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The Cancer at the Heart of the Propaganda Machine

At a Time When a War on Iran Seems Imminent, Is the Incapacitation of Christopher Hitchens to Be Celebrated?

USA Politics

On June 30, 2010, Vanity Fair journalist Christopher Hitchens confirmed that he has cancer of the esophagus. He posted this note on the Vanity Fair website: “I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice.”

Contemplating this revelation I couldn’t help feeling that the neoconservative armchair warrior was getting his just deserts. Hitchens has in recent years been an ignominious cheerleader for wars of aggression which have led to the wide dissemination of depleted uranium weapons. Such weapons have ballooned cancer-rates among the populations of Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. A recent epidemiological study in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (Volume 7, Number 7) showed that the Iraqi city of Fallujah is experiencing higher rates of infant mortality, cancer and leukemia than was observed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear attacks of 1945. In this article I hope to convince the reader that the prospect of Christopher Hitchens having to cancel engagements – at a time when an Israeli-American assault on Iran seems imminent – is a positive one for humanity as it stands to emasculate the propaganda machine of one of its most erudite apologists for aggressive warfare.

Celebrating and exploiting somebody’s sickness, weakness or even death is something Hitchens often does himself. This gives me license to defend my thesis – using his own standards – that the incapacitation of Christopher Hitchens is a boon for humanity. I am not per se against celebrating the misfortune of those who contribute to mass misery and pain. Who doesn’t think we’re better off without Andrew Jackson, Augusto Pinochet, and Ronald Reagan among others? But Gore Vidal? Mother Teresa? Edward Said? Even Cindy Sheehan? Hitchens kicked all of them either when they were at their lowest or on their death beds. Hitchens’ ex-friend Alexander Cockburn wrote: “My sympathies were always with Mother Teresa. If you were sitting in rags in a gutter in Mumbai, who would be more likely to give you a bowl of soup … one more particularly despicable piece of opportunism on Hitchens’ part … [was] his decision to attack Edward Said just before his death [from cancer], and then for good measure again in his obituary.” Nafeez Ahmed in an excellent refutation of Hitchens’s unsubstantiated slurs against Vidal states: “Gore Vidal is now eighty-five; has lost the use of his legs; and lost his partner of 50 years … Hitchens approach, however, is to kick an old man when he’s down, rather than to engage critically and constructively with what his [Vidal’s] still sharp mind has learned.” On May 17, 2007 Hitchens was interviewed by Fox News and by CNN about the death of the Christian Fundamentalist Jerry Falwell who had died two days previously. Hitchens used these platforms to unabashedly celebrate the death of the extremist preacher stating, “It is a shame that there isn’t a hell for him to go to.” Hitchens legitimately asserted, “We have been rid of an extremely dangerous demagogue who lived by hatred of others and prejudice.” Falwell was guilty, according to the Vanity Fair polemicist, of “extraordinary offenses to morality and truth” which were “offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality.” Hitchens accused Falwell of “fawning on the worst elements in Israel … encouraging the most extreme … fanatics and maniacs on the west bank and in Gaza not to give an inch to those who already live there.” The deceased Reverend was a “Chaucerian fraud” who preyed “on the gullible.” Hitchens fulminated that on “[the] Israeli question … in the most baser and hypocritical way he [Falwell] encouraged the worst elements among Jewry … [and] ruined the chances for peace in the middle east.” Hitchens accurately mentioned that “lots of people are going to die and are already living miserable lives because of the nonsense preached by this man” concluding sternly that “his death is a deliverance.”

The war machine has benefited significantly from the Hitchen-esque defense of “the war on terror,” cloaked in the mantle of secularism and the enlightenment. Much secular-progressive energy has been wastefully channeled into a naïve support for the 9/11 Wars thanks to Hitchens’ and his fellow rhetoricians’ mantra about ‘defending the rights of Islamic women’ and ‘fighting theocracy.’ In A Long Short War (p. 53) Hitchens postulates: “The United States finds itself with forces of reaction. Do I have to demonstrate this? The Taliban’s annihilation of music and culture? The enslavement of women?” “I still think like a Marxist,” the opportunist often espouses during speeches promoting imperialist wars of aggression, which any Marxist would naturally find repugnant.

