Galloway vs. Hitchens: The Transcript
September 16, 2005
This is a SEIXON EXCLUSIVE, must credit and must
COPYRIGHT © 2005 SEIXON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
CH = Christopher Hitchens
GG = George Galloway
AG = Amy Goodman (moderator)
Audience responses also in black
THE DEBATE TRANSCRIPT
CH: Um, thank you.
Thank you very much Amy, um, you can take it out of my time, but I would propose that we begin with a moment of silence for the 160 people who were sadistically murdered in Baghdad this morning as they went to their places of work or stayed in their places of abode, and as they hoped to register for the upcoming elections. I hope I can get an agreement for a moment of respect for them.
Very good and I thought those
comments were also very worth hearing.
I'm very grateful to the organizers for making this possible, I consider it a great distinction to stand on the podium of Baruch College, named for the great Bernard Baruch who first in 1946 proposed that weapons of mass destruction be placed under international inspection and control.
Um, I'm grateful to the audience also for giving me the chance to revisit my misspent Trotskyist days, dishing out a leaflet in steaming heat on the street outside, made me feel, and look, I hope, much younger.
And um we're also of course on this side of the house here to share with Mr. Galloway the ambition that his views and his record be much better known than they are. And most of you I hope will have the leaflet that details, uh, this and those of you who don't, and those of you are watching or joining us from other audiences can go to hitchensweb.com and download the whole lot and I hope they were and share it.
Um, an impression, I think, ladies and gentleman has been allowed to form and perhaps even to coagulate, and to congeal, that it is only those of us who support the regime-change, the revolutionary change in Iraq, who have any explaining to do. Um, I think that that assumption needs to be countered from the very beginning. Uh, if you examine the record of the so-called the anti-war movement in this country and imagine what would have happened had its counsel been listened to over the last 15 and more years, you would have a world in which the following would be the case…
Saddam Hussein would be the owner and occupier of Kuwait, he would have succeeded in the annexation, not merely the invasion, but the abolition of an Arab and Muslim state that was a member of the Arab League and of the United Nations. And with these resources as we now know because he lost that war, he was attempting to equip himself with the most terrifying arsenal that it was possible for him to lay his hands on. That's one consequence of anti-war politics, that's what would have happened.
In the meanwhile, Slobodan Milosevic would have made Bosnia part of a greater Serbia, and Kosovo would have been ethnically cleansed and also annexed. The Taliban would be still in power in Afghanistan if the anti-war movement had been listened to, and al-Qaeda would still be their guests. And Saddam Hussein, with his crime family, would still be privately holding ownership over a terrorized people in a state that's been most aptly described as a concentration camp above ground and a mass grave underneath it.
Now if I had that record politically, I would be extremely modest, I wouldn't be demanding explanations from those of us who said it’s about time that we stop this continual capitulation to dictatorship, to racism, to aggression and to totalitarian ideology. That we will not allow to be appeased in Iraq, the failures in Rwanda, and in Bosnia, and in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And we take pride in having taken that position, and we take pride in our Iraqi and Kurdish friends who are conducting this struggle, on our behalves I should say.
Um. What did it mean to accept this responsibility? We knew it was a weighty one, and we knew it was a dangerous one. I've argued, I will argue that the war was both just and necessary. I think I can separate perhaps the two concepts.
Um, Iraq had lost its sovereignty as far as a state can do under international law. There are four conditions under which a state may be deemed or said to have sacrificed its sovereignty. These are: if it participates in regular aggressions against neighboring states or occupations of their territory; if it violates all the letter and spirit of the terms of the nonpre, pre, excuse me, the non-proliferation treaty, and in other words, fools around promiscuously with the illegal acquisition of weapons of mass destruction; third, if it should violate the Genocide Convention, the signatories to which are obliged without further notice to act either to prevent or punish genocide; and fourth, if it plays host to international gangsters, nihilists, terrorists, and jihadists.
Iraq met all these four conditions repeatedly, and would demonstrate its willingness to repeat them on many occasions. Its sovereignty was at an end, it was under international sanctions, it was a ward of the international community. Uh, its people were being starved in order to build palaces for their psychopathic dictator. And it was further more imploding as a state and as a society that the divide and rule policy of the Baath party had led to appalling ethnic and confessional hatreds within the country.
An imploded state would have made these worse and you know who would have invaded them. Turkey would have invaded to try and take Kurdistan. Iran would have invaded to support its extremist Khomeinite proxies and Saudi Arabia would have intervened in order to do the same favor for the Sunni and Wahhabists and Salafist extremists. As a matter of fact, all these three foreign interventions are taking place at present, all those three powers are trying to meddle in Iraq but we are fortunate as are the Iraqi people that there is a coalition to hold the ring and to prevent it from becoming another Rwanda or another Congo, another vortex of violence and cruelty and destabilization and war.
And this I think again is a point to take pride in. It was the only responsible course, I'm willing at any point to take questions and I'm sure I shall be invited to about my own criticisms of and misgivings about the differences with those who conducted and conduct this policy, but on this main, on these main points it seems to me there's very little room for debate.
Oh, thank you.
Now we know and we make no secret of the extraordinary difficulties that have attended this, this, ehm, I think very noble and a risky and worthwhile enterprise. All of you will know, all of you will have seen some of the abysmal consequences of this, but you have I think the responsibility of imagining what the alternative would be. I am simply going to say what I think the positive reasons are, excuse me, the positive consequences are. Um, and I hope someone will be showing me the time, Amy, just so I don't trespass on my own argument or the patience of the comrades.
Whose gonna be showing me the time?
You, OK, will you let me know when I've got three minutes, say?
Um, positive results ladies and gentleman, brothers and sisters. A man who planned and ordered and supervised and took delight in genocide and torture and aggression and the occupation of two neighboring states and the massacres of their people is in jail now and will follow Slobodan Milosevic and Augusto Pinochet into the dock quite soon. I know there are some people here who don't take delight in this, but I will say that I do. It is a long overdue justice.
A long overdue act of justice and mercy.
Um, a constitution, a federal democratic constitution, is being debated now as we speak with the printing of five million copies of the original document. Debated on six television channels, six, and perhaps as many as a hundred newspapers in a country where three years ago, it was death, not just for you, but for your family, to possess a satellite dish. Or to attempt to distribute a leaflet. Death for you and your family, and not a quick one either. Does anyone not agree that this is a night and day difference? I invite them to say if they don't.
The largest stateless minority in the Middle East, the people of Kurdistan in other words, who have suffered many years of oppression and exile and occupation. In Syria, in Iraq, in Iran, and in Lebanon and in Turkey, uh, have begun to scramble so to say to their feet to assume something like their full height as a people. Even before the intervention they were producing an autonomy, a democracy, a self-determination of their own in the provinces of northern Iraq, which when I saw them last, were, were a landscape of, of desolation and depravity. You could still smell the poison gas, you could still smell the mass graves, the ruined cities, the burned hillsides, the women who had chemical burns that still burn after years.
Out of this, the Kurds have come to build and help other Iraqis build, when they could have been chauvinistic, they could have been xenophobic, they could have said enough with Iraq, we're through with it, we're leaving. Instead it accepted their internationalist responsibilities. President Talabani, it seems to me, is a president of whom any country in the region could be proud, not just by the sort of comparisons one could make.
This is an extraordinary, unarguable, and ambiguous gain. Um, the disarmament of Libya, capitulation of colonel Gaddafi, his abandonment of his covert arsenal of mass, weapons of mass destruction, and the walking back of the evidence that he gave us, because we all have it now, thank you sir, in Oakridge, Tennessee. Which I think is the right place for it, on analysis was able to disclose to us that the providence of much of this illegal weaponry was the AQ Khan network in Pakistan. A kind of Wal-Mart for WMD, nukes-r-us, with the line stretching all the way from North Korea to the Iraqi envoys who, in March 2003 as the coalition was preparing to intervene, were negotiating in Damascus with the envoys of Kim Jung Il, to buy North Korean missiles off the shelf and people say Iraq and WMD can't be mentioned in the same breath.
Now not everything about this can be attributed to the intervention, but it's noticeable I think that colonel Gaddafi did not, when he wanted to capitulate, go to Mr. Kofi Annan, for example. Or that great statesman Mr. Jacques Chirac, a man so corrupt as said of monsieur Dalembert [sic] I think in Sentimental Education, "so corrupt he would willingly have paid for the pleasure of selling himself".
Um, nor to Gerhard Schroeder, the rump figure of what was once a proud German social democracy. No he came to Mr. Blair and to Mr. Bush, and says I'm out of this game now and you can analyze everything I've got. That's not nothing ladies and gentleman, and it's a step towards disarmament and nonproliferation into the bargain.
