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Hitchens was unfairly castigated by the Left for supporting Iraq war

His heart was in the right place; too bad he didn’t see that the Bush administration’s wasn’t. And too bad the Left couldn’t tell the difference.

I think Christopher Hitchens was wrong to support the U.S. war in Iraq (interesting that his life ended a day after the war did), but his reasons for supporting it were all good, and it would be nice if the anti-war camp kept that in mind.

Saddam Hussein was a rare breed of monster, and Iraq’s Kurds and Shi’ites and anti-Saddam Sunnis deserved deliverance from his regime. But even that worthy goal didn’t justify the war the Bush administration started – one whose goals were very different from Hitchens’, a reckless, delusional war fought for a post-9/11, paranoid notion of American security and the contemptible tradition of American supremacy.

But at least the U.S. had the “right” enemy, and Hitchens was right to keep pointing that out. One of the war’s collateral benefits, Kurdish independence, was one hell of a collateral benefit, and Hitchens was right to point that out, too. And it’s to the antiwar camp’s discredit that its hatred of the Bush administration and American militarism blinded it to the magnitude of the enemy’s evil, and to the war’s great achievements – the end of Saddamism, a better life (so far) for Iraqis, and independence (so far) for the Kurds.

If those achievements hold, if a new tyranny doesn’t overtake Iraq and the current instability doesn’t explode again, the U.S. war in Iraq, and Hitchens’ support of it, will start to look a lot better and wiser. Myself, I still see no justification for sending hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to war for nine years, for getting 5,000 of them killed and many thousands more maimed, and for setting off the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the devastation of that country, especially knowing that in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal, a lot of vultures will be competing to fill the vacuum.

But neither do I say that Hitchens “sold out” to the neocons, or that he supported the war for immoral reasons. His heart was in the right place, which definitely cannot be said for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their associates, and I think it was Hitchens’ ferocious hatred for the likes of Saddam and love for the likes of the Kurds that blighted his overall judgment about the war. It was a judgment, though, that tried to separate right from wrong, that was made in the name of justice, not nationalism. I’m afraid that the Left’s virtual demonization of Hitchens for his support of the war said more about the Left than about him.

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    1. Aaron

      Generous attitude towards Hitchens – too generous, I’d say – but why so much less generous towards Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld? And does “their associates” include Paul Wolfowitz, whose idealism Hitchens admired? All of them were horribly wrong, but they all intended to do good. If anything, I’d give Bush, Cheney and them more slack than Hitchens: at least they *thought* they were doing it primarily for national security, unlike Hitchens who was primarily on some global Enlightenment crusade.

      The reason I think you’re too generous is that good intentions count for very little in international relations. Hitchens, Bush, et al. were either stupid or blinded by ideology. An average voter can be forgiven for making the wrong decision, but the stupidity of people in the media and governing elites such as Hitchens and Bush is *morally* culpable, whatever their intentions.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Rico

      The complaint of ‘demonization’ is here, as almost everywhere, shown to be obfuscation. If one believes that intentions matter, and then misattribute those intentions, one is engaging in outright dishonesty. But part of the left’s critique of American foreign policy is its deliberate minimization of the importance of good intentions, in recognition of the fact that they are used to gloss over the massive loss of life occasioned by the lies that led my country to pursue this war.

      Indeed, Hitchens was right to keep pointing out that we had chosen the right enemy. However, it was almost always in the context of shrilly accusing the left of supporting or preferring Saddam (later, the insurgents) to American aggression.

      In his words, “”Anybody But Bush”–and this from those who decry simple-mindedness–is now the only glue binding the radical left to the Democratic Party right. The amazing thing is the literalness with which the mantra is chanted. Anybody? Including Muqtada al-Sadr? The chilling answer is, quite often, yes.” Who said this? I don’t know. But the anti-war movement cannot be held responsible for the views of individual members, just as Hitchens cannot, by virtue of his support for the war, be held responsible for the terrifying worldview of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

      But it is also factually inaccurate to assert that his reasons were entirely divorced from those of the Bush administration. He cared not only for Kurdish rights, along with the rights of other Iraqi civilians. He also quite explicitly made a connection between his support of Saddam’s ouster and the *security* threat posed to his beloved American democracy by Islamofascism.

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    3. Aaron is right. I don’t think much that you said about Hitchens’ intentions that can’t be said about Bush’s.

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    4. Rico

      I should also mention that it is well known that the elite commentariat in the United States played no small part in paving the path to war in Iraq. I believe Hitchens played a large role in this particular crime, perhaps especially given his credibility as a (former?) member of the left. It is therefore disingenuous in the extreme to use his good intentions isolate him from criticism on the basis of the fact that his mistake objectively helped bring about what most of us now admit was a terrible mistake.

