Hitchens on 9/11

From an interview of Christopher Hitchens by Australia’s ABC TV (the full interview can be viewed on broadband here on Windows Media Player):

TONY JONES: So let’s talk briefly about that day September 11, 2001.


TONY JONES: You described it very tellingly soon afterwards, if not on the day, as it being as if Charles Manson had been made God for a day.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Mmm. Yes, I remember thinking that as I watched this huge cloud of filth emerge from the wreckage, as the towers sank, up came this sort of billowing cloud of ordure and wreckage and including the shredded remains of about 3,000 of my fellow creatures.

This is a really evil looking cloud. There was shot from a helicopter above Manhattan showing it sort of spreading on this really beautiful day all across the southern tip of my favourite island. And I thought “it’s as if Charles Manson is giving orders today, yes”.

TONY JONES: The other…

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: That’s how it felt. I think about it every day, still.

TONY JONES: Take yourself back then to watching it. Because one of the most horrific images – and I think you actually described this as one of the most horrific images that still remains in your head that you have ever seen and that is, the burning people falling or jumping, in fact, from the towers before they collapsed.


Yes – hesitating between jumping to their deaths or being burnt alive and getting both – jumping while burning.

And a terrible little shrill cry that was overheard on the streets of Greenwich Village by a school teacher who was trying to escort some children along the sidewalk and one of them pointing and saying, “Look, teacher, the birds are on fire”.

A childish attempt to rationalise what was going on, make sense of it or, if you like – the wrong word but to humanise it.

That stayed in my mind as well. Still does.

TONY JONES: One of the more remarkable things that happened in the aftermath was the reaction of some on the Left – and I am sure this rather helped your – or helped galvanise the transformation that you were already undergoing – particularly from the reaction from people like Noam Chomsky.

Tell us a little bit about that.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well, once I had sorted out my various impression of the day, which I had in common with everyone else – and which also included the realisation that a friend of mine had just been flown into the walls of the Pentagon.

I felt, with that additional horror, much as everyone else did, to discover, work through shock, rage, fear – not so much, oddly enough. I didn’t feel I was frightened by it but I was very powerfully shaken by it.

And then – I wasn’t sure whether to trust myself with this but I actually have to admit it – a sort of sense of exhilaration coming from, “Okay, it’s everything I hate versus everything I love”.

It’s a summons of a sort. It’s “Okay, now if you don’t recognise this as a crisis, when would you recognise one?”

And then very soon succeeded by the realisation – I then had been working for The Nation magazine as columnist for the flagship journal of the American Left for upwards of two decades – immediately realising I wasn’t going to like what a lot of my comrades were going to say.

And I remember thinking of Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Howard Zinn, and a few others. They would find a way of explaining this away.

And that I wasn’t in the mood for it. And I don’t just mean mood for that moment. It wasn’t a temporary sort of eruption of my digestive system or anything.

I wasn’t prepared to tolerate that.

To tar the Left with the suggestion that 9/11 would simply be “explained away” is to ignore a dimension of the response in many observers which had nothing to do with diminishing the magnitude of what had happened or claiming that America had it coming. We weighed the significance of the events of that single day against what we feared would follow in the years and decades to come. Which is to say, there were many of us who witnessed 9/11 with a sense of dread, convinced that what would follow would be vastly more destructive, but unlike al Qaeda’s attack be violence done in our name.
(H/t to Pulse.)

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8 thoughts on “Hitchens on 9/11

  1. AMeshiea

    That is precisely right. Hitchens came out of the event with a new formed clarity in a direction he was already taking, one of militant ideological humanism (a kind of fanatial adherance to western enlightenment values situated as specifically unique). It was to form the basis for his nasty bile ridden rhetoric that became the new banner for his writings and debates. I, like many on the left who weren’t confused about their place in this world, knew that what was coming was indeed going to “be vastly more destructive.” You could see almost immediately the way that our sorry excuse for a media was ready to roll out the war drums and unfurl the flags, with a cowboy at the helm, and a nation full of arrogant citizens indoctrinated for decades with pledges of allegiance, a cult of militarism, and a new found trepedation about their own vacuuity and flimsy mortality, were all pointing to where we are today.

    I set about to leave NY after this. To me the US as an Empire in Republican clothing was about to drop the pretence and become a violent meter of death, and I wanted no part of it.

  2. Vince J

    I like what Hitchen writes. A lot! What I don’t like is this overly emiotion description of 9/11. Of course it was horrible. But more disturbing are the videos of the demolition of the North Tower, the cover up from NITS as to how and why the WTC7 collapsed in a free fall speed on it footprint on the same day, without being hit by any planes.
    I’m still waiting for the terrorists in the Pentagon to release the footages (There were many!) they confiscated showing an alledged 757 boing hiting the building.
    I would love to hear an explanation for what nanothermite residue was doing on the dust of those buildings.
    Then… I may get emotion.