Uh, and then the spread, no less important, of the democratic impulse within the region. Not only is this being spread by the vector of the Kurdish people and their revolution, because as you will be readily able to find if you haven't read of it already, there have been demonstrations in Kamishli, the Kurdish main city of northern Syria. Among the oppressed Kurds who suffer under the ossified theocracy of Iran and of course in Turkey as well, to pick up the message that yes, liberation is at hand. These demonstrations broke out on the day that president Talabani was sworn in as president in Iraq. There's an unmistakable connection between them. We who have been friends of the Kurds are very proud of their achievement, and we intend to stand by them no, matter, what.
I will add that the moral leader of the Egyptian democracy movement, the man who has been begun to break open the argument in Egypt, and he's suffered a long period of imprisonment during this time and was written to by Nelson Mandela as Egypt's equivalent, has told me, and for quotation, that in his opinion, this new mood in the region would be unthinkable if it was not for the removal of the single worst tyrant who was present there. That's not nothing, in point of testimony, that's from deep within the bowels of the Egyptian prison system, the man who is the moral hero of the democracy movement. He says, and I agree with him, and he is echoed by Anwar Ibrahim as far away as Malaysia, who is the Malay equivalent, and by the leader of the Socialist Party of Lebanon, Mr. Jumblatt, have all stated publicly, uh, that this for them is the beginning of the end, the fall of the wall as they put it.
This I think is also something to take pride in. Now I could have said this in front of any audience, and against any antagonist, but in my last two minutes, I will have to say, that I believe it is a disgrace that a member of the British House of Commons should go before the United States Senate Subcommittee and not testify, but decline to testify. And to insult all those who tried to ask him questions with the most vile and cheap guttersnipe abuse, I think that's a disgrace.
And... I've got one minute. I've got one minute. I've got one minute. And it is worse, it is worse than a disgrace, if you... That's not coming, that's not coming out of my time.
["Shame on you!"]
If you knew how you sounded comrades, when you do that, well you, the cameras can take care of it. That's not coming out of my time. It is not just a disgrace, it is a crime that Mr. Gaddafi has profited from the theft of money from the Iraqi Oil For Food program, has told continuous lies about his profiteering from it, and the foul associates that he made. At a time when Iraqi children were dying and eleven billion from this program, eleven billion, went to the murderer and criminal and sadist and fanatic Saddam Hussein. How can anyone who is a business partner of this regime show their face in a city like this? And not content with it, not content with it...
Not content with it, he turns up in Damascus. The man's search for a tyrannical fatherland never ends! The Soviet Union's let him down, Albania's gone, the red army's out of Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia. The hunt persists! Saddam has been overthrown, and his criminal connections with him have been exposed, but on to the next. On the 30th of July, in Damascus in Syria, appearing, I've given it all to you on a piece of paper. In front of Mr. Assad, whose death squads are cutting down the leaders of democracy in Lebanon, as this is going on, to tell the Syrian people they're fortunate to have such a leader. The slobbering dauphin who they got because he's the son of the slobbering tyrant who came before him. How anyone with a tincture of socialist principle can actually speak in this way is beyond me, and I hope ladies and gentleman, far beyond you and far beneath your contempt. Thank you.
AG: George, George Galloway, your response.
GG: Well uh... Dear ladies and gentleman, slobbering was the note that Mr. Hitchens chose to end on, I'm not sure that was wise.
CH: Bring it on, bring it on.
GG: But uh...
But I want to begin by praising Mr. Hitchens...
In Dundee, my home city, at the annual delegate meeting of the national union of journalists, 25 years ago. The same Mr. Hitchens made a speech in which he praised me and the city council for what he described as its brave act of twinning the city of Dundee with the Palestinian city of Nablus. He said...
CH: No, no, no. Must have been someone else.
GG: He said that it was uh... I didn't interrupt you so perhaps you'll not slobber over my remarks.
CH: Someone else.
GG: You see, it was very important Mr. Hitchens, support for the Palestinian people, and it was not easy in 1980. Only a few years before, the Palestinian resistance had seized the Israeli Olympic Games team in Munich, and had committed what most people in the world described as an act of mass terrorism. Mr. Hitchens' courageous stand with groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the hijackers of many an aircraft, the carrying out of many a military operation was very significant because it was very rare. Equally, I want to thank Mr. Hitchens for the brave stand he made against the war on Iraq in 1991.
I want to, I want to say and I've never had the chance to thank him for this. One of the magic moments of that great era was Christopher Hitchens on television with the gun-nut Charleston Heston. When Heston was fulminating, desperate to get in there, desperate to attack, Hitchens told him to keep his wig on, and then he asked him, magically, to name four countries with a border with the country he was so keen to invade. And Heston, of course, could name, none.
That was important because it was very difficult to oppose the war against Iraq in 1991, after all, it was ruled by somebody called Saddam Hussein. It was governed by the Baath party who continued to govern it thereafter. It was only three years since those chemicals weapons that Mr. Hitchens could still smell when he was last there, had been launched against the Kurdish people he will never leave alone. Only three years before Halabja had taken place. And of course, perhaps most significantly of all, it was difficult to oppose that attack on Iraq in 1991 because Iraq had invaded and abolished, to quote him a few minutes ago, a member state of the Arab League, of the United Nations, a Muslim Arab country.
Not withstanding all of these things, Mr. Hitchens bravely, fanatically you may say, stood against the idea of president George Bush invading Iraq in 1991. What you are... What you have witnessed since, is something unique in natural history. The first ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug.
I mention, I mention slug purposely, because the one thing a slug does leave behind it, is a trail of slime. Now, I was brought up by my father on the principle never to wrestle with a chimney sweep, because whatever you do, you can't come out clean. But you, Mr. Hitchens, are no chimney sweep. That's not coal dust in which you are covered. You are covered in the stuff you like to smear on to others. Not just me, with your Goebbelian leaflets, full of selective quotation, half-truth, mis-truth, and downright untruth, and the comments you made in your last two minutes of this speech. But people much more gentle than me, people like Cindy Sheehan. Whom you described...
Whom you described, whom you described as a sob-sister, as a flake, as a La Rouchie, a woman who gave the life of her son for the war you have come here to glory in. People like Mr. Hitchens are ready to fight to the last drop of other people's blood, and it's utterly contemptible, utterly and completely contemptible. Now uh...
Hitchens makes much, and I know that he will in his next segment, so I shall, to coin a phrase, pre-empt it of the nature and character of those resisting the foreign invasion and occupation in Iraq. I spoke last night in Boston, in a hall, where many of the leaders of the great American revolution stood and spoke. My favorite member of the British parliament has a statue, it's the first one you meet as you walk in Saint Stevens entry. It is a statue of Charles James Fox. He was expelled twice from parliament for supporting the American revolution and supporting the French revolution. Now some might say, Fox was wrong, supporting the anti-colonial struggle of the American people. After all, some might say, better be careful what you wish for, Charlie, maybe one day that independent free country you're supporting the birth of will be ruled by crazed fundamentalists like Pat Robertson, and George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney, and Michael Ashcroft.
They might have said, be careful Charlie, if this country becomes free, it might one day not even be able to pick up the dead bodies in one of its most important cities a week after they've laid there. Such is the malevolence and incompetence of the government which will rule it. But Fox would have said no, Fox would have said no, he would have said the American people have a right to be free. Who they chose to rule them is a matter for them, let them make their mistakes, let them have their own politics. My country has no right to occupy them any further.
Now I am, I am of Irish background myself. When the Irish people rose in 1916 for their freedom to strike one of the first decisive blows against the British empire, on which the sun never sets, because God would never trust the English in the dark. When the Irish people rose, the Hitchens of those days, in Bloomsbury, in the salons, denounced the Irish rebels as priest-ridden, bog-trotting, Celtic, Gaelic, obscurantists to whom they would never issue, from Bloomsbury, a certificate of approval. But the only certificate of approval that mattered, was the one issued by the Irish people, not the liberals in London who refused to endorse it.
My point is this, for us in the United States and the United Kingdom there is only one big question. Mr. Bush actually framed it for us: Are you with the foreign occupation of Iraq, or are you with the right of the Iraqi people to be free and to resist the foreign armies who have violently invaded them. And that's why...
That's why that cheap, cheap demagoguery by Hitchens at the beginning of this debate got the risible response that it did from this audience, because he wants you to have, he wants you to make a minute silence for the 145 today, but he can't bring himself to mention the massacre in Tal Afar over the last 4 days in Iraq. He doesn't want to know about the massacre in Fallujah when the American forces, brick by brick, destroyed a city and massacred thousands of people.
