Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Just call him angel of the morning

You know what sucks about blogging? You go and post something from the heart, an unabashed, delightfully un-cynical account of meeting your IDOL and getting drunk with him and passing out with your head on his lap, and then all these other bloggers respond with drearily predictable scorn, laughing derisively and pointing at you. I hate that.

Via Alicublog, we learn about Michael J. Totten's wine-soaked evening with Christopher Hitchens. Mr. Totten used to be a card-carrying member of "the left," until 9/11 changed everything, and now he's a righteous hawk.

When Michael's gentle blue eyes met and held Christopher's bleary, bloodshot gaze, a profound connection was born. The men did not need to speak of it, this thing they felt. But it was always present between them, transcending the heavily accented blathering of their irritating Iraqi drinking companions who did not fully appreciate the precious gift of freedom that Michael and Christopher had bestowed upon the Iraqi people. As their tablemates jabbered, Michael and Christopher looked knowingly at one another. They spoke of deeper things.

What a treat it is to talk politics and shop with Christopher Hitchens. When I yak about politics with most people we can’t get past fundamentals. But if Hitchens says “Kurdistan” or “Kissinger” I know exactly what he means and where he’s coming from. He needs say no more. We’re instantly on the same page on multiple levels all at once. We can talk about the finer points without getting bogged down in spats about imperialism, pacifism, and Bush.

While Christopher and Michael spoke passionately of their ideals, the mood of their tablemates darkened. One Iraqi in particular seemed to smolder with swarthy resentment. Suddenly he exploded, venting his uncouth third-world rage at the civilized, debonair Christopher:

Christopher Hitchens said to Ghassan Atiyyah: “If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power.” And of course he was right. We didn’t invade Iraq so we could midwife the birth of yet another despicable tyranny. “One man, one vote, one time” isn’t anything remotely like a democracy.

But Atiyyah would have none of that. He exploded in furious rage. “So you’re my colonial master now, eh?!” You have to understand – this man’s voice really carries.

Suddenly, Atiyyah did have defenders at the table. I could see that coming in the shocked expressions on the faces of the other Iraqis when they heard what Hitchens said. Ahman al Rikaby, intriguingly, was an exception. He just looked at Atiyyah with a cold and sober stoicism. But Hitchens had a defender, too. He had me.

“I agree with Christopher,” I said. “We didn’t invade Iraq to let it turn into another Iran.”

Atiyyah shook Michael off like a jogger shaking an angry fox terrier off his calf.

"Who the hell are you?” Atiyyah said to Hitchens as if I weren’t the last one to speak. “Some Brit who lives in New York!”

Things deteriorated rapidly. Eventually, mercifully, one of the Westerners pacified the angry Iraqis with soothing words. Then the men resumed eating and drinking and smoking talking and laughing and making fart noises with their armpits. Michael knew the Arabs to be an essentially friendly lot, albeit quick to anger, like Dobermans, but the Arabs' rage was equally quick to subside on those occasions when they didn't strap bombs to their waists and blow themselves up during their time of wrath. With patience, gentleness, and training, they make delightful, loyal pets, although Michael knew you didn't want to turn your back on them.

Anyway. After much talking and eating and drinking and smoking and drinking and laughing and fart noises, all the Iraqis save one drifted away to their hotel rooms. Five men were left, including Michael and Christopher. There was a silence. Christopher looked at his watch, focusing his eyes only with difficulty. "Gotta run!" he exclaimed. Michael couldn't bear it.

“Oh, come on, Christopher,” I said. “You’re the one who’s supposed to keep us up all night.”

"Sorry," Christopher said, rising. He staggered a bit and grabbed the edge of the table to steady himself. "I must rise with the dawn and all that. Fight the good fight on CNN."

"I'm buying," Michael said. Christopher sat back down with alacrity and signaled the waiter.

More wine was drunk, more cigarettes smoked. The conversation turned to Saddam Hussein - Saddam, the evil one, who was himself a weapon of mass destruction. The lone Iraqi left at the table, the good one, expressed a wish that Saddam might die at the hands of Iraq's liberators.

Ahman al-Rikaby mentioned capital punishment. “I’m against it,” he said. “But at least for the next few months I will hope we execute Saddam Hussein.”

“Here’s to that,” I said.

Christopher, ever the contrarian, demurred. Michael explained how Saddam is worse than Ted Bundy, because nobody's chopping off heads in Ted Bundy's name (I didn't think any heads were being chopped off in Saddam's name, either, but I'm sure Michael's right - if we off Saddam, the insurgents will simply give up, stop chopping off heads, and go away).

"When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia,” Hitchens said, “they murdered the czar, his wife, and his children…so there would be no going back. Are you sure that’s what you want?"

I sighed. It was a hell of a point, and I was too drunk to come up with a response.

Too bad Michael was too drunk to remember how 200 American soldiers already wasted Saddamn's sons and grandson, or he could have used that for a comeback to Hitchens, maybe followed by an around-the-world snap. But that would have broken the spell.

The evening drew to a close. Michael wrote his email address on a cocktail napkin. "Email me," he begged.

There was some talk of blogs. Christopher said he didn't peruse them. Michael told Christopher how freedom-hating Juan Cole, he of The Left, was chastised and rebuked by an scores of angry freedom-loving bloggers after Cole made scandalous remarks about some brave, good, Iraqi bloggers who support America's liberation of Iraq. His voice rising with excitement, Michael recounted how the entire blogosphere bravely and courageously piled on "the little weasel" Cole, as Christopher called him.

"My God," Christopher breathed. "If only I'd known that when I faced Cole. I would have SO kicked his ass!" Christopher gazed at Michael with something new in his eyes - gratitude for introducing him to this thrilling new world, this blogosphere, and respect. And something else . . .

"Angel," Christopher said. "Can I call you Angel?"

"Of course," Michael responded, rapturously.

That was a week ago. And now Christopher never writes, he never calls . . .


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