Hitchens: apologist for genocide and slavery

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 5 12:47:17 MST 2001

(This was posted to LBO-Talk by Mark Pavlick, who is the editor of a
Chomsky anthology put out by Common Courage Press. After Pavlick forwarded
my critique of Schweickart/Hitchens to Edward Herman, who is a frequent
collaborator with Chomsky, Herman wrote several rebuttals of his own that
mentioned mine favorably and which Pavlick forwarded to LBO-Talk. That
Herman could mention me favorably has caused some amount of consternation
on LBO-Talk, where I am regarded as Satan's spawn.)

An earlier example of Hitchens' disregard for non-official victims can be
seen by looking back at a column he wrote for the Nation on October 19,
1992. In it Hitchens ridiculed the attempt being made that year by some
progressives, including David Dellinger, to remember the mass murder of
Native Americans during the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the
Columbian era.

>From the essay "The Politics of Genocide Scholarship" by David Stannard in
Is The Holocaust Unique? edited by Alan S. Rosenbaum (Westview, 1996):

And in the person of Christopher Hitchens, writing in the Nation, the
political left then sounded its voice. To Hitchens, anyone who refused to
join him in celebrating "with great vim and gusto" the annihilation of the
native peoples of the Americas was (in his words) self-hating, ridiculous,
ignorant, and sinister. People who regard critically the genocide that was
carried out in America's past, Hitchens continued, are simply reactionary,
since such grossly inhuman atrocities "happen to be the way history is
made". And thus "to complain about[them] is as empty as complaint about
climatic, geological, or tectonic shift". Moreover, he added, such violence
is worth glorifying since it more often than not has been for the long-term
betterment of humankind - as in the United States today, where the
extermination of the Native Americans - the American Indians - has brought
about "a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation".

One possible exception Hitchens allowed to his vulgar social Darwinism,
with its quasi-Hitlerian view of the proper role of power in history, was
the Euro-American enslavement of tens of millions of Africans. But even
then, Hitchens contended, those centuries of massive brutality only
"probably  left Africa worse off than they found it". Clearly, however...if
it could be shown to Hitchens' personal satisfaction that Africa was in
fact "better off" following the enslavement and simultaneous mass killing
of 40 million to 60 million of its people, he would celebrate the
abominations of the slave trade with the same vim and gusto that he did the
genocide against the native peoples of the Americas.

These are, of course, precisely the same sort of retrospective
justifications for genocide that would have been offered by the descendants
of Nazi storm troopers and SS doctors had the Third Reich ultimately had
its way; that is, however distasteful the means, the extermination of the
Jews was thoroughly warranted given the beneficial ends that were
accomplished. In this light it is worth considering again what the reaction
would be in Europe and elsewhere if the equivalent of the actual  views of
Krauthammer and Schlesinger and Hitchens were expressed today by the
respectable press in Germany - but with Jews, not Native Americans, as the
people whose historical near-extermination was being celebrated. And there
is no doubt whatsoever that if that were to happen, alarm bells announcing
a frightening and unparalleled postwar resurgence of German neo-Nazism
would, quite justifiably, be going off immediately throughout the world.

Louis Proyect
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