Is it Christopher Hitchens'
well-known hate for Henry Kissinger
that leads him to join the long list of people (including the sub-editors at The Observer
) who have misinterpreted what Kissinger said about going to war against Iraq? Who knows, but join the list he does. Hitchens writes
"A week or so ago I wondered when he was going to pronounce on the impending confrontation with Iraq. And I bet right. He is against it."
Although I don't know of an actual link to the Kissinger article (I read the piece the day it came out in The Washington Post
but have been unable to find it electronically) plenty of people have quoted this particular sentence which, unless down is up and red is white, conclusively contradicts the presumption from which Hitchens and others proceed:
"The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system, the demonstrated hostility of Saddam combine to produce an imperative for pre-emptive action."
What gives? The mistake is particularly egregious for Hitchens as he also says: "I must say, however, that Henry Kissinger has never let me down, as a person to consult before making up my own mind."
The implication is that if Henry says one thing then all wise people would be best advised to do another. Henry doesn't want to attack Iraq, therefore Christopher does. Except Henry actually does
want to attack Iraq and so Christopher will either have change his mind or take up arms with Henry.
And what about this? Hitchens also says: "General Sharon, at least in his public pronouncements, appears to be against it as well."
Well, given that we all exist with a soup of information and media-generated impressions in our heads, I must admit this wasn't the feeling I had. Coulda sworn I remembered hearing Sharon supporting the attack. And just thinking about the wording of Hitchens' sentence, it seems to be trying to have it both ways. Still, it didn't take long to find a few references to Sharon's and Israel's public position, including this
from The Guardian
the sister publication of the one in which Hitchens was writing:
Israel has voiced support for an attack. An aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said there was evidence Iraq was speeding up efforts to produce biological and chemical weapons. The Jewish state, which was hit by 39 Iraqi Scud missiles during the Gulf War, is preparing to be targeted again if there is a war, and says it will strike back if that happens.
So from his public pronouncements, Sharon seems to be for
And what are we to make of this?:
"A sizeable chunk of the American military and business elite is peacenik as well, either because it fears damage to its polished and expensive arsenal or because it fears the disruption of Opec and the corresponding loss of business and revenue."
Let's forget the dishonest vagueness of a "sizeable chunk" and ponder the prospect that American military elites are peaceniks because they don't want to scratch their weapons. I can just see the Generals sitting around pondering, now how can we blow people up without getting any marks on our bombs? Um. And just consider this as a working definition of "peacenik", which is the one Hitchens is using: person who wishes not to kill people because it might damage the weaponry
. Or forget the reason stated and just consider the proposition that a sizeable chunk of the military elite in the US are peaceniks.
Overall, this article by Hitchens seems to be of a kind with his piece after 911
where he attacked Chomsky et al and won the eternal gratitude of the right. It basically takes a reasonable, even self-evident position--that the people of Iraq would be better off without Hussein and with a nice democratic government--and applies a strawman construction to those who oppose an immediate war with Iraq, implying, often by smear, that they oppose this happy outcome. He writes:
"Shall we just say that the anti-war position is the respectable status quo one? That's interesting in itself. Who would be the beneficiaries of an intervention, always supposing it went well and Saddam's vaunted army fought no better than it did the last time? Only the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples. Well, from the Kissinger-Saudi-Turkish viewpoint, and from the vantage of the Dallas boardroom, where is the fun in that? The consequences might be - if we employ the revealing word of choice among the conservatives - 'destabilising'."
In other words, on this understanding, the only grounds for opposing a war with Iraq are that you do not wish to see the Iraqi or Kurdish people living under better circumstances; you wish to continue doing business with a homicidal but stable dictator; and that you agree with Henry Kissinger. I'd suggest that the other reasons have as much validity as the last one and that last one is a demonstrable crock.