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This is the kickoff event of the Orwell symposium, and there are several things that are planned for it. This is a part of an initiative that has been sponsored by and initiated by the National Council of Teachers of English, and it’s actually entitled “1984 plus 20,” which means that college, university, and high school students across the nation right now are actually looking at Orwell’s works. And I think now is a good time to be doing this. There is a sense of doublethink that many of us who are my age are beginning to feel, particularly as we watch the news and see our nation yet again engaged in hostilities in Southeast Asia. I mean, Iraq. Yeah, John got it. There is a sense that we’re repeating history here, and I think Orwell was one of the people who asked us to think very critically of how those messages are sent by governments, not simply our government but governments in general. And I think now is a good time to start thinking about that and examining how we use language and why we use language in the way that we use language to represent events in the world.

So there are several planned events today. Our featured speaker is Christopher Hitchens. We will, on November 18th, invite Philip Winger, and there will be a display of students’ scholarly works on December 1st and 2nd. And there will be more information posted about these events as they occur.

Now, there are also several people that I would like to thank who are the organizing principles behind this: Debbie Edelman (I know she’s here), Jim Allen, Dan Thorp (I know I saw him earlier too), Bob Dixon, Color Daniel Keyes, Jason Stark, and Christine Kick Olds. They’re the ones who planned and put together these events, and believe me, to do this kind of work takes a great deal of planning and effort on their part. So it is my privilege now to introduce Christopher Hitchens. He is an author of many books, most notably (and these are just a very few of them): “Callahan,” “The Road to Number 10,” “Hostage to History,” “Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger,” “No One Left to Lie To,” “The Values of the Worst Family,” and his most recent book, as I understand it, “A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq.”

For many years, he has been a columnist or contributor to such periodicals as The Nation, Vanity Fair, The Times Literary Supplement, and he has been a Washington editor of Harper’s, a book critic for Newsday, and irregularly and he regularly contributes to the London Review of Books, Vogue (I’m having trouble reconciling those two things), and The Times Literary Supplement. He’s been called (and I hope he takes this as a compliment) “ass Arabic” and nonconformist with a predilection for irony and satire. He is often controversial. And, however, having said that, Basic Books had enough confidence in his 2002 book, the one most at issue here, “Why Orwell Matters,” to order a very large first printing for a scholarly work. The American Library Association’s book lists, as Hitchens clarifies, all that Orwell accomplished and, by extension, affirms literature’s unique and essential powers.

Ladies and gentlemen, and brothers and sisters, and I suppose any trisexual element present, thank you for coming on such a beautiful afternoon, and thank you for such a handsome introduction. I had no idea the American Library Association had said that.

Here’s my promise to you: I won’t leave until there is no one present who has a question that I haven’t answered. And not until it’s cocktail hour, at any rate. I wouldn’t come to a group of this kind without doing a little bit of homework about who you are and who you were. I’ve done some checking, and I was told that quite a lot of people knew about the required lot of fuel here, and quite a lot of people cared about it. There were quite a lot of people who didn’t know about it, and quite a lot who didn’t care. I’m going to speak at first to those who are in the latter category and see if I can win you over. In my effort to do that, I hope I’ll have something to say that’s of interest to those who consider themselves experts on the subject, specialists, or just interested.

I make one other promise: is there anyone here who’s been told they have to come here by their professor, or who’s here for credit? Well, I’ll just tell you now that I am an adjunct professor at New School University of New York, and I can sign a piece of paper if you want that says you don’t have to stay. I don’t do captive audiences. I said I don’t do them in the name of war, so no one who has been told they have to be here has to remain. Let’s just see now; the doors have been locked, as I requested. Yes, very well.

All right, I have to start with disappointment. When I arrived, I asked if anyone happened to have a copy of my book. I might not need it, but I might, and a very kindly professor here said he could go to the library and get it. The reason I most wanted it initially was for the photograph that’s on the jacket. So, this is unfortunate. How your library has done this. And I’m glad to think the book is worth stealing, that it would be this identifiable on a secondhand shop. But I did, in fact, want to ask you to begin by inviting you to, in a sense, close your eyes and pretend you haven’t had this as a subject before or as a syllabus matter before. And actually, just have a picture in your head. The one that I have all the time.

What you would have, and perhaps some of you have seen pictures of the author, is that of a slightly tall, angular, shy, but not unconfident Englishman with a hollow chest look. A rather dolorous look in some ways, or a solemn look. But yet, it’s not the look of someone with no sense of humor. It’s a look of someone who’s been through quite a lot and has tried his best. But there is a final element of pessimism to it, as well as, I think, some of that hard-to-understand handsomeness for which we English people are so, and I think rightly, famed. It’s an ironic look, actually. Here’s what it is. It’s a look of someone who has suffered a great deal. And I want to begin by proposing it in this manner.

There were three great subjects in the century that’s just closed, with rather a big slam of the door behind us. That’s what you’ve heard called the twentieth century. Some of you were just born in it, I guess. And there were three, as I say, three great dramas, great crises, great moral and intellectual and ideological confrontations in that period. And you all have had to know about some of them. And you’ll carry on hearing about this, by the way, as you will keep hearing about this author, whether he’s on a syllabus or not. You’ll wonder why he keeps coming up, and part of my reply to that implied question is this: Of these three questions, which were the right of European countries (of white people in Western Europe, to be exact): the right of such people to govern the rest of the world; to govern Africa and Asia and large parts of South America and Australasia, as if it was right, as if it was a birthright; the grand confrontation between democracy and National Socialism (sometimes called Nazism or Fascism), totalitarian racist one-party military state concept, organized for war, organized for aggression; and third, and the one that ended most recently, the confrontation between the democratic way of life and the Communist alternative, where the citizen is declared to be the property of the state, and the state promises, in return for this trade, to make the citizen better off, better educated, better fed, with better healthcare, but eventually doesn’t keep that promise either, but retains its hold on the citizen as property. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s roughly it. These were the things that preoccupied anyone who could read or feel or think in the last century, and George Orwell got all of them right in my judgment. This is, of course, a moral judgment of my own, but I’m willing to back it up.

George Orwell’s father was involved in the opium trade from then British-controlled India to China. In other words, British gunboats and warships could force Chinese cities to buy in Chinese waterways to be open to the compulsory trade in opium made in India and other British possessions. In those days, the Empire believed in the war for drugs, not the war on drugs (not that there’s much difference in some ways). In those days, they thought that if you gave people drugs, it would keep them quiet, as well as make money for the drug dealers. In other words, Orwell’s family was built on a guilty secret, a dirty secret, the colonial secret. And he himself volunteered, in his early life, to become a policeman in a part of that Empire, Burma (now known as Myanmar), and living under a Stone Age dictatorship. And by the experience, I think, of disliking his father and his father’s business and feeling guilty about the source of the family income and feeling sick about the job he was doing, he came to a very important conclusion, which is a very modern one, by the way. In some ways, post-colonial studies are founded by George Orwell and his writing, and so many of the works now written about the relationship between power and race and gender or sex. I’ll put it this bluntly: If you were in colonial Burma, the most westernized Burmese man, and you’d been to three European universities, and you spoke English better than most English people do, and you had five qualifications, it wouldn’t make any difference to you.

