August 24, 2005
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
Hitchens Backs Down
Just to remind you, before you read his letter to CounterPunch, here's what I
wrote about Christopher Hitchens in my CounterPunch Diary last weekend.
You can tell in five-minutes channel surfing how Cindy Sheehan frightens the
pro-war crowd. One bereaved mom from Vacaville, camped outside Bush's home in
Crawford, reproaching the vacationing President for sending her son to a
pointless death in Iraq has got the hellhounds of the right barking in venomous
Christopher Hitchens attacked Cindy Sheehan, of course. Called her a
LaRouchie! Why? No reason given. He obviously reckons "LaRouchie" is one of those
let-her-deny-it slurs, like "anti-Semite". Let's suppose Hitchens was writing in
similarly nasty terms about Hitchens. He'd probably remember that in 1999
Edward Jay Epstein publicly recalled a dinner in the Royalton Hotel in New York
where Epstein said Hitchens had doubted the Holocaust was quite what it's cracked
up to be. In Epstein's memory Hitchens belittled the idea that six million
Jews died, said the number was much less.
So, under Hitchens' rules of polemical engagement, was does that make
Hitchens? A holocaust denier, a guy who has Faurisson and David Irving's books under
his pillow. A Jew hater, or if you believe his sudden discovery (privately
denied by his own brother on at least one occasion) at a mature age that his
mother was Jewish a Jewish self-hater. Of course Hitchens revels in Cindy
Sheehan's denial that she said in an email that her son died in a war for Israel.
Hitchens writes that this denial makes her "a shifty fantasist". What would
Hitchens, who's an on-the-record admirer ("a great historian") of the work of Nazi
chronicler David Irving say about Hitchens' shifty denial of Epstein's
recollection? What fun he would have with the witnesses the panic-stricken Hitchens,
well aware that "holocaust denier" is not part of the resume of a Vanity Fair
columnist, hastily mustered for his defense, a woman and a man present at that
famous dinner in the Royalton. One his close friend, Anna Wintour, the present
editor of Vogue and the other, Brian McNally, a longtime friend and business
What a truly disgusting sack of shit Hitchens is. A guy who called Sid
Blumenthal one of his best friends and then tried to have him thrown into prison for
perjury; a guy who waited till his friend Edward Said was on his death bed
before attacking him in the Atlantic Monthly; a guy who knows perfectly well the
role Israel plays in US policy but who does not scruple to flail Cindy
Sheehan as a LaRouchie and anti-Semite because, maybe, she dared mention the word
Israel. She lost a son? Hitchens (who should perhaps be careful on the topic of
sending children off to die) says that's of scant account, and no reason why
we should take her seriously. Then he brays about the horrors let loose in Iraq
if the troops come home, with no mention of how the invasion he worked for
has already unleashed them.
Now for Hitchens' letter, with my point-by-point comments in red.
The last time I can remember having contact with Alexander Cockburn was a
little while ago, when I wrote him a note to encourage his defiance of all those
who employed the innuendo of "anti-Semite" against him. This was a slander
that was often used against both of us in the days when we defended the first
intifadeh in the pages of The Nation and elsewhere.
So I'm a touch alarmed to see him so much disconcerted, by the realisation
that Cindy Sheehan is a flake, as to try and turn this same hose of abuse on me.
But a few swift points, if I may.
Extended search in the archives elicits no trace of this supportive letter.
No matter. Let's assume Hitchens sent it. It merely highlights his hypocrisy
and opportunism in trying to smear Cindy Sheehan on this very charge. And why
does he write that I think Sheehan is "a flake", when I obviously don't?
1) Edward J. Epstein himself gave the names of Anna Wintour and Brian McNally
as the only witnesses he could recall, to a statement that I never made. And
indeed, they were the only other guests I could remember at a dinner-table
that he attempted to crash. So their affirmative statements on my behalf seemed
to decide the matter.
On this point let me express my confidence in two things: Edward Jay
Epstein's powers of recollection and the loyalty to their pal Hitchens of both Wintour
and McNally. As for Hitchens' views on the Holocaust, last week one of the
most adoring of his former claque, Dennis Perrin, publicly recalled Hitchens
talking to him some years ago about the Holocaust: "Take the claim that gassed
Jews were turned into soap and lampshades. 'Stalinist fiction, my dear boy,' he
said with a smile."
