Icarus Cole

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One of those delightful spats between public intellectuals seemed to be nicely developing yesterday, when suddenly everything went dramatically wrong as one of the guys went postal. In an article in Slate, Christopher Hitchens attacked Juan Cole's translation and interpretation of a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for the elimination of Israel.

He also wrote: "Cole is a minor nuisance on the fringes of the academic Muslim apologist community. At one point, there was a danger that he would become a go-to person for quotes in New York Times articles (a sort of Shiite fellow-traveling version of Norman Ornstein, if such an alarming phenomenon can be imagined), but this crisis appears to have passed."

Hardly a caress, but presumably, after a good mud-sling, both parties could have headed toward the showers and their previous life–Hitchens back to writing and Cole back to teaching at the University of Michigan and worrying about whether a Yale review board will offer him a new job in New Haven. Of particular irritation to Cole was that Hitchens used a passage from a letter he sent to the Gulf 2000 mailing list, which is private and where permission must be requested to quote. That's a reasonable beef from Cole, but he could have responded by simply correcting Hitchens' "inaccurate screed," based on his own declared knowledge of Persian, and asking Slate to publish a rebuttal.

Instead, Cole responded with a savage screed all his own, accusing Hitchens' of having a drinking problem, attacking the Right, the Bush administration, unspecified "US corporations", and much more with no connection to Hitchens' article.

Then there was this:

So sit down and shut up, American Enterprise Institute, and Hudson Institute, and Washington Institute for Near East Poslicy [sic], and American Heritage Institute, and this institue [sic] and that institute, and cable "news", and government "spokesmen", and all the pundit-ferrets you pay millions to make business for the American military-industrial complex and Big Oil.

We don't give a rat's ass what Ahmadinejad thinks about European history or what pissant speech the little shit gives.

I call on university students across America to begin holding antiwar rallies. The only way you can have a war on Iran is to draft the young people. It is you who are on the line. Demonstrate! Demonstrate against the very hint of war! Demonstrate to end the one we've already got! (See Speaker's Forum on Iraq

Here is what the real Iran experts think about the prospect of an Iran war.

Because Hitchens's dirty tricks and lies against me are only the beginning. Whoever stands against the Perpetual War machine will be attacked, slimed, marginalized, and destroyed if the warmongers get their way. I don't care. Thus far and no farther.

One, two, three, four. We don't want your stinking war!

This is the stuff of self-immolation. The Yale review board has said that in considering Cole's application it would not look at his blog, but only his academic achievements. However, this seems to be an increasingly untenable position given that a blog, like any other piece of public writing, is a perfectly reasonable window into someone's methodology and, well, mental balance. Somehow, it doesn't look very good when you react to criticism of something you wrote by calling the other person a drunkard and a thief.

Cole should have known better. When applying for an Ivy League post, do what everybody else does: lie low, stick to the consensus, and don't make an idiot of yourself, until you're inside the walls. My bet is that Cole will soon be hearing embarassed coughs from Yale.

(Full disclosure: I often write in Slate and am a member of the Gulf 2000 list. Neither affiliation has shaped my view of Cole's behavior, which, frankly, speaks volumes on its own.)

NEXT: Double Crossed

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  1. Cole sounds like he’d be perfect for the Huffington Post.

  2. I don’t know, Cole may actually be courting Yale in this post, having observed its preference for Taliban apologists in its student admissions policies.

  3. Man, its time once and for all, for the Juan-Non-Latino-Pundit deathmatch:

    Cole vs Williams

    One can conjure the dark arts known only the wizards of liberal academia.

    The other, a shape shifter, with multiple sightings on National Public Radio and Fox News, often in the span of mere hours.

    May god help us all.

  4. Everyone agrees that Hitchens drinks like a fish: No one says they’ve heard or read a specific diminished argument as a result. The criticism always seems to be that some people have problems with alcohol, so Hitchens shouldn’t drink, but because he does we shouldn’t listen to him. This stokes, in my heart, an undergraduate kind of teenage admiration for the guy.

  5. I saw Hitchens on tv one time. He was so drunk the host was embarrassed. It’s not slander if it’s true.

    On that occasion, I would be willing to say that his arguments were dimished. His arguments were incoherent.

  6. This stokes, in my heart, an undergraduate kind of teenage admiration for the guy.

    Yeah him and George Bush. Too bad neither one is a teenager. Because only an ass would act that way as a grown man. Imagine someone showed up drunk to your talk – would you find it cute?

  7. btw I like how Michael Young gives some nice cynical career advice to shut up and behave himself. I’m sure Ayn Rand would agree.

  8. When applying for an Ivy League post, do what everybody else does: lie low, stick to the consensus, and don’t make an idiot of yourself, until you’re inside the walls.

    Howard Roark would disagree.

