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The War on Terror Revisited

  • Christopher Hitchens

Co-Sponsored with the Humanities Center

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America. His most recent collection of essays is titled Love, Poverty, and War. Mr. Hitchens, longtime contributor to The Nation, wrote a wide-ranging, biweekly column for the magazine from 1982 to 2002. With trademark savage wit, he flattens hypocrisy inside the Beltway and around the world, laying bare the "permanent government" of entrenched powers and interests. Mr. Hitchens has been Washington editor of Harper's and book critic for Newsday, and regularly contributes to such publications as Granta, The London Review of Books, Vogue, New Left Review, Dissent and the Times Literary Supplement.

Born in 1949 in Portsmouth, England, Mr. Hitchens received a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1970.


Event Synopsis:

Mr. Hitchens recounts the early history of American war, including its first foreign engagement in North Africa against the Ottoman Empire after it had enslaved Europeans and Americans in the region. He then reflects on the turnaround in European and American attitudes toward Islam since 1967, when US President Lyndon Johnson began to make concessions to Israel regarding its presence in Gaza in order to gain support for the Vietnam war. Johnson's predecessors as well as European leaders, in contrast, had pressured Israel to leave Gaza and had threatened economic consequences against Israel and England.

Mr. Hitchens relates recent conversations with several prominent figures - Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, Dutch newspaper editor Flemming Rose, and Somali-Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali - as illustrations of the new approach to the Muslim world by America and Europe. He describes a "civil war" within Islam between fundamentalists working to impose Sharia and "export" the conflict to the West, and moderate Muslims. Hitchens also recounts how he discouraged Tony Blair from pursuing measures to allow separate schools for Muslims in Britain, and argued against extending the anti-blasphemy law to cover Islam, instead calling for it to be revoked entirely.

Mr. Hitchens concludes his talk with the observation that the fight against Islamic extremism and terrorism will be a key battle for both the US and Europe in years to come and will transcend cultural or strategic differences between the two regions.

During a discussion session, the audience raised such questions as: Does Mr. Hitchens see the French ban on girls' head scarves as a positive measure? Where are there differences between the war in Iraq and the war against militant Islam? What are the implications for Europe if Turkey joins the EU? Is there a common European view toward terrorism, Islamism, and jihadism?