Refutations from a Stalinist Commissar-Lookalike

May 24, 2011

This response to a response to a response to a response takes George Scialabba and Noam Chomsky to task for seemingly hasty analogies and false accusations.

By Christopher Hitchens
Photo by Jutta Degener

Christopher_hitchens.jpgGeorge Scialabba confidently and effectively re-states the differences between Noam Chomsky and myself as they stood almost ten years ago. In my more recent article for Slate, however, I had briefly sought to bring attention to some fresh disagreements (at any rate new to me) arising from Chomsky’s comments on the killing of Osama bin Laden. These were (a) his apparent unwillingness to believe that the evidence conclusively implicates Al Qaeda in the 9/11 atrocities and (b) his belief that Bush is more guilty of war-crimes—or guilty of more war-crimes—than bin Laden was. This, along with his deployment of Nazi imagery and analogy, felt like a shift away from what I had called moral equivalence, and toward the view that the United States is or has been the guiltier party.

One point from the old exchange before I go on. The word “bagatelle” was intended by me to make the following point: If 9/11 may be compared in scale and proportion to Clinton’s rocketing of the Sudan, which I denounced more strongly than most people at the time it occurred, then what would Al Qaeda have to do to rival the bombing of Cambodia, say, or the death squads in Central and South America, or the genocide in East Timor? Reflection on this might perhaps give pause to anyone inclined to make hasty analogies. Of course I do not think that Chomsky regards 9/11 as a paltry or trivial incident, and it’s perverse to try and construe me as if I did.

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