Now this debate, as Amy Goodman said, is taking place at a very important time on a very important subject. This war, in which he glories, although I wish, how I wish he would put on tin hat and pick up a gun, and go and fight himself. How I wish, how I wish to see that sight. This war in which he glories has cost the lives, according to those well known Saddamist fronts, the Lancet and Johns Hopkins University, well in excess of 100,000 peoples lives. And hundreds of thousands more have been maimed and wounded. And it was all for a pack of lies, there were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, there was no link between Iraq and the atrocities on the 9th of September, on the 9-11 here in the United States. There was no welcome for the foreign armies that invaded Iraq. Hitchens said they would be greeted by flowers, but there are 2,000 young Americans boys lying in the ground now, testimony to the fact that they were welcomed by something else. And thousands, and thousands more, wounded, maimed, many of them in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives, testament to the folly of Hitchens, and Bush, and Cheney, and the rest of the neo-con gang that dragged your country into this disaster.
The international legal and political system has been defaced and disfigured. The world has been made a more dangerous place, not just for us, but for our children, and their children, for generations to come. The world has been made a more dangerous place. Hitchens asks us to believe that hundreds of thousands of western soldiers invading a Muslim country would make less Islamist fundamentalism. He asked us to believe that devastating Iraq, and making a Yugoslavia on top of the world's biggest oil fields would make the world a safer and more stable place. There is scarcely a sentient being in the land, who any longer believes that the war on Iraq was either necessary or just or a good idea.
You may very well ask, why so many people wanted to come in here and watch and listen to two British guys debating in the United States of America about a war far away. I think the reason is this: our two countries are the biggest rogue states in the world today. And it is therefore vitally important...
It is therefore, it is therefore vitally important that those who oppose the crimes of our governments, on both sides of the Atlantic, link hands, link arms, stand shoulder to shoulder, until we've rid the world of George W. Bush and Anthony Blair, once and for all. Thank you very much.
AG: Christopher Hitchens, 10 minutes.
CH: Well I think it's, I can say that it's sort of a pleasure to be, um, insulted by Mr. Galloway under any of my identities. I've never made a speech at a journalist conference in Dundee, for example. I don't know who does Mr. Galloway's research though I think I can guess.
GG: Eamonn McCann, he said it on radio, he said it on radio in New York on Saturday. Eamonn McCann, you remember him?
CH: I remember Eamonn McCann very well, by the way he gives me the opportunity to say that I've been a life-long supporter of the reunification of Ireland, and with Edward Said in the early years of the intifada, as early as '86, published a book as you can still get from New Left Books/Verso, called Blaming the Victims about the, the struggle for the full establishment of Palestinian rights.
And yes it's true that I was an opponent of the last Gulf War, I don't know why anyone thought that to make such a point was a point against me. I dare I say I might not have been invited here, in this, this "Battle of the Titans" if it wasn't tolerably well known that I think I was probably mistaken on that occasion. If you can assimilate a point as simple as that, ladies and gentleman, which I dare say you can, for I shant insult you, I think you'll have to notice something about what Mr. Galloway just said and the rhetorical, I won't say trick, I would say squalid maneuver that underlies it.
To hear him speak, you would think, would you not, that he was a pacifist, that he defines himself as anti-war. Now how can this be said, in good conscience, by someone who has just, standing by the side of the dictator of Syria, on the 30th of July, referred to the 154 heroic operations conducted in Iraq by the so-called resistance, or the resistance that is run as we know by a senior bin Ladenist and by many of the former secret police of the Baathist regime? How can someone say, and say they're anti-war and they care about casualties that they praise the 154 operations a day?
CH: I ask you. 145, he's coming down a bit. Um...
GG: No, that's what it says in your leaflet. It says 145 in your leaflet.
CH: It's not that many... It's not that many...
Let me, let me, let me intro... Let me remind you what some of those operations were. The blowing up by military grade explosives of the headquarters of the United Nations in Baghdad a few months after the intervention. As it was being tenanted by Sergio de Mello, one of the great international civil servants of our time who was fresh from, Amy knows more about this than I, but fresh from his role in the very belated supervision of the independence of East Timor from Indonesia, and the holding of free elections in East Timor. And the jihadists who murdered him put out a communiqué saying we have today put an end to the life of this disgusting man because he freed Timor from Muslim holy land in Indonesia. These people are not pacifists, ladies and gentleman, nor are they anti-imperialists. If you haven't noticed, they called for the restoration of the lost empire, the caliphate, and the imposition of Sharia law on all non-believers within its borders. That's not pacifism, that's not anti-imperialism. And to praise the people who do this...
To sully the name of Charles James Fox, ladies and gentleman, with such a squalid, with such a squalid enterprise of brigandage and conquest is truly revolting. It's almost as funny as Michael Moore saying that the Zarqawi'ite resistance in Iraq, for him, the same as the Minute Men of the American revolution. There comes a point, and I think it's come by now, where what people say is self-discrediting, requires no more comment from me. Some of this is funny, OK. Some of it simply shows that the people on the other side of this house are not serious. The cheap laugh and easy joke will do for them. Of course it's funny, that the authoress of the Vagina Monologues puts Mr. Galloway on the campaign trail with Jane Fonda, who can't laugh at that? I know, I know a number of women who can't wait, people who used to know Mr. Galloway, to hear a woman talk back to him in any way at all. But the seriousness of it can't be concealed.
Now among the people killed by these heroic operations, in Iraq, some of them run from Syria and paid for by the human toothbrush and slobbering dauphin Assad, Mr. Galloway's new pal. Among the victims of these, of these operations was specialist Casey Sheehan, who was trying to clean up the festering slum of what had once been called Saddam City, and was now known to us as Sadr City where the water-supply is coming back on, it's taking a while, because people keep blowing it up, but it's coming back on. Now I will put a simple moral proposition to you and see if I've phrased it alright. Is it not rather revolting to appear in Damascus by the side of Assad and to praise the people who killed Casey Sheehan, and then to come to America and appeal to the emotions of his mother?
I, I say, I say sincerely I didn't think it could get as low as that, and yes I did criticize the luckless Mrs. Sheehan because she had made a very unfortunate political statement, suggesting that she agreed with Mr. bin Laden that George Bush was the murderer of her son, which is not, the son, the son...
You exculpate the murderer, you exculpate the killers right there. They didn't kill him. Shame on him, shame on you for saying that. Now... She had made an unfortunate statement, which I called her on, and she denied having made it, which is a false claim, and she said that someone else had magically inserted it into her e-mail, which is a claim equally found to be false. All of these claims, ladies and gentleman, can found to be false by a moment's checking.
If you really believe the crazed fabrication, fabrication of the figures of 100,000 deaths in Iraq, and if you think that only people who die in Iraq. Excuse me, that the only deaths caused in Iraq are by coalition forces, if you're willing to believe any or all of that, you can simply go to my colleague Fred Kaplan's space on slate.com. He's a very stern and strong critic of the war, a great opponent of mine, we've had quite a quarrel about it. He's a great writer about science and other matters. It's a simple matter to show this is politicized hack work of the worst kind, the statistics in that case have been conclusively and absolutely shown to be false and I invite anyone to check it. Everything I say, everything I say has at least ten pages of documentation which I'm willing to share behind it, and you'll have your chance to challenge me and ask questions to Amy.
Now um.... I believe that that's really all I particularly need to say, except... Now don't clap so fast. That's cruel, that's mean.
Except to say this about the question of who's who in this war. Iraq is not being occupied by president Talabani, president Talabani was born there. He's had to move a few times, he's seen his villages destroyed and his home bombed and his family shot at and murdered, so he's not occupying Iraq. President Taliban is in fact the leader of the Patriotic Unit of Kurdistan, which is the corresponding member organization of the Socialist International, it is the Iraqi member party of the Socialist International. The Iraqi Communist Party, a party with a great record of bad politics but good civil struggle in Iraq and with great organization among the women and trade unionists and journalists and workers of the country... Has of course been a member already of the provisional government and is campaigning enthusiastically in the elections.
There are probably some people among you here who fancy yourself as having leftist revolutionary credentials, as far as I can tell that you do from the zoo-noises that you make... And the scars that you can demonstrate from your long, underground, twilight struggle against Dick Cheney. But while you're masturbating in that manner, the Iraqi secular left, the socialist and communist movements, the workers' movement, the trade unions, are fighting for their lives against the most vicious and indiscriminant form of fascist violence that any country in the region has seen for a very long time.
And the full intent of that, the full intent of that was, and I'll say it to it, yes, yes in Fallujah was to establish a Taliban-regime and a safe-house for al-Qaeda recruiting. That's what we were facing. You think you can fight that without casualties? You're irresponsible, you're ahistorical. We take, on this side of the house, without conditions, we take our side with the struggle of the Iraqi democratic and secular left against fascism, we make no apology. Those who have betrayed their own party, Mr. Galloway had to be expelled from the great labor movement of which I was, I myself still a member, because of advocating the shooting, publicly advocating jihad against British troops, now turns on the Iraqi left and wishes them well. As they, as wishes and argues and hopes for their defeat by an onslaught which would make Afghanistan seem like a civilized country. What two positions can one take about this, I invite you to consider, ladies and gentleman, and consider carefully, and thank you.
