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imperialism & war

The New Christopher Hitchens: A Sinclair Dinosaur

Did 1973 hit single "The Americans" inspire Christopher Hitchen's ideological journey?
When columnist/crazy-maker Christopher Hitchens announced he was departing "The Nation" to try out new ideologies, I wasn't curious what he would become in his next incarnation; I was simply glad his bluster and hyperbole would no longer try the patience and good sense of "Nation" readers.

However, when I was sent a copy of an article about the clean side of imperialism, which Hitchens penned for a December issue of "Slate," I did indeed become curious about Hitchens's new voice. It was a voice from my early teens, one that filled me with nostalgia. It was the voice of Gordon Sinclair, a commentator for CFBR radio in Toronto.

No, I'm not from Canada. If you don't remember, Sinclair was the middle-aged broadcaster who took to the airwaves one morning in June 1973 with a hastily written, rambling pro-American editorial that somehow captured the hearts of a continent. Producers took Sinclair's recording, put it to patriotic music, and released it as "The Americans." The oddity "talking single" became a top-40 hit in the U.S. (As recently as 1998, the "Voice Of America" was still placing translations of "The Americans" on its international Web sites.)

"This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least-appreciated people in all the earth," began Sinclair's ode.

As "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" picked up in volume, Sinclair took off the gloves:

"The Marshall Plan, the Truman Policy [sic]: all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent war-mongering Americans. I'd like to see one of those countries . . . build its own airplanes. . . . You talk about Japanese technocracy [sic] and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy [sic] and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy [sic] and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times--and safely home again."

And so on, and enough of memories from my youth, and back to how those memories were awakened.

It was Hitchens who made me feel so young. In his "Slate" article, he wrote that "the plain fact remains that when the rest of the world wants anything done in a hurry, it applies to American power. If the 'Europeans' or the United Nations had been left with the task, the European provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo would now be howling wildernesses, Kuwait would be the 19th province of a Greater Iraq, and Afghanistan might still be under Taliban rule."

That's when it hit me. Hitchens is the new Gordon Sinclair. (The realization most likely came just when I saw that Hitchens had placed "Europeans" in quotation marks. I think the late Sinclair would have admired this plucky--not to mention devastating--sarcasm.)

Read Sinclair on the post-W.W.II years: "Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States."

Is it really "Sinc" (As Sinclair was known to his friends). Or is it Hitchens?

Now, a bit more Hitchens: ". . . if ever we can leave the Saddams and Milosevics and Kim Jong-ils behind and turn to greater questions, you can bet that the bulk of the airlifting and distribution and innovation and construction will be done by Americans. . ."

I'm certain Hitchens is here referring to the same innovation that put men on the moon and brought them safely home. Granted, Sinclair would have called it "technocracy," but we know, nevertheless, that somewhere Sinc is smiling down on "Hitch."