It Was Wiser to Suspect Saddam Hussein
Theater of War
A review of The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina, by Frank Rich
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted January 9, 2007
[This article appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of the Claremont Review of Books.]
For another instance of Rich's pseudo-forensic style, you might try the following:
"I don't think we ever said—at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein," Bush said in the spring of 2006. That is technically true, but it is really just truthiness: Bush struck 9/11 like a gong in every fear-instilling speech about Iraq he could.
Now, "truthiness" is a laugh-word invented by Steven Colbert who (along with his friend Jon Stewart and the other heroes of Comedy Central) is the beau ideal of what Rich considers to be the ironic. In this book and in his regular column, he gives "truthiness" a workout whenever he can. He clearly wishes he had coined it himself, and he has kept it going for perhaps a touch longer—may I hint?—than even Colbert might wish. Let us examine it in the present case. The administration did not, in point of fact and as Rich concedes, ever make the case that Saddam Hussein had sponsored the assault of 9/11. It did, however, strongly imply that he might have an interest in, or enthusiasm for, this kind of activity. And many Americans when polled were found to suspect him of an even more direct connection. Well, Saddam Hussein had sheltered the Iraqi-American fugitive who mixed the chemicals for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. He had allowed the internationally-wanted criminal Abu Nidal to use Baghdad as his headquarters. He had boasted of paying a bounty to the suicide-murderers of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The man who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship, a certain Abu Abbas, who was responsible for rolling Leon Klinghoffer in his wheelchair off the vessel's deck and into the Mediterranean, had to be released when apprehended because he was traveling on an Iraqi passport. A diplomatic passport. The Baghdad state-run press had exulted at the revenge taken on America on 9/11. This does not exhaust the "truthiness" of the suggestion that Saddam Hussein might have to be taken seriously as a sponsor of nihilistic violence. Could one even suggest that those who thought so might be intuitively and even objectively wiser than those who thought it crass to mention Saddam Hussein and "terrorism" in the same breath? Not without being jeered at by Rich, who either does not know any of the above facts or who chooses not to include any of them in his proudly truth-centered narrative.
Even now, many of the passionate anti-Bush crowd occasionally repeat the lie -- claiming that Bush misled the people and caused them to believe that Saddam Hussein had a role in "9/11." But, it is obvious to anyone whose mind is not clouded by paranoia and hatred that suspecting Hussein of having had a connection to those attacks was anything but unwise. It was also rational to conclude that he presented a threat to us in the future -- which is, of course, the actual reason stated by the President in justifying the removal of Saddam Hussein.