” world. Except, once a communist, always a communist – at least in in terms of absolutist, binary thinking. He just reversed the polarities.

When you fail to acknowledge that this was a pretty big component of your political movement, you are ceasing to be honest.

Really? And why doesn’t he apply that rule to himself and what he defends?

If you want to be a preacher, practice what you preach. Otherwise, you could quit the sermons and go for actual arguments. That way, you don’t have to be standing on a pedestal of moral clarity from which you actually keep falling off.

50

Nat Whilk 05.19.04 at 2:17 pm

Pepi wrote:

once a communist, always a communist – at least in in terms of absolutist, binary thinking.

That’s a rather absolutist statement itself, isn’t it?

51

Nat Whilk 05.19.04 at 2:33 pm

blank@blank.com wrote:

But surely one need not hold that assasinating Zarquawi was (or is) a good thing in order to condemn Bush for not doing so?

If I understand you correctly, Bush’s rhetoric had put himself in the position that he could be justly condemned by the Left as immoral if he assassinated al-Zarqawi and he could be justly condemned by the Left as inconsistent if he failed to assassinate al-Zarqawi. Have I got that right?

52

Nat Whilk 05.19.04 at 2:55 pm

Walt Pohl wrote:

I know there’s probably no real point to this, since the goal of our token rightists is probably to disrupt the comment board,

What leads you to that conclusion?

The left (or I should say, “the left”, since I don’t know if we could really all be said to be on the left) is not one big team.

True. Neither is “the right”. (Hence, my puzzlement at the assertion that one of America’s most prominent and outspoken opponents of religion should come clean as a “black-booted Baptist” just because he is a prominent and outspoken proponent of the Iraq war.)

Most of us supported the war in Afghanistan; many of us initially supported the Bush administration when it bullied Saddam into allowing inspectors back into the country; some of us even supported the war in Iraq itself until that became untenable.

That all may be true, but it seems irrelevant when it comes to the evidence Ted requested: outrage among war opponents that Rumsfeld got what he wanted in terms of combat overrides.

[D]o I care that our soldiers tortured prisoners? Yes, I do. And you should too.

Have any of the rightists here said they don’t care? Personally, I hope the Deliverance-types who worked at Abu Ghraib get prosecuted to the maximum extent the law allows, and if those laws don’t allow much punishment, then I think we ought to change them so that they do.

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Nat Whilk 05.19.04 at 3:07 pm

Patricia A. Michaels wrote:

Standard economic theory teaches that rationality is defined as self-interested, utility maximizing individuals with access to complete information. The Islamic Jihaddists are attempting to maximize a utility (destruction of western dominance)that is anathma to the west. It makes them rational

I’m not sure I’m happy with your definition (as opposed to the definitions I find in my dictionaries), and I don’t know that you’ve demonstrated that the members of al-Qaeda meet your definition. Certainly they have a goal, and they’re (tautologically) trying to achieve their goal, but the same thing can be said about a lot of people. What are examples of some people that you would consider to be irrational?

54

Nat Whilk 05.19.04 at 3:24 pm

Roger wrote:

Hitchens prose has gone South since he joined the Right.

It seems that a lot of people who differ with his current political views feel that way. It would be nice to get an appraisal of his prose from someone without strong political views. Does anyone know of reviews of Hitchens’ work (both before and after his conversion) written by such a person?

55

blogoholic 05.19.04 at 3:29 pm

In response to pepi”

“And he’s just the right person to lecture about self-criticism? Because he is so very critical of the movement he’s part of?”

Actually, he is pretty critical. He’s not an apologist for either Bush or Rumsfeld. He’s a Wolfowitz supporter and he bases that, among other things, on Wolfowitz’s record of having been right on the big questions in the past as opposed to Kissinger who was almost always wrong.

“And he never exploits a rhetoric trick to shift the whole weight of accountability to this powerful “left”, no matter if there’s a right-wing government in power?”

The word “left” isn’t used once in the Hitchens article and he does not attempt to shift the whole weight of accountability. He wrote in an earlier piece on Abu Gharib that the US must adhere to higher standards of human rights due to the nature of this war.

“It’s like Patricia said. The guy is just a polemicist, he is more fond of rage than reasoning.”

I have a problem with this whole “rage” thing. So what if someone’s angry with just cause. Well-channeled anger has done a lot of good in the world.

“There’s no better propagandists for the right-wing than former leftists (far leftists, in this case) turned sour against anything that can be fitted in that big wide “left” world. “

And vice versa- hello David Horowitz, Robert McNamara. It’s interesting isn’t it, how people are always so eager to embrace converts to the cause.

ONly problem is that Hitchens isn’t exactly a convert. He’s been speaking out against Islamofascism since the Rushdie fatwah.