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    5. rico

      Sorry, i meant “insulate” him from criticism.

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    6. “His heart was in the right place”
      No it wasn’t.

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    7. rick, you are exaggerating, “played no small part in paving the path to war in Iraq. I believe Hitchens played a large role in this particular crime, perhaps especially given his credibility as a (former?) member of the left”.
      You are giving to much power to a british intellectual in USA. Yankyland didnt go to war because Mr H gave them a kosher approval.
      and I didn know that you are making extra hours in the United European Morality, if Hitchens is in your court, which place is for us?.
      PD: Hitchens was touring Irak in 1975, before a lot of us even know that Midlle East exist, give a break to the man.
      kissinger, mother teresa, baby doc and bill C salute you ,my friend.

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    8. Ezequiel Kopel

      i love you my friend but i have one deed, that Mr H will back from the dead, to destroy you!!.
      I change 1 millon Thomas Friedmans for one (even half) Hitchens!

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    9. Richard Witty

      The Bush administration attempted half a job. The left opposition to the war attempted half a job.

      The sin is global dependence on oil. Everyone let it happen.

      And, now there is the secondary sin of very new enormous coffers of wealth in the hands of Arab and Persian aristocrats (making the “occupy” movements paltry even in the grossly maldistribution of wealth in the US and Europe).

      Noone is addressing the dependence on oil seriously. And noone is addressing the maldistribution of wealth seriously.

      And noone is addressing the already escalated power of weaponry in the middle east, aristocratic, democratic and terrorist.

      We opened Pandora’s box. But, we haven’t talked seriously about reforming relations into a society that is not a tail-chasing rat race.

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    10. Larry you couldn’t be more wrong on this. Radical Islamists would never be attacking the US, if it wasn’t for many decades of the US invading their lands, propping up their malicious, immoral and horrendously oppressive dictators. Yes those people do vile things, and have a misguided view of reality. But Hitchens abandoned his common sense to see Al Queda as responsible for 9/11; which it is obvious home grown US terrorists did it. And I believe it was his lack of a spiritual core, self-induced, that lead him to suddenly see Islam as this monster, which it wasn’t, and start to see it as the number one enemy of peace in the world, which it wasn’t. And, an even greater lack of common sense to accept the US should attack Iraq.

      Radical Islam is not a treat to the world. And as soon as most countries in the world become secular, free enterprise democracies, that theology will rapidly die on the vine; the majority of its supporters being people who feel hopeless about a bountiful life because of the oppressive nature of their culture and family lifestyle.

      If you believe the average Iraqi is better off after our almost 8 years of death and destruction, with today almost every criteria for quality of life (such as hours of electricity per day) worse now than before we invaded, then you and I have a fundamentally different view of reality.

      Hitchens was brilliant, and insightful. But ever since he got on his anti-religious jag, for which he repeatedly misrepresented reality to support, his capacity for clear thinking significantly lessened.

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    11. Richard Witty

      The great model of Christopher Hitchens was of his intellectual independence.

      In really all respects. He was cool-headed in his self-inquiry, deliberate, persistent, uncompromising.

      I’m sure that he encountered questions that he did not or even could not know the answer.

      Death for example is a quandry. One’s conscious experience is of the world originating at one’s own birth of awareness, and seeming to be permanent, until…

      Then, the unknown remains. Objectively, consciousness abruptly stops. But, in dream life, consciousness extends into seeming timelessness. The process of death certainly is a descent/ascent into dream.

      Is the subjective the accurate, or just the objective?

      Unknown, unknowable. Only a choice of one’s faith.

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    12. Miki

      Sorry, Larry but your analysis of Hitchen’s is extremely simplistic and rose-coloured.

      Hitchen sellout and move to the Right began long before second Gulf War. With his adoption of the second Gulf War and the reasons given by Bush, his move to the right was simply complete.

      Hitchen’s brought and promoted hookline and sinker the Bush line about WMD in Iraq. Many on the Left had for years being pointing out the plight of the Kurds and were active in the campaign in support of their struggle but they did not support Bush’s war. Many of us on the Left had been working with the Iraqi Left for years in opposition to Saddam Hussien and they opposed the war just as the Western Left did.

      Your claim that the war has given a better life to Iraqis is simply astounding and blatantly false. The war has devasted the country and it has resulted in tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties and the Kurd’s do not have independence.

      Hitchen’s sellout went further than just supporting an imperialist war. While he was a militant atheist and critical of the role of religion (something many on the Left are also critical off), he crossed the line and crossed over to the right by becoming rampant Islamophobe. While its entirely possible to have a critique of religion from an atheist and Marxist point of view (something which I hold myself), Hitchen’s went further and he actively campaign against Islam in the same way that Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes did.

