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February 8, 2005 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Drinking with Christopher Hitchens and the Iraqis Blogger Michael J. Totten recounts a night out with several angry Iraqis and one famous polemicist.
posted by Asparagirl (55 comments total)

 
First of all, it is our business if Iraqis or anyone else wants to put a Taliban government into power. People like that murdered thousands in our country and thousands more in countries all over the world - including Iraq.


heh. warblogger's logic. but after all, he is a TechCentralStation writer who links to smallvictory and LGF, so.
posted by matteo at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2005


When Hitch showed up he was wearing one, too. And he noticed mine.

But Hitchens had a defender, too. He had me.

This, as well as the hilariously abused question and exclamation marks to belittle his "opponent" (for example, "Who are you to tell us what to do!?") make this article very entertaining, but only in an oh-my-god-what's-wrong-with-the-world kind of way.
posted by The God Complex at 2:15 PM on February 8, 2005


Maybe they really didn’t (and don’t) completely understand how we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past.

Thanks for this, Asparagirl. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry, but I'm going to go with laugh for today, since I think it'll be more fun.
posted by The God Complex at 2:20 PM on February 8, 2005


Okay, okay--one more.

What a treat it is to talk politics and shop with Christopher Hitchens. When I yak about politics with most people we can’t get past fundamentals. But if Hitchens says “Kurdistan” or “Kissinger” I know exactly what he means and where he’s coming from. He needs say no more. We’re instantly on the same page on multiple levels all at once. We can talk about the finer points without getting bogged down in spats about imperialism, pacifism, and Bush.

This stuff reads like hawk erotica. There are feathers on the bedspread and talon-marks on the headboard. Rawr!

I'm going to go do something more productive now ;)
posted by The God Complex at 2:25 PM on February 8, 2005


Oh boy, I saw his post previously and thought "What a name drop."

FYI: the program Totten and Hitchens were appearing on can be seen here. Totten was part of "Bloggers Corner" and read off supportive e-mail from U.S. and Iraqi correspondents. Hitchens just sat there and pontificated. [Also interesting, Spirit of America, the organization that set this whole program up, is a front for the Cyber Century Forum which is funded by Schlumberger, a large oil-services company (details here).]
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:28 PM on February 8, 2005


Remember when Hitchens was just that plucky fat guy stalking Kissinger? This was probably ghost-written by Andrew Sullivan and accidentally submitted to this obscure blog instead of the neo-con slash fiction site he had in mind.
posted by basicchannel at 2:31 PM on February 8, 2005


I'm with matteo.

Totten's 'warblogger' status and LGF links are what's important & noteworthy here, not some compelling meeting of journalists and Iraqi envoys. There is certainly no food for thought in optimistic first-hand impressions like this...
Friendly Arabs are the easiest people to bond with I’ve ever met. It takes no time at all to forge friendship if they’re willing – and they so often are. Despite our spat with the Iraqis (and who knows, perhaps in part because of that fight) I felt like those of us at the table were like old friends. Thank God and Allah for that. It gave me hope for the future, not only for our individual countries, but also hope for a future Iraqi-American alliance untainted by any distorted neo-imperial arrangement.
....so I'll kindly point my browser from Totten to DailyKos now, thank you, where it's safe...and warm...

Thanks for the link, asparagirl
posted by jenleigh at 2:40 PM on February 8, 2005


More impressive is that picture below the article, of the veiled Iraqi voter with the tear. “I saw that picture and wept,” he said. “It is incredibly moving.” Yeah, and incredibly posed and fake. I'm all for democracy, but pleeeeez.
posted by fungible at 2:42 PM on February 8, 2005


Interesting post, thanks. A little too much Hitchens-slobber-love but still worth the read.
posted by rooftop secrets at 2:48 PM on February 8, 2005


First of all, it is Iraqis' business if Americans or anyone else wants to put a Bush government into power. People like that murdered thousands in Iraq and thousands more in countries all over the world - including Afghanistan.

