Christopher Hitchens, longtime contributor to The Nation, wrote a wide-ranging, biweekly column for the magazine from 1982 to 2002. With trademark savage wit, Hitchens flattens hypocrisy inside the Beltway and around the world, laying bare the "permanent government" of entrenched powers and interests.
Born in 1949 in Portsmouth, England, Hitchens received a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1970.
His books include Callaghan: The Road to Number Ten (Cassell, 1976); Hostage to History: Cyprus From the Ottomans to Kissinger (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989); Imperial Spoils: The Case of the Parthenon Marbles (Hill and Wang, 1989); Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990); and The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (Verso, 1995); as well as two collections including many Nation essays: Prepared for the Worst (Hill and Wang, 1989) and For the Sake of Argument: Essays & Minority Reports (Verso, 1993). His most recent book is No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family (Verso, 2000).
Hitchens has been Washington editor of Harper's and book critic for Newsday, and regularly contributes to such publications as Granta, The London Review of Books, Vogue, New Left Review, Dissent and the Times Literary Supplement.
Three days before the election, I took part in a television panel with former White House flack Joe Lockhart, who was doing his best to hold up his end of the tattered Gore-Lieberman banner. When the show was over, I asked him what he really thought and he said, "I'm pinning everything on the Electoral College." It now takes an effort of memory to recall, but this was what all the Democratic elite were saying that week. So the sudden moral emphasis on the popular vote is slightly unseemly, especially in view of the fact that the vote hasn't been counted yet.
There's an easy way to take your own pulse, and that of anyone you know, concerning the vertiginous events of the night of November 7. Was the apparent non-outcome really a "mess" or a crisis? Or was the pre-existing system a sordid mess and a crisis waiting to happen? If you choose the second explanation, then the meltdown of all the fixers and self-appointed gatekeepers and pseudo-experts, as well as being a source of joy, is also an unparalleled opportunity, an occasion for a long-postponed national seminar on democracy and how to get it.
If you stand in Tiananmen Square and keep your eyes open on a normal day, you will see the tour groups with their "keep together" flags, and the long line waiting to see the mummified Mao in his mausoleum, and the crowd around the entrance to the Forbidden City. Souvenir salesmen ply their trade where once the students massed around the Goddess of Democracy. And then you notice the militia vans endlessly circling, and the buses parked off to one side. It's a big space to police, and its vast openness makes it impossible to close off. Every few days, a group of supporters of the Falun Gong movement will suddenly unfurl their banners and wave them until the forces of order arrive, sweep them up and carry them away.
"When the ax came into the woods, the trees all said, 'Well, at least the handle is one of us.'" There is more intellectual content in this old Turkish folk warning than in the entire output of the "lesser evil" school. Here comes Albert Gore Jr., striding purposefully toward us with a big chopper resting easily on his shoulder.
During the Kosovo crisis of last year, it was commonplace if not routine to hear two mantras being intoned by those who had decided that "never" would be about the right time to resist ethnic cleansing with a show of force. We were incessantly told (were we not?) that NATO's action would drive the Serbs into the arms of Slobodan Milosevic. And we were incessantly told (were we not?) that the same NATO action would intensify, not alleviate, the plight of the Kosovar refugees. Now there has been an election that was boycotted by almost all Kosovars and by the government of Montenegro. And even with the subtraction of these two important blocs of opposition voters, it is obvious that Milosevic has been humiliated, exposed, unmasked, disgraced.
The poor guy is obviously dyslexic, and dyslexic to the point of near-illiteracy.
There are a number of persuasive reasons to cast a vote for Ralph Nader in the fall, and a number of unpersuasive reasons, too.
Clouds of blackbirds still do go wheeling and shrieking above Kosovo Polje, the bleak and windy site of the great Turkish victory over Serbia (and Albania) in 1389.
In principle, I rather detest articles or items that begin or end with the words, "You heard it here first." Nonetheless, this is what I told the readers of this column on December 28, 1998, in r