      While ostenstibly his criticism was supposedly against political Islam, his trenchant criticism of Islam often extended beyond this into generalisations about Islam and Muslims.

      While it is possible to agree with Hitchen’s assertions that religious fundamentalism (whether it be Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism or Islamic fundamentalism) is a threat to achieving a progressive society, it is NOT progressive to call for the mass murder of such fundamentalists as Hitchen’s did.

      For example, he stated in 2005: “They (“Islamofascists”) gave us no peace and we shouldn’t give them any. We can’t live on the same planet as them and I’m glad because I don’t want to. I don’t want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murderers and rapists and torturers and child abusers. It’s them or me. I’m very happy about this because I know it will be them. It’s a duty and a responsibility to defeat them. But it’s also a pleasure. I don’t regard it as a grim task at all”. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1457374/posts

      It was these sort of statements which made Hitchen’s the new darling of the Islamophobic neo-cons.

      Despite still claiming to continue be an anti-Zionist, Hitchens was happy to interviewed and published on FrontPage, a website run by the anti-Arab racist, extremist Islamophobe and hardcore Zionist, David Horowitz, thus promoting their Islamophobic and reactionary agendas (including against Palestinians).

      Hitchens was once a socialist. And as any socialist will tell you, he did not just sell out and become a reactionary bigot, he sold out and suppported an imperialist war and as a result he became a class traitor in Marxist terms. However, Hitchen’s claimed until his dying day that he still admired Lenin and Trotsky but both would, if alive, have polemicised against him as a biggoted, reactionary sellout and a class traitor. And they would have been right.

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    13. Henry Lowi

      Once the US invaded Iraq, monster Saddam, too, had “the right enemy”.

      Larry’s defence of the war reads like: The surgery succeeded, although the patient died.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that Larry’s take on the Iraq atrocity is nurtured by his Zionist loyalties.

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    14. Miki, it’s probably not for me or you to say whether the Iraqis have a better or worse life now, but a lot of them do have hope, which they didn’t have under Saddam, and that’s vital to a good life. They also have incomparably more freedom, another vital element of a good life.
      To say the Kurds aren’t independent – they’re quite independent, and they were all for the war.
      You say Hitchens’ hatred of “Islamofascism” and all religion, including Islam, makes him an Islamophobe – interesting, because I’ve read a couple of essays by right-wing Jews who say his opposition to Zionism, hatred of the occupation and of all religion, including Judaism (according to one essayist, especially Judaism), combined to make him an anti-Semite. I think you’re both wrong.

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    15. AYLA

      I was thinking the same thing, @Larry. I don’t blame my fellow leftists for wanting his support of the war to be part of the story as we glorify him, and I don’t know enough about Hitchens to know where he was coming from exactly with his support of the war (nor to doubt your analysis), but I do know that we *all*–very much myself included–need to start experiencing each other more with our hearts in order to hear what’s true, rather than writing each other off as Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, based on a label (leftist, settler, obscenely-hypocritical leftist immigrants to Israel (my favorite), anti-zionist, zionist…)–you know the list, Larry, as you clearly get it from all sides, nearly comically. I”m not saying that we aren’t responsible for knowing the implications and effects of our choices, nor that we can’t learn anything about anyone from the choices they make, but we avoid a lot of complexity and self-examinationby leaving our analysis at first glance. Let’s say that Hitchens was gravely mistaken in his support of the Iraq war, not only for being on what is clearly the wrong side, but perhaps even in his original reasoning (I don’t know). And I do not mean in any way to make light of the tragic effects of the Iraqi war. That said, does that mistake in judgment erase the rest of this man, and his contributions to humanity? It’s so easy for us to write each other off. So comfortable. So obscenely hypocritical. and mostly, so sad, when in each person lies so much beauty.

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    16. No war or invasion can ever been seen as completely justified or vindicated once the dust of battle has settled. Even if the status quo that then emerges appears far better than it was before, the true cost of conflict is never fully compensated by the advantages gained.
      All such engagements have their champions at the start. By the end, these tend to be far fewer in number; those more critical of the motives and methods used are typically to be found very much in the majority at that time.

      I have always thought it strange that, with so vast a compendium of conflicts, battles and confrontations of all sorts contained within the human experience, little in the way of real preventative measures exist to combat the onset of these extremely undesirable encounters.

      Perhaps the challenge with these types of altercation lies not so much in the bringing about of their eventual termination but the manner in which such termination is achieved.

      The Iraq war and developments afterwards have taken many a long and painful year to reach the present stage, that of uncertain transition and a future given over to considerable doubt. This is even more so the case with the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. It has been around for seven times the length of the Iraq business and yet resolution seems nowhere in sight.