    Having known a few people with drinking problems, it does lead to a nasty disinhibition issue – early forms are just “saying what you mean” at inappropriate times, while advanced forms tend to spiral off into paranoid fantasy. If Hitchens is a drunkard (and I have no idea), it wouldn’t surprise me to see strange distortions become a part of a journalistic version of drunk dialing.

  9. Howard Roark would disagree.

    Damn, e beat my by mere seconds!

  10. reading Cole’s thoughts might make one wonder just who’s been drinking…we do tend to see in our enemies our own worst qualities.

  11. Somehow, it doesn’t look very good when you react to criticism of something you wrote by calling the other person a drunkard and a thief.

    Around the Ivy League, I would imagine that accusing war supporters of being drunkards and thieves is a sure-fire track to tenure. Isn’t that the standard line about Chimpeachment W. Pretzelburton?

  12. Cole’s right. We have to stop this insantity now. Another war? Now? And again with no way to fund it? Can it be? And who’s going to fight this one? Perpetually stop-gapped family men in their 40’s and 50’s? When does this end?

    Look, only a drooling moron would not see what happened since the beginning of the Bush era. Need to prop up the MIC? Profiteer off oil in the process? No Cold War? Start a new perpetual war! This time, instead of commies, we’ll go after Southwest Asians! And rather than fighting over the Namib and the old Banana republics, over cheap labor states and small poor islands, we’ll fight over oil producing states! It’s a win/win for the Bushies. And OBL is happy, Bush is happy, big oil and the MIC are happy. And we limitlessly stupid Americans play right into it.

    Idiots.

    JMJ

  13. Instead, Cole responded with a savage screed all his own, accusing Hitchens’ of having a drinking problem, attacking the Right, the Bush administration, unspecified “US corporations”, and much more with no connection to Hitchens’ article.

    I suspect Hitchens, whose writing (drunk or sober) I admire, is just lapping this up. But you missed the most damning accusation, the one over which he would be most likely to take personal offense:

    Well, I don’t think it is any secret that Hitchens has for some time had a very serious and debilitating drinking problem…. I can only imagine that he was deep in his cups when he wrote, or had some far Rightwing think tank write, his current piece of yellow journalism.

    Accusing Hitchens of passing on some other writer’s work as his own, now them’s fighting words!

  14. Michael Young is being a little unethical himself here. If you actually read Cole’s whole post it is a lot more balanced and tempered than the extract above. Young has extracted the 7 or 8 stupidest sentences from Cole’s essay and just pasted them together to create the impression that Cole is completely out to lunch. In fact, paceYoung, the bulk of Cole’s response does address Hitchen’s article straight on. If Cole had had the self-discipline to stop halfway through it wouldn’t have been a bad response at all, and after all the original point of blogs was “no editor” so attacking Cole for this seems rather churlish. Go read Cole’s article and see if you think Young is being fair.

  15. There is something to what Vanya says; Cole’s entire piece hardly rises to the level of screed. But I take the thrust of Young’s comments as being aimed at the professional risks, at least among academics, of venting publicly over the internet.

    I can’t comment on Cole’s academic work, but his public persona is certainly at least in part that of an apologist, whether of the true-believing variety or not, and an intemperate one, at that. Whether, as Young believes, this will affect Cole’s ability to make the fairly short climb in academic altitude from Michigan to Yale remains to be seen. But it would be unfortunate if, assuming Young’s prediction and reasoning is correct, there developed a de facto chilling effect among academics who would otherwise desire to join the internet fray.

  16. Imagine someone showed up drunk to your talk – would you find it cute?

    I wouldn’t mind. It would probably put a firecracker up the conversation’s ass so I’m all for that.

    I’m not too sure about Hitchens. I like the way he writes and he is very persuasive but he does come up with a lot of crap. And he let me down when he went up against George Galloway (the scots creep who digs Saddam). He should have torn him apart but he was rather lame – perhaps because he was sober.

    If you guys invade Iran you’ll do it on your own. The UK won’t support you (not that that makes any difference to firepower!)

  17. Uh, that is how Cole writes. How could this possibly be a surprise?

  18. What is it about what Cole said that is bothering anyone here?

    JMJ

  19. “What is it about what Cole said that is bothering anyone here?”

    I can’t stand the guy. He froths at the mouth, calls everyone with a different point of view a liar, then spends a ton of ink (photons?) making himself a martyr to the cause.

    He suffers slings and arrows, you know.

  20. And we limitlessly stupid Americans play right into it.

    Speak for, or of, yourself JMJ. Anyone who might find a little more subtlety in the world must be a moron…or just fail to see your sarcasm.

  21. Couple Things:

    1. I think Cole is right about the proposed Iran War and the draft and that it is a timely time to discuss such things. This would have a more interesting focus for this Michael Young post than Cole’s preceived (perhaps incorrectly pace Vanya) nuttiness. Is the proposed Iran War important enuf to justify a draft, what do u think, Michael Young? Cause I can’t really tell from this post.

