Last of the Old Socialists

*Special Contribution*

LAST OF THE OLD SOCIALISTS

By Stephen J. Miller, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Many attempts have been made since the publication of Christopher Hitchens’ memoir Hitch-22 to make sense of his contradictory political views, and this fixation on the search for his unifying motif is turning into an undue obsession.  All of us have to deal with contradictions and address imperfections in our views, and none of us holds the same opinions at all times.  Hitchens is quite candid about his efforts to work out the kinks in his views, without flagellating himself for being wrong in the past.  

Last month I attended one of Christopher Hitchens’ last public appearances before he revealed that he has esophageal cancer.   After buying a signed copy of his memoir, I noticed on the back cover a blurb by Gore Vidal, one of the intellectual leaders of the Left.  The Vidal blurb, in which Hitchens is named as his heir and successor, is crossed out in red, indicating Hitchens’ rejection of the offer.  This single cross-out is perhaps the best summary of the book yet.

David Brooks is correct to point out that Hitchens is not a “sixty-eighter” or a “soixante-huitard,” in any meaningful sense.  The leaders in the Anglo-American Left who came of age or earned their cred in the Sixties (Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Alexander Cockburn, the Clintons) could not be more distant from the old Anglo-American Left which came of age in the late Victorian and Edwardian Eras and is personified by Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, and H.G. Wells. The members of this latter group were socialists when there was still a proletariat and before the free market solved most of the problems that they saw as intractable.  In other words, they had arguments that intelligent people had to take seriously back then.  They also expressed themselves with elegance, erudition and wit, and although their political views were indeed radical, they had the manners and morality of well-bred Victorian gentlemen.  If Hitchens still considers himself a man of the Left, he belongs in this latter group—and he is the last of his kind.

Hitchens was born in 1949, but the voice that emerges from his writings and his many public appearances is that of a man born around 1870.  While fluent in our contemporary idiom, his pristine use of language and syntactical craftsmanship are echoes of a different era.  (And to those who still think Barack Obama’s preachy, monosyllabic speeches are eloquent, I recommend watching any YouTube clip of Hitchens at the podium to hear what eloquence sounds like.)

Hitchens’ memoir makes a strong case that the Left abandoned him when “the personal became political,” in the decade following the romanticized year of 1968.  Since he has seen through the false assumptions and fraudulence of the modern American Left, evident in its behavior since the liberation of Iraq, Hitchens is far closer to David Horowitz, Douglas Murray, and Bill Kristol then he would dare to admit.  Indeed, Hitchens is much closer to the American Right than he is to the Left on many crucial questions.  Though he loathes the label “conservative” and insists on calling himself a radical, there is a marked spot in the conservative movement with his name on it that was reserved for him by other “neo-conservatives” who followed the same intellectual trajectory. 

This is why Hitchens must overcome his illness and pick up right where he left off.  For a man who has devoted his life to fighting totalitarianism in print and speech, the personal may not be political, but the political is personal.  His memoir is not yet complete, and it will not be finished until Iraq and Afghanistan are stable democracies.  We are now closer than ever before to this future that Hitchens has envisioned for the former totalitarian and clerical states of the Middle East.  I for one want to read new columns and books by Hitchens as this transformation unfolds well into the 2030s, after many of the positions that he advocated will have reached fruition.

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Stephen Miller currently serves as assistant to the chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

The Moore You Know About Obama…

In politics, knowing what your opposition thinks and says about you and your team is critical. But listening to what they?re saying about their own side can sometimes be even more telling.

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Michael Moore insists that Barack Obama?s ambitions are much farther left than he lets on. Thus, the President has been deliberately lying to us about everything from health care reform to the war on terror. But contrary to the Bush years, when perceived presidential deceit evoked liberal rage and a film to go with it, Moore adoringly approves of what he now sees as a necessary ?rope-a-dope strategy? to advance his side?s cause.

