'It wasn't 'My Pet Goat!' Part III
So, finally, here is the last instalment of my debunking of the debunker - the arguments against Hitchen's arguments against Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (points eleven through nineteen). I am sure by this point you have long since lost interest. As have I. Nonetheless, herewith submitted for your approval:
[As before, the points in bold are intended to capture the essence of Hitchens' critique, followed by a quote taken from his either his original article in Slate about the film or the transcript of his recent interview on Lateline, an Australian political talk show that would like to be like the BBC's Newsnight]
Hitchens: President Bush is accused of taking too many lazy vacations. (What is that about, by the way? Isn't he supposed to be an unceasing planner for future aggressive wars?)
Bush did take an awful lot vacations during his presidency, and this is commonly acknowledged. A Washington Post article of August last year noted that Bush had taken a total of 250 days off up until that point, which worked out to a total of 27 per cent of his time in office. In comparison,
It seems fairly evident that this is proves once a fratboy, always a fratboy, and something that the pre-lobotomy Hitchens might easily have zoned in on in one of his works. Even in 'perfidious'
12. Human rights trumps national sovereignty
Hitchens: We are introduced to
Here, again, I would concur with Hitchens.
But the sovereignty of a country is immaterial to the righteousness of the action. Indeed, theoretically, a socialist at some point could support the breach of one country's sovereignty militarily, were there crimes being committed there, the motives of the breaching country noble (which is admittedly an exceedingly dim possibility) and the methods employed did not constitute gross human rights violations themselves. On a far more quotidian level than war, the various trade agreements and international financial institutions breach national sovereignty, but we do not oppose them for that, we oppose them for the horrific consequences of structural adjustment, et al. Human rights conventions and environmental treaties would similarly breach national sovereignty, but we support them (whatever their risible toothlessness).
If we bring up the issue of national sovereignty in our arguments, we then are so easily defeated by our opponents by the simple and correct argument that human rights trumps national sovereignty. We win over nobody, and it is entirely a good development that most people today have not a care for national sovereignty in this regard. Indeed it is even something that can be built upon in terms of arguments against nationalism and for internationalism. Harkening back to anachronistic notions of national integrity is a free gift to our adversaries.
13. Moore only shows kids flying kites in Iraq; he doesn't show the internal terror, the prisons, etc.
Hitchens: In this peaceable kingdom, according to
The point of these shots in the film, surely, are to remind that whatever the extant savagery of Hussein's regime the bombs that did drop, dropped not on Hussein but on children flying kites. This is so plain, so apparent and is the very heart of the anti-war argument. One honestly wonders how the once dedicated humanitarian that Hitchens was can overlook so simple and powerful an argument.
One might further say that, whatever the crimes of any dictator our planet has witnessed, bombing from a great height is never warranted. I am surprised that to this day, there is not, outside the anti-war movements, there is not a single-issue 'ban bombs' - period - movement.Arial bombardment by definition is a war crime. There are always, always more innocents killed than combatants. There is an anti-torture politic outside the broader human rights movement and there is an anti-death-penalty movement besides the broader anti-criminal justice movement. Minor reforms form part of the road to broader emancipation. Let there then be an anti-bombing campaign beyond the anti-war movement.
14. Saddam did kill Americans
First of all, Hitchens, long-standing campaigner for Palestinian rights and (although he tries to hide it these days) anti-Zionist, should be able to defend the right of Palestinians to self-defence. However much I may personally abhor the tactic of suicide bombing, morally and strategically, I offer my support, such as it is, to Palestinian freedom fighters unconditionally. Suicide bombing is an issue for another day, but, once again, do we need to remind Hitchens that other liberation struggles have, every single one, committed atrocities in the course of their righteous campaigns. If we chose who we supported internationally on the basis of which army of national liberation was composed of saints, we would end up supporting none.
From this, presumably, we can deduce that Hitchens not only supports the war on terror, but has now gone back on his thirty-five-year-long support for the Palestinian freedom struggle.