2) The same allegation surfaced a few years later, in the mouth of Henry
Kissinger, and it has crossed my mind that Epstein may have been the foul-mouthed
whisperer in that case also. Be that as it may, anyone with the patience to
visit my website can read the ensuing correspondence between my lawyers and
Henry Kissinger's lawyers. They withdrew the allegation and promised not to repeat
it. Cockburn's standards are more relaxed: any old stick will do.
There's no need for dramatic evocation of a"foul-mouthed whisperer". When
Epstein recalled Hitchens at the Royalton questioning the Six Million Dead, it
was well covered in the press. Kissinger reads newspapers, same as other people.
When he smeared Hitchens as a holocaust denier Hitchens got a good libel
lawyer to write a threatening letter to Kissinger's lawyers. Kissinger's lawyers
blinked, which was lucky for Hitchens who would have faced years of discovery
and sworn depositions and mountainous legal bills. Of course these days
Hitchens and Kissinger are on the same side, so they should shake hands and agree to
forget all past unpleasantness. As for "relaxed' standards, let me remind
Hitchens that I prefaced my remarks about him with the sentence "Let's suppose
Hitchens was writing in similarly nasty terms about Hitchens", as he did about
Cindy Sheehan. Now that he's felt its sting, maybe he should think twice about
giving others the Hitchens treatment.
3) My long account of my view of, and experience of, David Irving is to be
found in my latest collection, entitled Love, Poverty and War and published by
Who cares about long essays? In terms of the "Hitchens treatment", his
lauding of Irving as "a great historian" is the phrase that counts.
4) My account of the sordid discoveries I made about my former friend Sidney
Blumenthal was printed at tedious length in the Atlantic Monthly when his own
misleading memoir was published.
Nothing was more ludicrous that Hitchens' post hoc efforts to lend a shimmer
of moral principle to the squalid business of trying to get one of his closest
friends in Washington thrown into prison for perjury.
No, I take that back. There WAS something more ludicrous, namely Hitchens'
hope that Sid Blumenthal would forgive him and they could be friends again. Not
long after he signed the affidavit designed to put Blumenthal behind bars,
Hitchens showed up at one Georgetown party and proclaimed loudly to a reporter
that Blumenthal had given him the suspicion of a nod that might well have been
friendly. Of course Blumenthal thought then what he thinks now: that Hitchens
was and is a grade A dirtbag.
5) So was my review of the 25th anniversary re-edition of Edward Said's
Orientalism; a review determined by the book's date of publication and not by the
rhythms of Edward's leukaemia. I had in the preceding years published a long
disagreement with him in Salmagundi - that was on the Middle East - and another
in my book on George Orwell. Both of these he disliked but was cordial and
gruff about. I sent him an early copy of my review of Orientalism.
No one ordered Hitchens to write about Said's re-edition as Edward went into
his final decline. It was at the time when Hitchens was burnishing his
credentials as the hammer of Islam, an activity he obviously reckoned to be far more
important than an old friendship.
6) I have no idea where Cockburn derives his knowledge of my brother's
opinion, and I don't have fraternal relations as close as he does, but I could prove
by the birth and marriage certificates that my brother gave me that our
matrilineal side is Jewish. Why I should have to do this in an exchange with
Cockburn is beyond me. My brother is a Christian fundamentalist, a supporter of
"intelligent design" theory, a strong opponent of Blair and Bush in Iraq, and a
member of Pat Buchanan's editorial advisory board at the American Conservative.
He is, perhaps paradoxically, a strong pro-Zionist. But possibly he doesn't
wish to be Jewish. That's his right.
You have to run awfully fast to keep up with the memory shifts and
ideological gyrations of one Hitchens brother, so maybe the other is the same way. P.
Hitchens certainly did tell a friend of mine a few years ago that C. Hitchens
was talking rot about their mother.
7) In a recent effusion in the Huffington Post, Cindy Sheehan repeats the lie
that her letter to ABC News Nightline was doctored, and says that a colleague
of hers inserted the offending words in furtherance of his own "anti-Semitic"
agenda. If she regards her own words as anti-Jewish, it's not up to me to
correct her. I have not said that she is anti-Jewish, only that she shows
asinister ineptness in handling the wild idea of a PNAC/JINSA pro-Sharon secret
government in the United States. All I could do - see my latest Slate column and
its sidebar - was to prove that her denial of her original words was 100% false.
But perhaps to a "Mom", all things are pardonable. Cockburn wasn't always
Gee! Hitchens attacks Cindy Sheehan for "paranoid anti-Zionism" and makes
sure he gets her name in the same paragraph as David Duke'. Then he says piously
"I have not said that she is anti-Jewish".
