Hitchens: A Skeptical Review of His Politics

Many times when we've read an author so persuasive that they take on a cult like status. With Hitchens, you might expect that all of his arguments are persuasive and begin to ignore fact checking. It would be a mistake to do so. Hitchens, while one of my favorite people to hear debate religion (Matt Dillahunty might give him a good run for entertainment and relevance.), his politics leaves me confounded and concerned about his ability to shoot straight. It brings up a serious point, that we should listen very clearly to what people are saying at all times no matter how much you respect them.

Yesterday he lamented that the Rally to Restore Sanity didn't contain "...enough serious signs, and no funny ones." Clearly he missed the point of the Rally. A son of the 60's Hitchens may expect radicalism to rule the day, but the Rally could have been monickered the Rally to End Hyperbole. Perhaps if it were, Hitchens would have gotten the point and maybe even a few of the jokes. So what else has Hitchens not gotten? Where might you disagree with Hitchens as clearly he hasn't only spent a career writing about religion.

Christopher Hitchens has flip flopped more than a Hawaiian on his politics. Over a career, some of it is to be expected. I used to think of myself a liberal Republican, but they are extinct now. In the Clinton Era, he had this to say, "In general I'll speak to any anti-Clinton outfit and make my own points." (link) Vehement in his Anti-Clinton stance, he supported impeachment proceedings.

Clinton was being impeached for lying to Congress. Oh Noes you say! We all know that was a rouse, right? It was the beginnings of politics as usual. The same angry politics that Hitchens would have liked to have seen at the Rally. He became a supporter of the Neo-cons. His anger at Clinton led him to believe that the attacks of September 11th were the fault of Clinton. While Clinton could have, and maybe should have, done more, it's critical to note that Bush had been in office for 9 months when the attacks took place and not a single meeting or effort was taken to address bin Laden. I don't directly blame either president. But Hitchens does. Not because it's reasonable, but because he's angry. This really is the politics of anger that many of us would like to walk away from. Instead, Hitchens walked away from the Left calling it "meaningless". "The term 'the American left' is as near to being meaningless or nonsensical as any term could really be in politics," (Link)

As the Neo-Cons took power, he found himself blindly following the Neo-Cons. Even today, he defends his position with sheep like zeal. He points out that Saddam had done many bad things. I can't disagree. The slaughter of the Kurds in 87 was terrible. The oppression and lack of humanity was terrible. I personally recall Paul Wolfowitz arguing that our jets had been fired on 700 times as of August in just 2002. The UN Weapons Inspectors were being hampered in their duties. All valid reasons to suggest a readdressing of Saddam. I believe that Hitchens and I would have been in lock step with our arguments. But what happened between August of 2002 and the invasion, March 2003, was untenable. Bush and his administration began to play the fear and terror card. They claimed that Saddam had WMD's contrary to Hans Blix and the UN's best assessment from on the ground. "In January 2003, United Nations weapons inspectors reported that they had found no indication that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons or an active program." (Link) It didn't matter that our best information contradicted the mantra. We were angry, so we went to war. The truth was clear, we were going to war for unjustifiable reasons. It mattered not to Hitchens then, and nor does it matter now even with the benefit of hindsight. He still claims, "I was right, and they were wrong." If you really want to understand this line of thought, one paragraph stuck out to me. His wife had this analyis of Hitchens's thought process, 'I am violent, I will use violence, I will take some of these people out before I die', to which Hitchens agreed, but yet, he still doesn't relinquish the position. So young men and women on both sides should die for your inability to compartmentalize your reason and emotions Mr. Hitchens?

After Bush he backed away from Bush. He wrote this letter seemingly not to admit that he was wrong, but that Bush didn't perform well. He comes off defeated while still admonishing the president for his performance. The real disappointment should be on his own shoulders. Politically, Hitchens isn't true to his values. If he wanted small government, Clinton was the better choice but he chose to castigate him at every opportunity. If he wanted freedom, choosing Bush, the Patriot act, and forcing Western Views on another Nation State is not freedom, especially when the cost is 600,000 dead, or whatever the real number is. He continued to support Bush for the 2004 campaign. He called George Bush a secularist triumph and wrote this in the article, "George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled." The guy who founded the Faith Based Office, outlawed Embryonic Research, advocated Abstinence Education, and spoke to God before going to War with Iraq is your secularist champion? Even now, Hitchens still doesn't get the idea of backing off of the extremism. Learning from his mistakes in life doesn't seem to be Hitchens' strong suit.

I enjoy the man tremendously. He's hilarious to watch. He's added an immense volume of understanding that is difficult to gather in other places. But the point of this blog is highlighting the idea that critical thinking is always required, no matter who the speaker is. One of the primary positions of being a non-believer has to be that we are ever questioning, even if it is of one of the "Four Horsemen".



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Tags: Hitchens, Politics, Skepticism

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