You would never be allowed to enter the Englishman’s Club in Rangoon, the capital of the country. Your net would never be allowed in by the front door. You might possibly be allowed in on special occasions as a guest, but you’d never get in there in your own country. You would be considered alien because you were born there. That would be a good definition of racism, I think. However, if you were the least educated, least empowered, and least literate Burmese woman, you could go into any Englishman’s villa anytime you liked, as long as it was by the back door and as long as it was a money relationship. In fact, in his first novel, “Burmese Days,” he writes about a policeman who was clearly based on himself, who has a live-in mistress and servant who he has quite clearly bought from her family. He’s not even renting her; he’s bought her. She’s a fettered slave, and it’s my strong opinion, having studied this man’s life and writing, that he threw up the job. We don’t know why; he never said. He just resigned as a policeman and resigned from the colonial service and came home. But I think that he was very afraid that he would become part of the dirty secret himself, that he would either become a racist or a sadist or both by being in this situation, and wanted to repudiate this in himself. And by the way, I think that’s an important point on its own because many of you know what, as it were, the right opinion is to have on something or what the liberal or decent view is to take on a topic and would shudder from anyone who was a bigot, and so you should.

And a lot of work went into creating a society where that choice was a fairly easy one to make, but that wasn’t the case with George Orwell at a time when assumptions of this kind were very common. And the critical thing about it is he didn’t face this prejudice in other people. He wasn’t a liberal humanitarian facing down policemen in Selma, Alabama who had hoses and dogs on their side. He was facing that policeman in himself. He was wondering what it would be like to be that person and decided he’d have to vanquish it within his own personality. And that, I submit, is often the harder of the struggles to undertake, and it’s worth remembering how tough that used to be, at any rate. What he understood when he’d done with this, and he was then still quite young, he had never been to university, he’d never had any money, he never had a safe or steady job, was he knew that there was a filthy secret at the heart, and that that secret was in a sense a pornographic secret. That some people don’t even need the excuse to wield power. They won’t even say we’re doing it for your own good, or to civilize your colony, or to save you from communism, or to save you from fascism, or to liberate you from capitalism, or anything this time, no not even an excuse. We’re in power because we enjoy punishing people. We’re empowered as we enjoy owning people. We enjoy telling them what they can do. We enjoy telling them when we feel like having sex with them and when we don’t. We do this for its own sake. The pornography element of power is a very important thing to understand. It’s very common today among a number of dictators and despots.

It’s an exercise of sheer cruelty, and I think it was a tremendous insight for Orwell as a writer to have understood this right from the start: just strip away the hypocrisy that underlies authority. And he’d done all this and come back to England, who decided to go out to be a tramp and then to take the dirtiest jobs he could find and pretend to be someone who was going to be arrested for drunkenness or thrown in the cells for a few nights, or sleeping in the doss houses or hanging around among the unemployed. He went native, as we used to say, as if he was in a colony, but in his own country. He’d done all this by the time that what we call the ’30s, the great political decade of the century, had got underway. So that when the grand confrontation of our democracy, communism, Stalinism, and fascism, Nazism hit not just Europe but the world, he was ready for it. In a way, he knew what the subtexts were, and I believe that helped him to be prescient.

It’s an interesting thing about Orwell; he went to fight against fascism in Spain against the assault of Hitler and Mussolini on the democratically chosen Republican government of Spain in 1936. He went to fight earlier than most people did. He felt it evident to himself that he had to put his own body in the way. He had to become a soldier again, and a policeman again in the sense of a fighter disciplinarian again, and try to organize a resistance. He saw this coming more quickly than most men did. But you can read him exhaustively, as I have done. I can now claim to have read every word he’s written. He hardly writes anything about fascism at all. He hardly writes a single essay saying why you should be against it. He takes it for granted that when you look down the gun barrel of Hitler and Mussolini and Franco and fascism and Nazism, that you don’t need to be told what’s wrong with it. Here’s everything you hate: here’s every bullying father, every crushed, repressed mother, every sadistic prison warden, every exploiting capitalist, every racist and Jew-baiter, every thuggish bully and sadist and exploiter that has ever been, all rolled into one, and then refined and double-distilled and redone again, so you’ve got the absolutely pure essence of everything that’s hateful.

We tend to sneer more–I’ve heard people say–at the use of the word “evil” by politicians. By politicians, one should probably suspect the use of this word. But it’s not possible if you want to write more away or you want to write critically. You want to write historically. It’s not possible to do without this word. Certain words are necessary. We can’t do without it. Indeed, even the most delicate liberal these days will talk about the “lesser evil,” which shall I say is at least a concession to the use of the word. We can’t take it out of our vocabulary. Well, he was looking at it straight in the eye, and he took a bullet through the throat in Spain from the fascist side. And he nearly got a bullet in the back from the communist side. But before I get to that bit, I just must tell you, in case I’m sounding too solemn, that the bullet that went through his throat from the fascist sniper hit him right there. And it missed his larynx, it missed his carotid artery, it missed his spinal cord, and it just grazed his vocal cords.

So from then on, he spoke with a slight rasp in his voice and had to go to a hospital because a bullet went in one side of his neck and came out the other. This meant he had to lie down for a bit, and everyone who came to see him knew that the bullet had gone right through him. Luckily, it missed his larynx, carotid artery, and spinal cord, and only grazed his vocal cords. All of them said the same thing: ‘That was lucky!’ He replied, ‘If I was lucky, I wouldn’t have been shot in the throat at all.’ In other words, I should add and make it plain throughout this, George Orwell had no belief in any kind of supernatural salvation or any sort. He thought that this was the only world we had, and we’d better make it the best we could. Actually, he said that the great problem of civilization and culture would be what to do about language, morality, and ethics. What to do when religion is dead? What to do when we know it’s failed? What to do in the post-religious society? And that wasn’t the least of his prescience in my view.

Well, I mentioned I was going on to mention the bullet he nearly got in the back. At the time when this tremendous menace of fascism, this sadistic, pornographic evil, was assaulting civilization, there were a very large number of intellectuals and aesthetes, although that’s not always the same thing. Artists, writers, intellectuals, and painters are not all to be grouped together as there sometimes are. Some painters have no idea what the hell is going on. Some have a better idea than many intellectuals do. Some intellectuals probably make good painters, though they don’t make very good thinkers. But there was a widespread view among the anti-fascist artistic crowd, if you like, that this was not a question that had no answer. Because there was already on the other side of the Ural Mountains an ideal socialist society that would outlive Orwell’s imperialism, the imperialism he didn’t like, would defeat the capitalism that he didn’t like when he went among the poor and the downtrodden of England and France, and that it would defeat fascism by definition. That, under the leadership of Comrade Stalin, a new world had been created in the East, that all questions would be answered, that no contradictions would exist anymore, that exploitation of man by man would cease, and that this was not just a potential thing but an actual thing, that this utopia was already present, and that it was the job of all decent progressive people to fight for it.