AG: I wanted to see if we could get some wind screens on the microphones here. Um, but failing that, if you could just lower your microphone Mr. Galloway so that you don't speak right into it. Great. Ten minutes, George Galloway.
GG: Crazed fabrications? Johns Hopkins University and the Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Association.
CH: Yes, check it out.
GG: Are engaged in crazed fabrications?
CH: Politicized fabrications.
GG: Isn't that not crazed fabrications you said?
GG: Isn't crazed... Well... Is there anybody really in this hall who believes that Johns... That...
CH: We don't know what you're supposed to believe yet, come on, give him a chance.
GG: You think that one of the, you think that the academics from one of the world's finest universities in your own country are crazed fabricators?
GG: You think that the Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Association are crazed fabricators?
GG: I mean how far, I mean how far, how far, how far has this neo-con rot seeped into your souls? How far?
Now... I'm going to have to deal with this hypocrite Hitchens. He talks about the death of soldiers in an occupation army at the hands of those resisting them. He supported the Algerian resistance in its bitter battle against French occupation which cost a million lives and he supported the FLN who conducted the most bitter, unremitting, unrelenting military struggle which would be today be described and was then by the French described as terrorist. And when Ahmed Ben Bella, the leader of the Algerian revolution, was asked why he was placing bombs in baby carriages and leaving them in the soot to explode amongst the French forces and their collaborators, he answered, "if the French will give us some of their helicopters, some of their aero planes, we will give them our baby carriages." Isn't that the same situation today that Mr. Hitchens' friends are the ones with all the Tomahawks, all the Apaches, isn't it odd that they should chose as the names of their weapons, the totems of the native American population that they mercilessly massacred in centuries gone by?
The Iraqi people have only themselves with which to fight this foreign occupation. This hypocrite crying tears for the American army in Iraq, supported the struggle of the Vietnamese people from the first to the last as they killed 58,000 American soldiers in Vietnam. He opposed the American war in Vietnam and supported those fighting against it. Today, he supports the American occupation of Iraq and seeks to slander those fighting against it. Now there are al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, who's fault is that? Who brought them there? Who brought them there? How did they end up in Iraq? There were no al-Qaeda in Iraq before Bush and Blair attacked it, and now every Islamist in the world...
Is either on his way, or dreaming of being on his way, descending like spores of anthrax on the gaping wounds in Iraq created by your war. And I'll tell you what, they'll then spill around the world, spreading their jihad, exactly as his new, or rather old friends, in Afghanistan, did. The Arab Afghans who were sent by the American administration to Afghanistan in the 1980s became al-Qaeda in the 1990s and into the 21st century. So...
Mr. Hitchens' policy has succeeded in making 10,000 new bin Ladens. He and his friends...
CH: Sorry about that, I didn't mean to do it.
GG: Have deepened the swamp...
CH: Really didn't mean to do it.
GG: ...of hatred out of which these Islamist fundamentalists are climbing. You see, well, somebody laughs, you may think that those aero planes in this city on 9-11 came out of a clear blue sky. I believe they emerged out of a swamp of hatred created by us. I believe, I believe...
GG: I believe, I believe that by, I believe...
I believe. I believe.
CH: Please, please, please, be quiet.
GG: I believe that by their unending, bottomless and total support for general Sharon's crimes against the Palestinian people, the United States...
I don't think, I don't think you're, I don't think you're new friends are quite as keen on the Palestinians as you once were, Christopher. I believe, I believe that by propping up, by propping up the puppet presidents and the corrupt kings who rule the Muslim world almost without exception from one end to the other, western policy has created this swamp of hatred against us. It won't matter...
It won't matter, how many fly-swats we invest in, how many PATRIOT Acts we pass, how many anti-terrorist measures we pass. If you live beside a swamp, no amount of fly-swats will protect you from the monsters who will come out of that swamp. We have to drain that swamp by stopping that support for Sharon's Israel, his apartheid war, his crimes against the Palestinians.
Not many supporters of the Palestinians in your ranks tonight Mr. Hitchens. I think unless we stop propping up these dictators in the Muslim world, none of whom who would last five minutes if it were not for the military, political and financial support of countries like yours and mine. Unless we stop invading and occupying Arab and Muslim countries, then we will be forced to endure the atrocities that took place in New York on 9-11 and in London on 7-7, over and over again. So if I can't reach your hearts, let me at least reach your heads in your own interests..
CH: Try their wallet.
GG: ...in America's own interests. Revert your policy towards Israel and Palestine, reverse your policy towards dictators in the Muslim world. Reverse your policy towards war and occupation and we can all be safer!
AG: Christopher Hitchens, five minutes.
CH: Oh I had no idea. That was the appeal to the cerebellum that last bit was it?
Well OK, you'll forgive me for pausing, I was waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Now, I'm beginning to find myself a little overwhelmed by Mr. Galloway's compliments, in the way he keeps coming up with them from. Um, it's true he did once say of me that I was the greatest living Englishman of letters and polemicists and I was grateful. I could have wished it wasn't published in the newspaper, nostalgic for the rule of Brezhnev, but you take your compliments where you can, and I might add that if anything ignited the hatred and violence that has so come to preoccupy us in the Muslim world, I think it the invasion by the Soviet Union of the entire territory of Afghanistan, its virtual annexation as a country, and the certifiable and provable massacre of many tens of thousands of Afghans, as well as the insult to their religion, is probably a better candidate than the holding of a free election in Iraq, as a provocation...
But you see there'll always be bloody fools who think, yes of course, now you look at the situation in Gaza, it makes perfect sense to commandeer a plane-load of civilians and smash it into a building full of civilians. Why hadn't I thought of that before? I think you may have noticed Mr. Galloway, you picked the wrong city to say that in...
And uh, arguably, and arguably the wrong month as well, because some of us are still mourning, some of us are still mourning.
Please, please... Please.
Some of us are still mourning among other things, the very large number, the very large number, the very large number of Americans of all faiths including very many Arabs and Muslims who were killed in that disgusting atrocity. And when you say if we don't mend our ways, uh, this will happen to us again, if you weren't an ally of Saddam Hussein and um, and uh, Bashar Assad... You had not been an ally of the preachers, of the preachers of hatred and subversion in the region, how dare you say the United States supports the Assad regime in Syria? You, you, you say that you, that I have no grief for the Bush administration in this but it seems to me bizarre that someone should say, fresh from the podium with Bashar Assad that the United States supports all the dictators in the region. What is this we have in concert for once I must say with the French, succeeded in gaining some part of the recovery of the autonomy of Lebanon, which was under...
Either a gross corrupt, and brutal, and illegal Syrian occupation. And the leader of the Lebanon Socialist Party, whose father was murdered by Assad, um, and the leader of the Lebanese Communist Party whose father was murdered last month by this Assad, and all others hailed it as a liberation, and you say it's like the French taking over Algeria. This is piffle, sinister piffle. The French claim in Algeria was that Algeria was part of France, Algerie Francaise. We do not say Iraq Americain, Iraq Anglais, we don't. Let alone Ecossais which it might be, um, if certain numbers of, no, I shall block that note. Excuse me, I came very close there. Um. It's also I think a bit much to be told that these al-Qaeda chaps, these killers and sadists and nihilists and profuse of indiscriminant explosions wouldn't be this way if we weren't so mean to them.
Now, it's true some of them, Mr. Zarqawi their leader, of course, the bin Ladenist leader, was in Iraq before, was well known to have been in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. I can tell you that no one gets in and out of Iraq at that level without the president knowing and it's also true that a group that's affiliated with him, the al-Ansar Islam, a fundamentalist group, thought that its main job was to kill the Kurdish leadership in northern Iraq, they selected, it should seem to be a strange target for holy war, and it's also true that some of them came to Iraq after we threw them out of Afghanistan. Well, that's easy then, leave them in control of Afghanistan, don't mess around with these people, don't make them angry, don't make them mean. It's your fault. Now this is masochism, uh, but it is being offered to you by sadists. OK.
And someone whom hasn't answered my question, my challenge. I said in round terms when I opened that this is not just a matter of which of us can be the rudest, because I already conceded that to Mr. Galloway. Or which of us could be the most cerebral, because he has already conceded that to me. But I said that there's a further grudge between us, which is this, I say that Mr. Galloway discussed the allocation of Oil For Food profits that stole directly from the Iraqi people, and that helped to corrupt the scheme and program of the United Nations. I say he discussed that personally with Mr. Tariq Aziz in Baghdad, at least once, and if he will put his name to an affidavit, that formally denies that, we can have done with this business. But if he does not, it's going to haunt him on every stop of this tour, and all the way back to England, and everywhere he goes to raise the flag of jihad in the Middle East. This I promise you, I promise you.
