October 2, 2001
1:52 AM   Subscribe

"I have no hesitation in describing this mentality, carefully and without heat, as soft on crime and soft on fascism. No political coalition is possible with such people and, I’m thankful to say, no political coalition with them is now necessary. It no longer matters what they think." Christopher Hitchens says that intellectuals of the left who seek to understand the new enemy are no friends of peace, democracy or human life. Two different versions of the same article here and here. Along the same lines, a piece from The Economist arguing that "Whatever its mistakes, the idea that America brought the onslaught upon itself is absurd."
posted by aaron (57 comments total)

 
Ooh, this is gonna be fun.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:57 AM on October 2, 2001


That's the idea. ;)
posted by aaron at 2:01 AM on October 2, 2001


Let me get this right:

Saddam said:

The fascists like bin Laden could not get volunteers to stuff envelopes if Israel had withdrawn from Jerusalem like it was supposed to--and the US stopped the sanctions and the bombing on Iraq.

Hey Guess what! Saddam is partly right!
posted by Elim at 2:18 AM on October 2, 2001


Let me get this right:

Saddam said:

The fascists like bin Laden could not get volunteers to stuff envelopes if Israel had withdrawn from Jerusalem like it was supposed to--and the US stopped the sanctions and the bombing on Iraq.

Hey Guess what! Saddam is partly right!
posted by Elim at 2:18 AM on October 2, 2001


Hate when I do that!!

Sorry for the Double post folks...
posted by Elim at 2:19 AM on October 2, 2001


Look, it’s simple. Group A feels that maple syrup is the only way to enjoy a stack of golden delicious pancakes. Group B has had it with your traditionalist bag and wants the be able to enjoy their hotcakes with fruit, cream – heck, why limit yourself to pancakes. What’s wrong with a crepe every now and then?

So what do you think guys? What is the proper way to enjoy a short stack?
posted by willnot at 2:24 AM on October 2, 2001


simultaneously?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:28 AM on October 2, 2001


All cakes spread to take up the whole surface of the plate, butter on each cake, and syrup of choice poured on but not spilling over the cakes, all served steaming, side of any pork product on hand. Fruit on side to be added at conveniance if at all.
posted by Elim at 2:28 AM on October 2, 2001


Crepes just are not done in Colorado!!
posted by Elim at 2:30 AM on October 2, 2001


Waffles are nice.
posted by Blacktooth at 2:39 AM on October 2, 2001


more syrup, less spilling, good in my book
posted by Elim at 2:44 AM on October 2, 2001


"Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the Orthodox Israeli philosopher who argued in July 1967 that we should retreat right away and give back everything we'd captured the previous month because an extended occupation would rot the soul of the country, was clearly right," an American rabbi came to feel in December 2000 after living in Israel for a couple of years, and learning...

I think understanding is a good thing. I think the punditocracy is working in overdrive to create this artificial yellfest that we keep reproducing over and over on Metafilter.

Does anyone really believe that if Israel, say, five or six years ago, had made a Yeshayahu Leibowitz-size contribution to peace with the Palestinians, that the extreme fringes of jihad "Islam" would be as powerful as we now appreciate they are? It is not equating reasonable disgust with U.S.-funded Israeli policy with Sept. 11 atrocities to consider how, as long as millions of sane moderates have that legitimate grievance against us, we can't be surprised if the extreme movements prove impossible to eradicate, even while our armed forces are doing their best to destroy the Sept. 11 perpetrators and all their network (with my approval). [My comment back on the still-front-page thread where this repetitious junk should have been filed instead of choking Metafilter to death.]
posted by Zurishaddai at 2:44 AM on October 2, 2001


Aaron:

You get the feeling this ain't going as planned?
posted by Elim at 2:45 AM on October 2, 2001


Ornery damn MeFites.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:58 AM on October 2, 2001


Israel should move from Jerusalem as "planned"? If you go to your history books you will find that the during the origian planning for partition, Israel agreed upon a shared Jerusalem. The Arabs refused.
But that aside: the Hitchens piece is ansered by Noam Chlomsky, two lefties swinging away at each other. If you can't find it, I have it at Bushwacker
posted by Postroad at 3:00 AM on October 2, 2001


