'That's All the Difference in the World'

J$P Instant Transcript! Christopher Hitchens and Michael Isikoff on the Zarqawi-Bin Laden connection.

From Fox News Live, March 5 2005:

RICK FOLBAUM [FOX NEWS]: Are we winning the war on terror? Joining us now the author of Love, Poverty, and War, Vanity Fair contributing editor Christopher Hitchens, along with Newsweek correspondent Michael Isikoff. And it's great to have both of you on, and let me ask you first, Christopher, on the whole, are we up or are we down?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well that's why they call it a war, surely. I mean, Mr Zarqawi is a problem largely for those who say that the war in Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror. Since the most senior Bin Ladenist currently operating, a man who's probably more dangerous than Bin Laden himself and is certainly closed from his group as well as [unintelligible], has decided that Iraq is, rightly from his point of view, the main front. how can anyone continue to say, as people continue to do, that this is a distraction from it? It isn't the distraction from it, it is the fight against Al Qaeda.

FOLBAUM: Michael, what is the measuring stick in your eyes? If it's have we been attacked here in the United States, then we're winning the war on terror.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Well, I mean, I don't know that it does much good to talk in terms of winning or losing. I take exception to Christopher only in the sense of, I think he described Zarqawi as a Bin Ladenist. Perhaps broadly speaking that's true, but from what we know about this most recent exchange, it only underscores what a number of people have said for quite some time, which is that Zarqawi is as much an independent actor as he is a part of any sort of autonomous, top-down, command-and-control organization. He has at times viewed himself as a competitor of Bin Laden, had his own training camps in Afghanistan. I don't think this makes him any less dangerous, and I don't mean to be dismissive at all, but I'm just saying that the sense in which that all these groups are operating in concert is, I think, somewhat questionable.

FOLBAUM: Christopher, this week we heard President--

HITCHENS: I'm sorry to correct you, Bin Laden has baptized him. Zarqawi sought that baptism, much more important, at a time, after September 11 2001, when countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were expelling people who they found to have these connections, and were disowning the connections that they had, to their shame, actually had. Mr Zarqawi was invited into Iraq. They Iraqis were going the other way under Saddam Hussein. Mr Zarqawi was there, planning and organizing before the intervention. That surely must make a point to you, however reluctantly you accept it.

FOLBAUM: Michael, go ahead.

ISIKOFF: Well, no, no. Look, I fully accept that he's a dangerous guy, a lethal guy, and an enemy of the United States who should be destroyed. My only small point here is that, even this most recent exchange, in which from what we know and what we're told by US intelligence officials, Zarqawi did not accept the Bin Laden message as a command that he sought to follow. In fact, he was somewhat, he raised some questions about it and didn't endorse it. He views himself as his own man, that's all.

HITCHENS: As well he might. As well he might. He's in no position to be launching attacks on the United States. He has to spend most of his day avoiding capture by the United States. As does Bin Laden. But that's all the difference in the world, isn't it?

FOLBAUM: Gentlemen, I could talk to you both for hours. I apologize that we're out of time. Christopher Hitchens and Michael Isikoff, gentlemen, thanks.

posted: Sat - March 5, 2005 at 03:42 PM       j$p  send