Strange, it works just as well...
posted by Skeptic at 2:49 PM on February 8, 2005


Thanks, asparagirl. You were brave to post this, since for most liberals, Hitchens occupies that special place in hell reserved for lefties who supported the war. But I found it fascinating. This was good:
At one point, apropos of something I can’t remember, Ahman said to me: “I can tell you in one sentence how my country feels about your country.”

“Really?” I said. “Can you really boil it down to one sentence?”

“Yes,” he said. “And it is this: Thank you for coming, now please leave and take us with you.”
on preview: Sure, Skeptic. Taliban, Bush, moral equivalency, got it.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:52 PM on February 8, 2005


There is certainly no food for thought in optimistic first-hand impressions like this...

Not when they're spouted off by someone wearing rose-colored glasses.
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:55 PM on February 8, 2005


Hitchens is a leftist? I must've missed the scorecard update.
posted by verb at 2:58 PM on February 8, 2005


I don't know why either liberals or conservatives idolize self-promoters like Christopher Hitchens instead of thinking for themselves. I guess his Spanish Civil War Man Of Conscience Fantasy Camp sort of sweeps you along. He reminds me of some C-list actor doing a one-man show, "A Night With George Orwell." But he's as goofy a side-switching figure as David Horowitz, only better at using parallelism.
posted by inksyndicate at 2:59 PM on February 8, 2005


Hitchens is a leftist? I must've missed the scorecard update.
posted by verb at 2:58 PM PST on February 8


Used to be... till the A-rabs flew those planes into Big Ben.
posted by basicchannel at 3:01 PM on February 8, 2005


Posting on metafilter takes bravery. It's like going to Iraq or sumthin'.
posted by raysmj at 3:03 PM on February 8, 2005


And a blogger's comment about how wonderful Arabs are is supposed to leave me feeling all tingly inside? Why, exactly? I'm totally serious. What's the big deal? Warbloggers are as annoyingly self-righteous as some super-lefties, perhaps because so many are former super-lefties, or perhaps it's just the horribly misled moral crusader spirit at work in both cases. I was expecting a "word up, asparagirl, speaking truth to power" or something from jenleigh there.
posted by raysmj at 3:08 PM on February 8, 2005


jenleigh, you ignore the substance -- how lame to evoke the Taliban. Iraq was secular. and it didn't have wmd's. now we just don't know. I know that you guys are still sore about those wmd's that, unhelpfully, had the audacity not to show u p, but still. if the "Taliban" (BOO!) take Iraq, you'll have to thank the smashing success of Bush's Iraq Attaq.

ah, you also conveniently forgot the TechCentralStation angle -- this Totten guy is a shill for a Republican AstroTurfing operation. even worse, he has an alarming fetish -- that I suspect you share, jen -- for old drunken Orwell-wannabes with no one left to talk to except star-struck warbloggers. I look forward to new "compelling" adventures of Hitchens fanfiction in your personal blog!

"The Night Hitch Kissed Me On The Cheek"

"Hitch Battles the IslamoFascist Aliens!"

and the final episode,

"The Night Hitch Found WMD's On The Bottom Of A Stoli Bottle"


(I can only imagine the writer's glee had only Hitchens barfed on his shoes. if only)

____

oh, and Hitchens is as much as a leftist as Trent Lott is. and he even lacks that charming slave-owner accent of Trent's.
posted by matteo at 3:10 PM on February 8, 2005


"The Night Hitch Kissed Me On The Cheek"

"Hitch Battles the IslamoFascist Aliens!"

and the final episode,

"The Night Hitch Found WMD's On The Bottom Of A Stoli Bottle"


(I can only imagine the writer's glee had only Hitchens barfed on his shoes. if only)


If you could only see me, matteo, you'd see that I was drifting around this thread on lollerskates right now ;)
posted by The God Complex at 3:13 PM on February 8, 2005


"Friendly Arabs are the easiest people to bond with I’ve ever met."