      After having had so much exposure to the art of war, it is immensely puzzling to find mankind still so little versed in the art of peace.

      If the year 2012 is not to emulate that of 2011 and all the mistakes and lost opportunities presented there, the human race would do well to learn whatever methods remain available in the search for viable and lasting solutions to problems that continue to defy closure and final settlement.

      And it would also be of considerable benefit to everyone concerned if we were able to be a quick study.

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    17. RichardL

      I don’t know much about Hitchens other than his support for the Iraq war and I don’t want to get into the left/right dialogue here any more than I can help. As Bob Dylan observed (and I don’t know where) it’s not left or right politics that is important, it’s up politics and down politics that matters. Hitchens was a downer to me and I condemn him for not having had the courage to admit his mistake.

      Iraq to me means Fallujah, it means vastly more than thousands dead, (the death toll probably exceeds a million), it means torture camps and far too much casual, unpunished “collateral damage”. Iraq means depleted uranium and horrific birth defects (with midwives hating their job because they do not know what is going to come out of the womb). It means the deconstruction of a society with the destruction or damage of much of its heritage, an end to free health care and education. It means an end to stability, it means fear of going to the market in case you are blown up, or fear of assassination merely because you are an intellectual. It means 5 million refugees (UNHCR). Yes Iraq also means the execution of Saddam Hussein (no tears there from me, although I have to acknowledge that he died well despite the disgraceful scenes around him), but his trial was a sham and a travesty of justice in which some of his worse crimes were set aside in order not to implicate Donald Rumsfeld.

      On that evil criminal Rumsfeld, who sold chemicals to the regime knowing that they would be used in the manufacture of illegal weapons, I am surprised that he gets off so lightly here. Cheney too: Aaron (first post) says they were “horribly wrong”. Is that it?! By the same scale Stalin could be called overzealous perhaps. Just for the record, up-wing activists were protesting in London at the time of the sale of chemicals to Saddam. I am not aware that C. Hitchens was amongst them but I am open to correction should this be appropriate.

      Hitchens was wrong, no excuses. What I despise his memory for is not having the integrity to admit that he was wrong to have supported an event which caused so much long-lasting environmental, social and economic harm on such a huge scale. That exhibited a total lack of moral worth.

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    18. Miki

      Actually Larry you have already said this – ie. that supposedly the Iraqis have it better post Saddam. You stated it clearly in your article writing: “And it’s to the antiwar camp’s discredit that its hatred of the Bush administration and American militarism blinded it to the magnitude of the enemy’s evil, and to the war’s great achievements – the end of Saddamism, a better life (so far) for Iraqis, and independence (so far) for the Kurds”.

      What is vital to good life is not killing between 100,000 – 130,000 Iraqi civilians during the war or killing half a million Iraqi children via sanctions in the lead up to the war. What is vital for Iraqis to have a good life is not going in and destroying the countries infrastructure, hospitals, cities and torturing the civilian population.

      No one is saying, least of all me that Saddam was a good guy, he wasn’t. But he was an ally of the USA for decades and they knew exactly what he was doing and they turned a blind eye. But when it suited their geopolitical agenda to get rid of him, that’s when they suddenly notice all his appalling human rights abuses – against Kurds, women, dissidents etc.

      Many of us were out on the streets, including myself, actively opposing his regime while he was still an ally of the USA. We stood with our Iraqi comrades whose family members were being murdered by Saddam’s regime (one of my most vivid memories is of standing with Iraqi women as we protested the beheading of 300 women dissidents by Saddam sons). These same activists who had been tortured by Saddam’s forces and had fled Iraq to save their lives and who continued to campaign for the freedom of their families and friends, outright opposed Bush’s war because they knew it would not bring anything good, let alone a “good life” for their families in Iraq.

      In relation to the Kurds, I never said that they couldn’t act independently. What I said is that they don’t have “independence” – ie. an independent state of their own.

      At the moment, some of the Kurdish population inhabit an autonomous region of Iraq. However, hundreds of thousands of Kurds who are part of the Kurdish nation do not live in this region and there is no independent Kurdish state for all of the Kurds. While it may be true some Kurds and Kurdish groups were favourable to the war, there were also many Kurds who were not. In fact, even those who were favourable to the war, limited their involvement.

      As for Hitchen’s Islamophobia and Zionism:

      Firstly you are creating a strawperson argument when it comes to Zionism – Zionism has nothing to do with religion. It is a secular ideology.

      Secondly, Hitchens while being critical of all religions, he was also outspokenly opposed to anti-Semitism. This was not the case with Islamophobia (mainly because he was advocating Islamophobia himself).

