'It wasn't 'My Pet Goat'! Moore's a liar!' - Hitch
Right. I said when starting this blog that one of my main aims was t to take on the arguments of the late Christopher Hitchens, and I have been somewhat tardy in so delivering. Here then, is the first of a series deconstructing Judas' supposed debunking of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.
From Hitchens' article in Microsoft's soon-to-be-sold-off attempt at an online magazine, Slate, and a 'debate' between him and George Monbiot on Australia's tepid Lateline, I can find a total of nineteen key complaints he has of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.
These, essentially, are Hitchen's criticisms: [The first eight are quoted from the Lateline transcript; the rest taken from Hitchen's Slate article]
Hitchens: "It purports to say we are at war with Islamic Jihadism, not because of Islamic Jihadism but because of private dealings by the Bush family.
In other words, there is nothing to worry about, there is no clash, there is no crisis, there is no terrorism - except American terrorism.
Within that there are about - one very good reviewer's counted 56 or so individual falsifications, I could mention some of them myself if you like."
To the first point: Moore does not purport that the war is due to the links between the Bush family and the Saudi royals, but points out, in an admittedly propagandistic fashion, the hypocrisy of going to war against one tyrant while maintaining such close links to another.
To the second, related point: Here Hitchens frames the discussion, as per normal, within the same fundamentally racist narrative of Samuel Huntington's 'Clash of Civilisations'. As others have pointed out, not least of which, and most recently is 'Anonymous', the senior US intelligence officer who argues that, in fact Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have a very limited series of demands, very far from any clash of civilisations: a) for the US to end its support for corrupt Middle East dictatorships, b) for the US to end its support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and c) for the US to remove its bases from the region. Indeed, while Hitchens mocks, it is true: There is no clash, no crisis. And, yes, it is more than apparent that the millions of civilian deaths that are a result of
To the third point: The 56 falsifications to which he is alluding is (I think) the article by Michael Isikoff in that American weekly picture book, Newsweek. Boiled down, the number becomes essentially one - that the flights taking the Bin Laden family members out of the
"The same article also erroneously reports that the Saudi evacuation “flights didn’t begin until Sept. 14–after airspace reopened.” As House of Bush, House of Saud notes, however, the first flight actually took place a day earlier, on September 13, when restrictions on private planes were still in place. Isikoff knew this."
Hitchens: "Michael Moore has said openly and repeatedly that he is on the other side in this war, that he regards what he calls the Iraqi resistance as the 'just' side in the battle.
He thinks that they are the equivalent of the American revolutionary fighters of 1776 and that they will win which, I will conclude by saying, makes it a bit much for him to gather up for his own purposes the tears and the grief of American widows and mothers whose sons have been killed by people who he openly proclaims his kinship with."
I don't think
It is no contradiction to support the resistance and at the same time weep when one hears that another American youth has been killed. In the Vietnam war, surely Hitchens both called for the NLF to win and sympathised with American GIs who were dying. The fact that Nazi Germany invaded countries does not make one feel any less sympathy for German mothers who lost their sons. It is always the working class on all sides who die in wars and this, obviously, is a tragedy. It does not, however, prevent us from taking sides.
3. The ' Some people call you the elite. I call you my base' episode is taken out of context.
Hitchens: "George Monbiot may or may not know this, but perhaps should, George Bush is speaking at the Al Smith dinner, which is a public political dinner that's been held in
since 1906." New York
Hitchens here is referring to the scene in the film where Bush, speaking to a supremely wealthy white-tie audience, says "It's great to be here with the haves [beat] and the have mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." Hitchens goes on to say that he is simply poking fun at himself.
I'm afraid I don't find it very funny, just like I didn't find Bush's attempt at stand-up at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner in March, where he joked about not finding any weapons of mass destruction at the event, very funny either. Bush has attacked social programmes while giving enormous tax breaks to the wealthy. Whether it's a joke or not, it's true: The elite are Bush's base.
While Clinton was in office, Hitchens, correctly, attacked mainstream women's organisations such as NOW for ignoring Clinton's attacks on social programmes, his expansion of the death penalty and entrenchment of the prison-industrial complex so that they could get somebody pro-choice in the white house. He criticised them for being so focussed on one issue - which
Now Hitchens is, as he has admitted regularly in interviews, a 'single-issue' kind of a guy. He doesn't care about Bush's attacks on the poor and working class because the war on 'Islamo-fascism' is all-consuming and Bush is better equipped to be ruthless in dispatching the enemy. Or maybe he just doesn't care anymore about the poor and working class, period.
4. That clip of Rummy and Saddam? That's old news.
Hitchens: "As for the film of Rumsfeld meeting Saddam Hussein, it's been shown a huge number of times in the
…Many of us thought that was a deplorable policy at the time. US
Those of us who thought that that policy was wrong, for this reason applaud the policy that changes it, that says no we shouldn't be fawning on Saddam Hussein, we should be removing him from office and should have done it earlier than we did."
'It's been shown a huge number of times in the
Just so we're clear here: The footage of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein has never been shown in the
Hitchens is simply lying here.
But more importantly - because he makes this point a lot - the argument that concedes that
One - the people who found Hussein so amenable in the past - and who are now the ones prosecuting this war - have never offered up so much as a mea culpa for their actions. Indeed, insofar as one can find any reference to the financial, military and diplomatic support the
Two - the argument Hitchens makes would wash if we saw evidence that the
Three - the infamous 'gassing of his own people' and other atrocities that both Hitchens and the administration have trotted out as a defence for the war since no WMDs have been found WERE DONE WHILE ON RUMSFELD AND COMPANY'S WATCH. Even if this war were just, for it to have been prosecuted by these accomplices to terror is akin to signing up convicted serial killers to hunt down other serial killers instead of using the police. These psychopaths should be in the dock with Saddam, not anywhere near bombs smart or otherwise. Even by Hitchens' own logic, he should be calling for the arrest and trial of those in the Reagan Administration that supplied and gave diplomatic cover to Saddam. And if Saddam is evil enough for an Iraqi electric chair, then so is Rumsfeld.
5. Bush wasn't reading My Pet Goat
Hitchens: "[Moore says] President Bush was reading a story called My Pet Goat.
No, he wasn't.
He was listening to children reading a chapter from a reading primer which includes that story."
I couldn't care less whether it was My Pet Goat, Nancy Drew or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. He's still a mass killer who's as thick as two short planks. (And for Christ's sake - this is Hitchens' grand expose? 'Aha! It wasn't My Pet Goat after all! The lying fiend!')
[My Pet Goat was one of the stories in the book in any case]
More debunking the debunker tomorrow.