AG: George Galloway, five minutes.
GG: Bring me the affidavit, I'll sign it now.
CH: Very good.
GG: It's a complete lie. It's a lie like the others lies on your leaflets that you were handing out like and idiot on the street before this meeting.
It's a lie. Buy my book, if you don't want to buy it, go to the website of the RespectCoalition.org and read it. I've already dealt with this, it's a lie. Nobody every discussed oil allocations with me, not Tariq Aziz, not anybody. I've already said it under oath, never mind an affidavit, under oath on pain of imprisonment in front of the US Senate. That smokescreen will not wash. You want me to run through the dictatorships you're supporting? Do you want me to run..?
CH: Yes, sure. Yeah.
CH: Why not?
GG: That is masochism. That really is masochism. You want me to run through the dictatorships?
CH: Yes, yes, yes.
GG: Saudi Arabia.
CH: Yes, get on with it. No.
GG: Do you want me to deal with the dictatorship...
GG: ...of Saudi Arabia, the prison state.
Do you want me to run through the family business more Corleone than Sainsbury's that runs Kuwait?
Do you want me to run through the dictatorship in Egypt? He has the gall to claim the election in Egypt as a fruit of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq. Husni Mubarak got more votes in the so-called free election last week than he got in the election he had admitted he rigged six years previously, and you want to call that democracy.
You talk about democracy in Lebanon? Your cedar revolution? It wasn't democracy they were demanding in the square of the cedar revolution. If there was democracy in Lebanon, sheik Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, would be the president of Lebanon. But he can't be.
CH: Very interesting.
GG: He can't be the president of Lebanon. No Muslim can be the president of Lebanon. You've got to be a Christian to be the president of Lebanon. Even though only 20% of the population of Lebanon are Christians. And how did that come about? Because the United States Marines waded ashore in Beirut in 1958 to impose that constitution on the people of Lebanon. You have the call to talk about dictatorship and democracy, Mr. Hitchens.
You're, and you have the gall to talk about corruption in the Middle East. Your president and his father are complicit to the tune of millions and millions of pounds in the corruption of the Arabian Gulf in Saudi Arabia with the Carlyle Group, with secret Saudi investment in the failed business enterprises of George W. Bush, and you are far more Trotskyist. Wrote in the newspapers that you were backing the re-election of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of this gang. You should be ashamed of yourself, but you're not.
CH: But I'm not.
GG: But you're not.
CH: But I'm not.
But, but you're not ashamed of yourself at all. It's true, I praised you. You were a butterfly. You're now a slug. You did write like an angel, but you're now working for the Devil, and damn you and all your works.
AG: Well, that concludes the first... part of this debate. Now it will be a bit more free-wheeling, I ask you...
I ask you not to speak, um, over each other, but you can go back and forth more. I'd like you each to think of a question you'd like to ask the other. But I'd like to start by asking Christopher Hitchens, you began today by talking about, uh, the evils of Saddam Hussein. That though was not the main argument of president Bush in invading Iraq, it was... weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda. Would you say that he engaged in a systematic campaign to deceive the American people and the world.
CH: Um, it's your first point, you see that it used to be said, ah well, Bush Sr. in the first Gulf War, he only cared about the removal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, he didn't care about the Iraqi people or the Kurds, he only pretended to. The UN resolutions only allowed him to do Kuwait, and fair enough, so whatever you do, you're going to be accused of not giving out your full agenda. So I don't feel myself particularly rung by that point. In his address to the United Nations, in fact, the first address on the subject, the president did mention a full menu, as you might say, of indictment against Iraq which included, or I should say, rather the Baathist dictatorship, which included its record of genocide, its proven record of, of um, deception about weapons of mass destruction, its links with terrorism, and its violation of all the UN resolutions governing these things.
Um, I have written that I think both Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush, um, insulted not just their own electorates, but everyone in the world, by preferring to, uh, shall we say, frighten people, uh, preferring to frighten them than to educate and enlighten them and I have written that repeatedly and I believe it very much. I think that a good cause has been greatly disfigured by that, by those political deformities.
But, if you'll let, allow me to say so, Amy, just as I am not personally responsible for creating 100,000 al-Qaeda fighters, nor am I here as someone who can answers questions on behalf of the Bush administration, rather to the contrary. Um, the, it's, it's, it's a single issue question with me. I think the president was right to do what the previous president and vice-president, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, had only promised to do, and what the United States Senate had only voted to do, which was to move Iraq into the post-Saddam Hussein era. All that was decided and repeatedly promised by the preceding administration and by the US Senate when George Bush was still a provincial governor of Texas. So I don't think this is a subject that can be changed just by saying Dick Cheney and knowing that there are enough morons that will always boo when you say that.
Now, I'm, but you see, I'm a become a touch alarmed of the last moments or so, I'm not certain the plain meaning of words as uttered by me is being understood by the audience. Because if they understood me to say that I favored the royal family of Saudi Arabia at any point, I apologize, I'm sure I didn't say that. If anything I said could be construed to mean it, when I said I supported Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the moral leader of the Egyptian opposition who was in Mubarak's jail, I don't believe I gave an endorsement of Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Galloway appears to think that anything will do. And beneath gutter, there's another gutter gurgling away underneath. But I would rather to debate this question on its, so to say, merits and demerits.
Now, just on this point of weaponry. Um, if you have, as you do have in the case of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a regime that has used chemical and biological weapons against some of its own inhabitants in Kurdistan, against Iran, several times. That has run an elaborate method of concealment, uh, that offered to Mr. Tariq Aziz, Mr. Galloway's best friend, I think he told the Senate Subcommittee, he said best friend or very close friend. A man he has met twelve times, spent Christmas with, Mr. Tariq Aziz has offered, I have an affidavit on this, and we will get one from Mr. Galloway to put the two together. The UN chief inspector for Iraq was offered two million dollars in Tariq Aziz's office face to face, to change his inspections. We know that, we know that dummy-sites were run up for UN fools to inspect, and we know that material was buried and moved and we know that scientists were terrorized and told that their families would be lavishly killed if they cooperated with any inspection.
On this knowledge, of which I'm sorry to say I am the prisoner, I cannot not know this. Any more than I cannot not know that Saddam was trying to buy weapons off the shelf from North Korea. On the basis of this, establishable, provable knowledge, who is going to say, well let's give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt if he says he's not fooling around with weapons now. What responsible leader of any democracy could face his people later if that bet turned out to be wrong? And say well I had every reason to think he was on the level. Come on! Get real! Be serious on this!
AG: And your response to Colin Powell saying that his UN speech was a stain on his record.
CH: I'm sorry?
AG: Your response to Colin Powell saying that his UN speech making the case of weapons of mass destruction was a stain on his record. Just a minute response.
CH: Mmm, I don't give a damn about what Colin Powell thinks about anything. I never have, and I never will. I think he's, I've noticed that he's, having being for a long time, the most overrated public figure in the United States. He's running for the nomination to most overrated man in the world. But I don't really care.
CH: And you can't make me.
AG: George Galloway, Saddam Hussein currently sits in jail. Do you think he has committed any crimes, and if so, what?
GG: Saddam Hussein committed real and serious crimes against the people of Iraq. Most of them, in the 1980s, when he was the closest friend of the United States, and Great Britain.
GG: He uh... He invaded Iran at the behest of the United States and Britain in a war which killed a million people on either side. A war in which chemical and biological weapons were used by both sides, sold to both sides by countries like Britain, America, and West Germany. He, he killed, he massacred Kurdish people in Halabja. I was one of those who demonstrated against it. Mr. Tony Blair, nor any of his cabinet, participated in any of those demonstrations. Because then, the Baathist regime in Iraq, against whom I was resolutely and actively involved, were the best friends and customers of the then allies United States and the United Kingdom. Saddam created a killing field in Iraq. Like all dictatorships, see one of the Goebbelian tricks that Hitchens has performed this evening, with his little leaflet, is to try to give you the impression, in my book, I'm Not the Only One, I come out in favor of Saddam Hussein. In fact, I denounce him in the most withering terms. But you wouldn't get that from the leaflet that Hitchens has given out this evening. So, not only do I think that Saddam Hussein committed real and serious crimes against the Iraqi people, I said so at the time he was committing them, I was denounced for saying so at the time he was committing them, as a communist trouble-maker, disrupting the profitable relations between Iraq and Britain.
CH: Amy, I'm sorry I have to.
I know we're supposed to take it in order, but I think, I think you would think less of me, ladies and gentleman, if I had no reply, uh, to that.
GG: I'll reply to you then.