I think probably this might well open an argument between something me and some of you. I think probably that Orwell’s greatest achievement was to have been brave enough to say that it would be nice to think this, especially faced as we are with this deadly foe, but that what the Communists think is not just a deadly illusion, in other words, a romantic but wrong idea, but it’s a poisonous delusion. It is a parody of reality, a negation of reality, and it will end up being evil itself. That took a lot of guts in those days. You must always think about thinkers and writers in the context in which they had to operate. Most of the people with whom Orwell had to circulate coexisted and at least half believed some of that about Soviet Russia. It’s for this reason that he always had a hard time getting his articles published, his speeches heard, or even his books in print. So, I think I would like to nominate one of his great achievements, his novels. One of them I know some of you have read, and another I suspect some of you have been told to read. Never mind, it’s better than not reading at all. The one that I know you will keep hearing about as long as you can continue to breathe and argue is 1984, and its partner novel Animal Farm. In these two novels, both of which Orwell thought of as total failures, which he wrote when he was very ill, 1984, which he wrote when he was dying of tuberculosis, he exposed once and for all time the idea of the Stalinist utopia, of the idea that if the citizen will give up his freedom, or her freedom, for security, if you’ll give the state his right to decide, or her right to decide, if you’ll give them all that and grant them power, then they will take care of his other needs. They said this bargain is fatal, you will end up with neither freedom nor security. You will end up with neither freedom nor food, neither freedom nor bread. You’ll end up being starved and bullied and told you’re being well-fed. And you will not dare to point out the discrepancy between reality and the promise because that party says the promise is the reality, and don’t you dare go saying that you’ve confused the two.

It’s more than your life is worth. And he wrote this in such a way that I know I don’t have to tell those of you who’ve read it, as to make it almost terrifying. Indeed, I still meet people younger than myself to whom 1984 is a date in their own past, who find the book frightening because it is designed to foreclose hope entirely. At the end of the book, there is nothing left to live for. The citizen is so much the property of the state that they’re disposable. They’re smashed. Their personality is emptied. Their emotions and fears, even their sex lives, are considered open, available, and contemptible by a party that runs everything. His hope, I think, was to make it so frightening that it would mobilize people to resist it, but it certainly had the effect on some, I fear, of making them feel there’s nothing worth fighting for, or the resistance is futile. I don’t know quite how to answer that question. I think I should leave it open to you, ladies and gentlemen. I probably should ask since I didn’t bring a timepiece, how near I am to trespassing on my time. Very well. I didn’t want to speak for very much more than half an hour, 45 minutes, because I imagined that many of you came here to speak as well as to listen, and I promise you I can keep talking, but I think there may come a point where I should invite your questions. Now, how did Orwell do this? What I’ve sketched may seem like a lot to say about one individual, and of course, the last thing he would have wanted would have been to become a plaster saint figure or an object of hagiography. In fact, I’m absolutely certain that had he survived, the thing that would have most surprised him posthumously would have been his success and his fame. As I began by saying, he died young. Actually, he died…well, let me put it like this. He only made it just into the second half of the 20th century. He died in early 1950 at the age of 46. He only just made it in the second half of the last century. That must seem to a lot of you, as it does to me.

I was born in 1949. I look back quite a long time ago. In fact, we are as far from him as he was from Charles Dickens, about whom, by the way, he wrote very well. That’s the leap of reverse memory you have to make. But he’s still very modern to us. He writes about things we know: machinery, modern tyranny, modern warfare, modern fear and threat, psychiatry. How did he manage to do this, having died as he did of a disease that is practically Dickensian? He died of poverty. In fact, he died of tuberculosis, which is a disease we now think of as third world. He died of the poverty of his country and his own life, and he died of the lack of available medicine. There was a treatment in the United States available for free, but he didn’t know how to get it and probably couldn’t have afforded it. He died the death that some of you who have the romantic dream of being writers, which I hope you never give up, may have imagined for yourself: in the garret with no money but with the beautiful work just in the bottom drawer for someone to find. Don’t give up that dream, by the way, if you have it. If any of you have ever thought of taking up the craft of writing as a dissident, as an oppositionist, this is the life I’ve just been trying to describe as an exemplary one and worth your study.

So, how did he manage this extraordinary feat of being right when everyone else was wrong? To put it bluntly, I think in two ways. One, by life experience. He knew that power was not its own justification, that authority didn’t come from God, didn’t come from tradition, it came from people who wanted power. He understood that, and he felt that he should never stop criticizing them and exposing them. That’s the first thing. Second, he realized that often this trick is masked in language. If you only read one essay of his, you must read the one that’s called “Politics and the English Language,” in which he exposes the fraud, the way in which you familiarize reality. If I was to give you an example now, I suppose I would say to take the most recent, most obvious one. I don’t think now that any member of any American administration would use the word “collateral damage” again to describe what it does describe: civilian casualties. Those of you who know that expression or who’ve known how to see through it have done in your way a well job, and you probably, without knowing it, have done it too well. That’s the capacity that you have. But that’s the trick, in effect: you find a nice name for a nasty thing, and you get it spread around by making it seem technical or technological.

I could summarize it in one sentence: that would be it. He was onto that. He knew every time that the Stalin regime said, “Well, you know, in extraordinary times, extraordinary measures must be taken,” he thought of his mass graves. He knew, without being told by reading their own propaganda, that whatever the truth was, the propaganda was lying and using nice words for disgraceful things. This is a trick that should never desert you. You can all do it for yourself. There’s no reason not to do it. Interrogate what you read and what you’re given in that spirit, and you’ll find it all the time. It’s remarkable to me, in fact, that he was able to do this and to be considered exceptional for it. But he did stick to it, and he did therefore understand how great, noble ideas can turn into their opposite, and thus that in 1984, freedom is slavery, and war is peace, and people live with the negation because they believe the party or the authority or the dictator who claimed it in the first place, and they didn’t have the nerve to doubt it because if they were wrong, if they had themselves been fooled, then what would it make them?

I’ve talked up till now about power, and I think I’ll stop at this point and invite your questions by just saying this: power is only what you allow it to be. Very many people put up with political lying, political illusions, and political propaganda because if they were to denounce it, they would have to admit that for many decades, they had themselves been fooled, that they had been taken for granted, that they had allowed themselves, so to speak, to be deceived. The con man’s work is always done for him by the victim. The victim doesn’t want to go to the police and say, “I’ve been conned. I was so stupid that I did this.” They don’t wish to admit it. So, in a subtle and deadly way, the dictator can dirty enough people up to make them all complicit in his rule or, I suppose, her rule. He can make them the tortured yet willing, masochistic, complicit element in his own sadistic mania.

Now, what you can’t necessarily do about power or about authority, you can do for yourselves and your fellow readers, and for those students and fellow citizens. You can resolve not to be a citizen like you can resolve not to do the work of power for it. You can resolve not to let lies be told in your hearing. You can resolve not to use sloppy language that is euphemism. And then, I think I’ll leave it. I think, if you realize that the reading of Orwell is not an exercise in projecting blame on others, but is an exercise in accepting responsibility for yourself and/or for yourselves, and it’s for that reason that he’ll always be honored, and also that he’ll always be hated, and I think he wouldn’t have had it any other way. And as a chronicler of his, neither would I. So, I’m now your hostage, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being mine for a bit, and we’ll see if we can exchange the prisoner’s dilemma. And I’m all yours, and thank you for coming again. I meant to say thank you again for coming, but I mean this subconscious Indian, would it be right that I recognize questioners, sir? Because who knows but that I’ve planted someone? I might not be the right person to point to you. Trust me, more fool you, sir. Dickensian, well yes. I’m sorry, did I maybe slur that? No? Yeah, I think his death was Dickensian, and it’s touching in a way. For someone who wrote so much about the Victorian London of Dickens, that he died of poverty and tuberculosis years before he needed to and of overwork. I mean, that’s how Dickens’ characters often check out, in the debtors’ prison of a chill. Sorry, I’m sorry if I gobbled that. You’re very polite. Go on listening up, comrade.

