Call me gullible, but I don’t actually believe that the Bush administration is holding bin Laden in some cave with the intention of releasing him just in time for the election. But I can’t take anyone seriously who gets all the way to end of a column about this subject without mentioning a bit of recent history. The relevant history is this: There appears to be good reason to think that Kissinger deliberately got in the way of a peace settlement between North and South Vietnam in 1968, in order to benefit Nixon. On this topic, see Hitchens, Christopher. And there is also this: There appears to be good reason to think that Republicans persuaded Iran to delay the release of hostages in advance of the 1980 election. That there are good reasons to believe both these things makes a bit of paranoia in advance of an election rational. For the same team appears to have twice engaged in very dirty tricks for electoral gain in very close elections, and in a way that seriously damaged the larger interests of the country.
So what I say is, if you want me to take you seriously on this topic, you have to at least mention these two bits of recent history, since without them the anxiety about a late stage-managed capture of bin Laden is completely incomprehensible. Christopher Hitchens flunks this fairly straightforward test in his column today for Slate.
The omission is so glaring that I don’t see how anyone can honestly claim Christopher Hitchens is serious. Christopher Hitchens – the man who wrote a book in which a main accusation is that a Republican operative scuttled a major U.S. foreign policy breakthrough to win an election – is no longer even trying. Christopher Hitchens is simply not serious.
This isn’t about sides, or Hitchens’ support for the war. Hitchens could have supported the war and argued for it as vigorously as he did, and even more persuasively, without damaging his integrity. No. This is about Hitchens’ fundamental dishonesty, and his complete lack of interest in offering real arguments for his own position. Hitchens is mediocre in a way that ought to be apparent to you regardless of which side of the issue you’re on.
I think it’s time for me to do the same thing with Hitchens that I did a few months ago with William Safire: simply stop reading him.