November 27, 2002 was not a good news day for Chris Hitchens. Hot on the heels of his comic foil Henry Kissinger scoring that plum 9/11 Commission Appointment, the Hitch was greeted with some troubling news from the NY TIMES. “Opposition Leader Fears That US Support Is Waning” spotlighted a selection of quotes from “Sharif Ali bin Hussein, who harbors hopes of being king of Iraq one day soon.” Ali is the chairman of the Iraqi National Congress, an organization that Hitchens has touted as a credible alternative to the Hussein regime.
What does Ali want from the US government, besides petty cash? Ali frets that the US shouldn’t view Iraq as a “colony” and piously adds that “Iraqis should do this job.” He worries that the “level of engagement” between Washington and his London-based organization is too low, given that “America commits troops to Iraq” in “one or two months.” Mr. Ali last was in Iraq as an infant; however, he assures the US government that “it’s a myth that there is an opposition government waiting in the wings in Baghdad. Saddam has definitely eliminated those with any atom of independence.” Predictably, the INC has just received $6.5 million from Washington, which is meant to last them for the next couple of months; attached to it is the curious provision that it is not to be spent inside Iraq.
Left unaddressed by the TIMES is what the point is of Washington paying a group of Iraqi exiles millions a month to sit in London and produce asinine soundbites. Veterans starve under our nation’s overpasses, single mothers struggle to keep their rent paid and their heat on, federal employees get stiffed on their yearly pay raises, and still we can rest assured that Ahmed Chalabi’s dry cleaning bill is paid for via Washington.
Apparently, the inherent contradictions involved in the poor, damned suckers of America bankrolling such “conquering heroes” don’t worry Hitchens much. Implicit in Hitchens’ advocacy of the INC is a belief that the people of Iraq, recovering from having their land turned into a Superfund site via US military efforts over the last decade, somehow will embrace some perfumed London dandy as the face of their Jeffersonian democracy. No less a figure than Dapper Don Rumsfeld speculated that it would be “wonderful” and “fabulous” to bring “liberation” to Iraq as it was brought to Afghanistan; perhaps it is more than coincidence that Sharif, like Karzai in Kabul, lacks what politely could be called a mandate.
But the Terror War thus far hasn’t been about mandates in any strict sense. There is very little talk of bringing democracy to Uzbekistan or freedom to the Chechens. The US allies in this operation, so far, have been unrepentant despots and gladhanders with a keen interest in facilitating access to minerals for US and UK companies. And in this age of smartbomb mercantilism, perhaps that is the most equitable — humane, even — arrangement possible. Consider what words spring forth from the lapdog scribes of the ever-loyal opposition:
“So you must make sure the Democrats have a national security program of their own. Bash Ashcroft, sure. Don’t surrender civil liberties. Bash Bush for ditching the independent investigation into pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures. . . But don’t stop there. Bash Bush for walking away from Afghanistan once the fighting was over. Remind the country that our safety depends on keeping al-Qaeda on the run. Bash Bush for distracting from the necessary fight against al-Qaeda with an unnecessary, risky, and unjustified (but easier) war against Saddam Hussein. And don’t stop at bashing. Put forward a fighting patriotism.”
Todd Gitlin, in MOTHER JONES, representing the so-called left. As we look forward to forced inoculations and yet another year of bumpersticker jingoism imposed on us, Gitlin urges us to demand that our politicians get tough on “national security”, to pretend to give a rat’s ass about Al Qaeda beyond wondering which of our “foreign entanglements” actually bankrolls them. Likewise, the “fighting patriotism” Gitlin speaks of is nothing more than a catchphrase, standing as totem for the vacuity of his piece and perspective in general.
I’d like to close on an optimistic, hopefully unifying note. The reemergence of Henry Kissinger from the undoubtedly lucrative “private sector” is actually exceptional news for both Gitlin and Hitchens. Hitchens got his meal ticket back. And Gitlin got his sham “independent commission.” Fight on, Patriots — you make Patrick Henry proud.
ANTHONY GANCARSKI lives in Spokane. His work appears frequently in CounterPunch. Emails are welcome at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.