The interview, part of a larger round table discussion also including Paul Krugman and David Gergen, asks the ?three leading political observers? to analyze and discuss the first six months of the Obama presidency. The most startling perspective Moore provides is in regard to the current health care debate:

I take all of the things that make me nervous about the decisions that Obama has made, and I look and them through that lens ? that it?s some kind of master plan. It?s like his continued support of a government-run option for health care. If a true public option is enacted ? and Obama knows this ? it will eventually bring about a single-payer system, because the profit-making insurance companies won?t be able to compete with a government plan and make the profits they want to make. At some point most of them will probably have to bow out of the business.

Moore?s frankness even earns praise from the far more temperate David Gergen:

I?m glad to have someone of Michael Moore?s honesty say that the public option on health care is, in fact, designed to be a pathway to a single-payer system. Because the Democrats have essentially said, ?That?s not true.?

Moore?s view of Obama on Iraq is similar. While the Fahrenheit 9/11 director demands ?more than a truth commission ? a serious criminal investigation? into the Bush administration?s supposed ?lying to convince Congress to back an invasion of another country that did nothing to us,? he also tells the magazine:

Look, this guy [Barack Obama] is a very good basketball player ? he fakes right and goes left. He says he?s going to keep 50,000 troops in Iraq. But I would be shocked if, three years from now, there are 50,000 troops in Iraq. He says these things to keep the wolves away from the door, and it works. The other side seems to buy it. That?s why I admire his craftiness here.

?Same with Afghanistan,? he claims. While adding, ?I don?t think there was a reason for the war? because ?the Taliban are not an invading force ? they are citizens of Afghanistan? and therefore ?it is up to the citizens of Afghanistan whether they want to be oppressed,? he makes clear:

When [Obama] said he was going to send in 20,000 new troops, I thought, ?He?s again trying to create this illusion so that the opposition will be kept at bay.?

(Think about it: When the far left thought ?Bush lied??about WMDs, remember??they cried for impeachment. But for Obama, it?s just matter of admirably creating crafty illusions in order to trick his pesky opposition into silence and submission. Consider it liberalism by any means necessary.)

The way Moore sees it, even when it comes to serious national security issues like prosecuting terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, ?I think he gets the opposition to shut up by telling them what they want to hear.? Indefinite detention? ??Indefinitely? for Obama,? he says, ?might mean ?two more months.??

Overall score from Moore?

I would give him an A if my theory about the rope-a-dope strategy he has employed turns out to be right. If I?m wrong about that, then I?ll have to mark it down to a C-minus. Right now, I?m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Eventually, Gergen confronts the filmmaker about the openness of his ?fakes right, moves left? rhetoric and asks, ?Isn?t that the same critique the Republicans have been making about the president for some time?? Moore bluntly responds:

Yeah, and nobody will listen to them! I feel sorry for them. They think they know what he?s doing and they try to point it out, but Obama just acts all innocent and says, ?No, I?m not doing that.? I probably shouldn?t be saying this, but I?m counting on the fact that Republicans won?t be reading this in Rolling Stone.

Team America?s ?giant socialist weasel? counted wrong.

Back in 2004, the idea that ?Bush lied? begat plenty of fits, a film, and much more from the far left. But that, of course, was when a Republican was president. Five years later, half-truths and deceit from a liberal Democratic president are not only commendable, it seems, but absolutely vital. Apparently Barack Obama?s real plans are just that unpalatable for the public to swallow.

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Tom Qualtere?currently serves as research assistant to the president of The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. This column among many others can also be found at NewMajority.com.

Some Lingering Thoughts on Iraq

Opposing Justice Abroad (Still) Got Obama Elected at Home

He may be our next president, but Barack Obama’s foreign policy recklessness on the Iraq issue rightfully earned him some long distance disapproval in the waning days of the election. Since most may not recall it, a necessary reminder is due.

On October 30th, the Associated Press reported that for a number of Iraqi citizens, ?if they could, they would vote for Republican candidate John McCain in next week’s US presidential election.? One Iraqi named Ali said that ?McCain would be best for Iraq because he would ensure stability.? His friend Mohammed told the AP that ?Obama supports a rapid withdrawal of US troops. ?Our army is still too weak ? Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has warned Iran would fill the void left when US troops depart.?

