Hitch’s Journey

In a panel discussion on the Iraq War, Christopher Hitchens tells the tale of his journey away from the modern International Left, which has become more a party than an ideology, to his chagrin.

Andrew Marr – You, I suppose fell out with quite a lot of people on the left over your support for Iraq and that’s the thing that probably dominates this collection more than anything else …

Christopher Hitchens – … I made a lot of friends on the Iraqi and Kurdish left on the other hand which more than made up for it.

Andrew Marr – But did all of this start with 9/11? Is that the moment of, sort of …

Christopher Hitchens – … Oh, by no means, no. It starts for me at the end of the first Gulf War, the one in 1991, which I was very critical of until the closing stages, when I was in Northern Iraq bouncing around in a jeep with some Kurdish guerrillas. They taped a picture of George Bush senior to their windshield, on my side, so that I couldn’t see out. And after a bit I complained. I said “look do we have to have this, I can’t see” (and also it would be awfully embarrassing if I ran into anyone I knew). I remember that the Iran-Contra business was very vivid in my mind. They said “the fact of the matter is we can move it to a side window if you like, but we think that without his intervention, without the umbrella in Northern Iraq, that we, and all our families, would be dead”. And I realised that I didn’t have a clever answer to that. And I began to re-work back to the origins of the war and realised that co-existence with the Saddam Hussein regime was no longer possible. And that was in 1991. Anyway, if you hadn’t concluded it by then you were obviously not going to be persuaded – as since we have found out.

Hitch has always been an outspoken critic of human rights abuses, and the United States hasn’t escaped his criticism. However, unlike some on the International Left, such as Amnesty International’s Irene Khan, Hitch gets it right when it comes to apportioning blame. He has traveled extensively in some of the hotspots of the world, and as a consequence, he gets an opportunity to see things as they really are. No panty-waisted CNN journo hiding in a safe hotel in Baghdad, he actually spent time traveling far and wide. I’ll take his word over that of the Khans or Galloways of this world any day.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

Spoken Like a True Liberal

Keith Thompson, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, tells the story of yet another disaffected liberal finding some common cause with Bush voters:

I’m leaving the left — more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives — people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere — reciting all the ways Iraq’s democratic experiment might yet implode.

More devastatingly for the Left (and in perfect keeping with Mike Jericho’s observation about the Left’s resemblance to Nazis), Keith notes the corruption of individual identity under the aegis of the Left’s elites:

True, it took a while to see what was right before my eyes. A certain misplaced loyalty kept me from grasping that a view of individuals as morally capable of and responsible for making the principle decisions that shape their lives is decisively at odds with the contemporary left’s entrance-level view of people as passive and helpless victims of powerful external forces, hence political wards who require the continuous shepherding of caretaker elites.

Leftists who no longer speak of the duties of citizens, but only of the rights of clients, cannot be expected to grasp the importance (not least to our survival) of fostering in the Middle East the crucial developmental advances that gave rise to our own capacity for pluralism, self-reflection, and equality. A left averse to making common cause with competent, self- determining individuals — people who guide their lives on the basis of received values, everyday moral understandings, traditional wisdom, and plain common sense — is a faction that deserves the marginalization it has pursued with such tenacity for so many years.

I wonder if Keith has gotten any death threats yet. Still, it’s a bold step in the right direction.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

Coping with Modernity – Leftism and Islamism

From the beginnings of the steam engine in Scotland, to the semiconductor fabrication plants in California, human history over the last three hundred years has witnessed the unfolding of an inexorable trend and veritable explosion of material progress. The end of the Eighteenth Century saw the rise of portable firearms and the resulting obsolescense of traditional European set piece warfare; the discovery of the nature of electricity; and the development of the steam engine. The end of the Nineteenth Century witnessed the birth of mechanized warfare, conceived in the Crimean War, born in the fires of the American Civil War, nurtured through the Franco-Prussian War, and imitated in the Sino-Japanese War; the harnessing of electricity by the Wizard of Menlo Park; the development of the internal combustion engine; the rise of Darwinism as an explanation for natural history; and the building of an ever more sophisticated telecommunications network. By the end of the Twentieth Century, nuclear weapons were the ultimate military status symbols; electricity is taken for granted even in developing nations; gas engines were becoming hybridized with electric motors; the Human Genome Project was nearly completed; and the Internet was already old enough to drink, even in the United States, and web logs were already laying their seeds.

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