    2. Often on this board it is heard that gov’t repression of speech is censorship, but private repression of speech is not. This is generally true. However, when appointments at the most prestigious schools come with a litmus test that you don’t criticize the military-industrial complex too hard, then that can be a form of censorship and one that we should probably be concerned about as a society. I certainly don’t want Ivy League professors to be war-qualified (that is, prowar) the way juries are death qualified. That is not the history of those important institutions and it should not be their future. Now, I am not proposing that the government regulate Yale to keep its employees’ politics diverse and free. But I think Michael Young does a disservice by trying to get powerful private sector parties (Yale) to close down viewpoints that he seems not too like, based on some flimsy pretext about good etiquette. None of his business, really. Although really it is the backroom deals in New Haven that are the problem here, rather than Young’s clumsy attempted P.R.

  22. Accusing Hitchens of having a drinking problem is like accusing a kettle of being black. He’s nothing more than a drunken old fool at this point.

    Ask yourself who has been right about how things would go in Iraq: Cole or Hitchens and Kristol? Stephen Colbert asked Kristol how that new American century thing was working out. Kristol stammered like an idiot.

    Being right doesn’t make Cole an apologist. Hitchens is the apologist, for the Bush Administration that has called everything wrong from the beginning.

  23. What is it about what Cole said that is bothering anyone here?

    JMJ, the guy seems like a bit of a pecker. I mean, anyone who says ‘I call upon all sudents in America to begin holding antiwar rallies’ needs bringing down to earth.

    He goes on to say ‘Because Hitchens’s dirty tricks and lies against me are only the beginning’. Beginning of what? Armageddon or the fact that Hitchens just thinks you’re a bit of a tit?

    Of course, I accept Vanya’s point that we have a little selected editing here.

  24. Jason,

    “I can’t stand the guy. He froths at the mouth, calls everyone with a different point of view a liar, then spends a ton of ink (photons?) making himself a martyr to the cause.”

    Wow. You sure thing big thoughts, there Jason! Good to see what really important things you concern yourself with. Jeez…

    Gaijin,

    “Speak for, or of, yourself JMJ. Anyone who might find a little more subtlety in the world must be a moron…or just fail to see your sarcasm.”

    A Libertarian telling a liberal progressive of the subtlety of the world!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!

    JMJ

  25. “JMJ, the guy seems like a bit of a pecker. I mean, anyone who says ‘I call upon all sudents in America to begin holding antiwar rallies’ needs bringing down to earth.”

    Oh, he’s a “pecker,” huh? How deep of you.

    And God forbid someone calls on people to rally! We should all just sit around reading Ayn Rand and being quiet, right? Bullshit.

    “He goes on to say ‘Because Hitchens’s dirty tricks and lies against me are only the beginning’. Beginning of what? Armageddon or the fact that Hitchens just thinks you’re a bit of a tit?”

    Only the beginning of the lies and obfuscations that will lead up to a war with Iran. Jeez…

    You guys are really off today.

    JMJ

  26. I’ve just read the full article and you can see why Cole is pissed. Hitchens has misrepresented him. Still, talk about a drop in the ocean. Considering what they’re discussing, the pride of a couple of ‘demics is a streak of cat piss. Cole should lighten up.

    Handbags at dawn….

  27. We should all just sit around reading Ayn Rand and being quiet, right? Bullshit

    Indeed JMJ! A superb idea!

    I happen to think that the world would be a sublime place if humans dedicated their time to finding new and ever more comfortable ways of sitting in the same position, smoking pipes, discussing the advantages of harris tweed over more plebian forms of clothing, shying paid employment, dedicating years to mixing the perfect gin and tonic and chuckling at the twits outside on the street marching up and down with placards and paint on their trousers yelling at people 3000 miles away who don’t even speak the same language.

  28. Yeah Mark, that’s exactly what Marie Antoinette used to say… 😉

    JMJ

  29. I think someone might have hacked onto Cole’s blog.

    “And we limitlessly stupid Americans play right into it.” – JMJ

    Someone tell me why liberals have trouble expanding their base?

  30. Handbags at dawn….

    Now THAT is hilarious (IMO of course)

  31. What exactly have either Cole or Hitchens added to stock of human knowledge?

  32. Michael Young, siding with Hitchens against Cole? Or at the very least, excusing Hitchens whilst damning Cole?

    Yep, I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!

  33. Someone tell me why liberals have trouble expanding their base?

    Because 9/11 temporarily shocked everybody out of their right minds. Trying to pander to an insane public, the Democrats understandably chose a weird Frankenstein candidate who favored the war b4 he opposed it (or something like that). Howard Dean would have expanded the hell out of their base, but Murika just wasn’t ready for something as libertarian as shutting down the Iraq War.

