Will the Right cheer this Hitch?

Christopher Hitchens’s support for Bush administration policy in Afghanistan and Iraq has earned him a lot of links and cyber high-fives from the Right side of the blogosphere. At the same time, former fans of Hitchens on Left mutter about him having gone over to the neocon Dark Side.

But just when you think you’ve got Hitchens sussed, he stubbornly refuses to meet your expectations. He has never stopped believing that the US lent aid and comfort to brutal fascist regimes in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, and he continues to demand that a chief architect of this policy– one Henry Kissinger– be held to account.

Hitchens outlines the latest evidence against Kissinger– for his encouraging the murderous policies of the Videla dictatorship in Argentina– in his latest column in Vanity Fair.

Kissinger had explicitly told [Argentine foreign minister Cesar Augusto] Guzzetti not that he should slow down the rate of kidnappings and murders and disappearances but that he should speed it up… Guzzetti was told in June 1976 that “if the terrorist problem was over by December or January … serious problems could be avoided in the U.S.” Get on with it, in other words. The number of desaparecidos in Argentina at that stage has been calculated at 1,022. In October, at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Kissinger told Guzzetti, “the quicker you succeed the better.” The steep and rapid climb into the tens of thousands was incited.

Hitchens also risks the wrath of conservative hawks by paying tribute to the foreign policy of the dread Jimmy Carter’s administration.

President Carter had appointed an assistant secretary of state for human rights, Patricia Derian, a true civil-rights southern belle who had made it clear that the sunshine days for the regime had passed. She wouldn’t stop asking about the whereabouts of [imprisoned newspaper editor] Jacobo Timerman until his Jew-baiting torturers finally gave up and let him go. The difference made by the change in Washington’s policy was the literal difference, for many Argentinean dissidents, between life and death.

Finally, noting Kissinger’s refusal to cooperate in the investigations of his activities in those years, Hitchens writes:

The Bush State Department, to its shame and ours, continues to say that such questions should be addressed only through official diplomatic channels. This makes us complicit in the criminal behavior of a man who was in his time the (naturally, unelected) chairman and patron of the international dictators’ club.

I expect Hitchens’s rightwing cheering section will be more subdued about this piece than they have been about his attacks on the antiwar Left. If they acknowledge it at all, that is.

And I hope the antiwar Left will concede that Hitchens is still capable of thinking clearly and independently about US foreign policy, past and present– even when they don’t like what he says about it.