OMG he even thinks that some of those dark-skinned foreigners (the "friendly" ones) are... human! he's so tolerant! I bet he thinks blacks dance really well, too!
posted by matteo at 3:13 PM on February 8, 2005


Matteo just detonated his patented hyperbole bomb in hopes of blasting any useful discussion from the thread.
posted by dhoyt at 3:27 PM on February 8, 2005


This has nothing to do with us telling you what to do and everything to do with fighting fascism wherever in the world it exists.

Two bottles of red wine: $60
Two packs of Rothmans cigarettes: $12
Being utterly blind to your own hypocrisy: Priceless

[/overused MasterCard parody]

And a blogger's comment about how wonderful Arabs are is supposed to leave me feeling all tingly inside? Why, exactly?

Why, raysmj, because it demonstrates what a tremendous humanitarian and man of the world our warblogging friend is. He's not just an armchair pundit, see? He's met - and liked, liked! - actual Arabs. Enough of them to make generalizations about them! He knows better than you (or them!) what's best for Arabia.

On preview: Hitch was a leftist - a self-avowed Trotskyist, no less - in his youth, and still leaned that way until 9/11, when he formed his very own Trotskyite splinter group of one: The Still-Kissinger-Hating Anti-IslamoFascist Pentagon-Apologist Militant Drunken Sod's Party. At which point he ceased to make insightful points about anything other than how much he still hated Kissinger, stuck as he was making excuses for the Bush Administration's foreign policy in order to defend the dogmatically anti-religious corner (ironic, that) that he'd painted himself into.
posted by gompa at 3:27 PM on February 8, 2005


"Second, I can assure that you Christopher and I would do everything we possibly could to prevent any Taliban-like force from taking power in our own country, as well as in yours."

Which of course is why the next US head of Homeland Security is involved in cutting deals and harassing former employees to cover up the use of torture in our politically charged criminal investigations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:29 PM on February 8, 2005


Pardonyou? Moral equivalence? No, I do not think that Bush and the Taliban are morally equivalent. If I had to choose sides in a fight between them, I'm afraid I'd certainly take Bush's...
However my point was that it is extremely rich of Hitchens or Totten or anyone to give themselves a right of veto over the democratic choices of the Iraqis. Especially if the reason they give for this is that "the Taliban killed thousands of Americans". Considering the tens of thousands of Iraqis dead since the invasion, couldn't the Iraqis argue that their security is just as much as stake in American elections, and request the same right of veto?
Finally, Hitchens and Totten surreptitiously equate Iran with the Taliban. Even if one doesn't like Iran's regime, one also has to admit that it is nothing like the Taliban's. If you want to overthrow some Taliban-like regime, start with Saudi Arabia...
posted by Skeptic at 3:34 PM on February 8, 2005


“Like I said, Christopher,” I told him. “You can’t afford to be unplugged from the blogosphere."

“Angel,” he said. “Can I call you angel?”


Please. Spare. Me.
posted by runkelfinker at 4:01 PM on February 8, 2005


I've been around Hitch a few times, and it's fucking bizarre that his Daily Mail Island brother now sounds more reasonable. He's bewitchingly erudite. Trouble with his current position, as his writing on Abu Ghraib proves, is that you end up simultaneously condemning and enabling things that compromise the supposed moral basis of your opposition.

I guess his Spanish Civil War Man Of Conscience Fantasy Camp sort of sweeps you along.

It seems to be sweeping him along, too. One hopes that he doesn't need to be shot in the throat to provide some necessary distance, given his dependence upon Rothmans King Size.

This has nothing to do with us telling you what to do and everything to do with fighting fascism wherever in the world it exists.

