I just want to respond, for the record, to a few additional points in Galloway’s nasty screed.
Galloway writes that Hitchens was “the man who once praised Saddam Hussein in adoration…”
This is probably a reference to something Hitchens wrote for The New Statesman in, um, 1976, which the magazine saw fit to republish in 2007.
The Baghdad regime is the first oil-producing government to opt for 100-per-cent nationalisation, a process completed with the acquisition of foreign assets in Basrah last December. It was the first to call for the use of oil as a political weapon against Israel and her backers. It gives strong economic and political support to the ‘Rejection Front’ Palestinians who oppose Arafat’s conciliation and are currently trying to outface the Syrians in Beirut. And it has a leader — Saddam Hussain — who has sprung from being an underground revolutionary gunman to perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser.
Now there are three points to note here: The first is that in 1976 Saddam Hussein had barely begun to reveal the full nature of his ghastliness. The second is that Hitchens in 1976 was, as I’m sure he later admitted, a young and in many ways foolish revolutionary. To his credit, he– like many of us– wised up. The third is the awesome hypocrisy of the man who as late as 1994– when the horrors of Saddam’s regime were fully known– was saluting the Iraqi leader in person for “your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”
Galloway also wrote of Hitchens:
But when you’re slobbering in support of the re-election of George W Bush for his catastrophic second term, or backing Bush’s handling of the clean-up operation after Hurricane Katrina (where he was the only man in the country other than Bush who thought the Federal Emergency Agency was doing a “heck of a job”) and you have written the script for the most disastrous massacre since Vietnam, I’m afraid literary pretence must be put in its proper place. Down the lavatory.
On Hitchens’s alleged support for Bush’s reelection, here is a more accurate account:
Hitchens was asked by Slate.com, along with a number of others, whom he supported for president in 2004. He wrote:
I am assuming for now that this is a single-issue election. There is one’s subjective vote, one’s objective vote, and one’s ironic vote. Subjectively, Bush (and Blair) deserve to be re-elected because they called the enemy by its right name and were determined to confront it. Objectively, Bush deserves to be sacked for his flabbergasting failure to prepare for such an essential confrontation. Subjectively, [Democrat John] Kerry should be put in the pillory for his inability to hold up on principle under any kind of pressure. Objectively, his election would compel mainstream and liberal Democrats to get real about Iraq.
The ironic votes are the endorsements for Kerry that appear in Buchanan’s anti-war sheet The American Conservative, and the support for Kerry’s pro-war candidacy manifested by those simple folks at MoveOn.org. I can’t compete with this sort of thing, but I do think that Bush deserves praise for his implacability, and that Kerry should get his worst private nightmare and have to report for duty.
The editors of Slate interpreted this as an endorsement of Kerry, which Hitchens denied in a subsequent piece:
I had no idea then that the editors would or even could list me in the “Kerry” column, but I don’t see what difference it makes. I wrote what I wrote from the perspective of a “single issue” person. I don’t know whether to be touched or embarrassed by the number of e-mails I have had, beseeching me to come clean. Surely the “process” is not in so much trouble that my guidance, let alone “endorsement,” is required? Life and politics will persist, in this republic, while the republic’s enemies will continue to be toxic and lethal and protean. Neither electoral outcome can alter that. It’s absurd for liberals to talk as if Kristallnacht is impending with Bush, and it’s unwise and indecent for Republicans to equate Kerry with capitulation. There’s no one to whom he can surrender, is there? I think that the nature of the jihadist enemy will decide things in the end.
There was, in other words, no support by Hitchens, slobbering or otherwise, for Bush’s reelection. However at the end of Bush’s second term he wrote in measured but critical appreciation for the ousting of Saddam Hussein:
I want to say why I still do not wish that Al Gore had beaten George W. Bush in 2000 or that John Kerry had emerged the victor in 2004.
As for Hurricane Katrina: contrary to Galloway’s assertion, here is what Hitchens wrote at the time, responding to those who argued that the US had to choose between aiding the victims of that catastrophe and continuing its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan:
…George Bush has already paid, as he should, a weighty political price for his literally fatal insouciance. What I cannot understand is why the people of Baghdad and Basra should be punished for a meteorological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. We should get out and leave them to their own devices. We need the stuff at home, goddamn it. This has all the charm and beauty of John Kerry saying that we ought not to be opening firehouses in Baghdad while closing them in the United States. It also has all the easy appeal of a zero-sum, provincial, isolationist mentality.
…A scuttle from Iraq or from Afghanistan (where the Kabul-Kandahar highway also took a lot of time and equipment and manpower to build) would add to the number of stricken and broken cities in the world, and not reduce it. If liberalism and humanitarianism do not mean internationalism, they mean precisely nothing. Shame on those who try to turn the needy and the victims against each other.
There was an exchange of sorts between Galloway and Hitchens on Katrina at their notorious 2005 debate in New York. Hitchens reiterated his refusal to pit the victims of the hurricane against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. He also praised the role of the federal troops who were belatedly sent to New Orleans to help restore order and provide urgent assistance.
If Galloway wants to interpret this as “backing” Bush’s botched handling of the disaster, it is a reflection of Galloway’s malice and/or stupidity rather than evidence of Hitchens’s support for the president.
But here’s some good news for George: there’s someone else who shares his apparent belief that Hitchens has descended to Hell where he belongs.
In this season when many celebrate the object of their faith, there is no joy in the death of one who had faith that God does not exist. Hitchens now knows the truth and that can only be the worst possible news for him.
George Galloway and Cal Thomas finding common ground? ‘Tis truly a Christmas miracle.