THE BLOG
08/24/2005 06:48 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hitchens Tries S&M

On August 19, Christopher Hitchens published one of his most hypocritical pieces of work ever, smearing bereaved military mother Cindy Sheehan (his first article is here).

Hitchens charged that an email allegedly sent by Sheehan to a Nightline producer evidenced her "real opinions on politics (a weird confection of pacifism and paranoid anti-Zionism)." He characterized Sheehan's alleged statement as "anti-Israel" and an insinuation of President George W. Bush's manipulation by "a Jewish cabal." Finally, speculating on the results of a hypothetical referendum of the American public on the occupation of Iraq -- something which has never been proposed by Sheehan or any other prominent opponent of the occupation -- Hitchens wrote, "The ultra-right anti-Zionist forces of David Duke and Patrick J. Buchanan, both of whom approvingly speak of Ms. Sheehan's popular groundswell, would still lose the vote." (What a relief!)

Reading Hitchens' screed, it occurred to me that he was using Sheehan to exorcise his own demons, attacking her as a projection of his former Trotskyist self. He posed as the calculating sadist, so frustrated with what he perceives as the left's pacific sentimentalism he almost seemed to pleasure in reducing a politically inexperienced military mom to a bloody pulp. Yet Hitchens assailed Sheehan for taking positions he had evinced for decades -- positions he had staked his career on. Reading Hitchens' attempted take-down of Sheehan was to watch him wander into his own, personal intellectual leather dungeon, lie on his back, and surrender his soft belly to the sharpened stilleto heel of a peacenik dominatrix he fabricated in the liquidized recesses of his mind. It was little more than a naked exercise in masochism.

Take Hitchen's July 12, 2001 column for the Nation magazine eulogizing Israeli peace activist Israel Shahak. Here, Hitchens makes practically the same points he condemns Sheehan for supposedly making (sentiments that I don't necessarily disagree with, but which are nonetheless hypocritical for Hitchens to now denounce):

Only the other day, I read some sanguinary proclamation from the rabbinical commander of the Shas party, Ovadia Yosef, himself much sought after by both Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. It was a vulgar demand for the holy extermination of non-Jews; the vilest effusions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad would have been hard-pressed to match it. The man wants a dictatorial theocracy for Jews and helotry or expulsion for the Palestinians, and he sees (as Shahak did in reverse) the connection. This is not a detail; Yosef's government receives an enormous US subsidy, and his intended victims live (and die, every day) under a Pax Americana.

Hitchens' expressed his opinion of Zionism more explicitly in a barely coherent November 14, 2001 op-ed for the Guardian, called "Ha, ha, ha to the pacifists." Accusing "the peaceniks" of harboring a conciliatory attitude towards radical Islamic terrorists, Hitchens wrote:

Come Yom Kippur I tend to step up my scornful remarks about Zionism. Whatever happened to the robust secularism that used to help characterise the left? And why is it suddenly only the injured feelings of Muslims that count?

Hitchens criticism of Sheehan is, of course, rooted in his role as a Hoover Institute-funded cheerleader for the failed policies of his newfound neocon fantasist friends. If we harken back to the days of the Clinton administration, however, we'll see how Hitchens took a decidedly different tack on US foreign policy.

In a January 11, 1999 article for the Nation, Hitchens accused Bill Clinton of launching air-strikes on alleged WMD facilities in Iraq and of twice attempting to kill Osama bin Laden to distract domestic attention from his impeachment inquiry. He also attacked Clinton for failing to garner the approval of the UN, something Bush was unable to do before invading Iraq:

The question is still--what was the hurry? Hussein had committed no new outrage; had threatened no new neighbor; had brandished no fresh weapon of terror. He was stuck in flagrant noncompliance, just as before. Congress could have been consulted--as is legally required by the War Powers Act and the warmaking clauses of the Constitution. The UN could have been consulted--as is required by the rules of the world body itself. Both would certainly have given the nod. But no--it had to be this day and no other.... The rocketing of Sudan and Afghanistan in August, just as Ms. Lewinsky returned to the grand jury, was even more blatantly determined by parochial political timing.

Hitchens continued by declaring total opposition to US military intervention in Iraq, accusing Clinton of committing war crimes by ordering air strikes there:

So, is it thinkable that American liberals, in defending what they regard as Clinton's own precious sexual freedom, have eagerly acquiesced in the random killing of civilians in unpopular countries?...It turns out that Clinton does possess the strength of character to be a war criminal, but preferably when it's all about himself.

Hitchens would recycle this accusation in a March 22, 1999 Vanity Fair column in which he called Clinton, "a phony president starting a phony war in order to distract attention from his filthy lunge at a beret-wearing cupcake," and in his anti-Clinton screed published later that year, "No One Left To Lie To: The Politics Of The Worst Family."

Finally, in his attempt to link Cindy Sheehan to far-rightists David Duke and Pat Buchanan simply because they also oppose the occupation of Iraq, Hitchens neglected to mention his own intimate ties to notorious Holocaust denying, fascist sympathizers Robert Faurisson and David Irving, which I documented here.

That Hitchens is a hypocrite is practically beyond debate. The question is, why does the Washington Post-owned Slate let him get away with it?