Funny, that:
‘Those are the Socialists’ (meaning the P.S.U.C.), I was puzzled and said: ‘Aren't we all Socialists?’ I thought it idiotic that people fighting for their lives should have separate parties; my attitude always was, ‘Why can't we drop all this political nonsense and get on with the war?’ This of course was the correct 'anti-Fascist' attitude which had been carefully disseminated by the English newspapers, largely in order to prevent people from grasping the real nature of the struggle. But in Spain, especially in Catalonia, it was an attitude that no one could or did keep up indefinitely. Everyone, however unwillingly, took sides sooner or later. For even if one cared nothing for the political parties and their conflicting ‘lines’, it was too obvious that one's own destiny was involved. As a militiaman one was a soldier against Franco, but one was also a pawn in an enormous struggle that was being fought out between two political theories. When I scrounged for firewood on the mountainside and wondered whether this was really a war or whether the News Chronicle had made it up, when I dodged the Communist machine-guns in the Barcelona riots, when I finally fled from Spain with the police one jump behind me — all these things happened to me in that particular way because I was serving in the P.O.U.M. militia and not in the P.S.U.C. So great is the difference between two sets of initials!
George Orwell, 'Homage to Catalonia'.
posted by riviera at 4:06 PM on February 8, 2005


"I don't see why we have to let a country go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible."
Henry Kissinger, according to Christopher Hitchens in "The Trial of Henry Kissinger"

"I don't see why we have to let a country go Taliban just because its people are irresponsible."
Christopher Hitchens, according to Michael J. Totten...
posted by Skeptic at 4:38 PM on February 8, 2005


Sure, Skeptic. Taliban, Bush, moral equivalency, got it.
pardonyou? skeptic didn't take you up on this but I will:
In terms of sheer numbers of dead people brought on by one's policies, Bush has vastly outkilled the Taliban any way you look at it. I don't think this is something one could factually argue about.
Also, the Taliban were a despicable sort of Afghan hillbillies, capable of harming very few outside their turf (unless you believe in the cunning ability of goatherds to plan 9/11). Bush is in charge of the world’s largest ever killing machine, staffed by people who love killing, and led by people who are motivated by a religious fervour similar if not equivalent to the Taliban's, with a rather demented nationalist messianic twist.

I remind you that the various idiotic fundamentalists that preceded and staffed the Taliban (and a large part of whatever it is that Al Qaeda is) were supported, armed and trained by the US - and the same goes for Saddam, a former CIA asset whose contract has, apparently, recently been terminated.

So to wrap it up, while in most places in this world the Taliban were irrelevant and not a threat at all, the Bush administration (whose commitment to democracy even at home is probably the loosest of any US administration's ever), is in a position to harm the whole - bloody - world, either directly (as the ~100.000 excess dead in Iraq might be construed as testifying) or indirectly. Indeed this administration has made a great case for every nation that would like to remain "unliberated" to arm itself to the teeth with all kinds of weapons both conventional and unconventional.

Frankly there is no contest, no equivalence at all.

As for C Hitchens... One of these days, if his arrogance allows it, he is going to wake up, realise what he has been supporting these past few years and start screaming.
posted by talos at 5:23 PM on February 8, 2005


Great find, Aspara.

I would only add that Totten obviously hasn't had much contact with Arabs-- screaming arguments are just the way people talk politics. This can be really strange for those WASP-y or American types who aren't use to it, you think people are going to kill each other, when really they're just arguing over a proposed government policy.

Also, what's up with the Kurdistan pins? Are they the cool new foreigners? I thought patronizing small oppressed countries was a liberal pasttimte, not a warbloggers?
posted by chaz at 5:37 PM on February 8, 2005


Matteo just detonated his patented hyperbole bomb in hopes of blasting any useful discussion from the thread.

Hyperbole? Funny, it smells like something else entirely.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:00 PM on February 8, 2005


Hyperbole? Funny, it smells like something else entirely.

Smells like... victory? Is that what you were thinking?
posted by crank at 6:32 PM on February 8, 2005


Thanks, asparagirl. You were brave to post this, since for most liberals, Hitchens occupies that special place in hell reserved for lefties who supported the war.

Oh for fuck's sake, will you stop that? Can the righties please stop slapping each other on the ass over posting a right-leaning link on a left-leaning message board? Jesus Christ. You act like you're blowing up the Death Star or some shit.

