November 2, 2008
Letter to Christopher Hitchens from a longtime Iraqi friendBy Ayad Rahim
I was dismayed and profoundly disappointed -- and, on reflection, felt betrayed -- when I heard that you endorsed Barack Obama for president of the United States.
For the 20-plus years I have known you, you have been nothing but generous towards me, and I am very fond of you and grateful for your friendship. Our main points of convergence have been my native Iraq, journalism, atheism and our roots in the Left. Your early detection of the nature of Saddam's fascist rule and your principled and stalwart advocacy for the liberation of Iraq - among many other views and insights, clearly and elegantly expressed -- have drawn me to you and deepened my admiration and respect.
It is over Iraq, Christopher, that I feel betrayed by you. Mr. Obama, in particular -- and the Democrats and news media in general -- have campaigned for the past several years on Iraq as a dirty word; the essence of the Democrats' and the media's specious (and thinly veiled) argument has been, "Afghanistan, good; Iraq, bad."
As I know you fully comprehend, deposing Saddam -- and liberating Iraq -- was the sine qua non of our response to 9/11 -- and that Iraq is far more important than Afghanistan; and Saddam, more important than bin Laden. (I'm amused -- and bemused -- by the oft-repeated call for a near-total shift of emphasis to Afghanistan and/or Pakistan -- if not a complete shift -- and by the prevalent belief that capturing or killing bin Laden is the primary goal in the war that 9/11 launched, and that doing so would end our troubles with Arab fascism - the actual source of the terrorism we face, rather than Islam/Muslims.)
In fact, as you well remember, in the days and weeks after 9/11, the question of the day was whether to topple Saddam, first, or the Taliban; indeed, on the afternoon of 9/11 -- several hours after the attacks -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told aides, "Look at Iraq." Meanwhile, the man you're supporting responded to the attacks, that same day, by calling for us to resolve our differences through the courts.
You and I know that toppling Saddam was essential, and not only for the many Saddam connections you and I know of to 9/11; his likely sponsorship of the first attempt to topple the Twin Towers, in 1993 (with the biggest bomb in American history, which was laced with cyanide); Saddam's other acts and support of terrorism; his WMD use and capabilities (being the first ruler to use them -- aside from Hitler's gas chambers -- since the 1920s); his genocidal campaigns; Iraq's outlaw status; his invasions of neighboring countries and threat to the region; the tenuous state of war in which we were locked with Saddam after his invasion of Kuwait; and the freedom deficit of the Arab world. Saddam, as you are fully aware, was the most fascist and extreme ruler -- and the Iraq he ruled, the most rotten country -- of a rotted, terrorist Arab order - and that is, simply put, the ultimate cause of 9/11. That bottleneck had to be unlocked. I know that none of this is news to you.
Obama, the Democrats and the media, on the other hand, have shown no such understanding; quite the opposite -- they've escaped from any such notions, and have, instead, made Iraq "the bad war" -- in fact, boasting of their opposition to Saddam's ouster -- or, as it's commonly called, "the Iraq war."
Nor am I alone, Christopher. You've probably seen opinion polls from other countries, showing that Iraq is among the few whose populations favor McCain over Obama (others being Israel, Georgia and the Philippines, all countries that have recently faced terrorism).
As we've seen with Iraq, the propaganda -- or, to put it more charitably, the reporting in bad faith and the cynical posturing of politicians, pundits and professors -- has been very effective, to the point that most people, and especially elite opinion, not only think that it was wrong to topple Saddam, but that it was immoral, illegal -- the original sin -- that it has been a disaster (why, it's commonly accepted that more Iraqis have died per annum since Saddam than under Saddam), and that it had nothing to do with 9/11.
So, in this Orwellian world -- where good (America's role in the world, for example) is evil, where right (for instance, toppling Saddam) is wrong -- I would expect you, a fellow contrarian, and a scholar of Orwell (by the way, when I interviewed you for my radio show about 9/11 and the Arab world, three years ago, I introduced you "as the George Orwell of our age"), to have been more skeptical of, and seen through, the fairy-tale narrative that Mr. Obama and his camp have constructed for his life. I would also think you would show more skepticism of the quasi-religious campaign and the "believing" devotees seeking a redeemer.
I've lived with, and observed, the workings of propaganda among Iraqis and Arabs, my entire life. I've now watched it in operation in the United States, and I can assure you, propaganda is far more effective in a free and democratic society, than it is in a dictatorship -- and, today, we are reaping the harvest of an essential component of propaganda, demonization
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In your endorsement of Obama, you pointed to the candidates' personalities, rather than issues, as the main reason for your decision; as a main exhibit, you cited the previous occupant of the White House, about whom you authored a book titled "No One Left to Lie To."
