Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mr. Cole's Eloquent Refutation of Christopher Hitchens' Charges

Yesterday, Christopher Hitchens had a piece in Slate that pointed out some of Mr. Juan Cole's more egregious recent misstatements about Iran and Israel.
In some ways, the continuing row over his call for the complete destruction of Israel must baffle Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. All he did, after all, was to turn up at a routine anti-Zionist event and repeat the standard line—laid down by the Ayatollah Khomeini and thus considered by some to be beyond repeal—that the state of Israel is illegitimate and must be obliterated. There's nothing new in that...

words and details and nuances do matter in all this, so I was not surprised to see professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan denying that Ahmadinejad, or indeed Khomeini, had ever made this call for the removal of Israel from the map. 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.

Today, Mr. Cole strikes back.
Back to Hitchens. How to explain this peculiar behavior on the part of someone who was at one time one of our great men of letters?

Well, I don't think it is any secret that Hitchens has for some time had a very serious and debilitating drinking problem. He once showed up drunk to a talk I gave and heckled me. 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. I am sorry to witness the ruin of a once-fine journalistic mind.

But the other reason for Hitchens's piece may be that he has become a warmonger, and it is possible that he wants a US war against Iran. More on that below.
Ooh, the rapier wit, the cut and thrust of his argument. Surely the man deserves to be rewarded with a tenured position at Yale, no less.

Michael Young, at Hit and Run, reviews the state of the argument between the two men, points out Cole's puerile attempt to cheerlead anti-war chants about the evolving Iran crisis - One, two, three, four. We don't want your stinking war! - then reviews the normative behavior of candidates for tenured positions at Ivy League Universities.

Let's hope Mr. Cole continues to play by his own very special rules.

UPDATE I: Hugh Hewitt interviews Hitch, transcript and audio on Radio Blogger here.

Juan Cole responds to Hitchens here.

Whoops, I mean here.

And aren't we glad to note that Juan is continuing to play by his own special rules as he awaits the word from Yale. If Yale hires him after this round, well that concedes a lot about Yale, doesn't it.


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