The soldier in Falljuah doing nighttime scrap metal hunts to protect his humvee so he might live to make use of the education Rumsfeld told him this will all pay for? Yeah, he's being brave. You posted a link. From your computer. At home. Be quiet. Seriously- unless Asparagirl has a physical disablity in which the actual act of clicking a mouse is a strenuous task, just stop. And cut the pathetic "it's hard to post this with all these LIBERALS around" garbage. Yeah, it's sooo hard just like the last eight hundred fucking times. Is it hard to do that thing you've done eight hundred times? Can the grownups talk now? Please? Honestly. Stop. Okay? Good. Jesus.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:00 PM on February 8, 2005


Also, what's up with the Kurdistan pins? Are they the cool new foreigners? I thought patronizing small oppressed countries was a liberal pasttimte, not a warbloggers?

Hitchens is a conservative-come-lately.

He's always been fond of his booze, though. Funny, there aren't too many self-proclaimed drinking journalists anymore. Kind of a dying breed.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:01 PM on February 8, 2005


I dunno. Totten debating this Atiyyah fellow seems a grave disappointment, especially because of his professed desire to step aside as soon as possible. It's about as satisfying as the Juan Cole vs. Josh Goldberg tiff. There wasn't a hope in hell that Totten, or Goldberg, could have the certainty and courage of their convictions of their betters, in either case.

Now, the debate I'd like to see would be one between Juan Cole and the Andrew Apostolou fellow. We might have a chance of some intelligible opposing positions, in that opportune case.

As for Hitchens vs. Atiyyah, it was another mismatch, but for different reasons. Hitchens was largely stating fact in that the US and UK clearly have no short-term desire or tolerance for a retrograde Islamist regime in Baghdad. So was Atiyyah in stating that Iraqis wished to make their own choices. Long-term, though, it's clear that an Islamist character is not incompatible with a Western-leaning government or democratic structure, something Turkey has been proving the last several years. A much more interesting exchange would have focused on the nature of that hypothetical direction of governance. It's probably the only mutually acceptable path.
posted by dhartung at 7:36 PM on February 8, 2005


Believe me, you don’t know what a tense political fight feels like until the person yelling at you is from a country you recently bombed and currently occupy.

So, let me get this straight, this kid has bombs? Yipes.
posted by Cassford at 8:28 PM on February 8, 2005


Damn, dhartung, that Goldberg v. Cole brawl was really something. Fascinating, in fact, in a rubbernecking-at-a-car-wreck sort of way.

Sure looked from here like Cole mopped the floor with Goldberg:

I do not understand why CNN or NPR would hire someone to talk about Iraq policy who has not read a book on the subject under discussion. Actually, of course, it would be desirable that he had read more than one book. Books are nice. They are rectangular and soft and have information in them. They can even be consumed on airplanes. Goldberg should try one.


But even without Cole's rhetorical flourishes, Goldberg's headshot did most of the job of discrediting him all by itself. (Who the hell runs with a headshot in which they're smirking?)

Oh, and as for James Wolcott's bon mot:

Jonah speaks fluent Simpsons, which is why he's so popular with campus conservatives as he goes about entertaining and mentoring the maroons of tomorrow.

Well, I feel obliged to point out that Goldberg can't even get The Simpsons right. In this column, for example, he makes a spectacularly hamfisted attempt to use Kent Brockman's on-air breakdown during Homer's space flight ("I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords") as a symbol of the tendency of "intellectuals" to exaggerate the future consequences of current events. As opposed to reading it, for example, as a savage parody of the mass media's tendencies toward hysteria and its eagerness to ass-kiss. (Which reading would of course not reflect nearly as well upon a representative of the mass media such as Goldberg himself.)

Cole, for his part, would do wonders for his own credibility if he stopped responding to pundits he's deemed unworthy of response.