      Thirdly, being critical of all religions (irrespective of which religion) and the role that religion plays in society is not Islamophobic, anti-Semitic or whatever word you would choose to describe the phenomenon of hating Christians simply because they may be Christians.

      However, in relation to Islam, Hitchens crossed from simply being critical of religion and the role it played in society to being out and out Islamophobic.

      The main reason he supported the war on Iraq was because he saw it as a war against Islam. As a result, he brought into, advocated and supported the Islamophobia promoted by the neocons and hard right. The rhetoric he used was no different to the rhetoric used by well-known Islamophobes and anti-Arab racists such as David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes.

      Personally, I think many in the soft Left, such as yourself are far too soft on him (and I have to agree with Henry Lowi, I think perhaps your position is influenced by your Zionism loyalties).

      As I said already, not only was Hitchens a reactionary bigot, he was also class traitor and a sickening cheerleader for an imperialist war which devastated the lives of millions of Iraqi civilians.

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    19. Miki, when I said “it’s not for me or you to say…” I was acknowledging that I’d gone too far in my post by saying the Iraqis had a better life now than under Saddam. I can’t weigh, and neither can you, the suffering from the war against the ridding of Saddam and infusion of freedom and hope. The death and destruction – it was put in play by the U.S., but it wasn’t all caused by the U.S., and there are forces to blame for it in addition to the U.S. All the above is not a argument for the war, I still say the war was wrong – but ON BALANCE wrong, not 100% wrong, and that’s something that I think is hard for the hard Left to realize, and that’s because I think the hard Left is more partisan than principled – in any conflict between the West and the Third World, the entire focus is on the wrongs of the West, while the wrongs of the Third World get completely whitewashed, or receive lip service at the very most.
      About the hypocrisy of the U.S.’s “moral outrage” at Saddam, I totally agree, and I’ve written this in past Jerusalem Post columns.
      You underplay the benefit to the Kurds from the war and their support for it – they fought on the side of the coalition, Iraqi Kurdistan has embassies in many foreign countries. You can’t say that the war was not good for the Kurds or that on the whole, they had mixed feelings about it.
      About Hitchens, he certainly associated with reactionary bigots, he made common cause with them (like we made common cause with bigots in our opposition to the war), but I see no evidence – and you haven’t shown any – that he hated Muslims. He hated Islam and all other religions, and he hated Islamist militants. Not Muslims.

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    20. Richard Witty

      From what I’ve read and seen, Hitchens hated dogma, and hated dogma played out as a justification for cruelty to others.

      He saw it in radical Islam. (I doubt highly that he considered contemplative Sufis or civil Islamic neighbors – even if they prayed five times daily – how horrible, to be dogmatic.)

      I saw one interview yesterday, in which Hitchens was asked, “if people say they pray for you, do find that insulting?”

      His response was (paraphrased) “Not in the slightest. I appreciate their good wishes. Its when people are praying for my change to their beliefs that I find offensive.”

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    21. Greg

      The moments when I liked Hitchens best were those when he displayed self-depreciation, doubt and a keen sense of humour, and thereby managed to say some insightful things about being human.

      But his admirers (like Strenger in Haaretz) refer to his courage, his deep morality, his towering intellect and his vast literary knowledge.

      Which is odd, because in my experience he often misunderstood (or lied about) his opponents’ positions, chose the wrong targets, was selective with the facts, his arguments had gaping holes and at times he seemed to be incapable of grasping complexity, nuance and paradox.

      He was mostly wrong about religion, and certainly wrong about the war – and it’s hard to respect someone with whom you disagree with on those two fundamental issues, particularly when moral clarity and intelligence are supposed to be their strengths.

      Also there’s a difference between being moral and being a moralist. For example, someone who doesn’t really like women very much but still uses women’s rights as an argument for the evils of islam probably qualifies as the latter.

      I don’t doubt that he had a vast literary knowledge, but it’s amazing how much wrongness you can get away with by blinding people with erudition.

      As far as public intellectuals go, I class him as pretty second-rate. I feel a little bad speaking ill of the dead, but I’m sure he wouldn’t care.

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    22. Denis

      Hitchens always brought to my mind Thomas Huxley’s characterization of Soapy Sam Wilberforce during the famous Oxford debate of 1860.

      Everyone knows Soapy Sam’s insult to Thomas Huxley: “Are you descended from monkeys through your grandmother or your grandfather?”

      But Huxley’s retort, although less well known, was much sharper and to the point: “I would prefer to be descended from a monkey than to be descended from a man who uses his great rhetorical skills to promote false concepts.”

      I am apparently alone, but I feel absolutely no loss at Hitchens’ death, pompous, neocon-shill that he was, incapable of distinguishing belief from religion.

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    23. Susannah

      Larry and Hitch, two independent thinkers. And two good hearts, always in the right place.