    If 9/11 had been done by the ELF, then things would have been worse for the Democrats. If 9/11 had been done by someone like Tim McVeigh then things would have been as bad for the Republicans as they turned out for the Democrats.

    In other words, Democrats couldn’t expand their base because Osama is dark and Islamic, rather than white, Christian and/or pro-gun.

  34. Wow! Well said, Dave!

    JMJ

  35. If the thing at Yale doesn’t pan out, there’s always Harvard.

    —-

    “handbags at dawn…” I salute you.

  36. I appreciate Hitchen’s writing, but I really think he should go back to rubbishing nuns.

    Oh, Juan, next time remember to make a big deal about Hitch being short. You can call him and Kristol dwarves. It would be so devastating.

  37. > Imagine someone showed up drunk
    > to your talk – would you find it cute?

    If they nonetheless spoke with Hitch’s clarity, yes. But asside from the TV viewer above, nobody’s ever said they saw him misbehave

    > The UK won’t support you (not that that
    > makes any difference to firepower!

    That’s a really really interesting qualification there at the end. On this one, the united states may end up carrying the load for all of Europe, and China, and Africa, and so forth.

  38. “Wow. You sure thing big thoughts, there Jason! Good to see what really important things you concern yourself with. Jeez… ”

    That a writer is a shrill conspiracy theorist who lumps all counter argument together in the conspiracy is a pretty big deal. Unless you happen to agree with him, in which case he is a genius who speaks The Truth (TM).

  39. “accusing Hitchens of having a drinking problem”

    Is it really “accusing” to state a known fact? Hitchens is often fun to read, and occasionally correct about some matters, but let’s not kid ourselves about his alcohol consumption habits.

  40. Cole’s just auditioning for Chomsky’s spot on the uber-hate America fringe left talk circuit, when he kicks the bucket.

  41. General Grant was a drunk. But Lincoln still trusted him (“What brand does he drink? I’d like to send it to my other generals”), and Grant won the war against the South.

    I’d trust Hitch on hooch over a sober Cole any day of the week and twice on Friday, although I’d be reluctant to pick up his bar tab.

  42. Nothing to do with the thread but I thought I’d write it because it’s funny. This from Private Eye (a UK Onion). I don’t know if it made the news in the states:

    The UK Defence Secretary John Reid was in Washington last week meeting his counterpart. He gave a speech at the Pentagon and tried to open it with a light hearted joke. He started by commenting on how successful Condeleeza Rice’s trip to the UK had been and how famously she and Jack Straw had got on. John Reid stated that this close bond was exactly the sort of thing that the UK and the States should be fostering. And the punch line was:

    ‘That’s why I’m taking Donald Rumsfeld to see Brokeback Mountain this evening’

    Went down like a lead balloon. Apparently Rumsfeld’s face had to be seen to be believed. I think it’s quite a good gag.

  43. and all the pundit-ferrets you pay millions to make business for the American military-industrial complex and Big Oil…One, two, three, four. We don’t want your stinking war!

    As Williams from Enter the Dragon might’ve said, “Man, you come right out of a comic book!”

    But in the disgruntled-Boomer-filled halls of lefty academia, where Vietnam and Watergate are always hot on the menu, Cole probably isn’t too unique here.

  44. Ferrets are people, too.

    Not sure about pundits, though.

  45. Jason,

    “Shrill”, huh?

    “That a writer is a shrill conspiracy theorist who lumps all counter argument together in the conspiracy is a pretty big deal. Unless you happen to agree with him, in which case he is a genius who speaks The Truth (TM).”

    Isn’t that what sleazy lowlife drug addled scumbag right wing hate show hosts call everyone on the left in baiting effort to make them seem like old nagging women?

    And “conspiracy theorists,” that’s a funny expression. Makes people seem loony. As if “conspiracy” is some kind of myth like UFOs or the Loch Ness Monster or VooDoo Economics…

    What, are you are Fox News writer or something? Plying your shrill conspiracy on the h&r?

    JMJ

  46. “I can’t stand the guy. He froths at the mouth, calls everyone with a different point of view a liar, then spends a ton of ink (photons?) making himself a martyr to the cause.”

    Which perfectly describes Christopher Hitchens as well, except that where Cole is right on the merits Hitchens is almost always wrong. So am I to take it that the good libertarian position on the coming Iran War is to ignore the antiwar people if they’re not stylish enough?

  47. I’d trust Hitch on hooch over a sober Cole any day of the week and twice on Friday, although I’d be reluctant to pick up his bar tab.

