George Scialabba's attack on Hitchens is sloppy at best. First he complains that Hitchens doesn't fight fair, "Even when all the provocations Hitchens has endured are acknowledged (especially the not-infrequent hint that booze has befogged his brain), they don't excuse his zeal not merely to correct his former comrades but to bait, ridicule, and occasionally slander them, caricaturing their arguments and questioning their good faith." And yet Scialabba goes on to attack Hitchens in this manner which undermines his point.
"Besides, if you must discharge such large quantities of remonstrance and sarcasm, shouldn't you consider saving a bit more of them for your disagreements - he must still have some, though they're less and less frequently voiced, these days - with those who control the three branches of government and own the media and other means of production." Here's another common lefty complaint. We may be wrong in our anti-war marches, etc., but we don't have the power of the government. So take it easy on us. Scialabba's off to a poor start.
Scialabba goes on to quote Michael Scheuer on al Qaeda. I doubt Scialabba is fully aware of Scheuer's views on the "war on terror" but no matter, the quote serves its purpose.
Bin Laden and most militant Islamists [are] motivated by . . . their hatred for a few, specific US policies and actions they believe are damaging - and threatening to destroy - the things they love. Theirs is a war against a specific target and for specific, limited purposes. While they will use whatever weapon comes to hand - including weapons of mass destruction - their goal is not to wipe out our secular democracy, but to deter us by military means from attacking the things they love. Bin Laden et al are not eternal warriors; there is no evidence that they are fighting for fighting's sake, or that they would be lost for things to do without a war to wage. . . . To understand the perspective of the [tens or hundreds of millions of] supporters of Bin Laden, we must accept that there are many Muslims in the world who believe that US foreign policy is irretrievably biased in favor of Israel, trigger happy in attacking the poor and ill-defended Muslim countries, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and so forth; rapacious in controlling and consuming the Islamic world's energy resources; blasphemous in allowing Israel to occupy Jerusalem and US troops to be based in Saudi Arabia; and hypocritical and cruel in its denial of Palestinian rights, use of economic sanctions against the Muslim people of Iraq, and support for the Muslim world's absolutist kings and dictators.This is the mentality Hitchens has been fighting against and why he gets so nasty. As bad as America's foreign policy can be, there are a number of distortions in the seemingly reasonable paragraph above. America's foreign policy should be better for its own sake, not because Al Qaeda hit us and threatens to do worse.
Besides the US has made Iraq safe for Islam. Shouldn't Michael "renditions work" Scheuer and the antiwar left be pleased?
Isn't it odd that the anti-war left should try to use a 22-year CIA veteran who ran the Counterterrorist Center's bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999 against Hitchens? Scheuer main complaint is that his bosses weren't concerned enough about bin Laden and didn't provide him with the resources to fight al Qaeda, which is probably true. But it's also painfully obvious that the CIA is trying to point fingers and at the very least, it is conceivable that 9.11 could have been prevented had someone besides Scheuer been running the bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999.
Does Scialabba realize the manuscript for Imperial Hubris was at first denied release because the CIA's Publications Review Board (PRB) "took issue with the book's brief favorable discussion of Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" theory, which posits that antagonism between Western and Islamic cultures (among others) will drive world conflict in the coming years."?
I though America's foreign policy was the problem. As the Boston Phoenix reported:
One doesn't have to read the manuscript terribly closely to see how it provides some benefit to the CIA. Critical as Anonymous [Scheuer] is of his own organization - as well as of the Bush and Clinton administrations - he absolutely blasts the FBI on pages 185 through 192. Many progressives may not cotton to the broad notion he advances here - namely, that the US should simply dispense with any sort of legalistic, law-enforcement approach to combating Al Qaeda and leave it entirely to the covert operators. But in the context of Washington's political postmortems on 9/11-related intelligence failures, this is stuff that at least makes the FBI look worse than the CIA.The irony perhaps is that Hitchens has argued strenuously against torture and disregarding what makes the West more defensible in leftists' eyes than, say, the Taliban or Saddam Hussein or the genocidaires of Sudan.