"Making a profession of faith and regular incantations makes you in common with the people who bang their heads on the floor five times a day to announce that they’re slaves." -Christopher Hitchens

GhaneaBassiri : Would you have said that in the 1980s in Afghanistan when they were fighting the Russians?

Hitchens: Yes.

GhaneaBassiri: When we were declaring our autonomy?

Hitchens: No. When they were not fighting liberal democracy and killing civilians in western airlines I wasn’t so against them. When they were fighting the Soviet Union, not so bad, not good.

GhaneaBassiri: It’s not so much Jihadism.

Hitchens: You’ve been in Portland too long my love. In Portland that question counts as absolutely decisive intervention. Look, when they were trying to kill Brezhnev I wasn’t so against them. If they fought Sadaam Hussein I wouldn’t be against them, but when they try and kill civilians in the United States and grandfathers and granddaughters in Denmark.

GhaneaBassiri: What you’re saying is I want to kill someone who’s against me, that’s all you’re saying.

Hitchens: No, not against me, not one.

GhaneaBassiri: Essentially what you’re saying is Jihadism as a philosophy you’re against anyone who has a philosophy who…

Hitchens: The Shia rebellion against Sadaam Hussein I would’ve supported it, did support it.

GhaneaBassiri : It was very opportunistic right.

Hitchens: No, it’s not opportunistic; it’s tactical.

[Laughter]

GhaneaBassiri : The interesting thing here is that this philosophy of doubt places everything into this political realm, right, in which what really becomes important is not morality or principles, but how it is you advance yourself politically. So that you make allies with the Jihadists when they’re fighting the same enemy and when they’re fighting you, then you’re against them.

Hitchens: Obviously, you’re wedded to this point and you’re not going to drop it. Believe me, you can’t imagine you’re the first person to play this sort of action. The question is now, there are now Jihadists who are willing to blow up themselves in school yards and train stations in the west, and all you can do is say, “Well we used to be on their side when they were fighting the Soviet Union.” I mean I think you’ll have to get off that dime before you can move the argument much further.

GhaneaBassiri: The Jihadists that today are blowing themselves up in the west are pretty different from the people who were fighting against the Soviet Union.

Hitchens: I would say yes. Well why do you keep bringing it up then as comparison? Why was that the only thing you could muster against me?

GhaneaBassiri : Because what I’m trying to understand in your arguments is whether or not these are politically strategic arguments or whether they’re based on particular principles.

Hitchens: No this is not strategic; they have announced that the society I live in, making my living of, is my life, whatever you want to call it, is their own. They don’t want to fight the Taliban, they want to fight the elected government of Afghanistan and blow up its people. They don’t want to fight Al-Qaeda or the Mesopotamias, they want to fight the elected chair of the government of Iran and the elected Kurdish government of Afghanistan. When the volunteered that’s what they wanted to do and I said, “No, I want them to be killed.” And if I could help kill them, I would. Where I can I do. What’s so complicated about that? I don’t get it. This is no longer a difference in opinion, it’s confrontation, in fact it’s very nearly a war. And it’s not ‘cause I say so and if I die tonight, you’d be reminded of it by everything you read every other day in the newspapers of the year to come. I’m not going to let you, in the religious they’re not going to leave you alone, they’re not, they are not.

Zukor: And are fundamentalist Christians and Islamists on the same side because they both believe that God is on their side?

Hitchens: No, they think they’re not on the same side, not at all. The only time I know they were on the same side was on 911 when Oral Roberts appeared on the TV to say, “Of course you should expect New York to be punished for something.” But then the same week Gore Vidal and Normal Mailer said the same thing, it was a punishment for the George Bush presidency. So you can’t deal with true believers, they’re not on the same side but they think the same way.

If you allow that this more respectable, or more honorable, or in some way more numinous to be a person of faith to anyone why can’t you allow it to everyone? I am simply saying, take the risk of thinking for yourself and making the first assumption that you’re probably wrong. More pleasure, more innovation, every innovation, every discovery, every humanistic emancipation has come from that. Nothing has come from faith. And it’ll keep you going for the whole of your life, you’ll never get bored of thinking for yourself and taking the risk that you’re wrong and reading more and understanding how much more educated you are, the less educated you are about something. That’s emancipation, that’s beautiful. And it’s really useful. Making a profession of faith and regular incantations makes you in common with the people who bang their heads on the floor five times a day to announce that they’re slaves.