The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Finally….Hitchens and the pitfalls of the Neo-LiberalCons

A really excellent, refreshing articulation of Hitchens main failings – especially when it comes to the middle east.
On some of the points, Mike Young would do well to take notice.
“…An absence of doubt defines his work as a journalist and writer. His weaknesses are overstatement, especially when writing about what he despises (Islamism, God, pious moralising of all kinds), self-righteous indignation (“shameful” and “shame”, employed accusatorily, are favoured words in his lexicon), narcissism, and failure to acknowledge or accept when he is wrong. His redeeming virtues are his sardonic wit, polymathic range, good literary style and his fearlessness.

Martin Amis, in Koba the Dread, his book about Stalin and the British left’s historic reluctance to condemn the crimes of the Soviet Union and its satellites, suggests that Hitchens began to improve and grow as a writer, his prose gaining in “burnish and authority”, only after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, as if before then he had been ideologically and stylistically constrained by a self-imposed demand to hold a fixed ideological line, even at the expense of truth-telling.

“…After the September 11 attacks, Hitchens remade himself as a zealous and strident supporter, in his writings and through public debates and his many appearances on American television, of the so-called war on terror, to the dismay of many on the left. In the arguments over dodgy dossiers and unilateral declarations of war, he sided with George W Bush, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Tony Blair rather than with his old friends on The Nation.

He had, at last, found his grand anti-totalitarian cause. A robust Manichean, he denounced “Islamofascism”, a catch-all term that was so loose, generalised and opaque in its application as to be meaningless. The Taliban, Iranian Shia theocrats, Sunni al-Qaeda operatives, British Muslim jihadists, Hamas, Hizbollah – in spite of their different origins and distinct socio-political circumstances, they were all “Islamofascists”.

Hitchens believed his mission was comparable to that of Orwell and those who presciently warned of, and wrote against, the dangers of appeasing both communist and fascist totalitarianism in the 1930s. He became a hero to neoconservatives and the pro-war left, the leader of the pack: “The Hitch”, the journalist-as-brand-name. In 2004, he visited Afghanistan, on a well-funded assignment for Vanity Fair, and was rather delighted by what he discovered there, especially by what he called “the small victories of the profane over the sacred”. “I will venture a prediction,” he wrote. “The Taliban/al-Qaeda riffraff, as we know them, will never come back to power.”

It’s always unwise to make predictions, as any horseracing tipster or macro-economic forecaster must know, but Hitchens was wrong about the Taliban, with whom the western allies are now being forced to negotiate from a position of weakness, and the whole Afghanistan and Iraq misadventures. His general knowledge of the Middle East is superficial, he speaks no Islamic languages and, unlike, say, the politician-writer Rory Stewart or the Indian novelist Pankaj Mishra, he has made no serious, long-lasting attempt to immerse himself in the politics and cultures of this extraordinarily diverse and heterogeneous region, ravaged for so long by civil war and despotism, and destabilised by repeated foreign interventions…”

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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