Still, great popcorn reading. Thanks.
posted by gompa at 8:30 PM on February 8, 2005


I'm not a big expert on Turkey, by any means. But that doesn't have all the best implications in the world. Big human rights violator in the not-so-distant past, with still-existing serious problems (not that the U.S. can talk quite as much now), all that. I remember an int'l relations prof that I thought a great deal of telling me before the war began that the best that could be hoped for from Iraq would that it would become another Turkey, and he didn't sound too hyped about that, exactly.

It's my understanding, however, that Turkey would very much like to join the EU. As such, there's direct pressure being put on them now - reform in such and such a way, and you can join the EU, don't and forget it (and the Islamic thing has us weary already). There is, in short, economic pressure as well as political pressure being put on Turkey, with economics driving the political part.

Which makes me think: The main reason East Germany stayed democratic decades after World War II was, well, its economy took off and democracy and a good economy came to be seen as interconnected. The best and most practical long-term way to spread democracy in the Middle East was probably, then, always economic in nature. But that would've meant, well, so much for your Spanish Civil War fantasies.
posted by raysmj at 9:33 PM on February 8, 2005


...reads like neo-con slash fiction...

A genre that still needs to be written.
posted by destro at 9:35 PM on February 8, 2005


Goodness. Um, that's West Germany. That's what I get for typing that between writing-intensive projects. Time for sleep.
posted by raysmj at 10:23 PM on February 8, 2005


"More impressive is that picture below the article, of the veiled Iraqi voter with the tear. “I saw that picture and wept,” he said. “It is incredibly moving.” Yeah, and incredibly posed and fake. I'm all for democracy, but pleeeeez."

fungible,
maybe if you go here, click on the link that says "Iraqi Election: A Nation Goes to the Polls " (its java script so I don't know how to link direct) and then check picture 1 ... maybe that's more "real" for you, or 23 of the other 24 pictures there (you've already stated how you don't like oneof those for being "posed and fake".

But I'm glad I have you to set me straight on what's posed and fake ... since maybe other photos by Ali Jarekji have been posed and faked too ...

Or maybe, just maybe ... he might just take pictures of things he sees around him ... because you know ... its like his job?

Sorry to snark ... but if you're going to attack someone is it too much to ask that the attacks be justified with fact? or at least rational thought?
posted by forforf at 10:57 PM on February 8, 2005


I really need to get to bed ... but some people are just pulling crap out of their butts

"I remind you that the various idiotic fundamentalists that preceded and staffed the Taliban (and a large part of whatever it is that Al Qaeda is) were supported, armed and trained by the US - and the same goes for Saddam, a former CIA asset whose contract has, apparently, recently been terminated."

BULLSHIT ... The Taliban was NOT supported by the US. YES some resistance groups to the Russians that invaded Afghanistan were given support. Guess what? We were allied with the Soviets 60+ years ago? I guess that would have put them on the CIA payroll for the Cold War too? I don't know how the US could have been more anti-Taliban pre-Bush. It seemed pretty clear to me that they were being ostracized as a government.

I believe that you have valid points but when you use bullshit to help support them it doen't help your case.
posted by forforf at 11:13 PM on February 8, 2005


No doubt about. This guy was looking to Hitchens for some lurve... mano a mano.
posted by milkwood at 2:43 AM on February 9, 2005


forforf, read the quote that you used
I remind you that the various idiotic fundamentalists that preceded and staffed the Taliban

No claim that the Taliban was directly funded by the US.
posted by asok at 3:44 AM on February 9, 2005


asok,
"fundametalists that preceded .... the Taliban"
A Marxist revolution preceded the Taliban (which the Soviets provided direct assistance) ... and previous Afghani governments were not fundamentalist, they were rather progressive.

"fundametalists that ... staffed the Taliban"
I read that as being equivalent to the Taliban.
posted by forforf at 4:10 AM on February 9, 2005


forforf,
actually we did fund and support the Taliban as recently as May 2001 (From the Cato Institute).