Christopher Hitchens article is very similar to the arundhati roy article discussed earlier.
the main difference is that he starts off saying the us is not to blame and finishes saying that the hijackers were motivated by envy and moral confussion.
Again, this is an opinion piece, which reveals as much about the writer as it does about the situation.

as regards the pancakes - crepe suzette (grade marnier) and belle helene (pears and chocolate) get my vote.
posted by asok at 3:01 AM on October 2, 2001


Flapjacks. Griddlecakes.
[I'm waffling.]
posted by pracowity at 3:04 AM on October 2, 2001


Great banana crepes in Eugene. Great breakfast in Eugene, really. Eugene gets the breakfasts it deserves.

“One of the most troubling strands of this rhetorical offensive is the assertion that criticism of American foreign policy - specifically America's economic and political policies abroad - is beyond the pale and that making such arguments amounts to blaming America for the terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, some of these same pundits are quite comfortable criticizing aspects of our military policies. They attack dissent as "blaming America first" from one side of their mouth while denouncing past military policy from the other.”
Criticizing American Policy: Picking and Choosing What Is Legitimate

To be fair, I read a few essays stating uneqiouvically that America got what it deserved—retribution for previous slaughters sponsored by the US. I don’t agree with that. Nor do I agree with the other extreme, exemplifed by Dan Patrick, who said we should let the military run amok and hold any criticism til after they’re finished, if at all. My head says both extremes are silly.

Hitchens needs to go to Eugene, have a banana crepe with a nice tall glass of fresh squeezed OJ. I recommend either Cafe Siena or the Keystone Cafe. Do enjoy.
posted by raaka at 3:06 AM on October 2, 2001


I think the thinly veiled hatred of the US in reality comes from our shunning of the easily shunable crepe.

Also remember Johnny Cakes!!
posted by Elim at 3:09 AM on October 2, 2001


Oh God(ess), and I just moved to Eugene!!
posted by Elim at 3:11 AM on October 2, 2001


If you go to your history books you will find that the during the origian planning for partition, Israel agreed upon a shared Jerusalem. The Arabs refused.

Yes, imagine that--there was a time when the Palestinians still imagined that they might have back the land that is now Israel, which their families had inhabited for centuries before their removal. Now, they'd settle for less. So what?

If I didn't know that your intention was purely propaganda, I'd say you could benefit from reading a Britannica article or two...and learn how Israel came to exist.
posted by Zurishaddai at 3:11 AM on October 2, 2001


Sorry for all the off-thread comments about the Middle East and all...

For sure the best crêpes in the Bay Area are at Ti Couz, right? (Try suzette plus chocolate! Wow!)
posted by Zurishaddai at 3:14 AM on October 2, 2001


Pancakes is too much food in the morning. Toast and marmalade and a nice cup of tea is best. The Christopher Hitchens article was as bad as the Arhundati Roy one, as someone pointed out. I think he actually used the term towel heads. The Economist piece was excellent though.
posted by Summer at 3:15 AM on October 2, 2001


I just wish people would stop calling me un-American, apologist, stupid, no friend of peace, cowardly, ineffectual, or masochistic. I am none of those things. I don't want to discuss this, just stop insulting me. This debate has been very nearly done to death and no one has been able to enlighten me to the other perspective as of yet, nor have I been able to so enlighten anyone else to my own. My comments were received or discarded based on the preexisting opinions of the readers, and were thus as good as useless. Obviously this is an issue that comes down to foundation moral beliefs, and those aren’t likely to be revised on account of opinions expressed on an Internet discussion group or ranting in an article.
posted by Nothing at 3:44 AM on October 2, 2001


For sure the best crêpes in the Bay Area are at Ti Couz, right?

Did they close that "Magic Pan" restaurant that used to be in Ghiradelli Square? THOSE were crêpes!
posted by RavinDave at 3:55 AM on October 2, 2001


People can change their minds about this kind of thing because of debate. When the first 'America had it coming' articles were published after the event I was inclined to agree, mainly because the people doing the writing (John Pilger and others) were doing it well. And I suppose because I thought there had to be some reason for it.

