Galloway Versus Hitchens
The debate between George Galloway and Christopher Hitchens will not change policy, but if nothing else it demonstrates how far the modern Left has strayed from its roots. Contrasting the perorations of the two debaters is instructive. I've paraphrased their words because I don't have the transcript available, and am guided only by my memory. But it may give you the flavor of the exchange.
Hitchens: How can you speak of President Talabani occupying Iraq? He was born there, though he had to move a few times, because the villages he lived in were destroyed by George Galloway's pal, Saddam Hussein. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which Talibani represents, is the recognized contact party of the Left in Kurdistan. They and the Communist Party of Iraq -- which is participating in the current government -- are fighting for their lives against the most vicious and medieval theocracy on the face of planet. Let those of you who imagine yourselves members of the Left -- as I gather from the zoo noises in evidence -- after examining the scars you have endured in your twilight underground struggle against Dick Cheney ask yourselves: who have I betrayed?
Galloway: No matter how many flyswats you have, no matter how much flypaper you employ, if you live beside a swamp it is no defense against the monsters that will come from it. There were no Al Qaeda in Iraq before George Bush brought them there. They are there because your country and my country brought them there. Not a single dictator in the Arab world could exist without the support of America. If I cannot appeal to your heart, let me speak to your mind. You will continue to endure 9/11s; you will continue to know fear until you give the Muslim countries their due. Until you stop Zionist and racist oppression, you will have no peace.
For a moment I imagined that Hitchens was alone in the room with the Left -- and from the temporary quiet perhaps he was partly successful -- asking, 'where is your pride?', 'where is your shame?'. Galloway took the lower road. He appealed to fear, cunningly raising the prospect of ruin, should his listeners fail to see things his way, unwittingly insulting his audience even as he pandered to them. They traded more than one insult. Galloway called Hitchens a drunk. Hitchens responded that if he had found home in a bottle, Galloway was still traveling from one dictator to the next, looking for a kennel he could call his own. Perhaps Hitchen's most telling insult, all the more effective because it was delivered slowly and a straight face, was recounting how George Galloway traveled to Damascus to endorse the men who helped fund the death of Casey Sheehan and then asking what manner of man would then travel to America to solicit the political support of the dead man's mother.
A lot of conservatives were cheering for Hitchens because he is on "our side". But that is coincidental. Hitchens, as will be evident to anyone who heard him address members of the audience as 'comrades' and invoke socialist solidarity is still a man of the Left who has merely remained true to the internal logic of his convictions. It puts him on the side of those fighting for republican forms against absolutist theocracies; and if that is the same camp as George Bush's then so be it. In that context, the contrast between Hitchens and Galloway is less of belief than of integrity: Hitchens opposes Al Qaeda because of his Leftist beliefs; Galloway supports Al Qaeda in despite of them; and to the traditional socialist this can only be explained by the inducement of cash. That was Hitchen's wider and subliminal reproach to the audience: what manner of men would pay to hear to George Galloway? Call yourselves anything, but don't call yourselves 'progressives'.