Vanity Fair, a number of people were quick to pick sides and defend whichever one of the two happens to be their literary hero. Those who like Hitchens tended to agree with him for calling Vidal a crackpot and those who like Vidal tended to see it as unsporting of Hitchens to lay into an old man who may have simply gone potty.
Then there are those who defend Vidal on the grounds that his Truther-esque statements may well be...er...true. In this case, no less a personage as Dr Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed MA DPhil (Sussex) has stepped in to defend Vidal on these very grounds in an article in the Independent. It's interesting, to me at least, that while Truthers so often refer to those without the Truth as sheeple it is they who do the most bleating. In particular they like to bleat about "appeals to authority" which they like to point out as a fallacy and complain about getting ad hominem attacks from the zombified sheeple. But if ad hominem attacks and appeals to authority are unfair then what is the purpose of organizations referring to themselves grandly as Scholars for Truth, or Architects and Engineers for Truth? Surely it is to promote themselves as some kind of authority. And what is with the long string of letters after Dr Ahmed's name? Is he thinking of founding the NoDumbSchmucks for Truth movement?
To be fair, Dr Ahmed does have a personal stake in this given that Hitchens was expressing astonishment that Gore Vidal could put his name to one of Dr Ahmed's books. Hitchens says:
Vidal relied heavily on the man he thought had produced “the best, most balanced report” on 9/11, a certain Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, whose book The War on Freedom had been brought to us by what Vidal called “a small but reputable homeland publisher.” Mr. Ahmed on inspection proved to be a risible individual wedded to half-baked conspiracy-mongering, his “Institute” a one-room sideshow in the English seaside town of Brighton, and his publisher an outfit called “Media Monitors Network” in association with “Tree of Life,” whose now-deceased Web site used to offer advice on the ever awkward question of self-publishing.
If this type of ad hominem attack smarts a bit, it isn't surprising that Dr Ahmed feels self-conscious enough about his credentials to spend a good deal of his article pointing out where that boorish oaf, Hitchens, has gone wrong ("Hitchens conveniently overlooks the fact that I am at the Department of International Relations, University of Sussex...etc..."). And, just for good measure, what looks like Dr Ahmed's entire media CV is tacked on as a postscript.
But the problem with Dr Ahmed's article is that it tries to have things too many ways. First, by saying it was unfair of Hitchens to call the old guy a "crackpot" being of "crackpot" vintage and secondly to say that maybe Vidal's still got all his marbles after all, which undercuts his first plea for the defence. Dr Ahmed partly bases this claim on the discredited idea that the FBI don't want Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.
Gore describes bin Laden as ‘still not the proven mastermind.’ Hitchens thinks this is self-evidently absurd, but it would seem the FBI agree with Gore, not Hitchens: according to Sonoma State University’s Project Censored, one of the top 25 censored news stories of 2008 was that ‘He [bin Laden] has not been formally indicted and charged in connection with 9/11 because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.’
This claim largely comes from the fact that Bin Laden's FBI Wanted poster doesn't mention the 9/11 attacks. And that one Rex Tomb, of the FBI, gave the following reason for the omission:
“The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.” Tomb continued, “Bin Laden has not been formally charged in connection to 9/11.”
Wow! Looks like the New World Order made a major slip-up in not telling the FBI to put the 9/11 attacks on the FBI poster. Either that or they're surprisingly honest about the fact that there is no reason to suspect Bin Laden.
Or perhaps there is another explanation, as appeared in the Washington Post:
"There's no mystery here," said FBI spokesman Rex Tomb. "They could add 9/11 on there, but they have not because they don't need to at this point. . . . There is a logic to it."
The point is that the FBI were sent out to Kenya and Tanzania to investigate the embassy bombings in 1998 and made Bin Laden a suspect in what they considered to be a crime. The 9/11 attacks were treated more as an act of war and one in which evidence took the form of intelligence that those investigating the attacks wouldn't want to compromise by revealing it. Or else Rex Tomb has been leaned on after initially letting the cat out of the bag.
More of that is here. In fact, one of the problems identified in not catching those responsible for 9/11 before it happened came from different investigative bodies, the FBI and the CIA not communicating enough with each other and sharing information for the simple reason that the FBI would seek to use the evidence in court, and therefore make it public, while the CIA wanted such information to remain secret in order to further discover more about the Bin Laden network.
And just in case there is any doubt the US State Department has listed Bin Laden as wanted for the 9/11 attacks.
The claims of responsibility also probably weigh in on the side of Bin Laden's guilt.
Thirdly, Dr Ahmed makes a parallel between Hitchens' past indulgence of conspiracy theories such as the idea that USS Maine was deliberately sunk by the US in 1898 as a pretext for the Spanish-American War and the Lusitania was deliberately imperiled by Churchill to get the Americans into World War One and Gore Vidal's current conspiracy theorizing about Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
This suggests Dr Ahmed has been reading Hitchens Watch where it was also said that it was rich of Hitchens to call Vidal a conspiraloon given his own crown of baco-foil. (I looked at that here.)
If Gore’s scepticism about Pearl Harbour [sic] represents a ‘crackpot’ strain, then what do Hitchens’s writings about the sinking of the Lusitania in his Blood, Class and Empire (2004) say about him? Hitchens points to how the US sank its own ship, the USS Maine, in Havana as a pretext for the Spanish-American War. This was precedent for Winston Churchill’s ‘pivotal role’ in the Lusitania deception, a ‘psychological warfare’ operation that ‘prepared United States public opinion for a war on the terrain of old Europe’ by placing the ship in the line of German fire. He concludes ominously:
‘I am reluctantly driven to the conclusion that there was a conspiracy deliberately to put the Lusitania at risk in the hope that even an abortive attack on her would bring the United States into war. Such a conspiracy could not have been put into effect without Winston Churchill’s express permission and approval.’
Talk about pot calling the kettle black? Whether either of them is right or wrong, compared to Hitchens’s repeated, heated, solemn references to ‘conspiracy’, Gore is far more measured, albeit laden with a heavy-dose of the blackest irony.
Well, all Dr Ahmed can achieve from this tactic is to show that Hitchens is as nutty as himself and Gore Vidal. But this Phyrric victory doesn't make any of his own theories or Gore Vidal's theories on Pearl Harbor or pipelines look any less half-baked.