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Christopher Hitchens on the Iraq Study Group report

Wednesday, December 6, 2006
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HH: Explain your reaction, if you’ve had a chance to read even the executive summary…I’ve been through the whole document, and it is a disaster if it is followed.

CH: Yes, it is indeed. Why, you ask? Well, it means that both our friends and our enemies in the region are in a sense put on notice, that in the case of the enemies, all they have to do is wait us out. And in the case of our friends, that we don’t have much of an appetite for sticking by them. That’s to say the democrats in Lebanon and in Iraq and so forth have begun to feel a rather chill breeze. Actually, that’s the smallest way you can put it, given the sort of cruelty and violence to which they’re subjected every day. And our foes will think well, this is almost too easy.

HH: Yeah.

CH: The whole conversation has been shifted, more or less, within a matter of weeks of not whether to withdraw, but how to do so and how quickly.

HH: I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to meander through the appendices yet?

CH: I have not.

HH: Of the 43 former officials and experts consulted, there are included Mark Danner of the New York Review of Books, Thomas Friedman, Leslie Gelb, Sandy Berger, Anthony Lake, Ken Pollack, Thomas Ricks and George Will. The ISG did not find, I’m quoting from my blog here, the ISG did not find it necessary to talk with, say, Victor Davis Hanson, Lawrence Wright, Robert Kaplan, Mark Steyn, Michael Ledeen, Reuel Marc Gerecht, or Christopher Hitchens. I think Bill Kristol got five minutes. Did they seal themselves off, Christopher Hitchens, from any kind of robust approach to Iraq?

CH: Well, I don’t particularly mind being snubbed by someone like James Baker, let alone Mr. Lee Hamilton. I can live with that. But what does annoy me…I can be annoyed on someone else’s behalf. And I know, for example, that our friends in the Kurdistan regional government, which is the most successful and thriving and prosperous and peaceful part…not just only of Iraq, but of the whole region, is a great success of the regime change platform, were not invited to contribute, were not visited in the three provinces of Northern Iraq that they control, and that they’ve kept safe, without losing a single American soldier. In fact, there are hardly any American soldiers needed there, that the committee didn’t travel there when it was in Iraq, it didn’t seek their opinions in Baghdad either, and that seems to me an absolutely grotesque oversight.

HH: There’s a second one. Of the 21 foreign officials interviewed, only David Abramovich, who’s the director general of the Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs, was consulted from the Israeli state. And incredibly, Christopher Hitchens, they did not consult with anyone from the democratic government of Lebanon, even as they urge us to reach an understanding with the thugs of Syria, who are mowing them down one by one.

CH: Well, that’s really quite extraordinary, because for example, Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Lebanese Socialist Party, whose father was a very heroic Lebanese politician also, was murdered by the Syrians in the 70’s, and who is leader also of the Druze community, which is a very important community in Lebanon, and a very important figure in the elected government there. He was in Washington very recently, and has been quite often putting the case for Lebanese autonomy, and so it’s not as if he’s a hard man to find, or anything of the sort. This clearly can’t be oversight, can it?

HH: No. I’m of the mind, and I’ve just written, it immediately reminded me of the Hoare-Leval Agreement, and I hope it gets the same status of that classic of appeasement literature. Will it?

CH: Well, the first name in that pact is almost perfect, isn’t it?

HH: Yes. But I’ll leave it to you as the Englishman to explain why.

CH: Well, Samuel Hoare, which I think you’ll agree is the perfect name for the first line of a limerick…

HH: Yes…

CH: Actually, I do know a limerick about him, but…

HH: But I don’t want…I don’t think the FCC will allow it.

CH: I can’t repeat it on your program.

HH: No.

– – – –

HH: When they write about Iran, that we need to engage them, a full blown diplomatic offensive, what possible opportunity is there to engage Ahmadinejad and Khatami, and the rest of the mad mullahs?

CH: Well, it’s not as if it hasn’t been tried, you see. I mean, I’ve talked recently to a lot of people in Washington, British and American, and other Europeans, too, who’ve been involved in these very long, drawn out negotiations of Iraq. They’ve been made a lot of very handsome offers for directors, and they’ve been handed great bushels of carrots as well, often, I would say, rather humiliating sized bushels. And the thing is, they won’t take them. I mean, they won’t take these offers. It’s not that we are refusing to be nice to them. It’s that they aren’t interested in this kind of negotiation. And certainly not if it comes at any price such as they have to prove they’ve been adhering to a treaty they solemnly signed, namely the non-proliferation treaty. They won’t do that. They’ve been repeatedly caught cheating and concealing. And so, for anyone to say that we haven’t exhausted the option of being nice, or making nice, is flat out fatuous. Were it otherwise, I still think that it would be a very good thing for the United States to say publicly where Iranians can hear it, because we know that there’s a huge reservoir of sympathy for democracy and friendship within Iran. And also, the people can get satellite dishes and internet access and so on. They’re not imprisoned as the Iraqis were, and the North Koreans still are. We can talk directly to them. I’m in favor of making all kinds of approaches of that sort, over the heads of these scrofulous mullahs who of course do not reflect the Iranian people’s choice, and are the product of a laughably rigged election.

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