Hitchens at War by Tariq Ali

John Cox hazel_motes52 at hotmail.com
Sat Sep 29 08:56:29 MDT 2001

Hitchens At War

By Tariq Ali

September 26, 2001

When Christopher Hitchens supports a Western war he usually
concentrates his fire on the 'enemy'. During the Falklands escapade he
wasn't bothered by the sinking of the Belgrano or other such trivia
that 'liberal twits' were questioning. For him Galtieri was a fascist
and Mrs Thatcher was right. During the Balkan wars he decided that the
Serbs were the enemy, Milosevic was a fascist and NATO was right to
wage war. He slipped up on the Gulf War, which he opposed despite the
fact that Saddam, in the eyes of many who supported that war, was a
fascist as well.

Perhaps Hitchens should re-think his position on that war, to make his
overall posture slightly more consistent. Everyone would
understand. What is odd about the current crisis is that his targets
in this war seem to be Pilger, Chomsky, Finkelstein, Pinter, et
al. This list too is incomplete. For some reason he excludes Susan
Sontag whose excellent New Yorker piece warning against crude revenge
has been reprinted all over the world. The position adopted by all
those under attack is fairly straightforward. The terrorist attacks
were appalling and unjustifiable, but to explain is not to
justify. Explanations are desperately needed to avoid a repetition
anywhere in the world.

To say that the Manhattan and Pentagon bombers are 'fascists with an
Islamic face' can help whip up a war-frenzy, but it solves nothing,
apart from being a wrong-headed analogy. Pre-war fascism was based on
both mass and corporate support, which they retained till it became
obvious that they were going to be defeated. Likewise the European
'post'- fascists today: Haidar in Austria, Fini in Italy, Le Pen in
France and their friends in Britain base themselves on a certain
degree of popular support.

The groups that carried out the attack on the United States are
reminiscent of another tradition. They are propagandists of the
deed. They imagine that by sensational terrorist actions they can
exert sufficient pressure to change the course of politics and
history. It is pressure politics of the sort, which deliberately
excludes any attempt to mobilize mass support. Someone once referred
to them as 'liberals with a bomb'. They believe that the spectacle of
murder and mayhem can effect change and usually they're wrong.

Who were they? How were they recruited? What made them decide to
sacrifice their own lives and thousands of others? Here the answers
are obvious. The question is not what Osama Bin Laden thinks of the
state of the world. His former employers in the CIA are well versed as
far as he concerned. The question is how he recruits middle-class
graduates in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to his cause. For it is they and
not the illiterate bearded fanatics in Afghanistan who carried out
these monstrous actions. Here a quick viewing of Bin Laden's video
messages to his followers in Saudi Arabia and Egypt makes his appeal
obvious. What he says (and I've seen one of them) is that the Gulf War
was a crime against the people of Iraq. He and Hitchens agree on that.
Secondly he denounces the continued occupation of Palestine and
Western complicity with the suffering of the Palestinians. Hitchens
would agree with that as well. Thirdly he denounces the corrupt and
hypocritical Arab regimes and venal political leaders who refuse to
re-distribute wealth.

He refers to them as bloodsuckers living off the oil that is a 'common
property'. Here, too, I think, Hitchens would be in agreement. Of
course, Bin Laden's solution is a nightmare Pax Talibana throughout
the world of Islam, which few Muslims or non-Muslims want. But his
appeal for educated young men in the Middle-East lies in what he
demands and therefore our response must surely be to insist on
political solutions that drain away support from terrorist
groups. When the IRA attempted to blow up the British Cabinet in
Brighton, the British state, horrified though it was, did not declare
war on Ireland. In fact, soon afterwards it began to search for
political solutions.

The same applies here even though the circumstances are much more
horrific.  Until the question of Palestine is resolved; until the
bombing and sanctions against Iraq cease, there will be many willing
recruits to carry out terrorist actions. . Even Jack Straw understand
this, which is why he spoke of Palestinian suffering as a cause of
this disaster while on a recent trip to Teheran. To bomb a shattered
and famished remnant of a Third World country is not an answer. It
will do nothing to deter future recruits. The same applies here even
though the circumstances are much more horrific.

Perhaps deep down Hitchens is aware of this fact, he doubts the
efficacy of what the West is about to do, and, for that reason has
turned his guns against the critics of the war. What is needed is a
sober reflection on what really needs to be done. If Hitchens carries
on in this vein, he'll soon find himself addressing the same
gatherings as his sparring partner, Henry Kissinger. CP

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