Ali and Mohammed, among other likeminded Iraqis, are clearly not ignorant of current events or recent world history. They know why they?re free, who wants to keep them that way and, more importantly, who doesn?t. It?s why Iraqis like Whamith Shadhan frankly stated, ?I trust the Republicans more. They’re more capable of establishing democracy in the world, especially in Arab countries. Obama is far too left.? Indeed, they know full well that had things gone the way Obama preferred, their lives would be truly, horribly different today.

It was six years ago last month that Barack Obama gave a speech in downtown Chicago insisting that the Bush administration halt its march to ?a dumb war? against Saddam Hussein. He didn?t get what he wanted. Fortunately for millions of Iraqis, neither did Saddam, who hedged his bets that America would heed Obama (and the Left?s) demand.

Six years later, Iraq is by any rational standard a better country?one with a republican government, a just constitution, and a new ally incredibly interested in the permanent security of Iraqi freedom. As for Saddam and his deranged heirs Uday and Qusay?they?re all dead now. To recall that Saddam?s judge, jury, and executioners were all his former subjects is to be reminded that liberty and justice can prevail even in the direst swamps of terror and tyranny.

Regrettably, after two conventions, four debates, and six months of countless interviews and hundreds of stump speeches, not a hint of this remarkable before-and-after story had been uttered. For Obama, such an enormous omission was quite understandable; Iraqi liberation was not his wish. The opposite goes went for John McCain. But for reasons all his own, it was better left unspoken by him as well. Nevertheless, most Iraqis don?t need to be told by American politicians what Iraq was like before March 19, 2003.

Remembering the Baath Party-run sewer of secret police, rape rooms, and children?s prisons severely defangs the bite of Obama?s whole Iraq argument. After all, the entire premise of his (and the Democrats?) claim to foreign policy righteousness is that Iraq was a useless endeavor made sinful by the mere absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Obama takes his opposition further, earlier than almost any other Democrat by consistently asserting that the invasion should never have taken place regardless of what lay hidden in Saddam?s desserts. It?s what primarily led him to the general election.

But contrary to fashionable opinion, there is nothing noble about Barack Obama?s steadfast, ?since the beginning? opposition to the Iraq War. While no chemical and biological weapons were found in the sands of Iraq, something far more chilling awaited discovery.

It was in October 2004 that the BBC reported that ?US-led investigators [had] located nine trenches in Hatra containing hundreds of bodies believed to be Kurds killed during the repression of the 1980s.? According to authorities, ?The body of one woman was found still clutching a baby.? It was revealed that ?the infant had been shot in the back of the head and the woman in the face.?

As mass graves filled with ?the skeletons of unborn babies and toddlers clutching toys? were unearthed throughout Iraq??where about 300,000 people are thought to have been killed during Saddam Hussein’s regime??so was a new ethical justification for conquering Baghdad. Our presence in Iraq had now, more graphically visible than ever, constituted a humanitarian achievement that underscored the United States? moral imperative to stay put lest things return to the way they were.

By dethroning the barbarian who robbed countless of his own citizens of their lives and dignity, America earned a moral right to implant an allied government and military in his place. That new entity remains the fruit of our charity, and the bridge between the war in Iraq and the greater war on terror and, ultimately, our national wellbeing (along with that of the Iraqis). In left-wing circles, of course, it stands as the illegitimate bastard child of an affair between false casus belli and greedy national interest. And it is what every single one of Barack Obama?s historical preferences for the war would have prevented from emerging.

For more than half a decade now, Obama has opposed the war in Iraq on the small-mined idea that it was just an attempt ?by? arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats.? Of course, he claims there were other reasons too. Regardless, through his relentless aversion towards America?s mission in Iraq, Obama has unwittingly but constantly sought to deny a third-world nation a chance at freedom. Not to mention for his own country, a strategic ally in the still-cankerous Middle East. Americans forgave him and elected him president. For Iraqis, it was a whole different story.

It was in October 2002 that Barack Obama first turned his back on more than 20 million innocent Iraqi men, women, and children. Six years later, in late October 2008, a few wise Iraqis turned their backs on him.

- tom