Then I read about a thousand similar articles making the same points but revealing their prejudice to a much greater extent. So I thought about it a bit more and also thought about how I'd feel if the Houses of Parliament and Canary Wharf had gone up in smoke and everyone had written articles about British Imperialism and policies such as the bombing of Yugoslavia coming home to roost.

Well, I'd feel pretty betrayed and sick. Nobody ever talks about Britain deserving the IRA bombing campaign, at least not in the mainstream press, despite it being clearly the result of our past actions. Yes, we're guilty, we invaded Ireland, but what are we supposed to do? The situation's just far too complicated now to simply withdraw. And that's not the fault of the citizens who died.

The point I'm trying to make is that by thrashing out the issues you can change people's minds. Not everyone's, not even most people's, but some.
posted by Summer at 4:03 AM on October 2, 2001


True, Summer, I spoke to broadly, I do not doubt that people can change their minds. I should have constrained the scope of my comments to the writers of the linked articles and specific individuals here on Metafilter. Either way, I do not wish to change anyone's mind any more. I just wanted to say I'm tired of being insulted. Leftist self-loathing? I think not.
posted by Nothing at 4:21 AM on October 2, 2001


banana-republic degradation of the United States

Man, but I love this phrase. Hafta find a way to slip it into regular conversation. Anybody have any ideas?

Whether you sympathize with Hitchens's position or not, I think his argument is tenuous in places. For example, when he says "Whatever Mr. Husseini may say about Israel, the plan was designed and incubated long before the mutual masturbation of the Clinton–Arafat–Barak ‘process' " I mean, no shit. But the implication here is that it is suddenly okay to sweep aside any thought that our longtime support & favoritism of Israel, which is obviously regarded as unfair and unkind by many Middle Easterners, might have something to do with the attacks. Now that's denial... [Note, this is not a troll. Repeat, this is not a troll. Over.]

If you make your own pancakes from scratch, or even if you use Bisquick or something, try replacing about 1/4 of the amount of milk/buttermilk you use with fresh cream. Heavenly. Leave crepes for women, Europeans, and wimps with greasy hair who wear Armani suits and also eat souffle. Crepes und souffle is for peoples mit out tees! Ya voll. (This, um, might be a troll...)
posted by Bixby23 at 4:58 AM on October 2, 2001


Briefly: Hitchens has been waiting for a Spanish Civil War all his life. He appears to have found one, or at least, believes he has. And just as Orwell took the established left to task in Homage to Catalonia, so Hitchens steps into his spiritual father's boots here and delivers a right old kicking.

[ A rather regrettable bit of editorialising, though, aaron: you'll not find anything like the words "seek to understand" in either piece because, um, their point is rather more subtle than that: that the motivation of those prepared to commit mass murder is quite different from the very real problems of the region, and nigh-on impossible to rationalise. ]
posted by holgate at 5:18 AM on October 2, 2001


Some of the people that Hichens criticizes responded in Znet.
There seems to be two Hitchens writing about this: the Hitchens of the posted articles, and the Hitchens that wrote a story for the Guardian that was in a similar vein with those that he criticizes and where, for example, he states:
In general, the motive and character of the perpetrators is shrouded by rhetoric about their "cowardice" and their "shadowy" character, almost as if they had not volunteered to immolate themselves in the broadest of broad blue daylight. On the campus where I am writing this, there are a few students and professors willing to venture points about United States foreign policy. But they do so very guardedly, and it would sound like profane apologetics if transmitted live. So the analytical moment, if there is to be one, has been indefinitely postponed.
Go figure...
posted by talos at 6:02 AM on October 2, 2001


banana-republic degradation of the United States ?...Well, I thought their clothes were smarmy, and they did take over and ruin the interior--temporarily, I hope, of a wonderful historical building here, but...degradation?You must be talking about the catalogues?
posted by y2karl at 6:13 AM on October 2, 2001


I just wanted to say I'm tired of being insulted.