I didn’t everyone hear the question? Should I? Should I was asked to say why Will directed his Chris’s and only it’s not as Russian noted Hitler’s Germany. And then I, gentlemen, did save me slightly by saying or had he misunderstood me? Well, I put myself in your safekeeping, ladies and gentlemen. Did I imply that he had no criticism of federalism? Did you think that – are you? Yes, more like it. Alright, you’re polite, that’s the problem with this country. Everyone is too polite, too courteous to visitors. You might have thought I hadn’t made this point. You might leave me wondering if I was that inarticulate. That’s not polite, that’s cruel. Not courtesy at all, it’s an abuse of hospitality. What I did say, sir, and I apologize if I phrased it so poorly, was that if you look in Orwell’s writing for a direct attack on Hitlerism, you won’t really find it. He hardly mentions it in his writing, except to assume that anyone of average emotional health regards it as he does, as something evil to be destroyed. He doesn’t feel it needs to be a case that needs to be made. And it took me, I’ve been reading him for years before I noticed that there is no Orwell essay against fascism. There isn’t one. All he did was to take a rifle and go and see if he could stop it physically. It was a vote more like a vermin control point, I think during the night, an ideological one. Whereas with communism, you had to argue against the illusions of civilized people who thought that there might be a higher synthesis, a better society available by following the lead of a one-party initiative, and that took that did take dance. And so I really hope I haven’t left anyone in doubt on that point because I would be awfully sorry to do, sir. Now I have the judgment of Paris. I don’t know who to choose, sir. Well, the gentleman asked, was it a problem with Stalinism, communism, or Marxism? No. I claimed in my book to be the first person to point out something again I should have noticed years before I did. If you’ve read Animal Farm, by the way, could I have an idea of just for my own sake, a show of hands of those who have read it? Ok, that’s great. Well then, you know the allegory now, and you may know something of the history of the Russian Revolution in the whatever view you take of the Russian Revolution. It’s inspired by Karl Marx, who is very easily recognized as the dying old Major.

It’s inspired by Karl Marx, who is very easily recognized as the dying old Major. It was wonderful when John Major was Prime Minister of England, probably for that reason, who makes the prophecy that one day the animals will throw off the yoke of Speak. And then there is a revolution, and that is led by two pigs. Though wait, I should do the Russian one first. That’s Karl Marx. Then there’s a revolution in which Lenin, Trotsky, and to a much lesser extent Stalin take part in, which vanquishes the Czarist s– and the foreign intervention from the West. At some cost, it dissolves into fratricide, and the toughest, nastiest pig takes over. And that is Napoleon pig, who vanquishes Snowball pig. That’s two pigs, Lenin and Trotsky or Stalin and Trotsky if you like. Where is either Lenin or Stalin, you can’t do this trick with two pigs. You need three. Now there’s a question in my mind about this, which goes directly to yours. Many people on the left in Orwell’s day, and now, now think that Leninism was one thing, and Stalinism was another. That Lenin wanted a revolution and was not gentle about it, but was not a toy, and Stalinism took over this revolution and so to speak, disfigured, destroyed, negated it. Others, many conservatives to this day, no, no, it’s the same thing, Leninism and Stalinism are the same. It’s not completely possible to tell which Orwell thought, but in my opinion, the way he writes about it is as if to suggest that Snowball was right, Trotsky was right, and that there had been an initial revolution that was worth fighting for, was worth defending, and that had been betrayed.

And I say that for several reasons, as well as for the novel itself with its imperfect allegory. One, he fought in Spain with a group that was roughly speaking Trotskyist, that had a communist Marxist position against fascism, but didn’t support Stalin. And near his life’s end, the second is that the book within the book in 1984, the secret book that O’Brien purports to give to Smith, the theory and practice of Gockel collectivism, it’s called, and its author’s name is given as Emmanuel Goldstein. That text and that author are very clearly to me, well, I know, I mean, you can check it yourself, that is a direct lift from Revolution Betrayed by Leon Trotsky. That is, that is a war world version of that book and that author. So, I think that Orwell was not one of those who thought that Marxism and Stalinism were the same. In fact, very much to the contrary. You just close a gesture, the polite one, I hope, in that case, welcoming one. So, see, that’s why I shouldn’t be the one doing was the question heard by all. Okay, well, I’m going to put this to your arbitration as well as mine. The gentleman wants to ask me about some contradictions in my own position about universal jurisdiction as it applies to Henry Kissinger, and also my view about the war in Mesopotamia. Which I’m quite happy to do either now or afterwards, but I don’t think you’ll think I’m avoiding your question. I hope you were, if I say that I’d rather be sure there are no more Orwell questions left before I do that. Because I’m just as happy to talk about myself, trust me. But there may be some people who want to exhaust the Blair question, sir. Ah, okay, well, it is coming then.

Can you speak up? Not for my sake, but for the others. Should I rephrase that question to, “Was it her?” By all, it was not well. I might not be the best translator. If it would see, if I do this fairly, the gentleman says that viewing the present circumstances (he means right here) of the convergence of business into monopoly and the fusion of that with state power and with warfare, that he wonders if the 1984 analogy doesn’t apply as well to our own system. Would that be fair?

Pressey: Okay, well first, I should give the “ask me about all” well notice. My opinion, I hope I’ll give my own, of course, if you want. There’s no question that Orwell wrote 1984 in the way that he did in order to say what he feared would happen if there was a permanent three-way cold war, where there were only three superpowers in the world, and that they could all coerce their own populations by keeping them in a state of readiness and conscription and rationing and fear of bombardment (some others which, if they weren’t real, could be faked), and that these alliances could shift – they could be fighting another enemy, but the internal coercion would be the same. There’s no question that that’s what he thought would happen once the possibility of birth dictatorship and nuclear weaponry were brought together.

He wrote a brilliant piece called “You and the Atom Bomb” – as its name is well worth looking up – in about 1946 saying that the prospect of nuclear power meant that the danger of an existing dictatorship becoming permanent, unassailable was greater than at any time since the Middle Ages and that this was far greater than the threat of anarchy would be. And he put all of that into the book, and there’s no question that that’s what it’s supposed to be based on. The nuclear point being very important, by the way, I think, because the world of 1984 which is the Devastator burned out England that would be part of the United States vs. Ionic Empire after a nuclear war. It’s very specifically after atom bombs exploded; it is very, very clearly what it is. So, that’s yes. You’re right in saying that Orwell had this theory of a which is borrowed partly from James Burnham and other writers of a state of the world being governed by three cynical empires who played each other off against the other. Were you asking me if I thought that described the present situation? Not in the least. No, in my opinion, it did for a while describe the Cold War quite well. It was possible, for example, for the United States to make an ally of China, having originally been willing to fight a nuclear war against China, because China there was more totalitarian and still is than the Soviet Union was willing to look at things more in the American Way for its own reasons. I mean shifts of allegiance of that kind did take place as long as it was roughly speaking possible for the great power leaderships themselves to control events.