As for your pedestal comment, well exactly who’s climbed on to a pedestal appears to depend a lot on your perspective,

56

tr 05.19.04 at 3:41 pm

Ted-
I don’t think you misrepresented Hitchens at all. Good job.

“Who, exactly, does Hitchens think he’s fooling?”

Maybe he wants to fool himself, because the truth hurts.

57

Scott Spiegelberg 05.19.04 at 4:10 pm

Blogoholic wrote:

“He’s a Wolfowitz supporter and he bases that, among other things, on Wolfowitz’s record of having been right on the big questions in the past as opposed to Kissinger who was almost always wrong.”

Wolfowitz was wrong about the support that Iraqis would give to the troops. Wolfowitz was wrong about the financing of the war and occupation (he said that Iraqi oil production would pay for the whole thing). Wolfowitz was wrong about the number of troops that would be needed, when he publically chastised Shineseki for giving a more accurate number. I am not familiar with Wolfowitz’s track record before2002, but it has been abysmal since then.

58

Sam Dodsworth 05.19.04 at 4:32 pm

If I understand you correctly, Bush’s rhetoric had put himself in the position that he could be justly condemned by the Left as immoral if he assassinated al-Zarqawi and he could be justly condemned by the Left as inconsistent if he failed to assassinate al-Zarqawi. Have I got that right?

If my position is that I’m in favor of comitting an immoral act then I’m immoral if I do conmmit it and inconsistent if I don’t. How is that difficult to understand?

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Matt Weiner 05.19.04 at 4:41 pm

almost all the criticism of the Afghanistan war came from the left: the candlelit vigils, “the world’s richest country attacking the world’s poorest,” the “let’s talk to Mullah Omar” stuff. When you fail to acknowledge that , you are ceasing to be honest.

The second bolded statement doesn’t follow from the first. Just because most critics of the war were lefty doesn’t mean most lefties criticized the war. (Cf: Most murderers are men—>Most men are murderers.)
You owe us some evidence that we opposed the war in Afghanistan if you want to accuse us of hypocrisy. I don’t think the stats on American opposition to the war in Afghanistan v. American opposition to the war in Iraq will bear your point out. If you mean something different, I’d like to hear what.
(And to the commenter who said that Roger Simon’s commenters are comparatively temperate about Hersh–I should fucking hope so. Hitchens is saying a lot of very nasty things about his political opponents. Hersh is exposing facts, which he did not create, about the conduct of the occupation. There’s a big moral difference–see under “messenger, shooting the.”)

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blogoholic 05.19.04 at 4:53 pm

matt — no one said most lefties opposed the Afghan war. What I said was almost all opponents of that war were lefties and I stand by it. “A big component” does not mean the biggest or the major or the majority. It means big as in able to hold big demos, get plenty of press coverage, etc. that’s it, that’s all.

And quite frankly, I don’t find what Hitchens is saying about his political opponents any more nasty then what Hersh’s sources (mostly anonymous) are saying about their political opponents.

Now, I think it’s time for me to leave since it’s unlikely that anyone’s mind is going to be changed.

61

pepi 05.19.04 at 5:03 pm

“once a communist, always a communist – at least in in terms of absolutist, binary thinking.”

That’s a rather absolutist statement itself, isn’t it?

Nope. That was sarcasm. As in, not literal. Not meaning “every single person who was a communist always remains a communist”. Maybe I should have written: once a Hitchens, always a Hitchens. His absolutist thinking is probably more to do with his own character and fascination with ideologies, rather than the ideologies themselves.

But he’s not the only Hitchens in the world, that’s for sure. When you’re drawn to such all-embracing ideologies in the same way as him, you can switch from one to the other, but you’ll still keep reasoning the same way.

Is that clearer now?

Just a question – is dislike for some pundit celebrity like Hitchens such an inconceivable thing? like some offense to a royalty or something? If you’re such a fan of his, you might want to keep in mind Hitchens doesn’t like the royals himself.

Actually, he is pretty critical. He’s not an apologist for either Bush or Rumsfeld.

If you say so…

Well-channeled anger has done a lot of good in the world.

Right, right. Anger is a positive energy. That’s more Johnny Rotten than Cristopher Hitchens, but ok. So I guess even if rage makes you write a lot of crap and be heavier than a fundamentalist preacher, as long as your heart’s in it, and your cause is good, that’s ok, right? From my p.o.v., it’s not, but you know, tastes.

62

pepi 05.19.04 at 5:08 pm

And quite frankly, I don’t find what Hitchens is saying about his political opponents any more nasty then what Hersh’s sources (mostly anonymous) are saying about their political opponents.