I can sympathize. However, I'm tired of feeling like many of my fellow liberals would rather burn a flag than be caught flying one.
"My daughter, who goes to Stuyvesant High School only blocks from the World Trade Center, thinks we should fly an American flag out our window. Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war." -- Katha Pollitt
I just don't understand the impulse to respond to mass murder with a laundry list of America's sins. Especially since the same people who think the U.S. "had it coming" would never respond to a military strike against Kabul with a suggestion that Afghanistan has it coming to them, even though the country supports and harbors thousands of terrorists.
posted by rcade at 6:22 AM on October 2, 2001


Closedmindedness is so...un-American.
posted by rushmc at 6:22 AM on October 2, 2001


He lost me early on when he called American blockbusters "unpretentious", implying that good film, and foreign film, is pretentious. Xenophobe.

rcade: They probably wouldn't respond with a military strike because they believe that violence begets violence.
posted by droob at 6:30 AM on October 2, 2001



Banana pancakes are good too, regardless of what degraded republic the bananas come from

I like waffles better than pancakes any ol' time. And the dark Grade B maple syrup.

I was impressed that Hitchens could go for almost the whole piece with barely spitting any venom on Bill Clinton except the "mutual masturbation" remark. If Mother Teresa weren't already dead, he'd have probably found a way to implicate her, too.
posted by briank at 6:42 AM on October 2, 2001


rcade: well said.
posted by prodigal at 6:47 AM on October 2, 2001


I will be honest and say that my first read-through the article yielded no understanding of Hitchen's point. I must be too ultra liberal or something. But if the summary of the article is telling of its content:

Christopher Hitchens says that intellectuals of the left who seek to understand the new enemy are no friends of peace, democracy or human life.

Wait... how are we supposed to fight the enemy if we don't understand them?

And what? War and killing will protect peace and human life? Yes! No!
posted by daveadams at 6:47 AM on October 2, 2001


Closedmindedness is so...un-American.

So is cowardice. And murder. And dishonesty. But I see a lot of people defending all three lately.
posted by UncleFes at 6:56 AM on October 2, 2001


Excellent point, daveadams. I'm baffled slightly by Hitchens' piece -- although holgate's analysis makes sense to me -- because he's equating "understanding" with a secondary meaning -- sympathizing with -- rather than its primary sense of knowing completely.

We've made a point, over the last half-century in this country (can't speak for Europe) of refusing to understand the Middle East -- along with a good bit of the world. One doesn't have to believe that the U.S. is responsible for the murderers' attack to believe that preventing a future, similar attack might well involve something more than finding and neutralizing bin Laden. I think that something is going to come from understanding the context in which death-soldiers are raised up and bred and made available for such monstrous acts. I simply think it's too risky to assume that this is a simple matter, where we can just root out the evildoers. We may be able to. But I want a better assurance that the seed won't produce a future crop. And maybe that requires an understanding that looks "soft" to Mr. Hitchens.

I also understand that the Kiev on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, which served excellent apple pancakes which were the perfect closure to a drunken evening, is now closed. Anybody know if they make them at Veselka?
posted by BT at 7:21 AM on October 2, 2001


The bitch of this whole thing is that the Taliban could stop military action today if they wanted to - completely. Simply hand over a dead bin Laden and crew to the American. Immediately, the military campaign is forestalled, and thousands of innocent civilians are spared. Also, it says to the world that the Taliban is willing to be a part of the larger muslim and, by proxy, the global community. It also makes the overt claim that they are not terrorists and don't condone terrorism.

IHOP Strawberry Stack. With bacon interspersed between the flapjacks, all slathered in butter and traditional Maple. With a side of Lipitor.
posted by UncleFes at 7:30 AM on October 2, 2001


I heard Kiev reopened under new management with basically the same menu , but I haven't been. Anyone?
posted by sudama at 7:49 AM on October 2, 2001


man, i miss the Kiev (i moved to the west coast in '89)!

mmm, pierogies...
posted by modge at 9:16 AM on October 2, 2001


do we have to do all this again? I even linked to the same Economist piece, using the exact same link text, 10 whole days ago. Woo, I'm getting dizzy.

