Usually I vary my subjects day to day. But Hitchens’s piece on yet another Russian murder attempt in Britain is so nauseating that this article is a form of self-medication: it’s either comment or reach for a sick bag.
Hitchens used not to bother to conceal his almost homoerotic adulation of Putin. The general thrust was summed up in what he wrote a few years ago: “Mr Putin’s Russia [is] now astonishingly the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe.”
‘Conservative’ covers a multitude of sins. Judging by the number of Stalin statues going up all over Russia, Putin is indeed conservative in his quest to conserve and promulgate evil.
But patriotic? Millions of Russians have fled their native land in the past decade, while Putin and his junta are robbing the country blind to stuff their own offshore accounts. If by patriotism Hitchens means the deafening din of jingoistic propaganda, he should say so.
And since when is patriotism ipso facto good? “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely,” wrote Edmund Burke. Loving an unlovely country gets us to Nazi Germany, which, to be logical, Hitchens has to admire for its undoubted patriotism.
Christian? The entire hierarchy of Russia’s state church is made up of career KGB/FSB agents led by Patriarch Kirill, aka ‘agent Mikhailov’, so identified in KGB archives. No wonder church attendance in Russia is even lower than in Britain, which is seldom accused of excessive piety.
However, Hitchens is a clever chap, after a fashion. At some point he realised that such effluvia made him sound not just biased, but simply deranged. He then changed his tack: he now first refers to Putin as a ‘sinister tyrant’ and only then defends his regime from its ghastly enemies, such as Britain.
In shilling for Putin’s kleptofascism, he now displays cunning worthy of his love object in the Kremlin. To wit:
“I was reluctant to believe without proof that this [attempted murder in Salisbury] was a Russian state operation. I still think some people have jumped too readily to conclusions without facts.”
Mea culpa. I, along with every sane person, did jump to that conclusion. It’s that pandemic Russophobia that Hitchens describes as “the current anti-Russian frenzy”. Coupled, of course, with the old cui bono principle, Putin’s track record, and the difficulty of buying nerve agents or radioactive isotopes at your friendly local chemist’s.
Hitchens’s standards of proof wherever Russian murders are concerned exceed beyond reasonable doubt. And whenever the proof meets such exacting requirements, he expertly casts doubt on it: “Despite the lack of conclusive proof, [my emphasis] I have to accept that the Russian state quite deliberately killed Alexander Litvinenko.”
“Have to” suggests reluctance. One can almost see Hitchens’s heart bleeding at this admission wrenched out of him by reams of evidence gathered by Sir Robert Owen’s inquiry (which incidentally Mrs May, then Home Secretary, tried to suppress).
So fine, Putin orders murders on our territory. Hitchens is man enough to admit this, however reluctantly.
But we aren’t squeaky clean either. After all, “We are not morally perfect ourselves, with our head-chopping aggressive Saudi friends, our bloodstained Iraq and Libyan adventures, and our targeted drone-strike killings of British citizens who joined IS.”
Moral equivalence run riot is the common stratagem of Putin’s useful idiots, and Hitchens is as usefully idiotic as they come. Since Britain herself falls short of his standards of moral perfection, we have no right to pass moral judgement on Russia.
We trade with the Saudis, so who are we to protest against Putin murdering British subjects on British territory? We embark on ill-advised “Iraq and Libyan adventures”, so we’re supposed to applaud Putin’s indiscriminate bombing of Syrian schools and hospitals. And if we target British jihadists in Syria and Iraq (I actually welcome this), then what’s wrong with Putin targeting British subjects in London or Salisbury?
Alas, there’s no direct recent parallel of us grabbing other countries’ land the way Putin has done in the Ukraine. But not to worry. At this point Hitchens abandons his moral relativism and insists that Putin’s cause is just in absolute terms.
He has written it a thousand times if he has written it once: “the 2014 outbreak was a putsch and its real target Russia.” Hitchens is aghast at the “putsch” that overthrew the “legal government” of Putin’s puppet Yanukovych and finally won the Ukraine’s independence.
Under Yanukovych the Ukraine was as independent from Russia as the equally legal government of Vichy France was from Germany. Hence the target of the popular uprising against Russian rule by proxy was indeed Russia – what else was it supposed to be, Portugal?
According to Hitchens, we have only ourselves to blame for Putin indulging in a spot of murder on our territory. “Before we embark on this, could someone explain why we actually want such a war?”
God help us, the man is mad. So Britain is waging war on Russia, not the other way around. Exactly how?
Are we conducting electronic warfare against Russia? No. Did we send troops or even armaments to the Ukraine, a country fighting for her freedom in the face of naked Russian aggression – the first time since 1945 that one European country stole the land of another? No.
We did join other civilised countries in imposing the mildest of sanctions following that beastliness, but the only intent was to discourage further Russian aggression in the region, this time possibly involving NATO members.
Have we been murdering people in Russia? No. Have we turned Moscow into a crime-ridden capital of the world’s money laundering, which is exactly what Putin’s thugs have done to London? No.
So what’s Hitchens’s problem? Oh yes, we have the audacity to spy on Russia.
“Spying is a hostile, dangerous and cruel activity which infuriates its targets, including us. Remember the 42-year prison sentence for George Blake…?”
It’s that moral equivalence again. Blake spied for the most cannibalistic regime in history. Skripal spied for, well, us – a flawed, enfeebled Britain that is nevertheless a constitutional monarchy ruled by law, where basic liberties are secure, a country that doesn’t pounce on her neighbours like a rabid dog (or like Putin, come to that).
As the old saying goes, one side’s traitors are the other side’s heroes. Yet Hitchens makes it sound as if traitors to Russia are in some convoluted way traitors to Britain as well. This is astonishing in a man who values patriotism so highly. One begins to wonder who’s the beneficiary of Hitchens’s patriotism.
“What the Skripal case tells us is that, long after the Cold War ended, we still choose to treat Russia as the sort of country where we should continue active, aggressive spying and efforts to bring down the government.”
I’m not aware of any efforts on the part of Britain to bring down Putin’s government, even though I think that would be a good idea. If Hitchens knows such facts, he should either share them or shut up.
As to spying, we’d be criminally negligent if we didn’t try to keep tabs on a country whose criminal leaders threaten to annihilate life on Earth – a country that’s hysterically hostile to Britain and the West in general.
Hitchens seems to think we should do nothing while the Russians murder people in Britain, for otherwise we are the aggressors. And anyway, we’re completely impotent:
“What will we do? Withdraw from the World Cup? Break off diplomatic relations? That will make them cringe, in the SVR’s Yasenevo headquarters in the birchwoods on the south-western edge of Moscow, won’t it?”
Note the expertise-signalling: Hitchens knows his Russia. No dummy, he. Why, he even knows there are birch trees in Yasnevo. Can’t pull a fast one on old Peter.
But if he really wants an answer to his question, I’m happy to oblige. The answer is, we should do both of the above – for starters. And then we should detoxify Britain by expelling all Putin’s cronies and confiscating (not just freezing) their purloined assets, including those houses in Belgravia and Knightsbridge.
At the same time we should arm ourselves to the teeth and drum up the support of all our allies in communicating a simple message to Putin: we have experience in standing up to evil regimes, and we’re ready to do it again.
Expressing a mild disapproval of multiple ‘whackings’ on our land is, according to Hitchens, tantamount to waging “a war our government chose to fight. What answer do we have to it that will not make it worse?”
Our government hasn’t yet chosen to resist the war Putin is waging on us – but I hope it will. And one good measure will be to make it clear to Hitchens that, if we’re indeed, as he claims, at war with Russia, his drivel is treasonous.