While such observations about Falwell’s legacy were seemingly indisputable the irony is that Hitchens – in his self-anointed role as defender of secular, enlightened values – is guilty of many, if not all, of the crimes and blunders he volubly attributed to the theocrat, warmonger Falwell. For example, Hitchens has throughout his career consistently “lived by hatred of others.” Hitchens effectively made a career out of bashing the enemies of the US and Israel, occasionally trespassing into an attack on elites who rubbed him up the wrong way (Cockburn thinks Hitchens’s “mad bee in his bonnet about Clinton which developed into full-blown obsessive megalomania” emerged not out of principle but because “Clinton had behaved abominably to some woman he, Hitchens, knew – maybe his wife Carol.”) Throughout his bourgeois, privileged life, the posh-accented, self-proclaimed “socialist” spent as much time bashing the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, and Palestinian leaders, as he did criticizing US-policy. Like his overrated intellectual hero, George Orwell, Hitchens bashed the Left while taking no tangible actions to end capitalism or combat class oppression. Why would he have bitten that hand that fed him? Michael Parenti’s criticisms of the Etonian polemicist could easily be compared with Hitchens in the contemporary context: “A prototypic Red-basher who pretended to be on the Left was George Orwell. In the middle of World War II, as the Soviet Union was fighting for its life against the Nazi invaders at Stalingrad, Orwell announced that a ‘willingness to fight Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty. It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual’s point of view is really dangerous’. Safely ensconced within a virulently anticommunist society, Orwell (with Orwellian doublethink) characterized the condemnation of communism as a lonely courageous act of defiance” (p. 44). According to Cockburn, Hitchens always had “a profound belief in capitalism and empire.” One of Hitchens’ most irritating flaws is his ambivalence, and at times hostility, towards facts or truth if it stands to refute his empty rhetoric. Nafeez Ahmed reflects: “particularly since 9/11, reality has never been Hitchens’s strong point.”

Two chimeras can be identified which Hitchens has harnessed as weapons against the truth since 9/11 (i.e. since the period when he morphed overnight from being a ‘trotskyist’ into a Bush-supporting neoconservative). These two variables are tightly intertwined. The first chimera, which Hitchens leans upon to justify his whole worldview, is the implausible official story of 9/11. Hitchens virulently opposes any truth about what really happened on September 11, 2001 coming to the surface. Of Vidal’s patently tepid “Let It Happen On Purpose” type comments, Hitchens retorted unreflexively that Vidal had: “descended straight to cheap, and even to the counterfeit,” prescribing to “crank-revisionist and denialist history.” Ahmed concludes in his lustrous defense of Vidal: “it is Hitchens, not the indefatigable Gore Vidal, who staggers and stumbles, shamelessly exposed, screaming nonsensically, through the streets of the American capital.” Without the implausible and wholly debunked official explanation of 9/11 – in particular the notion that the highly sophisticated implosions of the WTC towers were planned, funded, and executed by autonomous Islamic fundamentalists – Christopher Hitchens’s already tenuous defenses of the 9/11 Wars would be utterly bereft of any legitimacy. It would not be inaccurate to characterize Hitchens as a “conspiracy entrepreneur” – to use Cass Sunstein’s terminology (see note [1] below). He has utilized the implausible official conspiracy theory about 9/11 to advance his career and gain popularity in elite circles. Hitchens’s ludicrous contention that the whole world is under siege from Islamic theocratic megalomaniacs would not carry the same weight without the dehumanized and stigmatized imagery of Islamic people which is rooted the unproven assumption that 9/11 was perpetrated by ‘Islamists’ emanating from caves in Afghanistan.

Secondly, Hitchens’s worldview rests to a large extent on his willingness and freedom to disparage folk, who dispute his debased contentions, as being “anti-Semitic.” After all, who in the US media is going to attempt to exonerate somebody who has been labeled “anti-Semitic” lest they be stigmatized themselves? Hitchens regularly accuses those who critically discuss Zionist power in the US of ‘antisemitism.’ For example, Hitchens writes: “I am told daily that this regime-change policy [the Iraq war] is dictated by an Israeli or Zionist or “Likudnik lobby” (A Long Short War, p. 6). Rather than refute those scholars who have written peer-reviewed books defending the “for Israel” thesis, such as Petras, Sniegosky, Walt and Mearsheimer, among others, Hitchens prefers to employ anecdotal, ad homonym and utterly irrelevant cant as his ‘refutation’ which confuses criticism of The Zionist Lobby with antisemitism: “The fact that many neoconservative régime changers have Jewish names is … how shall I put this … loaded. Some people take a ridiculously long time to pronounce the word “Jew” and others linger for what seems to me an unnecessarily long time to utter the name Wolfowitz” (A Long Short War, p. 7). Furthermore, in an interview on C-Span on April 26, 2009, Hitchens stated that his motivation for taking US citizenship stemmed from the fact that after 9/11 “people would say…‘the American Jews or the Israeli Jews’ blew up the World Trade Centre.” Blaming “the Jews” generically for anything is intellectually disrespectful and highly ethnocentric, yet other than from Hitchens and his friends at Fox News, I seldom have come across anyone who mentions, let alone propagates such a theory. It is, however, an irrefutable fact that a number of Mossad Agents (i.e. representatives of the State of Israel not ‘the Jews’) were arrested in the New Jersey area after they were seen celebrating the 9/11 attacks, some of whom later claimed – live on Israeli TV in November 2001 – that they had been sent to “document the event” leading to many unanswered questions regarding Israeli involvement in the atrocities. In addition, the New York Times revealed that one of the alleged 9/11 hijackers Ziad al-Jarrah was the cousin of an Israeli spy. As Anthony J. Hall puts it: “If I’m inaccurate on the issues of Israeli spies inside the United States prior to 9/11, then so are the reports I have been reading about it in many mainstream media venues including those of Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, CounterPunch,, BBC, Fox News, the Sunday Herald in Scotland and the Sunday Telegraph in Great Britain to mention only a few … Are the sources I have read to be scorched from the record in a book burning campaign of information cleansing?” We also know that representatives of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel have been inculpated as organizers of false-flag terrorist operations in the past including blowing-up Jewish cultural sites in Iraq in the 1940s and 50s in order to entice Iraqi-Jews to Palestine (see note [2] below), bombing the USS Liberty in order to start a war against Egypt (see note [3] below), as well as staging a bombing of the Israeli embassy in London in 1994 so as to “shatter a fast-growing Palestinian support network [in London]” (see note [4] below). Anyone who reads Hitchens or watches his speeches online should note his incessant allegations of antisemitism against those who oppose illegal wars of aggression or who, for that matter, have the temerity to dispute his demagoguery regarding the threats posed by Islamic theocrats. Hitchens slandered Cindy Sheehan – who lost a son in the war he promoted – for daring to criticize Israel. Cockburn commented, Hitchens “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.” If anything, Hitchens’s disingenuous rhetoric convinces one of the “for Israel” theses which Hitchens – without evidence – denounces. If everyone who opposes the 9/11 Wars are anti-Semitic, doesn’t that make the protagonists of these illegal wars Jewish? Furthermore, when Hitchens professes that he “devoutly hopes that it’s true” that the 9/11 Wars will facilitate a “domino effect from the collapse of Saddam Hussein, extending through Iran and Syria and Saudi Arabia,” (A Long Short War, p. 21) it seems reasonable to ask: what is his motivation?

