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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchens at his best, 21 Jun. 2007
This review is from: A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq (Paperback)
This short book contains a series of essays for the online magazine Slate written during 2002 and 2003. In the author's words, the intention was that of testing short-term analyses against longer term ones, whilst subjecting long-term convictions to shorter-term challenges. The essays are presented unchanged; only a short preface, an introduction and an epilogue have been added.

In the intro, Hitchens sets out his convictions whilst pointing out the contradictory and sometimes completely ridiculous arguments of the anti-war Left and Right. The hilarious way he destroys the cheap slogans of the so-called peaceniks often makes the reader laugh out loud. Amongst other subjects, he thoroughly demolishes the slur that an Israeli or Zionist lobby was behind the war. He mentions the Anti-Semitic innuendo and imagery employed, and points out that the most insistent lobbyists for the new Iraq policy have been Iraqis - Muslim and Christian, Arab and Kurdish, devout and secular.

The first essay: Machiavelli in Mesopotamia, of November 7, 2002, investigates the "case against the case against regime change". The one titled Armchair General tackles the idea that non-soldiers have less right to argue for war, whilst in Terrorism, Hitchens explores the definition of the term. He refers to Claude Chabrol's film Nada that demonstrates the promiscuous cruelty of nihilistic terrorists. He describes terrorism as the tactic of demanding the impossible at gunpoint.

One of the highlights of the book is called Anti-Americanism, an investigation of its varieties on the right and left, foreign and domestic. Hitchens concludes that for foreigners, the more correct term would be Anti-Modernist and for insiders, Native Masochist.

The essay titled Evil brilliantly explores the meaning of the word. Despite the sneering of liberal intellectuals, there is such a thing, he argues convincingly. Hitchens describes it as behaviour that is simultaneously sadistic and self-destructive. In the trenchant piece Chew On This, he discusses Saddam's crimes, Al-Qaeda's massacres, Kurdish freedom, oil worth fighting for and a couple of other things the so-called peaceniks might wish to consider. Hitchens nails it time and again, expertly destroying the spin and the sloganeering to reach the gist of the issue.

My personal favourite is called The Rat That Roared, an essay on France, the French, Chirac and De Gaulle. It concludes with this hilarious description of Chirac: " ... a vain and posturing and venal man ... a balding Joan of Arc in drag. This is the case of the rat that tried to roar." The following one: Inspecting Inspections is also outstanding, pointing out the ridiculous farce of the United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq. In the article Not Talking Turkey, Hitchens argues that the USA is far better off without unreliable allies like Turkey.

Insight follows insight, as the author is once again on top form as he demolishes the arguments of Christians against the removal of Saddam, giving examples of the moronic pronouncements of the Vatican and the grinning peanut Jimmy Carter. Those who prefer Saddam Hussein to oil are scrutinized in the essay Oleaginous, as Hitchens examines the contradictory positions taken by the peaceniks. They weren't for peace, they were on the side of the Baathists.

The Epilogue: After The Fall, deals with the toppling of the dictator's statue, the Gulf War of 1991 and its aftermath and his personal experiences and impressions after the 2003 liberation. He considers the 12 years between the two wars as a time eaten by locusts, and points out the nonsense parroted by opponents of the war: the apocalyptic worst case scenarios, the mythical Arab street and the rubbish from people like Scott Ritter and Robert Fisk.

Hitchens covers every angle of the Iraq War in its historical perspective, also criticising the mistakes and actions of the USA and other Western powers. One of the elements that makes the book so special is the voice he gives to ordinary Iraqis. I admire his intellectual integrity, his impressive knowledge of history and his captivating style. This little classic provides ample evidence of Hitchens at his best.
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Don't you mean worst?
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Review Details



Peter Uys

Location: Sandton

Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,131