6 February 2010

Christopher Hitchens on Gore Vidal... and Me: and My Reply in the Independent on Sunday

This month, Christopher Hitchens published an appallingly monumental piece of drivel as a 'web exclusive' in Vanity Fair. Although it's dated February, it actually came online late last month. The piece is a furious attempt to prove the supposed decline of the great American essayist, dissident, and one-time adviser to JFK, Gore Vidal.

In order to secure his takedown of Gore, Hitchens also took a bash at me. 'What's the connection between me and Gore?' you may ask. Well, for those who don't know, Gore Vidal wrote a piece in the Observer in late 2002 based largely on my first book, The War on Freedom. That piece was re-published as a chapter in a New York Times bestselling anthology of Gore's recent essays, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. So Hitchens obviously felt it important to discredit me, as a way of discrediting Gore's critique of the Bush administration's response to 9/11.

So in Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens describes me as a "risible" individual wedded to "conspiracy-mongering" running a "one-room sideshow" institute on the Brighton seaside. Obviously, he does this to try and create the impression that I'm some kind of lunatic nobody who, therefore, no one should bother reading.

I corresponded with Aimee Bell, Vanity Fair's Deputy Editor, who I'm happy to say was very amiable, professional and understanding about the situation. They published my letter to the editor correcting Hitchens's factual inaccuracies - and along with it an immediate response from Hitchens himself (to be expected given that Hitchens is a contributing editor there). Hitchens's response to my letter is so bizarrely arrogant, self-conceited and needlessly bullish, it verges on delusional. Describing me, in summary, as a conspiracy nut-job, he goes on to try to emphasise his own purported intellectual superiority by listing his various honorary academic positions. (I honestly had no idea I'd elicit an inferiority complex out of the poor fellow.)

Since Hitchens's original VF piece came out, I've received several emails from concerned supporters trying to bring his ravings to my attention, and suggesting that I organize some sort of response.

Well, my response to Hitchens has arrived this morning.

Today's Independent on Sunday (IoS) has published my full rejoinder to Hitchens as its own 'web exclusive' here. My piece defends Gore Vidal by clarifying his actual arguments and looks critically at Hitchens's own pathetically despicable track record of war-mongering after 9/11. The IoS has also reported on the whole issue in today's print edition in a separate news piece. And the whole thing has been front-paged on today's IoS homepage.

Spread it around.


  1. Dr Ahmed,

    Congratulations on geting your rebuttal of Christopher Hitchens's hitpiece into the Independent. I've long been impressed with your scholarship and this article did not disappoint me.

    I was particulaly happy to see that you were able to use the occasion to clarify several points about what the record shows happened on and before 9-11 but which tend to get lost in the spin and also that you were able to highlight the complicity by ommission by senior US officials that made the 9-11 attacks such a success for whoever orchestrated them.

    As a long-time reader and critic of Hitchens, I was shocked but not surprised by his rabid (and this seems the most apt adjective) attack on Gore Vidal and yourself and instantly aware of his hypocricy in playing the conspiracy theorist card when he has a record of going out on a limb to propose similar theories himself. And I posted on that subject at the blog Chirstopher Hitchens Watch last month. I was glad to see that you too picked up on "Churchill's Lusitania conspiracy" as it really is a corker. But conspiracizing is one of Christopher's favorite tricks. He accuses the Russians and the Iranians of plotting at regular intervals and a few years back he was calling Joe Wilson "clueless" for not being agreeing with him that Saddam Hussein's agents were trying to clandestinely obtain "yellowcake" from Niger. Anyway, it was good to see you calling him on that.

    One small error in your Independent piece that I'd like to point out. Blood, Class and Nostalgia was first published in 1990, not 2004.

    — Greywolf from Hitchenswatch

  2. Dr. Ahmed:

    As producer of Barry Gordon's Southern California radio show, I was privileged in 2006 to help coordinate your interview with Barry about your courageous and important book The War on Truth. I later had the honor of helping book Barry's interview with the legendary, yet very cordial Gore Vidal.

    It was thus with no small interest that I read your rebuttal to the "attack piece" by Christopher Hitchens. I was fascinated to read your perspectives, on history both recent and not-so-recent. Given those -- and the reputations that you and Mr. Vidal have long established -- I was more than reassured by your comments: reassured about your reputations, if not so reassured about the state of our nations in this all-too-dangerous and complex world.

    Congratulations and thanks again for all the important work you have done on behalf of the U.S. and U.K. governments; our citizens will be safer only if we take such glaringly honest assessments of our risks at home and abroad, regardless of whose "feathers get rustled."

    Doug Drenkow

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