You are right that they were a pariah state, but I can think of ways that we could have been more "anti-Taliban" leading all the way up to 9-11. Most of the Taliban's funding, from my understanding, came from Saudi Arabia. We are the chief supplier of arms and munitions to the Saudis. I would guess that our state department did a great deal of looking the other way as the Saudis supported the Taliban with our weapons bought with our petrodollars. Just wanted to set that straight.
posted by mokujin at 4:22 AM on February 9, 2005


forforf: The Taliban was NOT supported by the US.
Well read what you quoted:
I remind you that the various idiotic fundamentalists that preceded and staffed the Taliban (and a large part of whatever it is that Al Qaeda is) were supported, armed and trained by the US.
The Taliban as such were not around during that time. However i don't think there is any doubt that.
However let me quote you congressman McDermot, from crossfire, September 10, 2002:
MCDERMOTT: It certainly is an improvement for the women of Afghanistan. But you've got to remember that of American policy, we put the Taliban there. We gave the money to the..

CARLSON: I beg your pardon?

MCDERMOTT: ... Pakistanis.

CARLSON: You're breaking news here, Congressman. I don't think this has ever been reported before in the United States.

MCDERMOTT: Oh, yes, it has been. We funded the Taliban through the Pakistanis, and all that money -- we could have cut off that money and stopped what was going on. We knew what was going on there. All we wanted was a stable, quiet Afghanistan so we could put a pipeline down through there. That's really what we were up to....

....BEGALA: It's an important fact, under President Carter and then President Reagan, we funded the mujahedeen, the freedom fighters, as Charlie Wilson of Texas used to call them...

CARLSON: Mr. McDermott is making this your thesis...

BEGALA: ... some of them were Taliban.

CARLSON: Did President Clinton fund the Taliban? That's the allegation you made. Is it true?

MCDERMOTT: The United States government's policy of giving money to Pakistan and letting them take charge of whatever happens in Afghanistan essentially put us as the people behind it."
This might be contestable, it's not direct training and arming, but it's certainly support and it's certainly not bullshit.

On preview, what asok pointed out and no forfort, a Marxist revolution did not directly precede the Taliban, rather a mujahedin warlord regime did. The fundamentalists that preceded the Taliban is not the same as the Taliban, though they certainly staffed the Taliban - read the timeline.
posted by talos at 4:31 AM on February 9, 2005


A Marxist revolution preceded the Taliban (which the Soviets provided direct assistance) ... and previous Afghani governments were not fundamentalist, they were rather progressive

Still not reading properly, forlof. And inaccurate with your history, too. The loose baggy coalition of mujahedin that fought against the USSR and the Soviet-backed government was most definitely supported by the US; it collapsed soon after Najibullah's fall in 1992, leading to civil war between opposing factions, with Rabbani's faction controlling Kabul. It was during this time that one particular mujahedin faction, made up primarily of madrassa students or taliban, emerged as a united force and took over Kandahar.

We were allied with the Soviets 60+ years ago? I guess that would have put them on the CIA payroll for the Cold War too?

Strawman. The US dumped tons upon tons of munitions on Afghanistan to fight its proxy war, and after 1989, at best washed its hands of the country for more than a decade.
posted by riviera at 4:48 AM on February 9, 2005


talos, asok, skeptic
Thanks talos. I did not distinguish in my thought process the Taliban from the Warlordism that preceded them following the withdrawal of the Soviets. When I read skeptics original post that way, the point is more coherent. I still generally disagree with some of the themes, but now that I'm parsing the arguments correctly I see I'll just have to work a bit harder if I want to be able to refute them ;-)

About the indirect funding of the Taliban through Pakistani and Saudi, the best way I can make my point is through analogies, and a couple come to mind. The US supplied the Soviet Union with wheat, and often had generals and statesmen would meet with Soviet generals and statesmen, I don't consider such things as "support". India has diplomatic relations with Cuba, the US has a good relationship with India, does this mean the we "support" the Castro regime?
posted by forforf at 5:05 AM on February 9, 2005


Christopher Hitchens said to Ghassan Atiyyah: “If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power.”
...
[Backing him up, Totten says...] "This has nothing to do with us telling you what to do and everything to do with fighting fascism wherever in the world it exists."