    Cole has been correct on Iraq far more often than Hitch, who I think is batting around .095 a this point. Lately Hitch has been specializing on personal attacks on his opponents to cover up for the fact that he has no real expertise or insights whatsoever to offer on the Middle East. I agree that Hitch would be more fun to pal around with, Cole suffers from that occupational disease on the Left of uberseriousness. Cole also suffers from “expertitis” – he’s spent years learning Arabic and Farsi, which is admittedly very hard work, and he gets very upset when people don’t just bow down in obeisance to that expertise. I can certainly understand how that annoys people. It is sad because Cole does have a lot of insights – if he could stop being so thin skinned and easily provoked maybe more people would listen to him. I doubt this will disqualify him for the Yale post – lots of professors are thin skinned. I can immediately think of two other truly knowledgeable experts – Taruskin in classical music and Paul Krugman – who also get shrill and annoying when people dare to question them, and I’m sure there are plenty more.

  48. Cole is just a nasty fellow all around. As far as the point about “who has been more right about Iraq”, Cole has bought into every worse case scenerio about the war there and in Afghanistan imaginable. He hasn’t had a very good track record of predicting future events. Then there was his slandering of Iraqi bloggers as agents of the CIA because they dared to disagree with him. The list goes on and on, but being part of the angry left means never having to say you are sorry, so he has never really been held to account for any of it. Not that Hitchens is that nice of guy either but unlike Cole he is at least entertaining and funny.

    I have no doubt Cole will get the job at Yale. The President of Yale had to roll over and run the Taliban out and the Arts and Sciences faculty is no doubt dying to Mao Mao him the first chance they get in revenge just like the faculty at Harvard did to Larry Sumners for having the nerve to ask Cornel West to actually publish something and teach a class rather than make rap records. Hiring Cole might do a little something to quell their simmering anger over running the Taliban off and not hiring Cole would seal his fate.

  49. I’d trust Hitch on hooch over a sober Cole any day of the week and twice on Friday, although I’d be reluctant to pick up his bar tab.

    So by that criterion, the liberation has been a smashing success which removed Saddam’s (presumably invisible) WMDs while bringing the neighboring dictators in Syria and Iran to their quaking knees, yes?

  50. being part of the angry left means never having to say you are sorry, so he has never really been held to account for any of it

    Unlike so many of the war hawks on the Right who have been so busy apologizing profusely for their inane and ill-conceived “analyses.” Oh, that’s right, there haven’t been any of those either. I think it’s more accurate to say that “being an American with an opinon means never having to say you’re sorry.” About the only real mea culpas I’ve ever read have been from some of the Reason staff. Other than that the pundit class is basically dishonest and unaccountable along the entire spectrum of opinion.

  51. JMJ:

    You are telling me that Cole’s views aren’t shaped by zionist conspiracy theories? You are telling me he isn’t shrill? Maybe you are saying that he considers each argument carefully and certainly doesn’t lump everyone who disagrees with him into the Bushitler Bootlick Warmonger camp?

    Most people around these parts were opposed to the war. Most people around these parts don’t write like Cole does, though.

  52. I agree with the post upthread: the first 2/3 of Cole’s essay is pretty even keeled. His rhetoric goes way over the top in the last third, but I’ve seen conservatives and libertarians do the same. A bit of a shame, too, because with a more restrained voice he could have made those pictures significantly more powerful.

  53. “What, are you are Fox News writer or something? Plying your shrill conspiracy on the h&r?”

    Did this sentence even make sense in your head?

  54. You leftwing libertarians have can’t see the forest for the trees. Hitchens spends most of his time defending the PRINCIPLE of taking out Saddam and giving the Iraqis a chance at democracy. He has sepnt very little time making predictions on timeframes for success. Where he has spent some time is defending the War against the likes of Cole, who would sooner see the effort fail, if only to vindicate his morbid views on US foreign policy. Let’s face it, look at COle’s writings on Afghanistan and Iraq…it’s all Worst Case scenario stuff.

    Anyway, my point being, the dingbats who claim that “Cole has been far more right, more often than Hitchens” don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

  55. Im sure JMJ just has a hard time understanding how someone can be anti-war without being a shrill, partisan prick who believs that all non-liberal Democrats are “morons” and “stupid”.

    The thoughts going through his brain are probably something like this-

    “Anti war yet….low taxes and…anti-gun control….partisan brain can’t compute! System Overload– MORONS! MORONS! AMERICANS ARE STUPID! MORONS!”

  56. Jason,

    (psst – that last comment was a joke…)

    “You are telling me that Cole’s views aren’t shaped by zionist conspiracy theories?”

    There’s a lot of that going around these days, and like most things, there’s an ounce (well, may a 10th of an ounce) of truth to it. There’s a feeling that the Israeli hawks are behind a lot of the poor decisionmaking going on in DC these days. Myself, I find it sort of moot in that Israel is there, it’s too late to go back to the post-war era and take in all the Jews now. It’s a pain in the ass, but we have to deal with it.

    “You are telling me he isn’t shrill?”

    Shrill is a misogenistic catch word for the testicularly insecure.

    “Maybe you are saying that he considers each argument carefully and certainly doesn’t lump everyone who disagrees with him into the Bushitler Bootlick Warmonger camp?”

