Michael Totten recounts his night out with Christopher Hitchens and a couple of Iraqis that they talked to. Some of the latter weren’t too happy. Totten reflects:
Maybe there was no way to avoid the tension wrought by invasion and occupation, and the air just had to be cleared. Perhaps our Iraqi guests … really didn’t (and don’t) completely understand how we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past.
He goes on to say that “Friendly Arabs are the easiest people to bond with I’ve ever met.” It’s the unfriendly ones that cause everyone such problems. And, he continues,
I respected them more, too, because they stood up to me and Christopher Hitchens. They are not servile people. They will never, ever, be anyone’s puppets.
They’ve got spirit, the little buggers. Me ‘n’ Hitch are quite the team, but when you’re trying your best to tell them the way things are, they will be interrupting and getting annoyed and saying unreasonable things like “Who are you to tell us what to do!?” What’s that phrase again? “The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard.” But dissent is the lifeblood of democracy. Of course, we can’t permit them to pick the wrong government for themselves. “If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power” (Hitchens). The invasion force would consist of “the US and Britain … along with—hopefully—everyone here at this table” (Totten). Or, as Tom Lehrer put it more succinctly some years ago, “They’ve got to be protected / All their rights respected / Till somebody we like can be elected.”
Read the whole thing if you like. It’s full of small moments of whatever the opposite of an epiphany is. Like Hitchens’ schoolboy-debater habit of calling people “Sir” as he talks down at them (as in “So you’re saying, sir, that you can be bought”). Or Totten’s heartfelt comment that “Something I said must have got through to him, and thank God for that. He and I—truly— were on the same side. I knew it, and I’m pretty certain he knew it too.” Or Hitchens saying that he has to leave because “I have to get up in the morning and continue the fight on CNN.” Couldn’t have put it better myself, mate.
(Via Jim Henley.)