  3. isadore ducasse

    i like vince’s comment, though going by his seco0nd to last sentence, i wonder if he has ‘loose change’ in his pocket…

  4. Ian Arbuckle

    This pompous self aggrandizing demagogue doesn’t believe in God, because he does not accept the supernatural, which is not unreasonable, yet he seems to accept that 19 extremist Muslims, with very limited flight training, who spent their last nights boozing and womanizing, managed to cause 3 steel framed buildings to collapse by flying two aircraft, principally made of aluminum and composite filled with kerosene, and then a fair number of these suicidal terrorists miraculously appear to be alive in various countries in North Africa and the Middle East going about their normal business. He also believes that a 757 can fly at 500 kilometers per hour, at 20 m or less above the ground, bend its wings with the engines and all on them back and fit through a whole 11 meters wide in the Pentagon. That is not to mention so many other unexplained phenomena relative to the events of that 9/11 which remain so totally incongruous to his hypothesis that we can only put them down to amazing coincidence, luck or extraordinary error. Come on, isn’t it a miracle that some people were able to have all those put-orders for United Airline and AXA through the DB office where an ex-CIA boss was the boss? …. Etc. etc. Miracles never cease!

    I’m really sorry that some people take this clown seriously. I’m glad he is changing his nationality before he snuffs it. America deserves another supporter of the “Official Conspiracy theory”. They need all they can get. The Al Qaeda this, and Al Qaeda that, believers need the support, as the ignorance and hypocrisy demanded to maintain the myth starts wearing thin and as Americans see more lies, smoke and mirrors of trillions in their economy, in their FED, their financial treasury, their Banks, their health insurance rip-off, in their defence spending, in their support of Israel, I mean 3 billion for 90 days. But hey sure, they never lied about 9-11 even if some of the commissioners said they were broad-sided.

    As an aside, in an interesting Reuters article of pure propaganda, in my view, a think tank The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) discovered on surveys in Afghanistan that “92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar know nothing of the hijacked airliner attacks on U.S. targets in 2001”. 10 years after the fact they go on to suggest that perhaps someone should tell them why their houses are being flattened and they have to suffer an occupation of foreign forces that have absolutely no right to be there, but that will be “good” for them in the future. But I suppose Mr. Hitchens would see the daily murders of these poor ignorant theocrats at the hands of Western “reason” quite reasonable. I’m afraid I don’t.

  5. Vince J

    I like Hitchens!!! No, I don’t like ‘Loose Change’ not the Truthers cult either.

    I have this opinion mostly beacuse evidence collected and analysed by Scientits, Pilots, Architects and Engeneers. I had a brother who was an archtect and he always said how marvelous the construction of the WTC complex was. It could not come down in less than 10 secs, present simetrical collapse due to natural cause (Fire melting steal and poverizing concrete).
    The there was the findings of Dr. Steven Jones about nanothermite.
    Than the North Tower video destruction te Archtects for 9/11 truth.
    They never convinced me about the Pentagon. I dare them to make the footages they confiscated on that day, public!

  6. Vince J

    Ian Arbuckle ,
    Don’t forget that the ‘new Pearl Harbour’ was described in the neocon document ‘The New American Century’ nearly a year before it happened… Who they think they are fooling??!!

  7. Vince J

    By the way, there is a great article from Peper Scobar at Asian Times today about Imperial US. It is called ‘NATOstan’.
    Worth having a read!

  8. Ian Arbuckle

    Vince J

    Thank you for pointing out that excellent article by Pepe Escobar. I wish more could see it like he does. To me NATO is like a “Mad Hatters Tea Party”, they just all move places to the next setting and “move on” from the last disaster that they pretend to spin their way out of.

    The only thing that gives me hope is that like the EU PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain), NATO is in debt, over-spending its member contributions by a significant margin and 73% of those contributions are from the US, who is going quickly bankrupt and borrowing massively from China, who is apparently the real enemy of the future with the potential to question the US’s global hegemony.

    Maybe you too know a guy down the road who can talk big, but what he thinks is a Camelot is really a filthy trailer park junk yard littered with past failed projects, and he just spouts on and on about spending money he does not have on the next one and telling the world how he’s going to lead us all to a golden future….. ha, ha.

    If you read between the lines, the more positive the statements that come out of these type of conferences, the more negative the reality is. NATO is crumbling and the cause is above all, but not only cost. Even if we forgo US made, do you honestly think the French or the British will agree to buy Russian helicopters, just to keep them on the side of the alliance. I mean as long as these people stay in their meetings of intrigue and mutual back slapping, and breath that rarefied air of the wind passed by their “yes men” that surround and protect them we will be faced by “leaders” of the caliber of the Mad Hatter and March Hair.

    From Wikipedia The Mad Hatter:
    The Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because, when he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at her celebration, she sentenced him to death for “murdering the time,” but he escapes decapitation. In retaliation, Time (referred to as a “Him”) halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 forever. The tea party, when Alice arrives, is characterized by switching places on the table at any given time, making short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry, all of which eventually drive Alice away. He appears again as a witness at the Knave of Hearts’ trial, where the Queen appears to recognize him as the singer she sentenced to death, and the King also cautions him not to be nervous “or I’ll have you executed on the spot.”

    When the character makes his appearance as “Hatta” in Through the Looking-Glass, he is in trouble with the law once again. This time, however, he is not necessarily guilty: the White Queen explains that quite often subjects are punished before they commit a crime, rather than after, and sometimes they do not even commit it at all. He is also mentioned as being one of the White King’s messengers, and the March Hare appears as well as “Haigha”, since the King explains that he needs two messengers: “one to come, and one to go.” Sir John Tenniel’s illustration also depicts him as sipping from a teacup as he did in the original novel, adding weight to Carroll’s hint that the two characters are very much the same.

    I think this is the “tea party” that we are stuck in, just like Alice.

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