      And to all those who disagree: you’re not fit to shine their shoes.

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    24. Larry sez:
      “it’s probably not for me or you to say whether the Iraqis have a better or worse life now, but a lot of them do have hope, which they didn’t have under Saddam, and that’s vital to a good life. They also have incomparably more freedom, another vital element of a good life.”

      Over a 100,000 REPORTED Iraqi civilian deaths (with estimates MUCH higher).
      Over a million displaced/refugees.
      And it’s not for you (or us) to say whether their lives are worse now? But it IS for you to say they now have hope and freedom? WTF? Are you keeping a straight face when you write this?

      At least you have the integrity of siding with Hitchens when you pit him against “the Left”. That way we know where you stand – outside of the Left.
      (which puts your earlier attempt at reconciling liberal values and Zionism in a proper perspective also). Thank you for clarifying your partisanship and principles.

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    25. Shwanzinger, how can you be so flabbergasted by the idea that millions of Kurds and Shi’ites, and Sunnis, too, have a lot more hope and freedom now than they did under Saddam?

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    26. Denis

      Yeah, well, I think you have to run some numbers, Larry. . .

      At the time they took Saddam out, he was demonized, and rightly so, for having been responsible for 30,000 deaths. That’s over a period of 20 years in power. 1500 per year.

      If he had stayed in power, at that rate there would be an additional 12,000 deaths, for a total of 42,000 up to 2011 — the price for keeping the lid on the Sunni-Shia violence.

      Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, endorsed by Hitchens, caused at least 100,000 deaths, likely closer to 200,000, both directly and as a result of letting the Sunni and Shia tear each other apart.

      Now, from a body-count point of view tell us: Just how are the Iraqis better off??? I suppose by your accounting the Vietnamese were better off because of the VN war.

      One thing we do know, and I guess this is your point: the US is certainly better off with access to Iraq oil; Israel is better off without those Scuds pointed at them, and the Kurds are better off without Saddam’s boot on their throat. It is the Iraqi people who paid with their blood for all of those “improvements.”

      Please quit saying the Iraqis are better off, it is an absurd assertion. It was absurd when Hitchens said it.

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    27. @denis – according to Wikipedia and HRW, Saddam killed between 50,000-100,000 Kurds during the Anfal campaign of 1987-88. Kurdish estimates put it at 182,000. And that’s one year alone. Where are your stats from?

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    28. Here are some more numbers from Wiki:
      .
      “The New York Times described in its obituary how Saddam “murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas. He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis. More insidious, arguably, was the psychological damage he inflicted on his own land. Hussein created a nation of informants — friends on friends, circles within circles — making an entire population complicit in his rule”.[28] Others have estimated 800,000 deaths caused by Saddam not counting the Iran-Iraq war.[29] Estimates as to the number of Iraqis executed by Saddam’s regime vary from 300–500,000[30] to over 600,000,[31] estimates as to the number of Kurds he massacred vary from 70,000 to 300,000,[32] and estimates as to the number killed in the put-down of the 1991 rebellion vary from 60,000[33] to 200,000.[31] Estimates for the number of dead in the Iran-Iraq war range upwards from 300,000.[34]”

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    29. “Radical Islam is not a threat to the world..”

      ..says Warren Metzler (above).

      That, right there, is the scariest thing I’ve seen anybody write in this thread.

      No offense, Mr. Metzler, but thy head needs must be removed from the sand before it’s too late.

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    30. Denis

      Ami, you are absolutely right-on to raise questions about the numbers I cited, but it surely leads to a war of necrometrics that can never be satisfactorily resolved.

      I agree that my number of 30,000 deaths appears to be very low, but not so low as to void my point. That number was bandied about by the Bush administration several times prior to or just after the attack on Iraq as another reason why Saddam had to go.

      On the other hand, my figure of 200,000 for Iraqi deaths is also quite low. Lancet’s peer-reviewed assessments of “excess” Iraqi deaths due to the US invasion were about 100,000 after only 18 months, and 655,000 by 2006. Another survey-based report in 2008 put the figure at 1.1 million, with still 3 years left in the war. See Wiki on the Lancet surveys to follow this complex and grisly numbers game.

      It is not fair at this point to thrown in numbers from the future, but one must recognize that Bush’s invasion un-leashed al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army, who have merely been quite the last couple of years to encourage the US to leave. More blood baths are likely around the corner when al-Sadr returns from Iran.

      You inflate the pre-invasion death tolls attributable to Saddam with the Iraq-Iran War and Kuwait invasion death tolls to support your position. I don’t think that’s valid as it’s a peaches and oranges comparison given the issue at hand. Besides, the causes of those wars are too complex to attribute the battle-field deaths solely to Saddam, and we have no reason to suspect or believe that there would have been some other large Iraqi war had Bush not attacked Iraq in 2003.

