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View from the Radical Center

Christopher Hitchens is interviewed by Jamie Glazov in Front Page Magazine, and he goes after both the right and the left with brass knuckles. These are long exerpts, but the interview itself is quite long, and as usual with the Hitch, it’s worth it to read the whole thing.

First, the left:

As to the “Left” I’ll say briefly why this was the finish for me. Here is American society, attacked under open skies in broad daylight by the most reactionary and vicious force in the contemporary world, a force which treats Afghans and Algerians and Egyptians far worse than it has yet been able to treat us. The vaunted CIA and FBI are asleep, at best. The working-class heroes move, without orders and at risk to their lives, to fill the moral and political vacuum. The moral idiots, meanwhile, like Falwell and Robertson and Rabbi Lapin, announce that this clerical aggression is a punishment for our secularism. And the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, hitherto considered allies on our “national security” calculus, prove to be the most friendly to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Here was a time for the Left to demand a top-to-bottom house-cleaning of the state and of our covert alliances, a full inquiry into the origins of the defeat, and a resolute declaration in favor of a fight to the end for secular and humanist values: a fight which would make friends of the democratic and secular forces in the Muslim world. And instead, the near-majority of “Left” intellectuals started sounding like Falwell, and bleating that the main problem was Bush’s legitimacy. So I don’t even muster a hollow laugh when this pathetic faction says that I, and not they, are in bed with the forces of reaction.

Then the right:

FP: You took many anti-American positions during the Cold War. Do you regret any of them? Now that you look back, were you wrong in any way? And if you do not think you were wrong, how is that reconcilable with your pro-American positions today in the War on Terror, Iraq, etc? Why is it right to defend freedom in the face of Saddam and Osama, but not in the face of Soviet totalitarianism?

Hitchens: Again, I don’t quite share the grammar of your question, and I dispute the right of conservatives to be automatically complacent on these points. My own Marxist group took a consistently anti-Moscow line throughout the “Cold War”, and was firm in its belief that that Soviet Union and its European empire could not last. Very few people believed that this was the case: the best known anti-Communist to advance the proposition was the great Robert Conquest, but he himself insists that part of the credit for such prescience goes to Orwell. More recently, a very exact prefiguration of the collapse of the USSR was offered by two German Marxists, one of them from the West (Hans Magnus Enzensberger) and one from the East (Rudolf Bahro, the accuracy of whose prediction was almost uncanny). I have never met an American conservative who has even heard of, let alone read, either of these authors.

Reasonably certain in the view that the official enemy was being over-estimated (as it famously was by the CIA, for example, until at least 1990) and that it would be eclipsed, I also believed that the conflict was never worth even the risk of a nuclear war. I was right about that. And I detested the way that “Cold War” rhetoric was used to justify things, like the salvage of French colonialism in Indochina or the prolonging of white rule in Southern Africa, which were deservedly doomed in the first place and which in their origins predated the Bolshevik Revolution. I was right about that, too.

[T]here is no doubt that the United States imposed a dictatorship, with a fascist ideology, on Greece (a NATO member and member of the Council of Europe) in 1967. This was done simply in order that the wrong party not win the upcoming elections. The result was a disastrous war in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the stifling of liberty in Greece. One could go on – I have never seen anyone argue that the mass murder in East Timor, for example, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall. You might want to took at my little book on Henry Kissinger, which shows what much more conservative historians have elsewhere established – that during the Nixon years the USA was a rogue state.

So don’t be so goddam cocky about who was, or was not “pro-American”. Having changed my own mind after the end of the first “Gulf War”, I had at least as many arguments to conduct with Washington’s right wing as I did with the soft or the dogmatic left, and would not wish this any other way.

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