Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hitchens on Reporting from Iraq

Christopher Hitchens is interviewed by Hugh Hewitt on the radio and has some interesting observations:
I can think of some outstanding reporters who've done their very best to cover it. Michael Gordon's new book, for example, I think is very good. And John Burns from the New York Times is outstanding, much better than his newspaper, when he writes there, that's to say.

Yes, I too have asked in my blogs why the estimable John Burns is absent from the NYT and I suspect it is because Burns is far more perceptive and reliable than the B-List bylines with him in Baghdad and therefore does not toe the NYT party line---namely we're losing the war and making no progress. Hitchens describes the problem:
"I remember when I was in Bosnia, all of the press was hostile to Milosevic in one way or another, and as it happened, I thought that was the right bias to have. But I did realize it was a bias. 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."
HH: Yeah, I tried to make an argument last night...
CH: And defeat at worst. And in some ways, it doesn't want its prediction to be falsified. I won't say any more than that. It's not a conspiracy, but it's definitely a mindset.

Hugh Hewitt goes on to describe a discussion last night on TV which I happened to watch, when he took on Michael Ware and Nic Robertson, the two CNN Commonwealth types whose theme matches that of the NYT.
HH: Compared to what, Mr. Ware? Compared to Baghdad under Saddam? Are you arguing that Iraqis are worse off today than they were four years ago?
Anderson Cooper: Michael Ware, do you want to respond?
MW: Yeah, well I think if you ask a lot of Iraqis, I think you'll be surprised by what the answer is. A whole lot of them say what? This is democracy? The joke is you call this liberation. And okay, let's look at the context, as you suggest. Let's look at the even bigger picture. What is the bigger picture? 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 p

Geopolitician Michael Ware [who looks like someone I'd want on my side in a barroom brawl] who has covered several war zones, believes he now qualifies as a master prognosticator. What about Ralph Peters and some other reliable types who report US troops are actually stabilizing factors in a volatile environment? Hitchens caught what I had seen on Ware's features during the interview, a sort of pugnacious in-your-face over-wrought athletic sort of expostulatory zeal:
CH: In part it does, because it's very passive. In other words, you read all the time, people say, 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, who have been announcing for two years now that it's their plan to create a sectarian civil war by destroying the other side's Mosques in an unbelievable piece of facistic blasphemy. 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. 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.
CH: By the way, since he mentions Mr. Zarqawi, about whom I know a lot, Mr. Zarqawi was a very senior member of the bin Laden family. He probably had, and in my opinion, probably always did have the ambition to outdo Mr. bin Laden, and to become himself the great sheikh and a great leader. But he was a very important member of that gang in Afghanistan already, long before. And of course, if we hadn't gone to Afghanistan, if we'd left it in the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda, he'd still be there. He wouldn't be in Iraq, so of course your man is correct again in saying we've made him worse. But what...has he thought of the logic of what he's saying? Of course Zarqawi would still be in Afghanistan if we left him alone.
HH: The logic of...
CH: I mean the whole thing is based on this unbelievably masochistic passivity, and which leads to people making elementary logical mistakes they wouldn't otherwise make, because they wouldn't otherwise be blinded by their predjudice.

Hitchens' intuitive antennae are second-to-none and his noting that junk-yard dog Zarqawi is vying for ObL's Chairman of the Board position of Terrorist-in-Chief is spot on. These world-class criminals and genocidal maniacs vie with the Milosevices and Saddams and Kim Jung Ils of the planet for nastiest bad guy of all. Hewitt and Hitchens continue in a duet of perceptive POVs that elucidate the insanity of the leftist America-bashers around the world:
In Rwanda, the great shame is that in that civil war, the West did not intervene. Now it strikes me as exceedingly odd that on the left, there are voices who wish us to withdraw from Iraq because of the threat of civil war. Does that add up?

CH: Of course, if we had gone into Rwanda when we could have done, when we were warned, and when the United Nations commanders there were begging just for a slight increase in force that would have held off, or at least blunted the original genocidal attack, of course there would have had to be a moment where American soldiers fired on the people trying to commit genocide. It would have happened, and we would have been accused of starting a civil war in Rwanda if that had happened. And you know by who, as well.

Yes, just when does a low-intensity war morph into an insurgency that morphs into a civil war? The left says it depends on how much it will hurt GWB and its demonized conservative opponents. Lots of geopolitics and a little mumbo-jumbo and, presto! Civil War! It's all relative, you see. Hitchens says it better, though:
CH: Well, I object to people like Michael Moore for example, or Ramsey Clark being referred to the New York Times as anti-war activists, or anti-war campaigners. They're not anti-war at all. For one thing, they're not pacifists, particularly not Ramsey Clark. For another, they've declared that they believe the beheaders and jihadists and the blowers up of Mosques and mutilators of women and so forth are a liberation force or an insurgency. Michael Moore even said they were the modern equivalent to the American founding fathers. So in that case, fine. George Galloway's the same. Many of them are. They're not really against the war. They're not anti-war, but on the other side in the war for civilization, and they should be called out on it and given their right name.

HH: Do you believe that there are leaders in the Democratic Party in Congress who also belong to that caucus?

CH: No, I can't say that I do think that. I mean, maybe Cynthia McKinney, who is not exactly a leader. She seems sometimes to talk in a sort of manner, but no, I think that we're far from that in this case. I think what you have there is again, a sort of fatalism, the feeling that if you can say a war is unwinnable, you've also said it's wrong. In other words, that you would desert the side you were on if you thought things were going badly. That's a moral degeneracy of a different kind.

Yes, is certainly moral degeneracy of a higher order. They used to call it "treason," but as the poet said during the English Civil War, "when treason rules the land, none dare call it treason." The MSM and its allies in the judiciary rules the land on issues of moral consequence, but is exempt from prosecution. The jungle telegraph drums incessantly, but CH finally reveals that some perspicacious senior MSM commissars are beginning to feel twinges of, could it be? Conscience?
HH: Well then, in 30 seconds, if the Democratic Party returns to power in this country, you get thirty seconds now, what happens?

CH: I'll just tell you something a very senior person at a well-known network. I know this sounds a bit odd, but I just can't tell you who he is or which network. I don't have the right to do it. But you'll have to believe me, okay?

HH: Okay.

CH: He called me the other day. This is not a guy who's in any way a conservative, and said you know, we've known each other for a bit. He said you know, I'm beginning to think you must be right, because it really worries me what we're doing, when we are giving the other side the impression that all they need to do is hang on until the end of this administration. Do people know what they're doing when they're doing this? One doesn't have to make any allegation of disloyalty, but just...if it worries him, as it really does, I think it should worry other people, too, and it certainly worries me.

Disloyalty or treason, what does it matter? If the post-modern agenda can be reinstalled in the corridors of the Executive and Legislative Branches of government, then we can all go the way of France and Germany into historical irrelevance. And let China and India and the oil powers call the shots.

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