      We’re discussing whether or not Bush killed more people by invading Iraq than Saddam would have done otherwise. The question is: Would there have been 1.1+ million excess deaths in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 had the US not invaded? That’s almost 140,000 a year. The suggestion is preposterous.

      After the 2004 Lancet estimate was published, david-morrison.org commented:

      “An article published in the Lancet on 29 October estimated the extra Iraqi deaths from all causes since the invasion at around 100,000. If one accepts this figure, it would have taken Saddam Hussein’s regime hundreds of years to match the carnage produced by Bush and Blair in less than 2 years. Had Saddam Hussein been left in place perhaps 200 people would have been killed by his regime in the interim, compared with maybe 100,000 extra deaths as a result of his overthrow.”

      That is essentially my point even if my citation of the numbers was not particularly adept.

      Regardless of the numbers, it is clear that the US won, Israel won, Halliburton won, Blackwater won, Shell won, Cheney won, Bush won, Rumsfeld won. But to suggest that the Iraqi people won or are, as a whole, better off because of the 2003 invasion is really stretching it. To suggest that the American people who funded this disaster are any better off is laughable. The mess that Bush made will go on for years, if not decades.

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    31. @denis – you’re accusation that i deflated numbers is ridiculous. i just quoted numbers from what seem to be quite reliable sources. i’m not arguing with you that the american invasion cost the lives of many. but claiming that 30,000 people died in 20 years, as you did, is just plain outrageous. if anyone here is distorting numbers for their cause, drastically i might add – it is you. and, in fact, your number *is* so low to make your point void. it does exactly that.
      .
      Furthermore, your low numbers do something worse – they’re almost a complete denial of the Anfal campaign. Are you saying those people weren’t killed, Denis?

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    32. Denis

      Ami — nope, I didn’t suggest that you deflated the death numbers, I suggested you INFLATED them by throwing in the two wars Iraq waded into.
      .
      If I used a low number of Saddam-induced deaths — which was a number used by the Bushies, BTW — then I also used a number for the US-induced deaths that was also quite low. You’re not getting it. The corrected US death number (1.1 M) more than offset the the low Saddam number (30K) so that my point is even stronger using the “better” (?) numbers.
      .
      Even if Saddam was responsible for 100,000 deaths in 22 years, which is a generous number, at that rate over the 8 years of Bush’s war there would have been 36,000 additional “excess” deaths, compared with 1.1M attributable to Bush.
      .
      My point remains: more people died at Bush’s hands than would have died under Saddam’s continued rule. So Larry’s conclusion (parroting Hitchens’) that the Iraqi’s are better off as a result of the US invasion just doesn’t hold up on a body-count basis, unless one considers Kurds to be the only Iraqis or more valuable than Iraqis on a 31:1 ratio.

      My reference point is total people killed. You can parse the word “people” anyway you want, but I use it to mean all of the Homo sapiens who died that otherwise wouldn’t have but for Bush. You, Hitchens, and Larry seem to feel that Kurds are more valuable people than Iraqis and that 30,000 Kurds killed during by Saddam during Anfal offsets or justifies 1.1M people killed by Bush, but I know some very fine Iraqis and I wouldn’t agree with you.

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    33. @denis – you’re the one who’s deflating for your own causes. As I said before.
      .
      My first sentence in earlier post should have said “inflated”.
      .
      Keep on living in la-la-land. Saddam killed much more than 100,000 in 22 years. You’re not being “generous” – you’re a genocide denier of the worst kind.
      .
      In fact, too bad Saddam didn’t have a Hasbara unit back then, you’d be great for it: “What me, kill?”

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    34. Larry,
      I’m not flabbergasted by the IDEA that Iraqis might have hope and freedom. I’m flabbergasted by YOUR temerity to say they do (especially when preceded by “it’s probably not for me or you to say whether the Iraqis have a better or worse life now”)

      You wrote originally the US invasion “kill[ed] tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians”. That non-number is a joke – and as a reporter you should know it!

      Hope and freedom? well, I HOPE you never have to endure the FREEDOM the Iraqis must.

      Hitchens was a shill.
      As is anyone heralding the American invasion of Iraq as anything other than the acquisition and control of oil-rich lands for American corporations.

      Ami Kaufman,
      How long you going to dangle Saddam in front of us? Obfuscating the true motives and repercussions of this atrocity. Insinuating your commentators should work for Saddam’s Hasbara. For Shame.
      “What me, shill?”

