Hitchens On Kurdistan, 2007; Obama On Kurdistan, 2014
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The late Christopher Hitchens was a frequent and always welcome guest on my show, even though we often disagreed on big issues, like the existence of God. We agreed, though, that radical Islamist ideology was a terrible threat to freedom everywhere, and that one of our greatest allies in the war against it are the Kurds. Hitchens was a particular friend of the Kurds, an admirer of their tenacity in the face first of Saddam and then of al Qaeda..
Here is the audio of my interview with him that aired in January 2007 when Hitchens had just returned from a trip to Kurdistan:
The transcript is here. How he is missed.
Peter Berger has the clarity about this war that is so sorely missing in the White House, and lays it out in this piece titled “The Geography of Horror.” Again, highly doubtful that anyone in the White House has read this, or will, despite the rampage of IS across Iraq and towards Kursidtan, leaving genoicde’s victims in its wake.
The president is confronting the reality of the repudiation of his deeply held fantasies about the world and about his own accomplishments. To review what he thought about IS as recently as January, read this piece by The New Yorker’s David Remnick, “Going the Distance.” Key excerpt:
At the core of Obama’s thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs. And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone’s mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”
He went on, “You have a schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the region that is profound. Some of it is directed or abetted by states who are in contests for power there. You have failed states that are just dysfunctional, and various warlords and thugs and criminals are trying to gain leverage or a foothold so that they can control resources, populations, territory. . . . And failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement—all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security. But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically, so that we’re not using a pliers where we need a hammer, or we’re not using a battalion when what we should be doing is partnering with the local government to train their police force more effectively, improve their intelligence capacities.”
As Remnick said, this is the “core” of the president. And that means death for the Yazidis, and a mortal threat to the Kurds, and eventually to everyone in the way of the “jayvees” that make up IS. Here’s the Washington Post story by Loveday Morris on what is happening in Iraq. The president is standing by as genocide occurs, and thinks it action to drop water bottles.