And just to anticipate this gentleman’s question, when Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State, he was able to pull off a unique double – as far as I know, no one else has ever done this – well, Secretary of State to be soft on fascism and soft on communism at the same time. Extraordinary. He was always groveling two mouths a term and bargaining with him. And it was groveling and bargaining with Brezhnev in Moscow and every now and then stomping on the Chileans or the East Timorese or the Cambodians or people who couldn’t hit. My remarkable fact that still is the case, actually, the most of the business he does is with Communist China when it’s not with corporations doing business in Chile. But this is in a more plural world. Know that what we’re faced with now is a different kind of mujahideen, a different kind of totalitarian threat altogether, one that is part state and part insurgent. It has an old name – jihad, holy war. Its methods are what you might call populistic or guerrilla-like, but its aim is the restoration of an empire that is gone – the Ottoman Caliphate, which was an empire of religion and an empire based on monotheism. It is, by definition, totalitarianism because, as Orwell was, I think, very quick to realize, the origin of worship, the origin of the need of people, this is what I was cautioning you against. Don’t worry. There’ll always be people who want to have the will to power. What you have to worry about is how many of you have the will to obey. I mean, if you want to be taken care of and looked after, how many of you want to be part of a servile system where you trade your freedom for security? That’s the dead you into something of not well. The religious dictatorship promises all that and an extra life on top, with sometimes, depending on which monotheism it happens to be, virgins thrown in. I think virgins are overrated myself, both among men and among women, but I don’t think that the Islamic fanatics have read the Jewish commentary on this, which says that with every virgin comes a mother-in-law. But that’s about the only joke you can make about this kind of thing.

You’re up against something that is deeply subversive and nihilistic, but also fantastically authoritarian, and wishes to have state power, wishes to have absolute power over you in your private and public life. It’s the most totalitarian threat you could face, and it deals in the most nihilistic methods in order to achieve its aim. And of course, it is self-destructive. It will, of course, fail. It will, of course, destroy itself. It will, of course, destroy the religion and the Muslim society there purports to uphold. Of course, this is all axiomatic. We’ve known it forever. Our Jihads have always failed for this reason. But that it’s to be compared with Halliburton, as you implied, is frivolous. Quite frivolous. Drop it. You’ll feel better.

Now, I thought the lady here was… Know that there are a lot of people making vague gestures of me. In that case, I’m not… I thought this didn’t happen in this part of Illinois. Bring it on.

You when you say he, in this case, do you mean oil or Transkei?

Now, well, if you don’t mind a correction rather than a clarification, it would simply be wrong to say that all that exists me the Trotsky was analogous. That would be not the case. He was a Bolshevik till, possibly, not till the day he died, but until about the last day he wrote anything. He regarded himself as a Marxist and a Leninist and as the rival of Stalin for that role. I think he had a very libertarian streak in his personality, and it shows in his writing and his attitude to literature and many other fine things about him. But no, his neither best friend nor worst enemy would say he was an anarchist.

Of Orwell, it could be said that he was certainly critical of all state systems. However, his ideal—at least at the point when he died—would have been the British socialist welfare state of the post-war period, which he thought managed to combine a great deal of equality, fairness, and redistribution with a great deal of personal liberty. At that point, he was probably right. It probably hadn’t been combined better in any European society before, and there are still many people in England who are nostalgic for it, even though there are very few who would not think of that as a model. That’s what I mean by him being poised, but he’s now passed enough future tonight. I hope that clears things up for you. You’re looking still as you’re looking quizzical at me, which I don’t blame you for. It’s my phone. No, you’d have to make that four. Look, I’ll tell you the best book to read on this, if you like. There’s a book by Felix Moro called “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain” written from the left. Opposite Orwell, you should also read that scene. The second-best book is the best book is “Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell. Can I take it that you’re Fred? No? Well, it would be four forces. There were those who supported the Franco rebellion against the Republic, which were themselves made up of several forces—the Catholic Church, the Nazis, the monarchists, and some others. And then opposing this were several forces—the Catalan and Basque nationalists, the Spanish Socialist Party, the Spanish Communist Party, the Spanish anarchists (who were very strong in Catalunya), and the Spanish Trotskyists (the partido opera unification month Easter, as they were known, the POUM), with whom Orwell fought. He actually joined their militia in the Lenin barracks in Barcelona, of which there were photographs. It’s a brilliantly interesting story, and many people think that “Homage to Catalonia” is the best book ever written by a foreign correspondent. I still meet people when I go to Afghanistan, or Bosnia, or Kurdistan—people who are starting off in life and want to write about warfare, war, revolution, men and women, and some photographers as well as writers. But almost invariably, one of the books that made them want to do this is “Homage to Catalonia”. It’s a fantastically good verb, and it would clear up your misunderstanding about the anarchists.

Well, some of it’s overdue and some of it’s unnecessary. Oh, the gentleman wants to know what I think about the Patriot Act. We’re done with Orwell. I guess I’d be getting to the point where people think I was avoiding the question if I went on saying that I wouldn’t have that. I’ll be quick on the Patriot Act. The CIA and the FBI could not legally share information on conspiratorial nihilist organizations, which was the case until three years ago. If they had information, they were not legally obliged to share it with the other. In fact, in some cases, they were prohibited from doing so because one policed foreign policy and one police domestic policy. I don’t think anyone thinks that that shouldn’t have been stopped. There needed to be some new law to make that the same policy, which is in conformity with the idea of a fight against early war, because the war started on our soil, not on anyone else’s. That’s unique in that way. There were other things that were put into the bill that I know the FBI has been wanting to put into every piece of legislation since the Clinton anti-terrorism death penalty act of 1995.

For example, can’t we just have roving wiretaps so that we only ask a judge once, and once he’s given it once, we can apply it to any phone the guy ever uses? Or warrantless searches in public housing or things of this kind? They’ve always wanted that, or looking at library records, and there was a big fight in Washington about whether or not to include these on the coattails. Some of these clauses have been grandfathered, so to say. In other words, they have to revert it on again. They’re temporary; they’re not part of the law yet. They have to be reconfirmed in another Congress. Some was struck down, and some are going to have to be redone. And I would only amend the Constitution, which I think is a perfectly good document the way it stands, one way, which is to say, “Congress shall make no law within six months of any act of violence.” Because all the worst legislation in our history is always calm as a result of panic, and you’ll generally find there’s already enough law to punish people who fly airliners into skyscrapers. It’s already illegal. But I’ll never be afraid to speak up, not for my sake, but for your friends. The question is Orwell—all the first thing, as far I give up with Orwell, what he might have said about this or that roughly now because he would have been a hundred last year, and until recently, it was plausible to guess because he died so young but wrote so much, what he would have said. For example, I am practically certain—I can’t be absolutely sure, but I’ve had this argument with many right-wingers—I am certain that he would have opposed the American war in Vietnam because he’d seen colonialism in Asia up close. He hated it. He knew a lot about it. He knew a lot about the French colonial role in Indochina. It would have been obvious to him the American War there was a successor to it.

He would have been at least critical of that, probably earlier than most people were because many people came to the war not knowing that’s how it started. But we can, with knowledge of his writing, push it to a certain point. I don’t know what he would have said about Cuba, but I will say that it’s against his theory because his theory is that no, there is no accidental sudden threat of a thermonuclear war between the great powers because that would suggest they really meant that. They hated each other, that they weren’t just doing this to stay in power, that they were just running a cold war that was about itself. I mean, if they were willing to kill everyone on the planet over whether Cuba was communist or not, that would have to mean they were sincere. We don’t want to make that assumption. Nor, in a way, should we, though it shows you how little fanaticism you need to do a great deal of damage. That the Kennedy administration signed an agreement with the Soviet Union that it wouldn’t try to invade Cuba again is a matter of record. Now they denied it then, but we know it’s true. I mean, the part of the stand-down over the emergency stand-down over Cuba was an agreement that the Russians would take their missiles out of Cuba, which they’d be very mad to put in there. And in return, rather without mentioning in the same breath—it wasn’t supposed to be a bargain, but by coincidence—the United States would remove his missiles from Turkey, which is on the Russian border, and would learn to take not to try another Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. That promised, as far as I know, still holds.