    Yeah, he seems more well-rounded than that.

    “Most people around these parts were opposed to the war. Most people around these parts don’t write like Cole does, though.”

    I find him refreshing.

    JMJ

  57. Jason,

    (psst – that last comment was a joke…)

    “You are telling me that Cole’s views aren’t shaped by zionist conspiracy theories?”

    There’s a lot of that going around these days, and like most things, there’s an ounce (well, may a 10th of an ounce) of truth to it. There’s a feeling that the Israeli hawks are behind a lot of the poor decisionmaking going on in DC these days. Myself, I find it sort of moot in that Israel is there, it’s too late to go back to the post-war era and take in all the Jews now. It’s a pain in the ass, but we have to deal with it.

    “You are telling me he isn’t shrill?”

    Shrill is a misogenistic catch word for the testicularly insecure.

    “Maybe you are saying that he considers each argument carefully and certainly doesn’t lump everyone who disagrees with him into the Bushitler Bootlick Warmonger camp?”

    Yeah, he seems more well-rounded than that.

    “Most people around these parts were opposed to the war. Most people around these parts don’t write like Cole does, though.”

    I find him refreshing.

    JMJ

  58. Hitchens spends most of his time defending the PRINCIPLE of taking out Saddam and giving the Iraqis a chance at democracy

    That is true. Whenever I’ve read Hitchens he has always been crictical of the specifics and strategies but hasn’t been afraid to stand up for the ‘moral duty’ of intervening in other states (whether you agree with that or not). So it’s not fair to lump him in with all the other far right loonies.

    Mike – good use of word Dingbat.

  59. Mike,

    You are correct that Hitchens is a much better attack dog than defender. If you look through his past writings on Iraq he is usually purposefully vague on what exactly should get done and how, which is why I think he is pretty much useless. Defending the principle of deposing Saddam is a no-brainer. I can also defend the principle of deposing Kim Jong-il, the Iranian mullahs and the Uzbek and Turkmen governments. Anyone can defend abstractions. If you can’t actually propose a reasonable way of accomplishing these goals and actually furthering US interests what is the point?

  60. One would think that JMJ would at least be familiar with what a conspiracy theory is. It’s a theory based on facts that cannot be proved. Watergate is not a conspiracy theory (although, and I could see how someone of your intellectual development could get confused, it involved conspiracy). Bush made war for oil companies, is however, a conspiracy theory.

    As much as I hate to admit it, Hitchens almost deserves Cole’s screed (well except the attacks on his motivations perhaps). Basically, Hitchens found an English interpretation that disagreed with Cole’s interpretation, and used it to say Cole made his interpretation in bad faith. Hitchens may be right and Cole may be lying again, but it certainly doesn’t seem that way given the documents Cole produced.

  61. One would think that JMJ would at least be familiar with what a conspiracy theory is. It’s a theory based on facts that cannot be proved. Watergate is not a conspiracy theory (although, and I could see how someone of your intellectual development could get confused, it involved conspiracy). Bush made war for oil companies, is however, a conspiracy theory.

    As much as I hate to admit it, Hitchens almost deserves Cole’s screed (well except the attacks on his motivations perhaps). Basically, Hitchens found an English interpretation that disagreed with Cole’s interpretation, and used it to say Cole made his interpretation in bad faith. Hitchens may be right and Cole may be lying again, but it certainly doesn’t seem that way given the documents Cole produced.

  62. ESB, reread your post and look at yourself.

    JMJ

  63. Eagle, your grasp of semantics is equal to your grasp of politics.

    JMJ

  64. You were confused about what a conspiracy theory was, and you’re questioning my grasp of the subject matter? Is this some sort of joke, or did you run out of original ad hominem attacks?

  65. Back to the orginal blog post . . . Hitchens doesn’t favor a military intervention in Iran as this earlier slate article indicates: http://www.slate.com/id/2137560/

    So, Cole’s agrument that Hitchens is part of some “perpetual war machine” seems a little off base.

  66. As far as the point about “who has been more right about Iraq”, Cole has bought into every worse case scenerio about the war there and in Afghanistan imaginable. He hasn’t had a very good track record of predicting future events.

    Maybe Iraq is not a Worst Case scenario (yet – getting closer every day), but Cole’s predictions have sure been a lot closer to the actual outcome than any of the “Best Case” fairy tales we’ve continued to hear from Bush supporters since before the war began.

    Given their respective track records on Iraq, I’d trust Cole on Iran over an Adminstrarion shill any day.

  67. Eagle – I said SEMANTICS. Do you know what that means?

    JMJ

  68. I’m at U of M, and about a year ago I took a class taught by Cole just for the sheer unadulturated hell of it. A class on “American wars in the mideast.” From reading his work, you’d expect Cole’s head to explode in the middle of teaching this class, but it actually didn’t.

