September 18, 2005

It's that debate again

I've read this blog post a few times now but I just read it again and then the comments and its well worth a look at. It's by a Hitchens fan who is desperately disappointed at his performance in the debate. It's shallow in parts, for example he believes that Galloway shot himself in the foot when he suggested that 9/11 was explained by America's support for Israel. Now that might not be the full explanation of 9/11 but it certainly goes a long way towards an explanation. So the guy is just a tad superficial but he seems earnest and that's what makes his post on this of interest.
Hitchens was terrible. He stammered and mumbled his way through the debate, which lasted almost two hours. Occasionally pursuasive, but mostly unsteady, his arguments often lacked direction and veered off on tangents which though powerful on the pages of a magazine or webpage, were no match for Galloway’s soapbox bluster. I didn’t score each of the rounds, but I would say Galloway won each and every one of them. At the end, when it looked like Hitchens was about to make a comeback, he shot himself in both feet and a couple of other orifices to boot, by appearing to defend Bush’s handling of the New Orleans flood crisis by springing to the defense of the troops who were belatedly deployed to the scene.
But this misses the point about this phase of Hitchens's career. He doesn't get paid now to articulate a principled stand. He gets paid to support Bush. That's what makes these allegations against Galloway so ridiculous. Suppose it's true that Galloway is personally corrupt. Hitchens's corruption is part of a group corruption. He can't condemn Bush's handling of anything, though he might hint at condemnation now and then.

The comments to the post are also very informative of ways of thinking about this debate, the war and politcal positions in general. Here's a comment from a chap called JohnG that sums up what's wrong with the post and the pro-war "argument" in general:
# johng Says:
September 15th, 2005 at 7:44 am

This just seems incoherent and a bit sad:

“Among Galloway’s ugly bombast tonight were such gems as his blatant support of the murderous Iraqi insurgency”

This is a suprise? Its what the argument is all about. If its an illegal invasion and occupation then people have a right to resist it. And the horrors now unfolding are connected to a war being waged not just by the insurgency but by the coalition and its backers (one imagines Blair ‘there is a connection but its a twisted connection’). This is called ‘ugly bombast’, which is apparently ‘blatant’.

“…his claims that the US and the UK were the two rogue states in the world”

Given that ‘rogue state’ simply means any state that opposes the US and its partners (and from a part of the world where big powers can get away with arm-twisting), Galloway here simply asks us to take the phoney pretext seriously. Perhaps Galloways invoking of a few passages from St Augustine’s confessions would be preferred. St Augustine uses essentially the same argumentative move.

“…his accusations that Britain and America sent Islamists to Afghanistan”

So is the vast apparatus set up by the US with its partners inside and outside the Islamic world to do precisely this not allowed to be spoken about? Amply documented in a range of historical accounts incidently. Its tasteless perhaps? In New York? In the US?

“his singling out of US support for Israel as the reason for September 11 while standing less than a couple of miles from Ground Zero almost four years to the day since the attacks took place”

Perhaps it would have been better if he made the rather obvious point somewhere else? Is this the famous cultural relativism you guys like to go on about? Would anyone seriously suggest that US support for Israel has not historically generated political currents which Bin Laden draws on?

Just perplexing. Oh and then apparently there was the Hitlerian way he gripped the lecturn. If this is the best pro-war liberals can do one wonders why they criticise Hitchens. I suspect that the problem is not Hitchens. Its difficulties in sustaining a coherent argument. I do detect a split in reactions to this. There are those who react to the crisis of their position by dropping leftist language and simply embracing Bush. And there are those who try and distance themselves from Bush but still support the war.

I have to admit its interesting to watch.
I grabbed this stuff from Lenin's Tomb to which I post occasionally. As I reached for the url I noticed that at the time of writing, Lenin's Tomb has generated 413 comments on this. I should be so lucky. For a blow by blow almost transcripted account see Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com.

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