Tuesday, August 16, 2005

We knew THIS was coming...

Hitchens signs on to the poop on Cindy Sheehan bandwagon. Predictable.

His position: She has no moral authority and shouldn't be taken seriously. Why? Apparently because if Hitchens had lost a child in Iraq, he wouldn't be taken any more seriously by his critics.

Maybe, maybe not - though there is something to the claim that those who have actually lost loved ones in the war may be worth listening to rather than those who haven't and won't because their children have better things to do.

But here's where Hitchens gets particularly shrill:

"What dreary sentimental nonsense this all is, and how much space has been wasted on it. Most irritating is the snide idea that the president is "on vacation" and thus idly ignoring his suffering subjects, when the truth is that the members of the media—not known for their immunity to the charm of Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod in the month of August—are themselves lazing away the season with a soft-centered nonstory that practically, as we like to say in the trade, "writes itself." Anyway, Sheehan now says that if need be she will "follow" the president "to Washington," so I don't think the holiday sneer has much life left in it."

Is it a non-story? Doubtful. Opposition to the war has, despite Hitchens' efforts, been growing since Bush declared it ended. Sheehan is just a catalyst. Moreover, since Aristophanes' Lysistrata, it's been pretty much common knowledge that nothing is so threatening to propagandizing states as grieving mothers who don't accept that their primary function is to produce soldiers. In this regard, Hitchens may as well be Pericles in his funeral oration, telling the grieving wives and mothers of Athens that the best thing to do is keep quiet. It is a bit eery how similar things play out - those in favor of the war tell her to shut up. They don't defend the invasion; they question her character, her fitness to speak.

The holiday sneer doesn't have much left in it? Bush actually said - to paraphrase - Yeah, I feel bad, but look, I've got to make decisions, which means I have to be fit, so my life has to go on. Vacation? He'll go to fundraisers, but he won't meet with her.

If Hitch is so right, and Sheehan so crazy, why not have Bush, who is supposedly a people-person, meet with her? Show his compassionate conservatism, explain why the sacrifice was necessary, and have the cameras there, and then spin to his heart's content that he did what he had to do, etc. But he hasn't done this. And I doubt that he will. One wonders why.

Does she seem to view the war as somehow part of a pro-Israel cabal? Sure. And Hitch says it wasn't. Maybe. Why do people think this? And really, this is a manifestation of the general tendency to view this as a neo-con crusade.

Perhaps because the more we learn, the more the conspiracies turn out to be accurate; and perhaps because the more opposition to the war that ended in 2003 increases, the lower the depths to which those who shill for it will sink.

On December 3, 2001, Hitchens wrote in the Nation the following: "I should perhaps confess that on September 11 last, once I had experienced all the usual mammalian gamut of emotions, from rage to nausea, I also discovered that another sensation was contending for mastery. On examination, and to my own surprise and pleasure, it turned out to be exhiliration. Here was the most frightful enemy - theocratic barbarism - in plain view...I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost."

Hitch may well question the moral seriousness of someone who views the war as a neo-con inspired pro-Israel conspiracy. And we may well question the moral seriousness of someone whose sense of morality and understanding of the worth in life was so shallow that he latched on to a tragedy to give himself purpose and emotional fulfilment.

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