    Much to his credit, the man is a very competent lecturer who tries very hard to teach only the facts. One can tell that he is a leftist only by the occassional jokes. (Though one would never suspect him of being a Bush partisan since he doesn’t ignore inconvenient realities.)

    In writing, however, he is an angry, vitriolic, altogether batshit-insane conspiracy theorist. Like most other people, he seems unable to grasp the idea that the actions of our government are the result of cheap political posturing and electioneering, rather than some deeply malicious conspiracy.

    I guess it’s more romantic to think that one is fighting organized malice than arbitrary stupidity.

  69. I guess it’s more romantic to think that one is fighting organized malice than arbitrary stupidity

    Or maybe its more comforting for some to belive they are fighting against stupidity instead of organized malice.

    I think it’s pretty naive to always dismiss everything as just a matter of stupidity / incompetence.

  70. Why is it such a stretch for you libertarians to believe that malevolence, rather than incomptence, is at work here? Bush is just a puppet, right? Of course he’s incompetent. But why would the powers that be want a puppet in office? Think about it.

    JMJ

  71. I’ve never heard a better explanation for lefty lunacy than Lord Duppy’s, nor seen a more desperate bid to maintain a conspiracy theory than JMJ’s 2:41 post.

    Listen to yourself, dude. You’ve been watching too many movies that have you convinced that there’s some all-powerful malevolent “them” out there–true evil is far more banal than that; most often, true evil takes the form of stupid or incompetent people trying to do what they actually think is the right thing to do, not sinister actors actively plotting bad deeds.

  72. Cole has been building up this kind of venom and letting it back up and lubricate his internal organs for almost three years now. Kudos to Hitchens for lancing this Academic Boil.

  73. The conceptual barrier between skepticism and conspiracy theory is important to maintain.

    Most conspiracy theorists consider themselves skeptics because they are skeptical of popular opinion. Where they diverge from skepticism is in their embrace of a preferred unpopular theory that has as little or less evidence in its corner than the common wisdom they so disdain.

    Further, the mechanism of conspiracy ‘analysis’ is a beast unto itself. It usually starts with some gravitas dripping pronouncement about “Who would benefit,” and proceeds circularly from there. Ultimately, lack of evidence serves as proof of conspiracy.

    Cole’s Likud obsession is classic conspiracy theory. You must first accept that Likud is behind everything, then you can scan the front page for information that “makes connections”. Just as we noted in the “Saddam had connections to terrorism” discussions, a connection is the world’s most useless description of a relationship.

    Suffice it to say I have little tolerance for conspiracy theory, especially when its adherents get all worked up and start slinging mud at everyone else. “Fools! You will all see one day! HAHAHAAA!”

  74. Back to the orginal blog post . . . Hitchens doesn’t favor a military intervention in Iran as this earlier slate article indicates:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2137560/

    So, Cole’s agrument that Hitchens is part of some “perpetual war machine” seems a little off base.

    Ding ding ding, Jason get’s the prize for paying attention. Hitchens actually says:

    “Assume that the Iranians are within measurable distance of nuclear status. Appearances sometimes to the contrary, they are not mad-or not clinically insane in the way that Saddam Hussein was and Kim Jong-il is. The recent fuss about the obliteration of Israel is largely bullshit: Ayatollah Khomeini’s call for this has been intoned pedantically and routinely ever since he first uttered it, and it only got attention this year because of the new phenomenon of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the scrofulous engineer who acts the part of civilian president for his clerical bosses.”

    But they are calling for the obliteration of Israel and for some reason Cole denies this. Cole doesn’t know where Hitchens stands on Iran, either.

    Hitchens’s is playing hardball by using a private list e-mail to expose Cole, but Cole does seem to protest too much. I’ve read some pretty extraordinary things written by Cole before also, which doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get a position at Yale, but the Yale folks should be fully informed and not judge Cole merely on his reputation as an expert and hard-working blogger.

    Unfortunately, the antiwar left has become a bunch of apologists for Muslim, Arab and Perisan dictatorships. Sure the Palestinians deserve their own state – they did get an election – but the rest of the Muslim world doesn’t deserve to live under oppressive tyrannies just because the left doesn’t like Bush.

  75. > Is it really “accusing” to
    > state a known fact?

    Exactly, what’s the “known fact”? Drinking is not the same thing as having a problem. Addiction is defined by its consequences, and Hitchens doesn’t seem to have any.

  76. Night Owl,

    I don’t Iraq is even close to the worse case scenerio and it is not getting closer every day. If you don’t believe me take it up with Gen (ret) Barry McCafry, a long time critic of Rusmfeld and the war who just returned from visiting Iraq. The belmont club published large excerps of his report which read as follows:

    The morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring. In every sensing session and interaction – I probed for weakness and found courage, belief in the mission, enormous confidence in their sergeants and company grade officers, an understanding of the larger mission, a commitment to creating an effective Iraqi Army and Police, unabashed patriotism, and a sense of humor. All of these soldiers, NCOs and young officers were volunteers for combat. Many were on their second combat tour – several were on the third or fourth combat tour. Many had re-enlisted to stay with their unit on its return to a second Iraq deployment. Many planned to re-enlist regardless of how long the war went on.