I've come to the conclusion that many, many people in the US have no problem at all accepting this obvious contradiction as perfectly rational. And as long as they do, we'll continue to bomb people and crush popular movements in the name of spreading democracy.
posted by Clay201 at 6:13 AM on February 9, 2005


I didn’t like this one bit. It wasn’t an argument. Hell, I love an argument. This was a fight. And it was a fight between Americans and Iraqis who were all supposed to be on the same side. The merest slip and/or misunderstanding instantly fractured our happy alliance. Believe me, you don’t know what a tense political fight feels like until the person yelling at you is from a country you recently bombed and currently occupy.

Does this Totten suffer from delusions of grandeur or does he really have the power to 'fracture our happy alliance' with a careless word?
posted by laurenbove at 6:57 AM on February 9, 2005


They are not servile people. They will never, ever, be anyone’s puppets.

I always suspected that they loved Saddam.
posted by semmi at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2005


Very interesting read. I think chaz is right. This guy just isn't very worldly, though his description of Hitchens seems accurate - he wouldn't have been shaken by emphatic discourse. That's his lifeblood.

I think Atiyyah's initial reaction was perfectly apt (So you are my colonial master now?). Hitchen's and Totten's opinions were presumptuous on both sides of the issue (that Iraq should care and heed what we would prefer for them, and what the US administration is prepared to do if they do not).
posted by effwerd at 8:17 AM on February 9, 2005


That was hilarious. What an embarassment for all involved. I'm glad michael totten got so drunk and horny for Hitchens that he wrote it all down in his blog like a school-girl after her first kiss. What a profound embarassment.

I loved the part where Hitchens says he'll have to ask totten to inform him more about blogs.

Hitchens is dumber than he looks, judging by the people he gets along with. He had a love fest with Dennis Miller.
posted by VP_Admin at 1:32 PM on February 9, 2005


This is interesting, Asparagirl. (I like the thread title. That was the funniest thing in there, to me.)

Methinks most of those spending time lambasting Hitchens and whatever-his-name-was, you know, the weird sycophant, have no idea how similar they are to him. Not that I like Hitchens. He's just the same as the rest in this respect. (It's somewhat like the fact that, even if Gore had won, we very likely would've invaded Iraq anyhow. Clinton was already thinking about it. Americans like to think that flaws in their very fiber are just flaws in whoever's in office, and can be changed with an election.)

In a room shared by Muslims, or even those sympathetic to Islam, and democracy-loving Westerners, there will always be an argument waiting to happen. We who spend all our time talking about "freedom" and "equality" have no idea how much we've been trained to say those words at the drop of a hat.If Hitchens were some UN observer with a deep-seeded fear of Imperialism that most Americans wouldn't even understand, if he were totally against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and were the very likeness of enlightened leftism, even then there would be conflict from the very beginning. The West left religion behind hundreds of years ago, and instead chose political exigency. To anyone who takes religion seriously-- and anyone who grows up in the Arab world is forced at least to meet it-- these "ideals" of "freedom and democracy" might very well be empty words with no promise behind them, as they take away a divine law which has done them more good than the cheap soda and the atomic bombs from the west ever have.

On preview: semmi, you quoted this: "They are not servile people. They will never, ever, be anyone’s puppets."

I always suspected that they loved Saddam.

I have a feeling that his hope in saying that was that the Muslims will welcome the West and beg for its beautiful democracy, demanding the right to self-government; say, for example, in Iran, where religious authorities are followed. I hope Iran can become less corrupt, but I wonder if Muslims would be doing the right thing in opening their arms to democracy. Democracy sometimes sucks.
posted by koeselitz at 2:41 PM on February 9, 2005


ech, "deep-seated."
posted by koeselitz at 2:43 PM on February 9, 2005


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