Monday, May 09, 2005


Readers of this and Jon Schwarz's blog may get the impression that Jon and I secretly plan posts, then publicly refer to one another in a shameless round of mutual self-promotion. I won't confirm or deny this, but I do love Jon's site. He's intelligent, funny and humane. Plus, he, along with partner Mike Gerber, has written for "Saturday Night Live" and the New Yorker. But unlike many of those I've known or encountered who've done the same, Jon and Mike aren't elitist pricks. They're both pretty down-to-earth guys. Me? I just hang around 'em.

Yesterday, I sent Jon a Wall Street Journal piece by Christopher Hitchens which, in his typically amusing fashion, Jon posted on his blog. I wasn't gonna comment on it, but since Jon has aired it out, I may as well toss in my two coins.

First, Hitchens makes yet another crude, sweeping statement about how those who opposed the invasion of Iraq are cheerleaders for jihad and who believe that Osama is the New Che. He doesn't offer any quotes or names to back this up, nor need he, given that he's bashing the left for the WSJ, and so is not required to provide evidence. A cozy arrangement suited to his present intellectual standards. I'm mildly amazed that Hitchens didn't make a return trip to the Michael Moore well, a source that has served him in the past and made him welcome in imperial circles. Perhaps an oversight on his part, for you know he'll go there again.

For all his warbling about supporting secular forces in Iraq, Hitchens has made very little noise on behalf of the Iraqi trade union movement. This might be because a large chunk of it opposes the US occupation and foreign corporate control of the Iraqi economy, two things Hitchens supports. (Recall that he's publicly lauded Halliburton for its cronyism and private theft in Iraq, though he's put a much nicer face on that.) Iraqi trade unionists recognize that Islamic terrorists and Ba'athist remnants are their political enemies, but so too are their "liberators," who look to privatize the country's assets once the current mess is mopped up and some kind of compliant government is stabilized (good luck). If there's to be any real, grassroots social democracy in Iraq, it will have to start with these working class activists.

But did the US invade Iraq in order to support and strengthen trade unionists? Please. The Bush admin was against direct elections, for God's sake. Also, Saddam's 1987 Edict Number 150, which prohibits Iraqi workers from organizing, is still in effect. So it's a bit rich to see Hitchens blast antiwar activists for not supporting secular options. I've read countless pages about the Iraqi trade union movement, and apart from his condemning the murder of labor activist Hadi Salih (as did a number of antiwar/labor groups), Hitchens's name doesn't pop up. There's no consistent series of pro-solidarity statements from him that I've seen. He makes no mention of trade unionists in his WSJ piece, but again, he's toiling for those who favor privatization in Iraq. I doubt that they would applaud such retro-causes like union building.

The other part of his piece worth noting is how Hitchens has suddenly noticed that his GOP pals are in bed with the crazier elements of our domestic phalange. Those of us who asked him years ago how he reconciled this alliance with his "anti-theism" were waved off and told that it didn't matter, "in the larger scheme." Ho ho. How the globe turns. It would be even funnier were it not for the bloodshed, torture and madness that emanates from that quarter. Hitchens may try to crawl away from this crowd, but his shirt is soaked with their holy water. The price one pays when making common cause with clerical warmongers.

BTW, a public debate between me and Hitchens in currently in the works. A mutual friend is working to promote an event in New York: Mentor vs. Former Acolyte On The War That Drove Them Apart. Or something along those lines. Will update as new info rolls in.