By the way, I think that is still a treaty with Russia, not just with the Soviet Union. So, yes, you’re right, but you should have left the assassination out of it because it makes you sound weird. Okay, excuse me, I didn’t mean that. It could possibly make you seem strange to someone who was only meeting you for the first time. It doesn’t have anything to do with this conversation, probably. It doesn’t have anything to do with what we have seen that they’ve let us find out about. Yes, if Kennedy was not killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, if it wasn’t a lone gunman job, which the overwhelming evidence is that it was, if it isn’t that, who was it? A conspiracy? It was certainly by his former associates in the Mafia. That would be by far the next best theory. And he would have asked for it because he had used them and dropped them, and they don’t like being used and dropped. Everybody knows that. And he shouldn’t have been using them as president, should he? The nostalgia for Camelot is a continuing mystery to me.

This is why I need someone else to point. I can do whatever you whiplashing myself. Like this one, oh, hell. Professor Doctor, now you see why I feared there might be a planted question. What could be a more agreeable conundrum than this? Actually, the accusation was not made by my critic. It was made by one of my mist-knee-padded admirers, David Brooks, who, in a long review in The Weekly Standard, said that it doesn’t matter what Orwell thinks anymore. What matters is what Hitchens thinks. Oh, that’s too much. And I still think that, I honestly do. Autobiographically, it was useful to me that I come from a family very similar to Orwell’s. A military family of the lower-middle class that never made any money out of the Empire but felt loyal to it and was afraid of falling back into the toilet classes, you know, wanted to distinguish itself from them. That bit, when I first started reading his social novels and I thought, “This is impressive,” I was about 14. I thought, “Here’s the guy. He seems to understand my family, which I despaired of anyone else ever doing.” So, there is that and a certain attitude to Englishness, perhaps. And we seem to have some of the same taste in prose. But otherwise, the hell with it. My god, he was lucky enough to get out of this and get to university. He never got to university. He’s one of the many great writers who didn’t. Go through Oxford or Cambridge, probably the best-known. Currently, don’t overrate this university business, by the way. If you can write, you don’t need to go. If you can’t, you don’t need to go either, so it’s overstated then. But there, I would say all resemblance ends. I mean, you know, I’ve been quite lucky, not just with my health, which I’ve abused, but it hasn’t caught up with me yet. But I’ve made always a certain amount of writing. I now do a reasonably well. If I want to get my opinions inflicted on people, in print or in the radio, TV, I can do it. No one’s ever really seriously tried to censor me. I mean, they’ve been occasions where people tried to trip me up.

And I’ve never been the victim of any cabal of people who wanted to keep my work out of print. I’ve never had to suffer for what I do, in other words, let alone live in poverty and incurable illness created by poverty. No, no, it would be indecent to mention us in the same breath. Certainly, it would be indecent for me to do it again with Sahabat. Seem so arbitrary, but there’s something very convincing about your chapo. Was that terrible? Okay, well, well, well. Orwell was very in favor of what he called the United Socialist States of European Love. He hoped there would be a European Union. He had to be of socialist kind. He rather favored the UN and supranational authority, especially to control things like fissile material. So, that’s the first thing. There was a lot of talk about world government in those days, so humanitarian talk, especially between the two world wars. You know, we must get a world body together that stops this happening again. But on that, when you use the word global, I should, I think I should just say that too. I think that’s a him to a lot of the people writing at the time and since the use of this word as if it was new would seem ridiculous.

J.A. Hobson, who was a great liberal Victorian writer about world political economy, wrote a book about imperialism that was published. I think it must have been 1899, not later than 1902, describing the fact that the world already was a global economy, that this was a cliché. To Hobson, the reason we remember Hobson’s book is partly because it was the one from which Lenin plagiarized about half of his book on imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. People who think that it’s a new idea that we live in a globalized economy and we all live if not in the same society, at least in the same economic system, strike me as weird. This is the oldest type. It was as the idea was old when my grandfather was in the army of India and was completely familiar to a well. Of course, you know, extraction and refining are often done in different parts of this economy, and the profits are not exactly evenly shared, but we’ve been living in the same world economy two world wars ago. And now people use the word globalization as if it was a sinister innovation. They should just catch up. I would suggest beginning to catch up. If you want to go on about this, I’ll say one more thing, which is where I was very young, even younger than I am now. The Port Huron Statement was published not very far from here, actually, as the founding document of the then-new left. This was in 1962. Hang on, they make Huron, Michigan. It’s worth reading now. Written by a couple of people who wrote it are still actually around, and you can see them speaking at anti-globalization rallies, like Tom Hayden, Transom. It’s worth looking at this document again, actually. I remember disliking it at the time. It essentially is a revolt. It says it’s a revolt against capitalism, but it’s a revolt against bigness, and so a revolt against economies of scale. It’s a criticism of the alienated large society, and it has the natural corollary: what would be better? Let’s get back to that nice agrarian system that we used to have in the old days where everyone knew their neighbor and could milk each other’s cows. For myself, I can’t think of a more ghastly way of living, even for a day.

But even if I liked the idea, I do know that it’s impossible, so it’s not even utopian. It’s a reactionary fantasy. And so, to call it progressive and regard globalization as reactionary seems to me to be one of the many ruling mistakes of the current element in American leftism. You didn’t ask me that bit, but I thought I’d throw it in here. You again, if it’s about Dealey Plaza, I know I’ve known people like that all my life. I’ve been in media for years. I’ve met many unscrupulous frauds. Michael Morris is just another one. He’s trying to do so at an unusually serious moment. But he’s a dime-a-dozen crook and liar and consciousness huckster. But this doesn’t surprise me. I mean, you know, I know there are such people. So disgrace to my profession, though, so I take it a bit more personally than others, too. Well, just ever see if there’s anyone who hasn’t asked a question yet. You, sir. Yes, very well. Um, I’m not– I don’t normally want to answer a question with an answer, but I just want to ask something. Does the name Robert Fisk mean anything to this Sorin? No, not at all. I’m relieved in a way to hear that. But so it makes my point harder to make. Um, Robert Fisk is a correspondent for The Independent, London. He has a cult following in this country through his website and other things. His reportage in the Middle East, and he would be to print journalist or Michael Morris to documentary. I usually find people have been reading or passing on his stuff.

Anyway, he’s the most scornful possible about the president and the neoconservatives and the moralism of thing that’s all. But I remember because I have a good memory. I remember him writing about Kuwait when it was invaded by Saddam Hussein and going into Kuwait City after the Iraqi army had been thrown out and finding the cellars full of tufts of bloodied hair and fingernails and looting and disfigurement and what was vulgar we called the rape of Kuwait at the time and describing it. I must say he’s a good journalist on his day. Very well. And this absolute prince of the non-judgmental and the anti-American finished his description of Kuwait City after Saddam and said that you could– you just had to be able to smell it and feel it to know that something really evil has been happening here. He couldn’t think of another word. And he’s not a man without a thesaurus. You had to use that word now. Just because I believe in the devil doesn’t mean I have to believe in God, right? Just the implication of your question. The argument for the existence of God comes from the argument from design, as far as I know. But with this wonderful arrangement, surely someone must have designed it. What? As long as people say that it was Satan, I don’t care. But you’d be amazed how much the Christians object if you interpret the argument from design in that way. Basic mustn’t just have been designed. It must have been designed by one of us. No, that doesn’t hold at all. Who’s designed it? Let’s see. Do you mean it? Do you want us to follow the inference of the argument from design? You want us to really follow this induction? No, they don’t. They say we take credit for the good bits. They take credit for the bad bit.

