Christopher Hitchens: ‘You have to choose your future regrets’

“Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, anywhere that the concept of human rights doesn’t exist, it’s always the Chinese at backstop. And always for reasons that you could write down in three words: blood for oil.”

~Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens photographed at home in Washington, DC. Photograph: Jamie James Medina for The Observer

Andrew Anthony
The Observer [UK]
14 November 2010

…He cut his teeth on dialectical materialism as a teenage Trotskyist, and it was the analytical method that eventually put paid to any allegiance, as it were, to the political madness. The past 40 years have amounted to a long and serpentine political journey. As he relates in his memoir, it started out at Oxford with his keeping “two sets of book”, one for the puritanical group of revolutionary socialists with whom he campaigned against the Vietnam war, and the other for the conservative socialites with whom he caroused at black-tie balls. And it reached its furthest distance from origin with his support for George W Bush and the second Iraq war.

Along the way, he says, “I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness. Amazing. My conservative friends look at me and say, ‘Welcome to the club. What took you so long?’ Well that’s what it took and I think it’s worth recording.”

The hinge events, of course, were the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. He had previously held positions that were unpopular on the left – preferring the British government to the Argentinian fascist junta during the Falklands conflict, and calling for American intervention to stop the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia – but his support for the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan proved to be a step too far for his anti-imperialist comrades.

Hitchens genuinely believes radical or jihadist Islam to be an existential threat to civilisation. First because it is a pronounced enemy of free speech and social liberty and has succeeded in intimidating and silencing civilians across “an extraordinary number of countries in Europe” and the rest of the world. And second, he says, “because it has potential access to weapons of mass destruction.” In the end, he argues, there are no pain-free options. You have to choose which future regret you’re going to have.

“I was at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut about two and a half years ago,” he says. “Very striking. Everyone should go. But of the many things that impressed me about it, having the mushroom cloud as the party flag in an election campaign was the main one. You wouldn’t want to look back and think, I wish I’d noticed that being run up. Now I can give you all the reasons that it’s bombast on their part. Still, I know which regret I’d rather have.”

There appear to be two main criticisms of this stance. Either people think he’s a bonkers Islamophobe – though many who do were content enough to leave Muslims to their bloody fate in Bosnia – or they believe such antagonistic talk only serves to create the problem it seeks to prevent. Hitchens is contemptuous of the former, but scathing of the latter. He says that those who tell him to tread more softly believe that the price of not doing so is more violence. “Oh I see, so you’re always aware when you’re contesting the holders of this view of the threat that lies behind it? Would you care for their opinions if it wasn’t for that? Or are you telling me you’d be reading their stuff just for the sheer pleasure of it. I don’t think so. If you say that this looks like war, you’re accused of liking it. Not true. Demonstrably not true.”

Demonstrably? Certainly he can sound like he enjoys the conflict. He has said that he experienced “a feeling of exhilaration” while watching the World Trade Centre collapse on 11 September. “Here we are then,” he later recalled thinking, “in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose.”

He says the exhilaration was born of a sudden if overdue sense of clarity.

“What I felt is that we’d been suffering from all this for some time. And yet people’s main interest seemed to be in ignoring it or denying it, or if they were politicians or soldiers, running away from it: abandoning Somalia, leaving Afghanistan to rot, trying to subsume Islamism into multiculturalism. I thought: until yesterday, they knew they were at war, and we didn’t. And now we do: of course that’s exhilarating. It was the feeling that the somnambulance was over. Of course it turned out to be a very brief wake-up call, followed by a very long nap…

Read the entire article at The Observer.

H/T Da Techguy

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