    What about the Iraqi Army in 2006?

    The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent – most are adequate. … The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni. The Partnership Program with U.S. units will be the key to success with the Embedded Training Teams augmented and nurtured by a U.S. Maneuver Commander. This is simply a brilliant success story.

    The same high grade, however, could not be given to the Iraqi police. Though some units are good, many units are unreliable or incompetent. They were the key element to future stability; they were improving but still had a long way to go.

    The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program. The National Police Commando Battalions are very capable – a few are simply superb and on par with the best U.S. SWAT units in terms of equipment, courage, and training. Their intelligence collection capability is better than ours in direct HUMINT. … The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF and the Shia militia. They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption. This will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face. This is a very, very tough challenge which is a prerequisite to the Iraqis winning the counter-insurgency struggle they will face in the coming decade. We absolutely can do this. But this police program is now inadequately resourced.

    The main problem remains political. But even there — despite the potential for disaster — there was hope.

    The creation of an Iraqi government of national unity is a central requirement. We must help create a legitimate government for which the Iraqi security forces will fight and die. If we do not see the successful development of a pluralistic administration in the first 120 days of the emerging Jawad al-Maliki leadership – there will be significant chance of the country breaking apart in warring factions among the Sunnis and Shia – with a separatist Kurdish north embroiled in their own potential struggle with the Turks. … There is total lack of trust among the families, the tribes, and the sectarian factions created by the 35 years of despotism and isolation of the criminal Saddam regime. This is a traumatized society with a malignant political culture. …

    However, in my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity. The intelligence picture strongly portrays a population that wants a federal Iraq, wants a national Army, rejects the AIF as a political future for the nation, and is optimistic that their life can be better in the coming years. Unlike the Balkans?the Iraqis want this to work. The bombing of the Samarra Mosque brought the country to the edge of all-out war. However, the Iraqi Army did not crack, the moderates held, Sistani called for restraint, the Sunnis got a chill of fear seeing what could happen to them as a minority population, and the Coalition Forces suddenly were seen correctly as a vital force that could keep the population safe in the absence of Iraqi power. In addition, the Shia were reminded that Iran is a Persian power with goals that conflict with the Shia Arabs of southern and central Iraq.

    And what about Al Qaeda in 2006?

    The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeated as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government. Aggressive small unit combat action by Coalition Forces combined with good intelligence – backed up by new Iraqi Security Forces is making an impact. The foreign fighters remain a serious tactical menace. However, they are a minor threat to the heavily armed and wary U.S. forces. They cannot successfully stop the Iraqi police and army recruitment.

  77. Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. – “Robert J. Hanlon”, (whoever he was.)

    Hitch’s only drinking problem is when his glass is empty.

    Kevin

  78. I don’t much like Cole, but I was encouraged by his criticism of Ahmadinejad.

  79. Maybe Juan Cole will channel Stanley Crouch and bitchslap Hitchens. I would pay to see that actually.

  80. Intellectual discussions can get so emotional.

    I don’t pay any attention to Hitchens or Cole.

    Does a conspiracy have to be covert to be conspiracy?

  81. If not, then I suggest we call the invasion of Iraq the result of an overt conspiracy with covert elements. PNAC!

    and damn that server

  82. This is classic Michael Young: when forced to address an issue that his side is getting its ass kicked on, report on it by finding something intemperate someone who disagrees with him said, and pretend that that’s the story.

    Lunatics jockeying to start a war with Iran? Hey, look at all the mean things Juan Cole wrote!

  83. Michael Young deserves a medal in my book.

    Hitchens was silly to use Cole’s comments in a closed list when Cole in fact wrote essentially the same thing in at least one and probably more public articles. (see My Comment on Cole and Iran) Cole, along with Brian Whitaker and others has been preaching a completely fallcious sermon about the coming war with Iran. Nobody outside Iran except extremists is talking about any war with Iran or any invasion of Iran. An attack to disable the nuclear facilities is called an option that is still on the table, but even that is only a remote possibility.

    It is Cole and his friends, in concert with the Iranian government, who are creating an anti-war movement to counter a proposed war that is purely their own imagination and creation, complete with absurd fabrications about nefarious Zionist plans to start wars all over the Middle East.

  84. “self-immolation”… clever pun.

    I think the best way to handle a negative column is to make a small reaction and then move on. Cole’s remarks have done a disservice to his blog. Usually, I find his postings to be very helpful and informative. But with so many losing their lives and suffering injuries, these personal “responses” were inappropriate given the focus of his blog.

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