Monday, July 9, 2007

Youthful Indiscretions

Imagine someone writing this for a British political magazine before World War II:

"The Berlin regime . . . has a leader — Adolf Hitler — who has sprung from being an underground revolutionary gunman to perhaps the first visionary European statesman since Napoleon.

"Dining with an old man in a cafe in central Berlin, I discovered that he inadvertently embodied the history of modern Germany. He had been imprisoned in 1913 for opposing Kaiser Wilhelm II, again in 1927 for hostility to Wilhelm Marx and finally in 1934 by the present regime.The last of these had, he said, been easily the worst. He was personally interrogated by Heinrich Himmler, then head of the secret police. There had been torture and brutality of a far worse sort than his previous incarcerations. And yet he declared that he thought the present government the best German Administration he had seen. Why? ‘Because it has made us strong and respected.’ There seems no getting round this point. From the festeringly poor and politically dependent nation of a generation ago, Germany has become a power in every sense — military, economic and ideological.

"Adolf Hitler will rise more clearly to the top. Make a note of the name."

Then imagine that this same scribe eventually changed his tune, turned violently against "the first visionary European statesman since Napoleon," advocated regime change, slandered anyone who didn't share his gusto, but failed to mention in all of his outbursts that he once wrote favorably about the fascist regime, providing juicy pull quotes that had anyone else written them, he would use as a club every time the subject arose.

Imagine no more -- the self-described anti-fascist Christopher Hitchens wrote such a piece, only about Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1976. No doubt this will be excused as some kind of youthful indiscretion (Hitch was just turning 27, after all). But still, considering all of the bile he has heaped on those who differed with him over Iraq, not to mention the many lies he's told about his political past, it makes sense that Hitchens would ignore this part of his collected work. His upcoming rationale for once publicly hailing Saddam as "perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser" should be amusing.

(Tam tip to Hitchens Watch.)