8) On consideration, I would take back the word "LaRouchie", which I applied
not to her but to the words she said she didn't utter (but did). I was looking
for a general phrase that united a pseudo-Left rhetoric with a rightist one.
It is David Duke and Patrick Buchanan, as much as CounterPunch, who speak so
hotly about her "groundswell". But let us by all means guard against guilt by
association - even when the association is apparently welcome, or incited.
Six hundred and twenty nine words into a seven hundred and eighty-two word
letter Hitchens addresses the very first point I raised, slipping us the news
that he takes it back. Don't you just love the way he manages to squeeze Duke's
name in again, before inveighing against "guilt by association"! And what's
this about "welcome, or incited"? Is Hitchens trying to hint that Sheehan
welcomed Duke's support?
In a way, Cockburn has the courage of his convictions (as well as, see above,
the cowardice of them). I dare say he is annoyed to find "Cindy" crumbling
under the first tough question she was asked. And he is welcome to describe me
as a "sack of shit", as well as to smear excrement all over the walls of his
nursery. But the above remain the facts.
Someone forwarded me an email he'd sent to Hitchens about the London
bombings, along with Hitchens' thoughtful response, to the effect that the e-mailer
was "puke-covered". I thought of calling Hitchens puke-covered, but in the end
opted for sack of shit, on the grounds that the phrase evoked the core
personality, rather than merely its superficial aspects.
I was surprised to see how many people wrote to CounterPunch after my remarks
about Hitchens and his attack on Sheehan. Normally one can reckon that at
least a couple of old Hitchens loyalists on the left side of the spectrum - not
the scum he currently runs with - will try to defend the man. Not this time.
Nary a pro-Hitchens email dropped into our inbox. With that Sheehan piece I
reckon he lost the last of his former fans. Here, pure and crude, was Hitchens as
White House hatchet man (no doubt getting his usual marching orders from
Cheney aide Kevin Kellums), marching shoulder to shoulder with Limbaugh and
O'Reilly, smearing a courageous and articulate woman.
There's no useful debate to be had with Hitchens. The man's been shipwrecked
by reality, but on his fantasy Titanic Commodore Hitchens still paces the
bridge, swearing against all the evidence that his ship's on course. He urged a
war which has plunged a country, Iraq, ever deeper into death and ruin. How long
will he go on saying the attack was worth it and that America should stay the
course. On "staying the course" the people of Iraq gave their view in the
elections, which they hoped would spell swift American departure. Of course
Saddam Hussein was a bloodthirsty tyrant who brought misery and death to the Iraqi
people. What will it take beyond the present 100,000 dead Iraqis for Hitchens
and those like him to concede that between Saddam or invasion and American
occupation, the former, indubitably horrible, was the preferable option? 500,000
dead, a million, two million? And at what point will the hammer of
"Islamo-fascism" concede that no greater boost was ever given to Islamic fundamentalism
in Iraq than the American attack. Of course Hitchens has got too much invested
in this war ever to concede any of this. I'm sure that he went about the dirty
business of sliming Cindy Sheehan without the slightest twinge.
Hell hath no fury like Hitchens scorned
Indian Affairs can print no more
By Albert Eisele and Jeff Dufour
July 12, 2005
An Israel-bashing New Yorker who takes to spamming journalists and other
unwitting souls has picked on the wrong guy, earning a rebuke from that caustic
critic Christopher Hitchens as a “puke-flecked moron.”
Michael Santomauro, a Holocaust revisionist who operates the
www.reportersnotebook.com website, sends out barrages of Jewish-obsessed e-mails each day from
the address email@example.com.
After the attacks on London, Santomauro sent out an e-mail stating: “These
attacks are obviously the result of Blair poodling along with Bush in his war
for Israel in Iraq. … It is utterly tragic when an overwhelming majority of the
British public were against the war and Bush’s poodle [Blair] still went along
with the Iraq invasion for Lord Levy and company. … Incredible. … My
heartfelt condolences are with the people of Britain.”
Santomauro’s e-mail list is extensive — so much so that The New York Times
pointed out in 2003 that clients of a roommate-search business he runs in New
York were added to his RePorterNoteBook list.
Whether or not he’s ever rented an apartment in the Big Apple, Hitchens has
evidently found his way onto the list. And after receiving Santomauro’s
diatribe last week, he unleashed his considerable powers of invective, reprinted in a
subsequent e-mail by Santomauro. “Take the condolences and shove them, you
puke-flecked moron,” he wrote. “Do not insult the British in such a way at such
Peace is patriotic!
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