CH: By all means. Let's see how this goes. Mr. Galloway claims that at a certain period during the 1980s he was supporting Iraqi democrats and protesting against Saddam Hussein, knowing what he was capable of, knowing what he had done, knowing the genocide for example committed in Kurdistan, and knowing of the aggressions of the chemical weaponry, that had been deployed in Iraq. He says he knows that. I've had the opportunity to check with the woman, Anne Clwyd, a very distinguished member of the Labor left in the British Parliament who was the chairman of the relevant organization that campaigned for the restoration of democratic rights in Iraq. She says she has no memory of Mr. Galloway's participation. But let's say that we take his word for it. It means that when he went, having said that he thought that Kuwait was part of the Iraqi motherland, to greet Saddam Hussein in 1994 in Iraq, and to salute him for his courage...
GG: That's another lie.
CH: ...his indefatigability...
GG: You're lying again, your nose is growing.
CH: ...he went, he went and to take his side again, it meant that he in foot on his own evidence, he went in full knowledge of the fact that he was dealing with a murderer, and a monster, and a dictator. So the pit of exculpation that you attempt to dig, Mr. Galloway, has just swallowed you up and the record will show it.
AG: George Galloway.
GG: ...you see, but, but you opposed the war in 1991 in the full knowledge of what had happened at Halabja just three years before. You're the one who went on television, denouncing president Bush for his plan to invade and destroy the regime of Saddam Hussein. You are the one who did it.
CH: That's true.
GG: I saw you, with my own eyes.
CH: Yes, I was there too.
GG: I saw your lips moving!
CH: I was there too.
GG: I saw the words tumble out!
CH: Yeah, yeah.
GG: Keep your wig on, you told Heston. Name four countries around the country of Iraq that you're so keen to attack. You were in completely full knowledge, even better knowledge because it was even fresher, in 1991, the nature of the Saddam regime. But you were against the invasion of Iraq in 1991, presumably because you calculated that a tin pot dictatorship in one country in the Arab world was one thing. Unleashing the right of big superpowers to invade and occupy other peoples' countries without legal authority, without judicial permission of the authorities, political and legal in the world was an even bigger danger. Even bigger danger! I was a, I was a small fry in 1991. Nobody in America was watching me on television, as I was watching you on television in America, and cheering you for your foresightedness, for your wisdom, for your subtlety in knowing...
CH: Doesn't get any better than this.
GG: ...That sometimes in life, you have to choose between bad and badder. Sometimes in life you have to choose between evil and more evil. That's what you did in 1991. The only difference between us is that on the road somewhere, Damascus...
CH: I would say, yeah.
GG: ...I don't know where...
CH: Be careful.
GG: ...I don't know what it was, whether it was Vanity Fair, or whether it was the lucrative contracts that you've landed since, but somehow you decided in 2003, maybe it was the whisky, maybe it was the whisky. Somehow you decided in 2003 to take a line that was the complete opposite of the line you used to take, now you want us to gloss over that point...
CH: Not at all.
GG: ...You say well... Yes you did. You said, I can't understand why so much of my time was devoted to this point. Were you lying then in 1991, or are you lying now? Were you wrong in '91, or are you wrong now? If you were wrong in '91, how should we believe you're right now in 2005. If you are capable of such drastic, dramatic, erratic swings, from being in favor of a devastating war, to being against a devastating war, to being in favor of the liberation struggle in Algeria and Vietnam and Ireland, but against the liberation struggle now in Palestine and Iraq. If you're capable...
CH: The liberation struggle?
GG: ...of such...
CH: Liberation struggle...
GG: ...dramatic, almost, if I can use the word that you used earlier, crazed shifts of opinion, how can anybody take you seriously?
GG: Do I get a question in?
CH: Again I...
AG: Christopher Hitchens.
CH: Again I worry about the plain meaning of words. I believe I said earlier that I held a different view at the time and have since changed it. My articles and statements against the war and my reports from Iraq and its neighbors at the time are all available in a book published by Verso called, uh, this one is called, For the Sake of Argument. And um, I haven't repudiated them, it's that I no longer hold to them. I was unpersuaded in the following manner, I was unpersuaded in the following manner...
GG: I don't have an education to work that one out.
CH: I was unpersuaded in the following manner. I ended the war, I ended the war in northern Iraq, where I saw what the real consequences of Saddam Hussein's rule had been. I knew something about it, there's no question, but I wasn't prepared to be told by so many people, that in their view, the American intervention had saved their lives and the lives of their families. And I hadn't got a clever anti-war argument to make to that point, and I began a process of re-examination of which I can't really say, or be expected to say, that I'm ashamed.
You're right I had some fun at the expense of Charlton Heston, I mean I can remember it too. When I asked him what the neighboring countries were, he said Bahrain, which is of course an island. Um. And it was all good sport, and I'm not ashamed of any of that either, but there comes a point where you've got to be a little more serious.
Now the fact is that there was no invasion by George Bush of Iraq, nor was there any UN mandate to do so, I'm talking about 1991, it wasn't an invasion of Iraq, it was an expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait by a coalition which included even Syria. Now if Mr. Assad can change his mind on this, and um, I can, um, and many other people too. I suppose we'll have to congratulate you on being absolutely 100% consistent in your support for unmentionable thugs and criminals.
AG: What about the issue of uh, timetable withdrawing from Iraq, or withdrawing immediately, or not withdrawing. Let me first put the question to George Galloway, what do you think needs to happen today?
GG: Well Mr. Hitchens says that you have no intention of an Iraq Americana. Well, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, the chances are it probably is a duck. And down on the ground in Iraq, it doesn't look much like the United States is planning to leave of their own volition. After all, they are building massive, and what they hope to be, permanent military bases to station their forces there. They have engineered a puppet regime which they intend to allow to be a kind of lipstick on the ugly face of their occupation. Which will allow their corporate friends, do I really need to mention them, do I need to name them? Do I really need to? I mean they probably got supporters in the hall.
CH: Might as well.
GG: Christopher's new best friends, Bechtel and Halliburton.
GG: And all these robber barons, these vulture capitalists, who're cutting Iraq like a shawarma, stealing the American peoples' money, stealing the Iraqi peoples' money. Do you think they're planning on going home any time soon, of their own volition? Think Halliburton intends to leave? Do you think their plans to force the privatization of all of Iraq's industries and services are because they intend to allow Iraq to be free? Do you think they're forcing of the Iraqi farmers to buy patented seeds so that they will be forever in debt to the agri-business companies of the United States is because they ever allow, intend to allow Iraq to be free? They intend, if they can, to have an Iraq Americana, but the Iraqis have decided otherwise. And that's what you can't stand, that's what you can't stand.
You see. You slander the Iraqi resistance as being foreign fighters, I have to laugh at this term, foreign fighters. Eh? Which part of Iraq is general Myers from? Which part of Iraq are the British and American generals from? The most foreign fighters in Iraq are wearing British and American uniforms in Iraq. But the idea, the idea, that the Iraqi resistance are foreigners or Islamists, fundamentalists, is denied now even by the testimony of the United States generals themselves. Hitchens is clinging to an argument which has even been abandoned by the United States generals themselves. Only 6%, according to the United States government, of prisoners taken from amongst the Iraqi resistance have been foreigners, if Arabs from neighboring Arab countries can be called foreigners by a government in the United States of America. That means that 94% of them are Iraqis, now you should know better, you see we were told in Vietnam that if, if only the red Chinese and the Soviet Union would stop meddling in Vietnam, there would be no Vietnamese resistance. They couldn't bear to concede that the Vietnamese people were prepared to fight them with their teeth if necessary, to rid their country of foreign domination. They've told us in every single anti-colonial struggle, that it was foreign interference, it was the reds, or its the Islamists from outside, if only we could extirpate them. Kerpow the man in a turban with a beard in the Tora Bora, or his lieutenant, Zarqawi, who it turns out actually fell out with bin Laden a very long time ago, according to the excellent rebuttal of Mr. Hitchens' ten points by professor Juan Cole of Michigan University, available on the internet to anyone who wants to read. A man even more cerebral than Christopher Hitchens. This slander of the Iraqi resistance is self-deluding. You're fooling yourselves if you believe it, because if you believe it, you must believe that if only you could seal the borders a bit more, if only you could get rid of the foreign fighters, then everything would be rosy, everything would be hunky-dory. This is a level of self-delusion which borders frankly on the racist. The vast majority of the people of Iraq are against the American and British occupation of their country. Your own friend, Coburn, writing from Iraq recently, said so. The vast majority of Iraqis want this occupation to end.
GG: And the vast majority of those fighting to bring it to and end, are Iraqis. Get used to it, get over it, understand it, or you're fooling yourselves.
AG: George Galloway with one word, do you think the US and British forces should be withdrawn immediately?
GG: Not only do I...
AG: Only a word, only a word.
GG: Only one word?
AG: Yes or no.
GG: Ah, yes.
AG: OK, Chris..
Christopher Hitchens, when do you think the US troops should leave Iraq?
