Edward Herman replies to David Schweickart's report on a meeting for Hitchens

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 4 12:12:40 MST 2001


Dec. 4, 2001

Dear David Schweickart:

I didn't hear Hitchens recent talk at the University of Chicago, but from
what you summarize of his remarks there, and from my close familiarity with
his rapid movement to the right and serial apologetics for U.S. and NATO
interventions everywhere (including East Timor), I think you are far too
charitable toward him in your "Is Bush's War Our War" (Nov. 20). When he
says Bush's war is "our war," speaking to the "left," this is now a sick
joke, as would be David Horowitz or Paul Johnson saying the same.

As you state at the end of your note, the principal aim of the U.S. state
is to find an enemy to replace the Soviet Threat--and you might have added,
specifically, to allow this now uncontained superpower to go after any
enemy it chooses to attack, to carve out a position for itself in the
Caspian Sea region, and to help the leadership use fright to pacify and
better exploit its own population. Anybody on the left recognizes that the
real and frightening "expansionism," now in an accelerating and violent
phase, is centered in Washington, and Bush's war is an ugly facet of it. In
the British press there are steady reports that even Tony Blair and his
gang are worried about the Bush administration's plans to extend the war
beyond Afghanistan while they have "momentum," but not Hitchens. Even the
New York Times editors are now upset over the feedback of Bush's war on
U.S. civil liberties and domestic issues, but not Hitchens. Bush is
attacking the "Islamic fascists," just as Clinton was getting the "Serb
fascists," and that is all that counts for the new Hitchens.

Can't you see the humor of Hitchens speaking about "Taliban expansionism"
and proving it with nonsense about the Taliban trying to infiltrate and
take over Pakistan, when the United States is spreading over the globe, has
itself penetrated Pakistan and entered into closer alliances with other
regional goons of convenience, and has always felt it to be its right to
infiltrate and subvert on a global basis?

I don't agree with you that overthrowing the Taliban is a "good thing"--if
done by the Godfather. Sure it would be nice for it to be ousted, but you
are ignoring your own understanding that the United States is on a rampage,
and successfully overthrowing the Taliban will encourage it to enlarge its
rampages (it is already talking about keeping up that momentum). Note how
the Bush administration is now throwing its weight behind Ariel Sharon's
little "war on terrorism," clearly part of the overall war that we can
expect to spread widely. This doesn't bother Hitchens, but it must deeply
concern everybody on the left. Also, there is a question of how the Taliban
is overthrown--the costs in starvation, "collateral damage," and the likely
imposition of a new set of goons of convenience. The Godfather is getting
more ruthless by the day, now "taking out" entire villages in Afghanistan,
and getting away with it because the U.S. media are keeping it--and the
murderous behavior of the goons supported by the U.S. on the ground--in the
black hole, and they are helped immeasurably by people like Hitchens.

The idea that the Taliban is a fascist and expansionist threat, and that
Islamic fundamentalism more broadly speaking is the same, doesn't hold
water (Louis Proyect's note to you deals with this quite well). Hitchens
has come to use "fascist" as an epithet to apply to any enemy of the moment.

The Taliban is a nasty local authoritarian group with very modest power and
capabilities--before the U.S. attack, barely able to cope with controlling
its own terrain. As I noted, proof of its "transnational designs" by
reference to its infiltration of the Pakistan military is laughable--as if
every country does not mess around with its neighbors; and no transnational
designs are seen by Hitchens in the case of the United States as it buys up
Pakistan generals, because its imperial and "humanitarian" service he now
applauds, and as an apologist for imperialism he takes its transnational
designs as an internalized given. The general ideology of the Taliban and
Islamic fundamentalists are no more proof of expansionism than any other
ideology, like the Christian, Jewish, or communism. The new Hitchens,
transplanted back into the 1960s and 1970s, would have claimed that
communist ideology proved "transnational designs" and he would have
supporting the "war against communism" and the "Red fascists."

How about the ideology of the "free market" and the need to bring "liberal
democracy" and "human rights" everywhere--except where inconvenient to
transnational corporate interests--as demonstrating transnational designs?
Here we are dealing with something real and important, because this is the
ideology of a transnational system with the military muscle to implement
those designs. Bush is fighting "their war," and Chistopher Hitchens' war.

Sincerely,  Ed Herman


Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org


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