Hitchens accused Falwell of encouraging “the worst elements among Jewry … [which] ruined the chances for peace in the middle east.” Adding, “lots of people are going to die and are already living miserable lives because of the nonsense preached by this man.” Such allegations are also true of Hitchens. Hitchens’s pro-war stances have often converged with the wishes of the Israeli far right, a group which can easily be described as “the worst elements among Jewry” because they reject the liberal-secular tradition Jews have historically flourished under, in favor of reactionary, ethnic nationalist expansionism of the kind which has traditionally been the bane of most Jewish people. It cannot be entirely coincidental that the Likudnik rightists who Hitchens attempts to exculpate for their role in bringing the world to war share his opinions as to the direction humanity should head in - namely unilateral wars against the Islamic world. For example on Iran, Hitchens opines: “our goal should be a…denuclearized Iran,” echoing the Likudnik mythology that Iran is seeking to acquire nukes thus warranting violent interventions. When the CIA claimed not to have found credible evidence that Iran posed a threat to US interests Hitchens authored an article entitled “Abolish the CIA.” Like the Israeli right Hitchens chooses to invoke international law highly selectively. Hitchens is enraged when the likes of Saddam Hussein “violated the Genocide Convention on their own territory, invaded neighboring states…[and] sought and nearly acquired nuclear weapons” (A Long Short War, p. 9). Yet when it comes to Israel committing exactly the same crimes, Hitchens is not only forgiving he actually quotes an Israeli military spokesman’s unreliable pledge that “we won’t be the second one [state]” to use nuclear weapons. On planet-Hitchens International law can be applied to Henry Kissinger (see note [5] below) and the Pope but not to George Bush or Benjamin Netanyahu. The Genocide Convention applies to Saddam Hussein, Hamas and to Iran but not to Israel, Britain or the US regimes who actually possess nuclear weapons and who – as in Israel’s case – were willing to share such technology with rogue states such as the Apartheid State of South Africa.

In conclusion, it is fair to say that if cancer is good enough for babies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and soon Iran, which seems to be a price worth paying from Hitchens’s perspective, then it is good enough for the man who George Galloway accurately described as a “bloated, drink-soaked, former-Trotskyite, popinjay.”xxx Furthermore, with a war against Iran in our midst having one of the most malignant and cancerous propagandists demobilized from the war machine is something to be celebrated.


[1] University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein et al. coined the phrase “conspiracy entrepreneur” to characterize those who “profit directly or indirectly from propagating their theories…some conspiracy entrepreneurs are entirely sincere; others are interested in money or power, or in achieving some general social goal.” Sunstein, Cass R. and Vermeule, Adrian, Conspiracy Theories (January 15, 2008). Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-03; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 199; U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 387. Available at SSRN:
[2] Naeim Giladi, Ben Gurion’s Scandals: How The Haganah and The Mossad Eliminated Jews, (Arizona: Dendelion Book Production, 2003), 19.
[3] James Scott, The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009).
[4] “The classic example is the Israeli Embassy bombing in London in 1994. In this case, two innocent Palestinians studying in London, Samar Alami and Jawed Botmeh, were befriended by someone called Reda Moghrabi, who then asked for help in buying a second-hand car. That car subsequently exploded outside the embassy, and Alami and Botmeh were convicted of conspiring to cause a terrorist attack and sentenced to 20 years each…They did this for two reasons: first to gain enhanced security around Israeli interests in London, and secondly to shatter a fast-growing Palestinian support network in which Alami and Botmeh happened to be active.” quote from: “An Interview With Annie Machon,” 9/11 Blogger, October 4, 2009. See also: Annie Machon, Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers, (Book Guild Publishing, 2005).
[5] See Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, (Verso, 2002).

Joshua Blakeney is the Media Coordinator of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge.


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