As for his challenge, "Should you and I not resent any foreign dictatorship that attempts to kill one of our retired chief executives?" No, we do not resent it in the slightest. Kill away. Especially one so despicable as Bush senior. How many deaths was he responsible for as CIA director, vice-president and ultimately president? As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, were they held to the same standards as those in the dock at Nuremburg, every single
Iraqi forces fired on US and
Good for them.
15. The left supports Saddam
Hitchens: Michael Moore has just said, in so many words, the one thing that no reflective or informed person can possibly believe: that Saddam Hussein was no problem. No problem at all.
Once again the slander that Hitchens and other chickenhawks rely upon: We like Saddam. Which is why we all campaigned against American support for him in the eighties.
16. Civil rights abuses that are a product of the Patriot Act are a trifling nothing
Hitchens: We are shown some American civilians who have had absurd encounters with idiotic "security" staff. (Have you ever met anyone who can't tell such a story?) Then we are immediately shown underfunded police departments that don't have the means or the manpower to do any stop-and-search:
It would take too long to go into detail of all the numerous examples of basic civil rights that are a result of John Ashcroft's deeply authoritarian Patriot Act in order to argue against this point. One can only surmise, similar to the conclusion of the last rejoinder, that Hitchens is also a fan of The Man Who Does Not Dance. Maybe he can help Ashcroft go hang drapes over other semi-nude statues in the Justice Department in his spare time.*
It must be said, however, that there are many pro-war liberals who have at least had the clarity of mind to come out against the Patriot Act as a gross violation of the freedoms
17. The US-Saudi link is overblown
Hitchens: Why did
The despicable Saudi leadership is a key
18. Michael Moore = Leni Riefenstahl
Hitchens: Here we glimpse a possible fusion between the turgid routines of MoveOn.org and the filmic standards, if not exactly the filmic skills, of Sergei Eisenstein or Leni Riefenstahl
Wow. We're comparing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 to fascist Leni Riefenstahl's oeuvre? And seeing a coagulum of the work of revolutionary socialist Eisenstein and Hitler-loving Riefenstahl as well?
His renegade cretinism takes my breath away
Hitchens: Would he have abandoned
This is such a spurious argument. Apart from having to trace back to the last century to come up with an appropriate analogy, it is a simple truth that the poor and young fight wars while the old and rich plan them.
But let's take Hitchens argument at face value.
To agree with Hitchens' position, one has to assume that Moore and other anti-war activists are against all wars. We, outside the Quakers - bless them - have never said this. Moreover, we do not even go so far as to say that imperialist powers can never be justified in waging war. We simply say the occasions in which they are justified are inestimably rare. The
The one argument that Hitchen, Aaronovitch and Cohen and their ilk have against the rest of the left in this war, that on the surface has merit, and has not sufficiently been dealt with, is the follow-on from this position: If socialists prefer bourgeois parliamentary democracy over feudalism, then does it not follow that we support bourgeois parliamentary democracy over fascism and other variants of authoritarianism too? They argue that at all times socialists support the more progressive, if bankrupt, capitalist democracy to dictatorship. And this is true. Cohen, uniquely, is coherent in this argument. Aaronovitch long ago made his peace with the
The difference - and this is key - is that in the last century and earlier, the battle between bourgeois parliamentary democracy and feudalism was to the death. The success of capitalism depended on the death of feudalism. Contrariwise, contemporary authoritarianism and fascism is quite compatible with capitalism, and as such, we can see the war, far from ridding the country of authoritarianism, replaces it with another, equally authoritarian dictatorship. And why would it not? What use is parliamentary democracy in the region to protection of oil interests? As the demonstrations in
* Perhaps the reference there is a little obscure. Attorney-general John Ashcroft, a Christian fundamentalist of the highest order, ordered the statue of Blind Justice in the rotunda of the Justice Department be covered by curtains because one of her nipples was showing, as is neo-classical statuary's wont. He also, just like John Lithgow in Footloose, is opposed to dancing. Some biblical injunction against it or something.
Presumably then, he also won't be dancing as part of our revolution or anyone else's. Boom boom.