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    35. Schwanzinger, to say that tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed by the U.S. isn’t a “joke,” it’s a cautious, reasonable estimate. The estimates I’ve seen of the number of Iraqis killed in the war run from about 120,000 to double that. How many of them were civilians and not guerillas, how many were killed by the U.S. and not by other forces? I’d say “tens of thousands” is a cautious, reasonable estimate. Without showing why, you say it’s joke. Not surprising – you’re the mirror image of the right-wingers I’ve debated ad nauseum who can’t listen to the slightest word of approval for any Arab or the slightest criticism of any Arab-basher. The only difference between you and them is in the proper nouns you plug into your respective harangues.
      UPDATE: Iraq Body Count (not exactly a neocon website) says 150,000 people killed in war, 80% civilians. Doesn’t say who killed them, but the examples shown are mainly suicide bombings and bombs left at crowded civilian targets – not the sort of thing the Americans were doing. The Wikileaks Iraq War Logs says 66,000 civilians were killed, doesn’t say by whom. I’ll stand by “tens of thousands of Iraqi civlians killed by U.S.” http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

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    36. Larry,
      according to your own research you say that at least 120,000 civilians were killed. That’s not what you wrote. You wrote “Tens of thousands”, which sounds VERY different from “about 120,000 to double that”. But who’s going to see that “UPDATE” now this article is slowly winding off the front page? Updates should go in the main body of the article, not in the comments.
      A TRUE update should go in the paragraph lamenting US death toll – for comparison.
      And the remainder of your article should lead from that comparison (if possible. I have my doubts)

      Nor have you mentioned the conservative estimate of over a million refugees. You’ve glossed over that horrific number on your way to praising Hitchens’ support for the war.

      As for “Doesn’t say who killed them”. Well, one can safely assume it’s other Iraqis enjoying the new “freedoms” America has brought them. Freedoms to kill and maim they did not enjoy under Saddam’s tyrannical regime. One can also safely assume very few Iraqis ever HOPED to live under these new American “freedoms”.

      But all that’s moot anyway. You originally wrote of the war “setting off the killing of [….] of Iraqi civilians”. In that context it’s meaningless if civilians were killed by US troops or not. Those deaths are a direct result of the US invasion.

      And please, spare me the Ad Hominems. I’m not the right-winger in this here debate. Nor am I hiding behind proper language like “cautious, reasonable estimate” to put forth the fallacy that the US invasion of Iraq is somehow good for Iraqis (or was done for their benefit) and to obfuscate the true cost in Iraqi civilian lives and refugees.

      So yeah, using the non-number “tens of thousands” to claim Iraqis have “a better life (so far)” is a joke. A sad one.

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    37. You’re dishonest, Schwanzinger – you deliberately misrepresent the figures I used and the statements I made. Critics are demonstrably welcome on this channel, but not smear artists like yourself. You’ve worn out your welcome.

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    38. Denis

      Ami said: In fact, too bad Saddam didn’t have a Hasbara unit back then, you’d be great for it: “What me, kill?”
      .
      That’s lovely, Ami. Turn to vile ad hominem attacks to let us all get an idea of who you are and the kind of people who appreciated Hitchens. That really “ties the room together.”

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    39. @denis – sorry dude, but genocide deniers like you deserve ad hominem attacks. It’s the least I could do. 🙂

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    40. Sorry Larry.
      That’s how I interpret your words.

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    41. Arthur C. Hurwitz

      Opposing the war in Iraq was the correct position based on its actual now known results. If anything, its justifications were even more overstated than any one who consistently opposed the war ever could have conceived. Therefore, we have the right to hold Hitchens in contempt. Who would have expected anything better from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld? By the way, I have never liked Hitchens who I have always regarded as an opportunist.

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    42. Jarek Moore

      I don’t care if Hitchens’ heart was in the right place – I was only 18 years old and I could see through this nonsense war long before it started. All you had to do was pay attention to international news to realize we were being suckered into an unnecessary and disastrous war.

      Hitchens was a very intelligent man and a journalist, so he especially had no excuse for not seeing through it. The castigation of Hitchens was totally fair, and the same for every other “intellectual” who willingly fell for this.

      The Iraq war represented a failure by the entire American media to question the government. Even a surface amount of digging was enough to see through this. If you fell for it, you’re gullible. They didn’t start using the liberation argument until after the WMD argument fell apart, and the facts that the U.S. had backed the coup that put Saddam in power and cooperated with him while he was gassing the Kurds in Halabja show that the moral rationale was B.S.

      This moral argument, the argument that we can have a just war if only our intentions are just, ignores the reality of war. Your noble ideals are great in the theoretical realm, but when you actually try to spread democracy with guns and bombs, it falls apart. You end up blowing up tens of thousands of children who don’t care that your intentions were just. Nations don’t carry out wars based on good intentions. It’s hopelessly naive to think they do.

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