Byline: Christopher Hitchens
Because I am a supporter of the armed struggle against the forces of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein, I quite often get asked if I have become a Republican in my declining years. Never mind for now the many reactionary Republicans, from Brent Scowcroft to Patrick J. Buchanan, who are my enemies in this argument: the fact is that I have been a republican all my life. Not in the sense that I favor the re-unification of Ireland-though I certainly do-but in the sense of being opposed to all forms of monarchy and absolutism. I moved to the United States a quarter of a century ago, partly to escape the British royal family (whose publicity alas followed me across the Atlantic) and partly because it was much easier to be an independent writer in a country that had a written constitution and a codified Bill of Rights. After the barbaric assault on American civil society that took place on September 11, 2001, I resolved to stop cheating on my dues and applied to become a citizen, and although my paperwork seems to have vanished into the hideous maelstrom that goes by the name "Homeland Security," I consider myself to be standing in line to take a formal oath to defend that constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.
In January of this year I found myself involved in two legal actions, one in my country of adoption and another in my country of birth, both directed at arbitrary power. In the first instance, I was contacted by Anthony Romero, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He asked if I would agree to become a plaintiff in a suit against the National Security Agency (N.S.A.) and by implication against the Justice Department. It had been disclosed that the N.S.A. was engaging in widespread warrantless surveillance of American citizens. It seemed obvious to me (and the suit alleges) that this violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution, in that it hampered the confidentiality with which reporters and scholars and lawyers must work, in the Middle East and western Asia, and in that it was an unreasonable invasion of privacy rights. The First Amendment is how I make my living. But it is precious to me in other ways, in that it stands against any infringement of free expression. So I said yes.
I then had to fill out a questionnaire about my travels to, and contacts in, such countries as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia, all of which I have covered for this magazine in the past few years. One of the questions asked if I was in contact with any person or group that the United States government could regard as being associated with terrorists. I would have paused at this anyway. Most of those with whom I exchange e-mail or phone traffic in Iraq and Afghanistan are dedicated to defeating the forces of bin Ladenism. But then there was this other …