Disdain for Facts

The Dead-Enders: Being a neocon means never having to say you’re sorry
by Justin Raimondo

Christopher Hitchens isn’t sorry. Not about being a Commie all those years ago; after all, he was a Trotskyite, not one of those icky Stalinists, which merits a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Not about being frequently drunk in public: after all, it’s part of his image as the Courtney Love of punditry. And, most of all, he’s not sorry about doing his bit to gin up the Iraq war:

“Four years after the first coalition soldiers crossed the Iraqi border, one can attract pitying looks (at best) if one does not take the view that the whole engagement could have been and should have been avoided. Those who were opposed to the operation from the beginning now claim vindication, and many of those who supported it say that if they had known then what they know now, they would have spoken or voted differently.

“What exactly does it mean to take the latter position? At what point, in other words, ought the putative supporter to have stepped off the train?”

Instead of stepping off the train, the neocons – and Hitchens most of all – have stepped in front of it. In terms of their own credibility, what they did was the equivalent of lying down on the tracks and letting the train run over them. By staking their reputations as serious commentators on the success of a war that Gen. William E. Odom trenchantly and accurately described as the greatest strategic disaster in American military history, they have ensured their place in the pantheon of mistaken prognosticators, along with the inventors of phrenology and the makers of the Edsel.

Oh, a few have recanted, most notably and sincerely Francis Fukuyama. The rest, particularly Kenneth “Cakewalk” Adelman and, most obnoxiously, Andrew Sullivan, have taken to blaming President Bush’s supposedly inconsistent and even halfhearted effort to implement their grand theories – much like Trotsky’s disciples blamed Stalin’s “counter-revolutionary” shortcomings for the inconsistent implementation of the Marxist-Leninist grand design. Hitchens, who has been both a Trot and a warmonger, is a particularly hard case: a dead-ender, in short, who stubbornly sticks to the Revealed Truth even as reality rudely intrudes.

Hitchens sets up a phony dialogue between himself and his interlocutors and lobs himself a lot of softball questions, which he disposes of with his characteristic disdain for facts. It’s as if Scooter Libby had cross-examined himself. How pathetic that a writer who used to be so interesting and fun to read, even if one disagreed with him, has descended to this very threadbare bag of tricks.

Hitchens first raises a fundamentally phony question: Oh, but didn’t Saddam violate a whole bunch of UN resolutions? Wasn’t the credibility of the UN at stake? Why Americans should care about the UN, or why the U.S. military should be put at the disposal of the Security Council, is never made clear. Besides which, if we set up a mechanism whereby an invasion is automatically launched against any country that violates a given number of UN resolutions, we’d have bombed Tel Aviv long ago. At any rate, I don’t recall Hitchens being much of a UN fan to begin with, but I guess when your back’s against the wall any maneuver will do.

It was “correct,” insists Hitchens, to send U.S. forces to the Gulf, because only the threat of force caused the Iraqis to cave on the inspections issue. So Hitchens admits the Iraqis were ready to comply with the UN demand to admit inspectors without conditions – what he doesn’t admit is that the U.S. thwarted Saddam’s pathetic attempts to effectively surrender, and instead launched a series of provocations designed to torpedo a negotiated settlement. Aside from that, however, the very act of sending military forces to the Gulf made war a foregone conclusion: by that time, the president had invested so much of his own political capital – and America’s prestige – in this misadventure that the administration could argue that backing down now, even a little bit, would do irreparable damage to our credibility. Such an argument was, of course, completely unreasonable, but in the Bizarro World we had fallen into post-9/11 – and are only now showing signs of climbing out of – such illogic is perversely “logical.”

Hitchens throws himself a few more underhand pitches, all centered on the question of Iraq’s degree of cooperation with the UN inspectors, but he never addresses the overarching reality, which is that there weren’t any “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. Period. As Scott Ritter pointed out long ago in an article in Arms Control Today, the Iraqis had been disarmed by the stringent UN inspections regime and would not be able to reconstitute it. Whether Saddam tried to wriggle out of the straightjacket imposed by the IAEA is irrelevant: what matters is that – contrary to what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Hitchens were telling us at the time – he didn’t succeed.

Read the rest here.

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