Meanwhile, the aspirant you support has lied about his meetings, dealings and friendship with Antoine Rezko; has lied about his knowledge of Jeremiah Wright's views; has lied about his relationship and work with a Marxist pedagogue and bomber (as was his wife); has lied about his work with, and support for, ACORN (an organization being investigated in multiple cases of massive voter fraud, and 17 of whose employees have been convicted or indicted of voter fraud); has lied about his statements regarding meeting with Iran's rulers (and what type of message would it send to the overwhelming majority of Iranians -- whom you and I support -- who yearn for freedom, if we elect a man eager to meet with the rulers who are an embarrassment to Iranians); has lied about his positions on "the surge" in Iraq; has lied about his reasons for voting against funding for the troops (having previously pledged he wouldn't vote against such funding); has lied about his votes on legislation to provide medical care to a baby born after a "botched" abortion; and has even lied about his maternal grandmother's work - she was, in fact, a factory manager, and, for most of her life, a banker.
On top of all of that, he has kept significant portions of his life and background, hidden from public view. To borrow from the title of your book, Is there nothing left to lie about?
You've spoken, frequently of the so-called church that Obama belonged to and its former leader's America-blaming, Afro-centric and bigoted preachings. However, you invariably make excuses for Obama, pinning it, instead, on his wife.
Why would you seek to excuse that when Obama joined the "church" years before his wife (it appears, entirely for cynical political purposes); has called Jeremiah Wright his mentor, adviser and close friend; and said, "I don't think my church is particularly controversial."
Then, after Obama's "major" speech on race, you related that it used to be said of a certain type of politician, that he is so unscrupulous, he would even throw his own grandmother under the bus -- and that Obama had figuratively done just that (by equating her "bigotry" to Wright's).
Finally, there is the Saddam-Obama connection. You, Christopher, are one of the few people who have brought up the connection of Obama financier Antoine Rezko to Nadhmi Auchi, one of Saddam's chief arms merchants. As I'm sure you know, it appears that Rezko was, basically, one of Auchi's "bag men," tasked with buying access and politicians -- of which, no doubt, Mr. Obama was a prime target. To put it plainly, Rezko was playing with Auchi's money (which he got from Saddam, who pilfered it from Iraqis), to do what Saddam did to all of Iraq, throughout the Middle East and around the world - buy politicians, journalists and others. Again, you know all of this, Christopher.
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From what I've heard and read, Christopher, it appears you are supporting Obama primarily for three reasons: McCain's temperament, Obama's intelligence, and Palin's faith.
About McCain, I know the other side has been painting him as erratic and short-tempered. I cannot speak to those traits. However, this is a person we know in full, whose life is an open book (which cannot be said of his opponent), and what we do know is that he is a fighter, courageous, experienced, strog, honorable, loyal, practical and man of character - not to mention, that he has a clear-eyed view of the world, and what we face.
As for Obama, no doubt, appearing "cool" and calm - and not frightening - has been a key goal of his camp, and, it appears, he has "pulled off" that trick.
In praising Obama's intelligence, you've said that he shows great promise for growth. That may be - he has certainly exhibited discipline (in "staying on message" and remaining focused on his goal); he also reads a speech well.
However, he hasn't exhibited some basic values that most Americans value. Generally, we tend to prefer our leaders to be truly proud of America, not to be ashamed of its power, military and influence, not to be embarrassed that we cannot say more than "merci beaucoups" in French, to favor a U.S. foreign policy over a United Nations, one-world, Third-Worldist view of the world, and to fully embrace the free enterprise system. In other words, to be patriotic. (I'll share a little secret with you - when I was a Leftie, and blaming America for most of the world's ills, I, like Senator Obama, refused to salute the U.S. flag.)
Would prefer a weaker America, with a completely different role in the world than it has occupied for several generations, when you fully know that America is the only power with the willingness to liberate an Iraq. Under Obama, such an America would no longer exist - an America with that view of itself.
I guess, though it really all comes down to faith.
As you know, I share your disbelief in gods and goddesses, but, surely, it cannot be God/"god," uber alles -- there must be other, earthly issues at stake, too.
I've been surrounded by faith, my whole life, and I know how oppressive it can be, but I've seen how tolerant and magnanimous you are with others' views. Isn't that what you and I seek, in a liberal order?
By the way, as I've moved from "Left" to "Right," over the past 15 years, I've witnessed and experienced less bigotry and more tolerance and open-mindedness on the right, than I did on the Left.
Turning to Governor Palin, who appears to be the main focus of your displeasure, first, she personifies, better than most, the classic "don't tread on me" American, and has not imposed her faith, or tenets thereof, on the public - in other words, is not, as you described such people, a theocratic bully.
Second, you described Palin as anti-science, citing her apparent opposition to funding a study on fruit flies and another, on the DNA of grizzly bears. To begin with, you did not say that the sought-after funding was from the government, and, as you know, there are very good reasons for refusing government funds for something that could be done just as well - if not more efficiently - through the private sector. Then, the fact that a person believes in gods or goddesses does not prevent him or her from supporting science, nor does it prevent him or her from supporting the liberation of people, regardless of their beliefs, faiths, or lack thereof.
Your arguments against her beg the question: Are we going to disparage (and maybe disqualify from public office) anybody who isn't an atheist or a pure rationalist -- or, for that matter, anyone who has a belief system different than our own? To bring this to what we both agree is the paramount issue of our time, does atheism trump terrorism? Does ideology trump human life and freedom of belief?
Ayad Rahim, a native of Iraq, is a bookseller in Cleveland and a former journalist.