Hitchens is right to the extent that the liberal left does want us to sympathize with the terrorists, though I'm unsure to what extent that is.

Certainly war is a terrible thing and we should go into it fully aware of the costs of killing. But we should also understand that killing is necessary, this time -- there will be no other effective way of destroying the existing terrorist networks, or discouraging future ones.

That is, it would be a mistake to allow ourselves to think, "there's nothing wrong with killing them, because they're murderers". This, after all, is parallel to what they did to us, in quality if not in scope. Instead we must keep in mind, "it seems we have no choice but to kill them, because they're murderers (and we cannot stop them otherwise)."
posted by mattpfeff at 9:41 AM on October 2, 2001


how does that Stealer's Wheel song go?
"Mindless jingoes to the right of me,
Mindless wussies to the left,
here I am
stuck in the middle with you
Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you
and I'm wondering what it is I should do...
posted by quercus at 9:51 AM on October 2, 2001


how does that Stealer's Wheel song go?
"Mindless jingoes to the right of me,
Mindless wussies to the left,
here I am
stuck in the middle with you
Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you
and I'm wondering what it is I should do...
posted by quercus at 9:55 AM on October 2, 2001


omlettes!
posted by chrismc at 9:59 AM on October 2, 2001


When something this big happens, people try to tie it to their own grievances. On the left, it's a time to bring out America's evils, as unrelated as they may be to the attacks.

On the right, it's a chance to show how evil the rest of the world is, even countries that had little or nothing to do with the attacks. On the Christian right, apparently it's a chance to blame the whole thing on gays and lesbians. In the business world, it's a chance to blame your shitty company results on the tragedy.

Opportunism always rears its head when major shit goes down. It doesn't mean that complaints against the US aren't valid, nor does it mean that the rest of the world doesn't have its villians. The relationship between it all is what is suspect, and what Hitchens is responding to.
posted by cell divide at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2001


So is cowardice. And murder. And dishonesty. But I see a lot of people defending all three lately.

So do I. And they're all also making sheep-like noises such as "It's us or them", "Bin Laden dead or alive", "Invade those swarthy bastards and convert them to Christianity", etc. The cowardly folks braying those little homilies just want blood (gee, isn't that terrorism?), don't want to wait for proof someone is guilty or not (gee, isn't that murder? gee, isn't that what these hijackers did?), don't want to HEAR that American policies contributed to the horror (their little black-and-white world will shatter), and sure as hell don't want to be troubled by actual thought about all this.

Much too scary for them...better to retreat into the flag and bravely consider zero percent interest through March on a new Chevy 3/4 ton truck...to show their patriotism.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:22 AM on October 2, 2001


Actually, though it surprises me to say it, Tony Blair's party conference speech seems to offer precisely the kind of balanced internationalist perspective that sums up the more thoughtful commentators on the left: support for Kyoto, no more Rwandas, moral obligation to practice the free trade that we preach with developing nations. "The world community must show as much its capacity for compassion as for force."

(Scrambled eggs and hash browns, scattered smothered and covered. Welcome to the Waffle House.)
posted by holgate at 10:26 AM on October 2, 2001


I don't know. It's all pretty confusing.

I just think we need to separate this act of murder from US policy. It's just not worth it to let something like this be the catalyst.

But I still think, and have always thought, that we could do a much better job in the Middle East.

Perhaps the first step should be converting to solar power. :)
posted by cell divide at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2001


This post deserves a look;
The weirdest thread I ever saw.
(Me, I like my pancakes cooked
-- but then no one likes them raw.)
posted by mattpfeff at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2001


The cowardly folks braying those little homilies just want blood (gee, isn't that terrorism?), don't want to wait for proof someone is guilty or not (gee, isn't that murder? gee, isn't that what these hijackers did?), don't want to HEAR that American policies contributed to the horror (their little black-and-white world will shatter), and sure as hell don't want to be troubled by actual thought about all this.

