William Shawcross explodes in a rage at Kim Hill (May 1, 2004)
William Shawcross explodes in a rage at Kim Hill
National Radio, Saturday 1 May 2004, from 8:30 a.m. Transcribed by MORRISSEY BREEN, Daisycutter Sports Inc.
The first half of the interview ambles along smoothly enough—but then the haughty Shawcross delivers a torrent of wandery, pompous cant about bin Laden’s “holy war”… … WILLIAM SHAWCROSS: In his assault on the US, bin Laden had this famous phrase, which was a sort of TAUNTING phrase: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse they naturally gravitate towards the strong horse”, and I think, understandably enough, and none of these issues are easy, none of them are trivial, they are all very hard I COMPLETELY agree with you and understandably enough … And after 9/11 there was a feeling in Washington that it was possible to portray America as a weak horse and after 9/11 George Bush decided that could no longer be the case.
KIM HILL:[laughing, incredulous] But you can’t, you can’t surely justify bombing a country like Iraq, at the cost of many, many civilian lives, as a kind of PR exercise to convince the world that the United States is not a “weak horse”.
SHAWCROSS:[icy] No I didn’t say that. You are twisting, very cleverly, my words.
HILL: Well, the reason—no no no no no, the reason I make that point is that, according to Bob Woodward’s latest book, Bush was secretly planning to go after not bin Laden, the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks, but Saddam Hussein!
SHAWCROSS: Well, I don’t think THAT’s true. I think that he was planning to go after BOTH. And I think, as I said to you, that the threat that Clinton saw in Saddam Hussein was deemed to be tolerable in the nineties – I think that’s a pity for Iraq and for the rest of the world that Saddam was not dealt with more firmly in the nineties. This was a man who had form, this was a man who’d not only murdered three hundred thousand or more of his own people, he was the man who killed more Muslims than any other leader in the world today, both in Iran in his war with Iran, in Kurdistan, and in Iraq itself. This was not a man who was a threat to Christians, he was a threat to Muslims and a threat to the entire region—
HILL: Of course.
SHAWCROSS: —and most of the countries in the region wanted to get rid of him and it’s a great PITY he wasn’t got rid of before.
HILL: And as you eloquently say in your book, a lot of Saddam Hussein’s atrocities were committed with the sanction of the United States.
SHAWCROSS:[exploding with rage] I did NOT say that! Come on, you’re absolutely— this is an ABSURD interview if you want to say that!—I did NOT say that! I did NOT say that! I said that in the 1980s, the greatest threat was seen to be the Ayatollah Khomeini and his version of fundamentalist Islam and it WAS a threat! The Ayatollah was murdering all Iranians who were in opposition to him he could get his hands on inside and outside the country, he wanted to DESTROY the western world, and it was a serious threat. His agents blew up three hundred marines in Lebanon in 1983, you could SEE why he was a threat, and on the rather sad principle but old principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, we decided that the greater threat of the two from Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Khomeini was not Saddam Hussein at that time.
HILL: So you’re not talking about Saddam Hussein when you say in the book: “but of course one has to take into account the fact that Western governments have for decades supported middle east regimes that may brutalise and impoverish the mass of the people—”
HILL: “—-but nonetheless provide stable oil supplies.”
SHAWCROSS: Yes, it’s one of the paradoxes and the dilemmas of our time.
HILL: Well I’m SORRY, but that was merely the point I was making, I don’t think it was an “absurd” point.
SHAWCROSS:[icy] Well don’t get ANGRY! Don’t get angry with me, it’s FOOLISH of you. You’re supposed to be a very highly professional interviewer.
HILL: I’m sorry, I thought you were taking offence. I’m merely trying to explain to you by looking at your book—
SHAWCROSS: I think some of the things you said WERE rather offensive—
HILL: Which things were offensive to you?
SHAWCROSS: —and incorrect. I didn’t say— [laughing] I don’t want to go back over it now…
HILL: Feel free!
SHAWCROSS:[momentarily disoriented] … but you maintained… No. Will you requote your question to me? The one that I, um, took offence to.
HILL: I think the one that you took offence to was the one where I suggested that Saddam Hussein had committed his worst atrocities while he was sanctioned by the United States and other western governments.
SHAWCROSS: Oh yeah that’s right. Well, I don’t think that he was SANCTIONED by the United States. I think that, as I said to you, often you have to deal in areas of darker shades of gray and at that time in the 1980s the Ayatollah Khomeini was seen as a very great threat to the world. Let me read something he wrote in 1984… [Shawcross reads piece of mad Khomeini rhetoric about need to wage war against “infidels”.] Now THAT was the inspiration for the Ayatollah Khomeini back in the 1980s and it’s the inspiration for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda now. And what I think we do not fully understand is that this is a very serious war. Some people call it the third “ism”. We’ve got rid of nazism and Communism….
HILL:[reminds Shawcross of his former trenchant opposition to the Vietnam calamity, and his formerly excoriating writings about Dean Rusk’s absurd Domino Theory] Does that mean you are recanting from that view?
SHAWCROSS:[huffing impatiently] No, I don’t think I said that. [waffles on for several minutes, reproaching all who opposed the Vietnam invasion, and completely recanting his views, even quoting Lee Kuan Yew (“authoritarian, but in many ways very successful”) who, like the new-model Shawcross, enthusiastically endorses the US’s rape of Vietnam as somehow validating the Domino Theory.] All I’m saying is that we have to, errrrr, learn from history and—who was it?—John Maynard Keynes, who said that when the facts change it’s quite a good thing to change your opinion.
HILL: Does it ever occur to you that the impact of Sideshow may have helped create the cynicism with regard to U.S. foreign policy that you are arguing AGAINST in your latest book?
SHAWCROSS: Well that’s a very provocative and clever question. Yes, you may well be right and if so I’m sorry because I didn’t MEAN it to provoke cynicism. I think I said at the end ofSideshow, that Kissinger and Nixon had not governed in my view honestly enough, but America was the most vital democracy in the whole world, and I believed it then and I believe it even more so now. [PAUSE] You seem surprised by that…
HILL: It does seem that the United States is roundly loathed…
SHAWCROSS:[steaming with indignation] Why don’t you GO to Iraq then? That is certainly not the case….
HILL: [archly] I was going to say “in the Middle east.”
Touché! Even this smooth dissembler is momentarily nonplussed. Shawcross utters some mealy-mouthed words about Israel. He knows Israel’s war of terror against the people of Palestine is indefensible, but on the other hand, he’s an apologist for the neoconservatives now, so he can’t mouth anything stronger than a contemptible bit of handwringing…
SHAWCROSS: Obviously the heart-breaking impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians is an APPALLING sore. But Israel needs to defend itself. There are vicious and rotten governments—Libya, Egypt, Syria—all around it. To quote President George W. Bush: We have to encourage democracies and free the people of the region from their despotic torpor.
HILL: Do you think Henry Kissinger should be tried as a war criminal?
SHAWCROSS:[with extreme gravitas] I think he committed a lot of mistakes, but he is not a war criminal.
HILL: The trajectory of your views is compared to that of Christopher Hitchens…
SHAWCROSS:[laughs] Well Christopher is ADORABLE….
……………………………………………. This weasel was here to flog a weaselish book supporting the rape of Iraq, viz., William Shawcross, Allies: The U.S. and the World in the Aftermath of the Iraq War (Appallin’ and Unctuous, 2004)