CH: I think I can be as precise, but perhaps not as terse as Mr. Galloway on this point. Um, I should thank him by the way, for eliciting, or allowing, allowing me to elicit, or you perhaps ladies and gentleman to elicit from him, what I feared, but didn't hope, but in other words a full declaration of support for the campaign of sabotage, and murder, and beheading that has taken the lives of great journalists, that demolished...
... demolished the offices, demolished the offices, demolished the offices of the United Nations.
GG: Are there no depths to you which you will not sink?
CH: Demolished the offices of the United Nations and the Red Cross...
GG: Are there any depths to which you will not sink?
CH: Shot down, shot down senior clerics outside their places of worship and continues as a campaign of mayhem to this day.
GG: Are there no depths to which you will not sink? You've fallen out of the gutter into the sewer.
CH: It will be, you might all care to remember...
GG: You've fallen out of the gutter into the sewer.
CH: You might all care to remember that you are being televised, ladies and gentleman. I trust your mothers are not watching. You're shouting at me down so I can answer the question. You're unclear on the concept. Um, I will proceed if I'm allowed to. But I'm just reminding you, you're on telly, OK? Just hope your friends and relatives aren't watching.
Now, a campaign, a campaign, a campaign of mayhem and sabotage that was most obviously directed, here's where I wanted to move to my point, in February last, against the only attempt that Iraq has ever seen to hold a national election to provide a parliament, a constitution, and an elected government. Now, what are the odds, do you think, that those who are blowing up the offices of the UN, and who recently shot down a senior Sunni cleric in Baghdad because he too wants an end to the occupation, but he asked his congregation to vote in the upcoming elections. What are the odds that these people represent the secret silent majority in Iraq, as say the FLN did in Algeria? Um, well, let's just do some simple, relatively simple arithmetic. In the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq, there is really not a single sympathizer either of the Baath party or of al-Qaeda, it can be taken as a certainty. That's we know that at least 20% of the population considers this resistance to be a fascist pest and have committed their heroic armed forces, because there is a rebel army in Iraq. There is a peoples' army, there is a guerilla force in Iraq, it is called the Peshmurga, it's the peoples' liberation army of Palestine, and it fights on our side. And we, at last, because Mr. Galloway is right, that our policy in the past has been heinous, we at last fight on their side too, excellent.
Now, very well. Moving right along. It is admitted, I don't think it's even denied by the egregious figure of professor Cole, um, who's never set foot in the region, though claims to speak Farsi and various other languages. I don't believe it's denied even by him, and he changes his mind on these things about once a week. That ayatollah Sistani, grand ayatollah Sistani, is considered by the majority of the Iraqi Shia to be, let's say, that's their spiritual leader. If it had been up to grand ayatollah Sistani, and if you're right, if it had been up to my advice too. Mr. Paul Bremer would have had to call elections much earlier than he did and so he should have done, and make a transfer of sovereignty much sooner than he did and so he should have done. But we have no reason to doubt that the forces that favor this transition to a federal democratic system in Iraq where no one group rules by violence or terror, or by dictatorship. Where there's federal and local autonomy and where disputes are not settled by violence, is favored by the latent majority of the Iraqi people. Because if that's not so, it's very easy for them to participate in the vote, and what they do instead is they try and sabotage it. I think it's a very eloquent campaign that's being run by Mr. Galloway's heroic resistance now, to stop these elections from happening. To speak to the people, the terrified people who've been through 3.5 decades of war and fascism and terror and never given them a moment to breathe, never give them a moment's freedom from fear and intimidation. Shame on the people, shame on the people who call this a liberation movement.
AG: Christopher Hitchens, what about the cost of this war at home? I've just come from New Orleans. Um, across the political spectrum you're hearing more and more dissent and criticism of what's happening in Iraq because of what didn't happen in New Orleans. The lack of National Guard in Mississippi and Louisiana, the uh, weapons, rather, the vehicles that were needed that weren't there. So two questions on that, what about the cost here at home, um, with the hurricane Katrina and the lack of response? And if the, we see clearly, because the reporters are unimbedded here, the troops weren't in New Orleans, and they really presented the pictures, we see clearly the way the US responded here in terms of rebuilding or not, what makes you think the US is any better in Iraq?
I would caution people from adopting a zero sum mentality in this respect. I had the opportunity to speak with a close associate of lieutenant general Steve Blum, some time ago and he said that he had, before the situation became as dire as it did, had been able to call up the Secretary of Defense and say ,"I have 200,000 troops you can have any time." But the question is where's the order going to come from? The president can't, as you know, Amy, cannot order American troops into action in a state of the union. He has to be asked by the governor for this to happen, and the governor has to admit...
Well I'm sorry it's in the Consti-, I'm sorry it's in the Constitution, it is in the Constitution.
GG: He sent troops to Iraq.
CH: Unless you want, unless you want to invoke the Insurrection Act, which hasn't been, I think, invoked since the Civil War. So the fact of the matter is there were more than enough soldiers, they just weren't given the orders in time. And that's a matter for you, but as soon as they made their appearance, didn't everything start to look a lot better? Aren't you proud of general Honore? Are you not proud that, that a man born into, that a man born into segregation and discrimination, is leading really hard, professional, tough, generous, brave men and women in uniform for the recovery of New Orleans? And all this time has a son in Fallujah, and seems to think he can manage both? I think it's hugely to the credit of the United States Armed Forces that they would consider it ignoble to abandon their commitments in Sadr City and in Halabja, and elsewhere. Ignoble, and parochial, and provincial.
Now, Mr. Galloway came a little near the knuckle a moment ago, and I decided to overlook it. He said what I was said was bordering on racist. I really feel I'm entitled to ask him to withdraw that imputation, I think that's an opprobrious thing to say. But I will have to add, that for people to start pumping out propaganda before the bodies have even been uncovered in New Orleans saying, and to make points, demagogic often, they wouldn't be dead if they weren't black. But people haven't been identified yet, whose parents don't know where they are. And to say this wouldn't have happened if we weren't wasting money on Arabs? That, that is an appeal to the most base, provincial, isolationist, and chauvinist mentality.
CH: You're on TV.
AG: George Galloway.
GG: I'm so glad Mr. Hitchens gave that answer, you see, this is where it ends, isn't it? You start off being the liberal mouthpiece of one of the most reactionary governments this country has ever seen on the subject of war. You say you've got your own liberal reasons for doing so, and you end up an apologist and a mouthpiece for those miserable, malevolent incompetents who couldn't even pick up the bodies of their own citizens in New Orleans in the aftermath of a hurricane.
That's where it ends. That's where it ends. You end up, you end up a mouthpiece and an apologist for the Bush family whose matriarch, you want to talk about racism? What about Barbara Bush? What about Barbara Bush who took a look at the poor, huddled, masses in the Astrodome and told us they'd never had it so good? Who told us they were better off than they'd ever been. Underprivileged people, now in an Astrodome, the only problem with whom she said was that so many of them wanted to stay in Texas. You know, Hitchens, you're a court jester. You're a court jester.
Not a, not at Camelot, like other ridiculous other former liberals before you, but at the court of the Bourbon Bushes. Barbara Bush, the Marie Antoinette of modern-day American politics.
CH: Well I think I have to say a quick word, Amy if I may, this is all good knock-about stuff, but um. I must say Mrs. Bush Sr. does reminds me of, I think it was Lady Diana Cooper, who was once stopped outside Claridge's Hotel in London as she was waiting under the umbrella for the Daimler be brought around after the ball. Ragged man approached her and said, "Mam," he said, "I haven't eaten for three days." She said, "Well you're very foolish then, you must try. If necessary, you must force yourself if necessary." It's called a tumbrel remark in some circles.
Yes, I don't know where the Marie Antoinette cake shop was in the Astrodome, but I if you notice, I didn't say that I defended the president's record on this, and I have written very critically about it already for all of you to read in Slate magazine. What I will not have said, what I will not have said, is that we should go to a refugee woman in Biloxi and say to her, "Do you realize the Arabs have stolen the money that should have come for you?" And we have no, we have no right to put the poor against each other in that way, and betray our internationalism.
And we have no right whatever, to, to, to, to insult, to insult the tremendous performance of the United States Armed Forces once they are put into action. And I will add one more thing, the 82nd Airborne and the 1st Air Cavalry, so far from being distracted by Iraq, have learned in Iraq matters of civil reconstruction, water-distribution, purification, culture. That have been extremely useful to them in New Orleans. The case, the case. Don't, I will advise you not to jeer these men and women while you're being televised, ladies and gentleman. I would advise you not to do it.
