This in from one of our readers, Stateside:
I was in the crowd at the Hitchens-Galloway debate in New York last night. I’ve just listened to James Naughtie’s summation of their exchange on the “Today” website and I need to point out one glaring error. The debate did not kick off with Galloway’s announcement that Hitchens had metamorphosised from a butterfly into a slug (a feeble insult which he obviously thought was impressive enough to repeat several times). No – the debate kicked off with Hitchens asking for a moment of silence for the victims of yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Baghdad. This quite reasonable and dignified request was shouted down by several of the heroic Iraqi resistance partisans in the audience. And it set the tone for the next two hours, with Galloway’s goon squad periodically erupting in bouts of jeering and shouting and swearing. As an aside, I should say that New Yorkers – at least, the New Yorkers who were there last night – don’t really do the bovver boy act very convincingly, which added to the pantomime quality of the whole event.
And like a pantomime, the debate was at various points entertaining, disgusting and ultimately futile. By now, the blogosphere will have been filled with accounts of what was said, so I’ll just stick here to a handful of observations. There is now a discernible divide in the anti-war camp between those whose reasoning is parochial and ill-informed (ie. it’s costing money we should spend at home, it was illegal, it’s made things worse, New Orleans would have been saved if we weren’t in Baghdad etc.) and the psychotics who go further, loudly proclaiming that every Iraqi “resistance fighter” is an icon of people power. Galloway is firmly in the latter camp, as we know from his recent appearance on Syrian TV. And yet, for all his fulminating, he chose not to respond to one of Hitchens’s most powerful points, concerning the Kurds.
I regard this as very significant. As Hitchens pointed out, one can hardly regard President Jalal Talabani, a doughty fighter against Ba’ath fascism, as a mere puppet (one could say the same about the President of the Kurdish region of Iraq, Massoud Barzani). I suspect that Galloway knows this too, but he doesn’t have the guts to admit it. And so he stuck to throaty roars about the foreign occupation of Iraq, which went down well with sections of the crowd – the same people who stared blankly when Hitchens spoke of the peshmerga. Because, of course, the fighters of Kurdistan simply aren’t on the radar screen for these misfits, in contrast to the backward cutthroats who relish in blowing up children for accepting candy from American soldiers.
This realisation led me to conclude, as their bout hit the two-hour mark, that I was a) bored and b) nauseated. Bored, because if last night was anything to go by, there is little purpose in such arguments. Nauseated, because there is something gut-wrenchingly repulsive about a group of effete Manhattan leftists sitting in an air-conditioned lecture hall on Lexington Avenue cheering the brigands who, that very same morning, blew up more than hundred Iraqi labourers for the crime of trying to find a job.
Ben in New York
Gene adds: David Adler, who distributed Harry’s Place leaflets before the event (it seems Hitchens organized his own leafleting operation), offers his take on the evening.