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Mr. Hitchens's Revisionism of His Own History

In his interview with the right-wing web magazine FrontPageMag.com, re-posted on HNN, Christopher Hitchens claims that his moment of truth about Islamic fascism arrived in 1989, and that by September 11, 2001, he had fully come to "[t]he realization that American power could and should be used for the defense of pluralism." He then says that after seeing the World Trade Center atrocities on television, he was exhilarated: "Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose."

Mr. Hitchens was thinking nothing of the sort, and he knows it. He was thinking, in standard, knee-jerk anti-American terms, that America was largely to blame for bringing on the attacks. And he said so, in a particularly sickening column for the Guardian published on September 13, 2001:

With cellphones still bleeping piteously from under the rubble, it probably seems indecent to most people to ask if the United States has ever done anything to attract such awful hatred. Indeed, the very thought, for the present, is taboo. Some senators and congressmen have spoken of the loathing felt by certain unnamed and sinister elements for the freedom and prosperity of America, as if it were only natural that such a happy and successful country should inspire envy and jealousy. But that is the limit of permissible thought.

In general, the motive and character of the perpetrators is shrouded by rhetoric about their "cowardice" and their "shadowy" character, almost as if they had not volunteered to immolate themselves in the broadest of broad blue daylight. On the campus where I am writing this, there are a few students and professors willing to venture points about United States foreign policy. But they do so very guardedly, and it would sound like profane apologetics if transmitted live. So the analytical moment, if there is to be one, has been indefinitely postponed.

I am glad to see that Mr. Hitchens has since changed his mind about the dangers posed by Osama Bin Laden and about the imperatives of American power. But he has falsified history. Twenty-four hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- barely two years ago -- Hitchens fiddled on about the evil Americans and their taboos and their refusal to reckon with their wickedness. Mr. Hitchens may be a historian, but he is what George W. Bush calls a "revisionist historian" -- and in this case the history is his own. His invocation of George Orwell can at best be judged as cynical.