Dude you are CRACKING me UP :D

Here's a tissue, Tito. I think the We Hate America Club meets at the Student Union at 4. BYO koolaid and grievance list. Pancakes provided.
posted by UncleFes at 10:59 AM on October 2, 2001


UnlceFes gets a yellow flag for using an ad hominem attack, fold_and_mutilate gets a free breakfast at the local Chat’N’Chew for having his point proven.

UncleFes: “the We Hate America Club...”

f_&_m: “Much too scary for them [to think]...better to retreat into the flag ...”

Holgate, if this is the speech I’m thinking of, Tony was quietly admonshing the Bush Admin. The US is extremely unilateral on international issues — Kyoto, landmines, biowarfare, World Court, gun running, NMD, Palestine, Iraq — and he sees massive widespread support for the US as a way to push the US into supporting the international community. I keep thinking of that line from All the President’s Men. Something like, “You got people pitying Halderman. I didn’t think that was possible.” Well, people are pitying the US. Before 9.11, nodoby thought that was possible.
posted by raaka at 2:43 PM on October 2, 2001


So is cowardice. And murder. And dishonesty. But I see a lot of people defending all three lately.

I am disappointed in you, UncleFes. I never figured you for a troll.

To beat the charge, show us ONE example of your outrageous and offensive claim.
posted by rushmc at 4:21 PM on October 2, 2001


Hmph. Every time someone says "there was no justification for what happened on September 11..." and then launches into exactly that, my claim is vindicated. As for bin Laden apologists, you can't swing a cybercat around this IP without hitting two or three. If that's trollery, I stand guilty.

[sigh] Sorry rushmc, I see your point. It just pains me to see all these America bashers kicking the country that nurtured their freedom when it's down. I'm no superpatriot, but it's just fucking ugly, like shooting a wounded animal. It sets my teeth when I think of my father, uncles, and grandfathers who fought and bled for this country so a bunch of art majors who don't know how sweet and fragile their freedom is can piss on it. I know America isn't no boy scout camp, and I know that we've got some responsiblity for what goes to shit in this world, and maybe it's just my blue collar schmuckery talking, but it goddamned well makes me mad.

I'll take that yellow flag, raaka; I do my best never to get personal, but I did there. F&M, please accept my apologies.

I'll go back to my cave, now. Continue as you were.
posted by UncleFes at 8:50 PM on October 2, 2001


Sorry rushmc, I see your point.

And I see yours. Have I once said, "Don't be angry"? I don't have a lot of patience for TRUE anti-American Americans myself. I'm pretty sure you DO see the difference between "America bashers" and people who simply want to know what the real political/social/cultural/religious situation IS out there in this world that suddenly has decided to attack us. But your rhetoric encourages those too blind, too ignorant, too unsophisticated to see or to care, don't you see? Okay, so we disagree on where exactly the line is drawn that separates understanding from agreement, knowledge from acceptance, and assessment from approval, but we both know that there is room on either side of those lines from which honorable men and women can disagree. Let's not turn on each other and devour ourselves...let's keep that anger focused where it belongs.
posted by rushmc at 9:36 PM on October 2, 2001


well, a question. I mean, the sloppery here is infuriating. Why do so many people who want to make a point about the U.S. having made mistakes in the past (re: foreign policy) insist on using inflammatory rhetoric? Why insist on condemning something you couldn't possibly understand -- something that it is important that we all try and understand and that, by invoking moralistic (black-and-white) arguments, you only hinder the understanding of?

There are some legitimate, important questions. E.g., How have past U.S. actions fostered a global environment in which many countries harbored and supported terrorists; How can the U.S. now seek to maintain and grow the international consensus condemning terrorist groups; How do the costs and benefits of military actions against terrorist groups compare to the costs and benefits of diplomatic actions.

I would love to hear peoples' perspectives on these, and I'm sure there are people here who know a lot more about the relevant history and current policy than I do. But these discussions have all focused on rhetoric (the use of words like "guilty" and "cowardice", etc.), not on substance. What's the point?
posted by mattpfeff at 11:37 PM on October 2, 2001


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