Now, I hope that all of you fell out of your strollers seeing through the fallacy of this kind of religious piffle. And if you hadn’t fallen out of your strollers, it’s time to fall out of whatever’s in that parking lot. Seemed like extraordinary stuff to me. The word “virtue” in Greek means does not mean goodness. It means strength, integrity, and the willingness to stand up for things. It’s a certain intellectual and moral honesty and moral courage. Yes, I do think evil exists. And if that doesn’t imply the existence of it, it requires the cultivation of overt moral courage. Yes, but not in its denatured, sickly, herbivorous Christian sense of being a good boy. Because otherwise, I’d have nothing to offer. Ah, then I’m sorry because I gave a too melodramatic on steel question. But it’s always good to get that out of the way. No, he did. I see now what you mean. I mean, I did say I’m sorry. I was slow on the object. I did say that. He thought there was a dirty secret of the heart for power. And you watch already asked me, “Does that have to be true?” No, I don’t believe it does. I mean, I know that there are people who go into politics for disinterested reasons, at least sometimes for idealistic ones. I know that they do. I’ve met them. I’m amazed they do it. I’m impressed when I meet them. But I would vouch, you know, without being naive, that I do think that it does have that effect. And sometimes they even win. And sometimes they’d rather quit than do something with it.

For me, they would rather resign. I’ve seen all of this happen, and I believe it’s possible. Yeah, I mean, what is latent and ingrained is the temptation, in other words, to be virtuous. It may not be as strong all the time, but it’s at least as ingrained. However, there is no question that being in office or being in power can have effects on even the least ambitious people, which they are not always aware of. So I think it’s right to be skeptical always, if you will. So it’s for them to prove that they have not succumbed, rather than for us to trust them not to do so. Would that be a fair reply? Well, yes. I probably should do this, and then this gentleman will think he’s had an answer to his question. Um, I’ve been in two places early in my life where… Let me back up one sentence. Someone like John Burns of the New York Times, I don’t know if you read him, is an extremely brilliant and graphic and brave writer who shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as myself. But someone like him, or not, and or someone like myself, will go a long way out of our way to avoid using a cliche. It means a lot to us. Don’t use other people’s words. It means you’re not thinking. It means you’re not trying. So if I was to describe you and say that you’d won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and saved a child from drowning and published a brilliant thriller, and that was a saying these three taken together are, and you were to turn the page and find out said “no mean achievement,” I hope you feel disappointed. I would in myself. One must try not to use borrowed terms. It’s really hard not to do it.

If you visit North Korea, which I have done, or Iraq under Saddam Hussein, which I have also done, and which John Burns in the latter case has done, it is not possible to write about it or describe any aspect of it without saying it’s 1984. You can’t do it, try as you may. It’s not part of my general theory. My general theory is that cliches are buried inside the keyboard somewhere. Your fingers touch the keyboard, the cliche goes up through your arms into your brain, and down onto the paper. That’s why I keep reading people saying things like “national health care for all,” or “God knows what it would be.” It’s not like that. There’s only one comparison you can come up with: a sadomasochistic tariff for its own sake, and the total rot and decay and murder of the principle of society, along with the principle of the individual. I tried, but you have to believe me, I tried, but it wasn’t possible to do.

Now, here’s the question: if you are confronted with something as pathologically evil as that, what is your wish? What should be your view? Is it possible to coexist with this kind of thing? I would say not, because it’s inherently aggressive. One thing we know about fascism is that it is organized. It is not the case that it just wants to have a private population of its own to keep in a torture chamber and toy with as it likes. It will always be found to build an army about twice the size of its economy to menace its neighbors, indeed to do what the East Asia Oceania Eurasia analogy suggests, to keep people in a state of permanent threat of war and to make it real, to make good on it. It used to be said in the 30s by the left, quite correctly, fascism means war. What that meant was it intends it. It also implies that it necessitates it. It’s true. Saddam Hussein was forever making war on his neighbors and preparing to do so. He became the host of innumerable international gangster organizations, and he was engaged in a restless search for the thing that would make that most toxic of all which is the fusion of catastrophic weaponry with nihilistic terrorism, as well as, as a backup, an aggressive totalitarian state. I think this should all have been stopped in 1991. His regime should have been taken out there, and the 12 years in which we subjected the Iraqi people to sanctions, plus Saddam, and let the UN be run by a racketeering organization that was actually running a blood for oil program, are completely shameful. It devastated Iraqi society, made it more prone to the kind of mullah-dominated fascism that now threatens, and didn’t buy us any time. So that would be my throat-clearing opening paragraph on this point.

The American and British forces who are fighting now are showing that we can learn how to fight in the most difficult imaginable conditions, and I don’t mean just the climatic ones. I mean in a failed state that was becoming a rogue state, and a rogue state that was becoming a failed one. It’s one of the most difficult possible conditions, with Islamic Jihad as the main threat and enemy, and with regime changes the objective. We’re fighting a battle which has to be fought anyway, and don’t tell me that what they’ve been learning from it isn’t going to be needed again, because it is. This is the most unbelievably good use of the armed forces. It’s the training for them, at last, for the first time I can ever remember, in the right war and the next war, and the current one.

And my opinion is that the casualty figures are too low, but they will get better and improve. There should be fewer casualties and more progress. Nothing else will suffice, but it does show what happens when you let things run, when you let them slide, and when people like Saddam Hussein reach the manic stage. I wish I could do more to forward this war, but I won’t do anything to undermine or defame it. I didn’t think that would completely unseal the question the gentleman wants to know, if I would make the West the enemy of the good or the good the enemy of the worst. It’s a familiar question. I don’t know why I didn’t mention Romo Garvey, maybe you were going to do it. The test by which a state can lose its sovereignty is fourfold. You surrender your sovereignty as a state and you open yourself to international intervention, or unilateral if that cannot be mobilized on four conditions. One, repeated invasions of neighbors, aggression against neighbors. Second, violations of the Genocide Convention which oblige the signatories to prevent or to punish genocide. Third, violations of the non-proliferation treaty governing weapons of mass destruction. And fourth, a state sponsorship of international gangsterism. Iraq had done all four of these things repeatedly, was planning to do them again. Its sovereignty was gone. It was over. It was under international sanctions. They were run by a racketeering group with the United Nations that was trading Iraqi blood for oil.

Those were still legal sanctions. It also had no-fly zones policed by aircraft governing its north and south extremities, or northern and southern thirds actually, to prevent a repetition of genocide. It was not recognized really anymore as a legitimate government. And it was harboring, continuing to harbor, international terrorism and refusing to come into compliance with the resolutions governing weapons of mass destruction. Now, you tell me any other regime that’s guilty of all these four things all the time for 12 years. The remarkable thing is that this incredible offense to the international community was allowed to go on as long as it was. The other remarkable thing is the pathetic excuses, the euphemisms for power, the cover-ups for power, the excuses made for Saddam Hussein that are made by the critics of the war. If any other country does anything like this, yes, it should undoubtedly the same policy should be used. But you’ve more or less thrown away that chance by saying that it’s Halliburton unilateralism. Not you, but the anti-war movement has made it much less likely that a subsequent offender could be brought to book. After all, the Sudanese, who are in front of our eyes using death squads to commit ethnocide in Darfur, are being handled multilaterally and by the UN. And every interval of time given by the negotiation is being used to complete the ethnocide. So I hope that those who like multilateralism like what they’re getting, that they won’t be able to say that for the people of Darfur. As for Saudi Arabia, one of my reasons for supporting regime change in Iraq is, of course, that it undercuts the Saudi Arabian political and economic monopoly in the region. If we recuperate Iraq, the Saudi monopoly is almost gone. Furthermore, there’s an incitement to its large Shia proletariat to have democratic stirrings of its own. And though I know that the administration couldn’t say that openly, I know that it was a good reason to support the policy, and it was the reason why the Saudis opposed it as they opposed the liberation of Afghanistan. So, yes, in a way, you can have it both ways.

