vrijdag, augustus 06, 2004

'It wasn't My Pet Goat!' - Part II

Continuing from yesterday's piece on the late Christopher Hitchens' attacks on Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. The following are Hitchen's criticisms of the film five through ten.

5. Richard Clarke has taken responsibility for signing off on allowing planes to pick up the Bin Ladens after 11 September

Regarding Moore's argument that President Bush allowed plane-loads of bin Ladens and other Saudis to escape the country after 9/11 because of the close business relationship between bin Laden and the Bush family, Hitchens argues:

Richard Clarke who himself is a tremendous critic of George W Bush, as we know, has now taken complete responsibility for that decision.

Hitchens actually has a point here, but this is only the case from a consistent anti-war position. In other words, Moore, like many other American liberals, has made something of a hero out of Mr. Clarke simply because he has criticised Bush.

In a domestic environment where until a year ago even to mildly criticise Bush was considered unpatriotic, un-American (which, BTW, has to be one of the oddest adjectives ever coined: Could one imagine elites in any other country accusing people of being, say, 'anti-Welsh', or 'anti-Latvian'? Accusing people of treason, yes, but there is something uniquely American about the idea that somebody can be un-American) and cost people jobs and in some cases thrown in jail for short periods of time, the joy at finding others who were willing to speak out made many (wrongly) look past traditional left/liberal antagonisms towards intelligence officers, diplomats and generals.

This is a case in point: Clarke, like Zbignew Brzezinski, Joseph Wilson, Anthony Zinni, John Dean and other establishment critics of the administration, essentially in their critiques make the objectively correct analysis that the Bush administration and the neo-cons are not wrong in their goals or even in terms of their actions, but in terms of the way they have gone about it. Diplomacy is useful not because it is some 'girlie-man', dove-ish activity, but because it has been proven over the last two centuries to be very effective in winning over other elites and sections of the domestic population to one's imperial designs. When a government acts so brazenly as the Bush administration has done, it cannot help but alienate other potential elite allies.

Many criticise the neo-cons for being Machiavellian, but this is the last thing they are: They are oafs in the art of imperial projection. This is why significant sections of elite opinion have swung so dramatically against Bush. They don't disagree fundamentally with the war, it's just that Bush is so ineffective in prosecuting it.

Thus the Clarkes of the world are false friends to the anti-war movement, and the contradictions of this stance are thus displayed when Moore uses Clarke to buttress one element of his argument, but then omits what he has said that doesn't fit with the film's argument and a consistent anti-imperialist position.

We do not need Clarke and his ilk to tell us that the war is wrong because it diverted attention from the 'real' war on terror. We are opposed to both the Iraq war and the broader war.

6. No connection between Osama and other Bin Ladens

Hitchens: We're not at war with the Bin Laden family.

We're at war with the Bin Laden we know - Mr Osama bin Laden.

Moore in his film quotes one commentator who argues that the Bin Laden family never did actually cut Osama off from the rest of the family as has been suggested, and shows footage of a Bin Laden family wedding where Osama was in attendance. The other Bin Ladens at the time did not seem overly concerned that the supposed 'black sheep' of the family had been involved in activities that might make a wedding invitation impolitic.

7. No proven Saudi-Bush connection

Hitchens: Michael Moore is getting what Mr Monbiot calls 'applause' for proposing a Saudi-Bush connection that is completely made up, to which there is no truth at all, in which one can place no confidence whatever.

I'm sorry. There are no connections between the Saudis and the Bush family? Too much Johnny Walker Black Label there, Mr. Hitchens.

8. Either Afghanistan was about an oil pipeline, or we didn't send in enough troops to smoke out Bin Laden—Which is it, Mr. Moore?

Hitchens: The Unocal company in Texas had been willing to discuss a gas pipeline across Afghanistan with the Taliban, as had other vested interests…The Bush administration sent far too few ground troops to Afghanistan and thus allowed far too many Taliban and al-Qaida members to escape…Either we sent too many troops, or were wrong to send any at all—the latter was Moore's view as late as 2002—or we sent too few. If we were going to make sure no Taliban or al-Qaida forces survived or escaped, we would have had to be more ruthless than I suspect that Mr. Moore is really recommending.

Again, Hitchens has a point. In trying to appeal to both the anti-imperialist anti-war audience and the pro-Afghanistan revenge action/anti-Iraq adventure brigade (admittedly small, this element, but their number does include Todd Gitlin and Bruce Springsteen), Moore contradicts himself. You cannot say that the war against Afghanistan had been in the works for months before 11 September (as it indeed was) and say that Bush had sent in too few ground troops to the country at the same time.

9. Afghanistan is all peachy keen now

Hitchens: [And] we discover that there is an emerging Afghan army, that the country is now a joint NATO responsibility and thus under the protection of the broadest military alliance in history.

Afghanistan is a mess, as Hitchens should know, were he not wearing rose-coloured neo-conservative spectacles. Not quite as much of a one as Iraq, admittedly, but getting there. As others have noted, natty dresser Hamid Karzai, formerly on the payrolls of both Unocal and the CIA, is little more than the mayor of Kabul, with the rest of the country once again firmly under the control of competing warlords (the trouble with whom, despite their usefulness in the November 2001 action, was why the US had originally backed the Taliban as they could at least deliver the stability necessary for oil pipeline construction).

10. Afghan, Iraqi left support the occupations

Hitchens: We also discover that the parties of the Afghan secular left—like the parties of the Iraqi secular left—are strongly in favor of the regime change.

Okay. This bluster really needs to be dealt with. The Afghan secular and feminist left - most notably RAWA - the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (who organised actions and petitions, along with many western feminist groups in the late nineties, calling on the US to stop supporting the Taliban) - were opposed to the action, just as the student and trade union opponents of Slobodan Milosevic were opposed to the 1999 war (This is Serbia Calling, by Matthew Collin, the history of the plucky anti-Milosevic alternative radio station, B92, out of Belgrade, gives a tremendous account of how the anti-Milosevic activists in Serbia felt so betrayed by the bombing because they knew that all the campaign success that they had begun to feel would be instantly destroyed as Serbians rallied round the flag as soon as the war started - which is exactly what happened). And the Iraqi resistance today counts amongst their number many social democrats, Communists and liberals (see Susan Watkins' article, "Vichy on the Tigris", in the July/August issue of the New Left Review for more detail on the composition of the resistance). The official Iraqi Communist Party split over its Quisling leadership's support for the occupation forces. The sole geography where Hitchens is to some extent correct is Kurdistan, but one must also note the Iraqi Kurds current sense of betrayal at the new constitution and the fact that the PKK—a genuinely left Kurdish group, unlike the bourgeois KDP and PUK that Hitchens now supports—opposed the war!


I'll finish this off tomorrow...too many Hoegaarden Grand Cru's tonight to be blogging.