Thursday, March 23, 2006

Where to start regarding the latest Christopher Hitchens pronouncements, in this radio interview with Hugh Hewitt?

Do you start with Hitchens's McCarthyite suggestion that most war correspondents are working in cahoots to help bring about U.S. failure in Iraq?

And when I've been in the company of people covering Iraq, I notice this...another herd mentality, and it's been there since before the war, and it's placed a bet on quagmire at best ... And defeat at worst.... I won't say any more than that.

Do you talk about his distortion of the history of Zarqawi?

(Hitchens suggests that Zarqawi was tight with bin Laden right up until the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, as Nir Rosen reminded us last month in The New York Times Magazine, Zarqawi had begun bickering with Al Qaeda, had turned his focus to the "near enemy" of regional "infidels" whom he considered insufficiently Islamist, and had already moved to a separate part of Afghanistan; it was the U.S. invasion of Iraq that brought him back together with Al Qaeda, because the "Crusaders" of the U.S. and the "near enemy" in Iraq were now working side by side.)

Do you talk about the free pass Hitchens gives all war supporters -- the argument that, because Saddam and the insurgents are very, very bad guys, it's wrong to hold the Bush administration and its allies to any standard of accountability whatsoever?

... you could look at any of your today's newspapers and notice it, and say well, there's a civil war atmosphere, as if that was a criticism of the Bush administration, instead of the people like Zarqawi.... People look at you when they read about atrocities is if it's your fault for wanting to get rid of Saddam Hussein. This is simply illogical. It's a non sequitur.

Or do you talk about the weirdly sexual and bitchy way he dismisses one war critic?

Hugh Hewitt: ... Last night on CNN, I was debating this with Michael Ware from Time Magazine.... I want to play you a little bit. Michael Ware's a very respected war correspondent. He's covered Timor, he's covered all sorts of civil wars. He's an Australian, he's a rugby player. He's tough as nails. But here's an exchange last night I'd like your take on. I'm asking him a question.

...Michael Ware: ... Who's winning from this war? Who is benefitting right now? Well, the main winners so far are al Qaeda, which is stronger than it was before the invasion. Abu Musab al Zarqawi was a nobody. Now he's the superstar of international jihad. And Iran...Iran essentially has a proxy government in place, a very, very friendly government. Its sphere of influence has expanded, and any U.S. diplomat or senior military intelligence commander here will tell you that. So that's the big picture. Where is that being reported?

HH: Christopher Hitchens, does that reflect the mindset that you're talking about?

Christopher Hitchens: In part it does, because it's very passive. ... It's a non sequitur. And you'll note the slight tone of hysteria and the nervousness, I think, in the over-assertive way that your man was just talking now.

HH: Yes, I did notice that.

(Emphasis mine.)

Hewitt notes that Ware is a tough Aussie rugby player -- and Hitchens immediately dismisses him as an overemotional hysteric.

There are several things to be said about that. First, please note that there's an MP3 of the interview at the link. If you listen to it, you won't hear hysteria on Ware's part. He's straightforward and bluff -- no sneering barbs of irony for him. (I've heard him before on TV and he always sounds like this.) The question does, momentarily, seem to tap into some pent-up frustration. But also, he's talking loudly because he wants to be heard. He's answering questions via satellite from half a world away. (And what are the car horns and crowd noises? Whether they're in the background as he's speaking or part of a news clip CNN played under his words, he needed a little extra volume to be audible.)

But most important, Ware was speaking from Baghdad. He's in a war zone.

Where was Hitchens speaking from?

Nevertheless, I'm sure Hitchens walked away from the Hewitt interview that thinking he could kick Michael Ware's ass.

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