So yes, in a way, you can have it both ways. You can undermine both the dictatorships in Syria and the Syrian occupation of Lebanon without actually saying so. But above all, there is an international responsibility to bring to book the most delinquent regime on the planet.

Now, everyone heard the question. Well, I became a journalist so I wouldn’t have to rely on the press for information. So I don’t really know the article question. I’m not a reader or consumer of this stuff. I don’t know what it would feel like to be one. I don’t watch television at all. I read the New York Times every day, a quick flap through, only to find out what everyone else thinks the news is. So, I know roughly what arguments I’m going to be meeting at 6 o’clock that evening at some cocktail party in Washington, and invariably it is drawn from the New York Times op-ed page or some report. It’s pathetic. I prefer to find out from other sources. I ask people I think know. I do a lot of reading, I do a lot of traveling, and I get people sending me useful things by email. And I think I can now pretty well winnow the stuff that’s half paid from the stuff that is better cooked.

Thus, for example, I mean I knew six months ago, and I published it too, but no one took me up on it that Saddam Hussein’s former chief nuclear physicist was good a publisher book about something that I knew was true anyway. That he concealed, he buried himself but a nuclear centrifuge along with the blueprints that allowed it to be restarted. And that because he couldn’t tell this to the inspectors because Saddam had his family in custody, when he waited till after the inspectors had gone in the regime had gone and then he told the US Marines where to dig it up.

Okay, now I know this and you can now read a book where he’s published called “The Bomb in My Garden,” it’s buried under the orders of Chris I Hussein, the adorable guy who would have succeeded as well as had a fratricide of Shakespearean proportions with his psycho brother who died if we’d let it run and kept them in their box for God’s sake.

Well, now I know all this. I’m just giving you one example, but I can still read every day and hear from everyone I meet the window the mass destruction found in Iran. What am I to do with ignorance like this? My attitude to consensus has always been the same: people who think in herds behave in herds. It doesn’t bother me to anticipate a question you might ask: why does the administration not say any of this? Why can it not make its own case?

That’s a very good question. It’s an impeachable incompetent administration, in my opinion. The reason is, I think I can – I really think I can – tell you this believably: the hatred and division within the administration, particularly between the Defense Department and the CIA, but also between the State Department and both of these, is now at such a pitch of intensity as I’ve lived in Washington nearly a quarter of a century. I can’t believe people talk about the Bush team as being on message and presenting a united front. I’ve never seen fratricide like this within an administration before.

No allegation made, even about Dr. Abadi’s revelation, would not have leaked published against it by another of the agencies in the paper the following day. If the administration wanted or any wing of it wanted to take credit for it, they would simply deny each other’s disclosures and say, “This is based on shoddy science or faulty intelligence,” and it’s not worth the trouble of doing that. They’ve stopped doing it, so it’s actually rather terrifying to live in Washington at a time when democracy and open argument are self-prohibited in this way, and the most arrant nonsense and most dangerous solutions can be spread. The only power that is fighting against holy war and dictatorship can be mocked and derided in this manner. And that’s put it like this: you know the United States must be in a really poor shape if I’m having to defend it. If it’s being left up to me, you know that some kind of crisis has hit. But I will do it because I believe I can stick up for myself and my sources.

But I understand your bewilderment. I honestly do, and I sympathize with it. But you must know that help is not on the way. It’s at hand if you want it. You can go and make your own investigations. For example, I just asked you all to do this thought experiment: Dr. Bailey’s book would take you less than a day to read. You read it and talk to the next person who says to you, “There were no WMD in Iraq.” See what you think about that person now. Now, if you remember and just think, just look at them and think, “Where did this person just get off saying whatever one says?” Well, it wasn’t just work. It’s not his work. It’s the centrifuge. Yes, the centrifuges. You can read up about it in innumerable reports. I can give you all the details if you wish.

Yes, if the centrifuges are something you can’t fake, by the way. You don’t have to be a physicist to know this. This is the crown jewels of physics. If you can get a centrifuge that will spin, it will separate uranium. Doing it took about half the Iraqi national income. There had to be bled out of the country for years. We knew they were trying it, where we knew we knew they knew they’d got one. We just didn’t know where it was. This is what you need. If you can’t separate uranium, you’ll know where it’s worth burying. A crucial thing also is, what about, do you have anyone who can start it again? Well, they had some scientists with brains, and they had the blueprints, and they buried them along with it. Yes, it’s very important. It’s extremely important. That, plus the element in the K report, which you can read anyway, concludes that the administration’s accusations were at fault, the ones made in public of the UN. It has a very long annex about the attempt of Saddam Hussein’s people in March of 2003 to buy missiles directly off the shelf from North Korea. A meeting we know happened, and we have the Iraqi evidence for it, of the record of the meeting in Damascus. It failed, by the way, because the North Koreans ran away. They were panicked by the arrival of the coalition.

But I will tell you one thing about these two things, the centrifuge and the missile purchase from North Korea. We wouldn’t have known about either of them without regime change. Abadi would never have told anyone if the regime had gone on. The inspectors would never have found it. Briggs would never have had a chance. He wasn’t even asking. Scott Ritter was on the take, as you know, and the North Korean stuff would not have been uncovered in the both party archives. So, if you want disarmament throughout, you have to have a regime change. Now it’s disarmed, I agree, but to believe it before would be to say you took Saddam Hussein’s word for it. That would be, I think, a little bit credulous. And incidentally, nobody said before that it was disarmed. Nobody, no body at all. Hans Blix’s book says he went into the war believing that they were concealing, which they were. I had to argue without the walk movement people every day before the war saying, “You can’t invade Iraq because he has too many weapons of mass destruction.”

You notice how this consensus is formed? Now, if there are no WMD, it doesn’t prove the rock is disarmed. It proves the disarmament was wrong. Excuse me, that’s doublethink, cheap doublethink, and it’s opposite would involve, “Well, of course, we do it. He hadn’t got any weapons.” That govern the dictatorship told us it didn’t have any. Do I can I have a hand for anyone who can see the fallacy in that argument? We’re here to talk about an honorable author who could work this out for himself, didn’t need arguments from authority, who could use his own life to determine questions like this, and on the whole did not trust psychopathic homicidal dictators with weapons of mass destruction and whose instinct on this was run. No, please, no thank you. Well, sorry, not in here, Vanessa, there will thank you for staying. Also, those of you did, how many of that lot were coerced? I want were you going to, sorry, but I’m not willing on system sigh. Was this America? Okay, well, put it like this: I will sign books if the receipt is produced and if the book is by me. This by John Updike, I weren’t tempting though that would be. No, thank you so much.

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