I knew it, it’s the Clintonites! The witch, Hillary, is the master of all conspiracies. She went to Iraq and organised the whole torture thing, it was all staged! all fake! and only to attack her political opponents. Kerry is probably in the plot too. And his wife, oh la la, she’s French, so she must have something to do with this as well…

63

Spencer 05.19.04 at 5:42 pm

“Trailer porn”? Wasn’t Hitchens a Marxist once? Not only has he become a hawkish apologist, but he’s an elitist too?

Crap that’s a terrible article.

64

Walt Pohl 05.19.04 at 6:51 pm

Blogoholic: Your point is a fair one, but you should know something about the history of those your criticize. In late 2001 and early 2002, Ted criticized the anti-Afghanistan-war left constantly.

Nat: In my experience with many of these comment boards, right-wingers show up just to start pointless arguments that are rarely on-topic. If this does not apply to you, then I apologize.

65

Matt Weiner 05.20.04 at 6:04 am

I don’t find what Hitchens is saying about his political opponents any more nasty then what Hersh’s sources (mostly anonymous) are saying about their political opponents.
Well, I hope Hitchens isn’t saying anything as nasty about his opponents as the things Hersh’s sources are saying. Thing is, what Hersh’s sources are saying is backed up by a lot of evidence. I’ve never seen what Hitchens says backed by any evidence at all.

66

pepi 05.20.04 at 7:03 am

Yesterday BBC One aired this. Very, very interesting. Gen. Karpinski was interviewed. With Lynndie England and her mates, you get the impression their insisting they were only following orders from above is also a way to shift the blame from themselves. BUT… when you hear Karpinski tell of how that guy from Guantanamo took over Abu Ghraib to “enhance” interrogation practices, it starts to get a bit scarier… That was a DoD decision, to send over that guy (forgot his name). They showed one of the pictures (a ‘stolen’ one, where people were not posing or looking into the camera, did not even know they were being photographed) where the military intelligence guys could be seen overseeing the naked-body-pile thing. Karpinski made a good point, that unsuprisingly is evaded by the “just a few apples” interpretation – in all those pictures where Lynndie England and friends are posing proudly showing off their “enhanced” interrogation methods, they look perfectly at ease, relaxed, taking their time. If they were so afraid of getting caught, they a) probably wouldn’t have taken pictures in the first place, and b) if they did, they would have done so much more hastily. If you look at those individuals smiling over the piles of bodies, you can only conclude they were so comfortable with what they were doing, and with taking dozens of photos of it all, because they knew that everyone else already knew about it, and that it’d be ok, and in fact, that they took photos precisely to show off to the intelligence guys how good they were at those “enhanced” ways with inmates.
That’s the only thing that makes sense.

That Guantanamo guy is still overseeing all of the prisons in Iraq.

At the end of the documentary they showed a clip from Rumsfeld’s latest visit to Iraq, where he jokes and laughs and says, “I’m a survivor”. It doesn’t even sound as if these people care at all about the damage that’s been done, as long as they remain in power.

Very fucking sad.

And all that the sycophants like Hitchens can do is point the finger somewhere else and shoot the messenger, indeed.

Even if there was no Hersh to tell about this, it would still have happened. But somehow it’s Hersh’s fault for accepting information from sources, information that turned out to be true.

And somehow, the only ‘politicising’ that is wrong is simply holding a Secretary of Defense accountable _ just like he acknowledged he is _…, while them getting away with it is ok.

That’s such a great lesson in avoiding hypocrisy, for sure. Marvellous spin. Except this kind of spin never takes into account that people may not all be that stupid.

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Patricia Michaels 05.21.04 at 4:57 pm

To Nat re: rationality

“Standard economic theory teaches that rationality is defined as self-interested, utility maximizing individuals with access to complete information. The Islamic Jihaddists are attempting to maximize a utility (destruction of western dominance)that is anathma to the west. It makes them rational”

I’m not sure I’m happy with your definition (as opposed to the definitions I find in my dictionaries), and I don’t know that you’ve demonstrated that the members of al-Qaeda meet your definition. Certainly they have a goal, and they’re (tautologically) trying to achieve their goal, but the same thing can be said about a lot of people. What are examples of some people that you would consider to be irrational?

——–
I’m referring to rationality in terms of rational choice theory. see..

http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Rational%20Choice%20Theory

Economists, political scientists, sociologists etc., who use rational choice theory assume rationality.

Of course the basic assumptions underlying rational choice theory are just that, assumptions, and they have been tweaked by practioners of rational choice theory over time. For example, Herbert Simon, noble prize winner, talks of “bounded rationality” to deal with the assumption of “complete knowledge”.
http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Simon.html

To argue “rationality” in any way other than the economics way is to engage in polemics, which Mr. Hitchens does.

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