CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, VANITY FAIR: Well, I had been there earlier this year in late March, in fact, on the southern border, briefly. And I remember then that the whole mind set of the press, you may remember it, was that it was a quagmire. It is a better story. Remember that week when Donald Rumsfeld seemed to have lost the plot? Most of my colleagues thought, “Well, that reads better.” And I remember that mentality when I was there recently. I was in north and south and central Iraq. The press is still investing itself, it seems to me, in a sort of cynicism. It comes out better for them if they can predict hard times, bogging down, sniping, attrition.
And so if no one is willing to take the gamble, as they see it, of saying actually that it’s going a lot better than it is, but it is. It’s quite extraordinary to see the way that American soldiers are welcomed. To see the work that they’re doing and not just rolling up these filthy networks of Baathists and Jihaddists, but building schools, opening soccer stadiums, helping people connect to the Internet, there is a really intelligent political program as well as a very tough military one.
GIBSON: You know, Christopher, we never hear about that.
GIBSON: Are they really rebuilding the schools, and rebuilding hospitals and rebuilding soccer …
HITCHENS: I’m serious. I don’t consider myself to be that credulous. I’m very sales resistant, in fact. In Mosul where I was, I left too early. I left on Monday early. If I waited 12 hours, I could have been there [when Uday and Qusay were killed]. But they weren’t just very confident about the amount of information they were being given and the number of informers and tips that were coming to them. They had more, they told me, than they could sift about that. But one of the palaces, for example, that Saddam built, he’d stolen the land for from Mosul University.
Mosul is the site of a very famous old Iraqi university. The American forces were refurbishing the place. They were going to tear down some of the outer walls, give this palace to the university. They’d also connected the university to the Internet and to the Web. Helped people contact scholars on the outside world. That was all the job of these very good- humored, very thoughtful officers who were really helping to rebuild the place.
GIBSON: You know, Christopher …
HITCHENS: I felt a sense of annoyance that I had to go there myself to find any of that out.
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