Brutal Brits Battle at Baruch
New York, NY - September 15, 2005--The fur was flying last night in Baruch’s Mason Hall, where a packed house greeted Britain’s expatriate man of letters Christopher Hitchens and the Respect Party MP for East London George Galloway as they came out swinging to debate the war in Iraq. Veteran radio journalist Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! program, moderated the debate in the 1,200-seat theater, which was sold-out weeks ago.
The well-known rancor between Hitchens and Galloway was matched only by the audience’s fiery and frequent cheers and jeers as Galloway denounced the war as the equivalent of “making a Yugoslavia on top of the world’s largest oil field,” while Hitchens characterized it as a regime change that was inevitable and long overdue.
Hitchens agreed with the motion on the table: The war in Iraq was necessary and just, saying that a federal, democratic system of government in Iraq was necessary to keep the country from becoming “a concentration camp above ground and a burial ground below.”
Although Hitchens’s eloquently defended his hawkish positions in measured tones, the audience seemed to favor Galloway’s bombastic orations. Galloway frequently went for the gut reaction, a tactic which failed only once during the evening, but spectacularly so, when he declared, “The airplanes on 9/11 emerged out a swamp of hatred for us [Britain and America] created by Western policy. We need to drain the swamp. We need to stop supporting Sharon’s Israel so we can all be safer.” The audience, for once, was silent, but Hitchens pounced. “You picked the wrong city to say that in,” he commented dryly, “Arguably, the wrong month, as well.”
Hitchens took particular umbrage to Galloway referring to the Iraqi insurgents as freedom fighters, whom he called criminals and thugs, noting that many of them are Baathists who supported Hussein’s tyranny. Galloway retorted that the war was, “all for a pack of lies told by robber barons and culture capitalists.”
Despite raucous audience reactions, no one was ejected from the auditorium, according to Production Manager Ariadne Condos. Hitchens reminded the audience that C-SPAN was broadcasting the debate. “Your mothers are watching,” he chided.
After their wild start, the opponents rapidly lost steam, and they descended from the stage to sign copies of their books, which had been on sale in the auditorium throughout the event. There were no parting shots, but neither was there a parting handshake.
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