Thursday, September 01, 2005

Christopher Hitchens on the Daily Show

Christopher Hitchens was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart again the other night. Hitchens has travelled more to the "Axis of Evil" countries than any other journalist. (I for one certainly have no ambitions to overtake him.) He has been to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan and other places that Americans are being prodded into caring about. He has studied the Founding Fathers in great depth.

[President Bush's] Saying "fighting them over there instead of over here" is contradicting himself: it's either global or it isn't, so we're either fighting them everywhere or nowhere. ... That's stupid. — Christopher Hitchens, 2005-08-25
Where Hitchens begins to unravel is in his answer to Jon Stewart's question about the "urgency" of invading Iraq militarily when countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are home to the greatest supporters of terrorism; and Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea are the greatest threats in terms of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Hitchens says that we waited 12 years to go into Iraq while they committed repeated aggressions against their neighbors, repeatedly violated their non-proliferation commitments, repeatedly harbored terrorists and gangsters, and repeatedly committed acts of genocide — each of which is grounds under international law for Saddam Hussein to have been stripped of his sovereignty in Iraq.

What Hitchens says is true, and yet it still fails to explain the sense of urgency for invading Iraq. None of those transgressions was specifically against the United States; they were offenses against the community of nations and against the people of Iraq and its neighbors. They were offenses that needed to be addressed by the community of nations, not by a single vigilante state, even with the help of the posse of the willing. A vigilante is as much of a threat to law and order as a cattle rustler.

Jon Stewart then hits the problem with the Bush administration squarely between the eyes.
The people who say that we shouldn't fight in Iraq, aren't saying it's our fault [that terrorists attack us]. That is the conflation that is most disturbing to me. ... There is reasonable dissent in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves. They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence. ... I ridiculed the President [because] he refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults, and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points. That does a disservice to the goals that he [Bush] himself shares with the very people he needs to convince. — Jon Stewart, 2005-08-25
As Jon Stewart observes, Bush addresses his critics as if we were retarded. I would add a second point: Bush addresses his critics as if he himself were retarded. In that respect, he reminds me of another slimy politician from Texas, former Speaker of the House Jim Wright. I lived in Dallas, right next to Wright's district in Fort Worth, so I saw more than my fair share of Jim Wright on local television as a kid. Even as a pre-teen, I found Wright's condescension infuriating. It's good ol' Jim Wright that we have to thank for the fact that it is illegal for a commercial airline to fly me from California to Dallas Love Field airport. For a good time, look up [ "Jim Wright" scandal ] on a search engine.

George W. Bush does not give direct answers to questions from those who do not already share his views. There are only two possible explanations: he is unwilling, or he is incapable. Which is it? Does Bush hold the American people in such low esteem that he refuses to address real and serious concerns about the way he is leading our country, or is he so mentally retarded that he cannot answer our questions? Back on May 31, President Bush spoke about "people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble — that means not tell the truth"; was it really a slip of the tongue, or was that morning the first time Bush had ever heard that particular big word? Did he think from the puzzled look on the reporters' faces that perhaps he was using a big word they didn't know? Or is he just another graduate of the Jim Wright/LBJ/Tom DeLay school of respect and ethics?