The shame is yours, I'm awfully sorry. I meant to have said that before, in any case. Yes, and we will bring Sadr City back too, and we will rebuild Halabja, yes we will. And not only that, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Army Corps of Engineers has just finished building a new extension of the Kabul to Khandahar highway in Afghanistan. That's what the Army Corps of Engineers do. Which means that, the journeys between several major cities in Afghanistan, which used to takes days over rocky and dangerous roads, are now much easier. And a triumph of humanism has occurred. If I was a less patient person I would get the impression that someone was trying to shut me up here. Don't even think about it.
What I say...
What I say doesn't require your endorsement and isn't drowned by your zoo-noises because I'm on C-SPAN now, and all they can hear is you baying. That can make me out alright, so just give it up, OK? Simmer down. Or let me put it like this, it takes a bit more than that, takes a bit more than that, tough guys and gals, to shut me up as well. Now, you might, the word warlord is quite often used when talking about Afghanistan, which is a country we haven't talked about enough. Where as I say, the Taliban would still be in power if the anti-war movement's advice had been heeded. What is a warlord? A warlord is someone who can control a piece of road by force, who can with a few brigandages roll a rock into that road and say you don't pass without paying tribute to me. A warlord is one of the seedbeds of the swamp that Mr. Galloway describes that breeds terrorism. If you can build solid, wide roads that directly connect the cities, you abolish brigandagen warlordrly. Are you in favor of abandoning Afghanistan to warlordage and brigandry again?
And see what happens?
GG: We have.
CH: I heard a few yeses, I thought I might.
GG: You already have. That's exactly what happened.
CH: Anything is better than imperialism right? Well...
GG: The warlords are ruling Afghanistan.
CH: Consider carefully what you may be... Consider carefully what you may be demanding. I think it is a most excellent use of our Army Corps of Engineers to help liberate Afghanistan and its neighbors from that kind of tyranny. I also think, perhaps it would be ignoble to add this, it is not without a dimension that involves our own self-interest because we do indeed know the swamp from which the enemy first came. And this is what it means to drain it, that and swatting the mosquitoes, half to a hat, killing them, in other words, poisoning them, putting them down, knowing an enemy when we see one, treating an enemy like an enemy, recognizing that we have a deadly foe, not surrendering. Not surrendering at the invitation of a courtier of sadists.
I'm not a member of the Bush entourage. I've never appeared on a public platform with a dictator, I never have and I never will. I couldn't face you if I had that on my record. It must be some sordid kind of displaced guilt that makes Mr. Galloway want to throw out accusations like this. I've never done that, and to come fresh from embracing these blood-stained bastards and to say to you that it's your fault that these people hate you. It's more than we should be expected to take.
AG: Uh. Before, before you each give your closing five minutes, I wanted to ask each of you, Christopher Hitchens and then I'll ask you a question about the media George Galloway. But Christopher Hitchens, as you've changed your views over time, do you feel that the media is friendlier to you?
CH: Um. I'm just. Trying to think. Um. No I have, I have um. I was a columnist for say Vanity Fair where most of my readers follow my stuff. Um, before I, um, resigned from the Nation for example, and I still, as it were get that job back quitting the Nation, um, I have a feeling I know the imputation of what you're saying. Um, but, I would think I probably wouldn't be the best judge in my own cause. I can see the editor of the Nation magazine sitting in the front row, I'd feel fairly confident that if you asked him he would not say that I left the Nation in order to improve my salary prospects, but um. And I frankly think that's a bit a waste of a question.
Plainly, plainly, if the impression I give is of someone who is mercenary and actually bad at handling money as that, it's an impression I wouldn't be able to correct by denying it.
GG: That was a bad waste of an answer.
Well I don't know about you Amy, but I'm beginning to think this debate is running out of steam, a little.
CH: Yes I have the same impression.
GG: If, if Mr. Hitchens agrees, it might be that we should begin to think about winding it up without further ado. I see some of the audience are leaving. The hour is late, and I think we've generated about as much light as we're going to, and as much heat as we ought to
GG: Because uh, Mr. Hitchens is right, I'm certainly no pacifist. And neither is he. And we probably oughten't to get any more belligerent towards each other than we have already.
CH: Don't worry about that.
AG: Well, why don't we give the, why don't you give...
GG: But if I still have the mic, uh, I would just like to say that this issue of whether the Iraq war was necessary and just or not, is one which is already being adjudicated upon by the people who are watching on C-SPAN, by the people who'll read these proceedings this evening, in their opinion polls, in their comments of all kinds. There are very, very few friends left of the argument Mr. Hitchens has put, of course on the far shores of the crazed right-wing neo-con circles in the United States, he's a new hero. But amongst the mainstream majority, and amongst those with whom Mr. Hitchens used to travel, this subject is already adjudged. You see the Elysian Fields that he seeks to conjure up in his depiction of Iraq. Today, simply don't dare any resemblance to the situation we all see on our television screens and read about in our newspapers every day.
The situation's not getting better in Iraq, it's getting worse. Religious fundamentalism, to which he is so opposed, has been put in power in Iraq by the invasion of Bush and Blair. The grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, of whom Mr. Hitchens, it's a very bizarre Trotskyist friend of the grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, that he speaks so approvingly of now, is the ruling power in Iraq and believe me he is an Islamic fundamentalist. Believe me, he wants to ensure that the people who live under his view follow every dot and comma of the Islamic fundamentalist, uh, agenda.
And I warned you to be careful of what you wish for, because if either the United States, or its friend, Israel, attacks Iran in the next period over the issue of nuclear power, Iran will answer in Iraq. And they will answer above all in the south of Iraq where the grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is top-dog thanks to your friends Bush and Blair. Extremism has not been dampened down by this war, it has been fantastically enhanced. The number of people who hate us has not been reduced, but has been greatly enlarged. The confidence of people in their own governments and their own political systems in the belligerent countries has not been enhanced, it has been substantially undermined. The ability of the international legal and political system to operate as a means of resolving disputes has not been enhanced by this affair but has been fatally undermined by it.
This is a disaster, this war on Iraq. When the French statesman Talleyrand was told by an aide of the murder of a political opponent, the aide said, "It's a terrible crime sir," and Talleyrand answered, "It's worse than a crime, it's a blunder." This attack on Iraq and its subsequent occupation is a crime yes, but it's worse than a crime, it's a blunder, it's a blunder that's made us all more insecure. It's a blunder that has destabilized the world, multiplied our enemies, it has few friends left, and you will regard yourselves as having been privileged in years to come, that you were able to witness the ridiculous spectacle of this popinjay who continues to support it.
AG: Chris... Christopher Hitchens, your final five minutes.
CH: Well I do share Mr. Galloway's feeling that our debate, our exchange might have been passed the point of being pointful. I can't object to being called a popinjay since the principal definition is that of a target for archery and shot. Which I dare say I have brought upon myself and certainly feel well earned in Mr. Galloway's case. I will just have to say, since even from the chair there was a question about my motive in this, and I think I can describe it fairly simply. It was rather fairly put in fact by my great antagonist Harold Meyerson, editor of the American Prospect in a recent article. He said, "Mr. Hitchens' motivation for being involved in this appears to be his old friendship and solidarity with the secular Iraqi Kurdish left forces." Well that's nice, because just for once someone's got it right how it was that I made some new friends, didn't lose the old ones unless they wanted to desert me, but I will tell you that some of the admirers of the MoveOn.org world that I may have lost are well worth it in exchange for the comrades I have made.
And once Mr. Galloway may have enough in his memory as a socialist, the name that he has come to disgrace so gravely, so horribly, to remember that if you take a position of solidarity with your comrades, you take it win or lose, up or down. You don't say, "Well, I'm sorry comrades, brothers and sisters, I'm going to have to desert you now." Because they might say, "Well why's that?" And I might have say, have to tell them, "Well, because Michael Moore said so" or "Because Cindy says so" or because someone's offered me some Oil For Food money to do so, and I'm not going to do it.
You would be, you would have more to be proud of, ladies and gentleman, if you could after tonight, point to something that you have done to help build up the new Iraq. Point to something that you were doing to help the Iraqi women's organizations who indeed do have to combat fundamentalism. Point to something you had done to help unearth the mass graves, and console the relatives of those who are found in them. Point to something you had yourselves contributed to the emancipation of Kurdistan. You could do something perhaps something to help the new Iraqi press and media acquire some more modern equipment on which to conduct this debate. Why don't you think of the possible nobility of that alternative? Because to offer your solidarity instead to the 154 operations that are sabotaging...
CH: ...this fine process, is to be, is to be, I think, hopelessly covered in shame in something you'll look back on, uh, with real regret. It's not too late, there are many, many, many outlets for your, for your compassion, your energy, your internationalism. Many Iraqis are crying out for your help, don't appear, do not, do not appear, do not appear to be deaf on a point as important as this, and with that, that's the end of my pro bono bit. From now on if you want to talk to me, you'll need a receipt and I'll be sitting selling books because this is after all, America. Thank you so much for coming.
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