Here is part of Goldblog's continuing conversation with Christopher Hitchens. We have talked about many things -- and I'll be posting more of the conversation in the days ahead -- but this part of the dialogue concerns Iran and how the West should deal with it. Not surprisingly, Hitchens is a full-throated interventionist. The novelist Martin Amis, Hitchens's closest friend, sat in on the discussion. I've edited and condensed the conversation for purposes of clarity.
I began by raising the idea of the nuclear-armed Iran:
Christopher HItchens: Ever since any of us were children, one of the sort of late night in the dormitory discussions was about what would happen if a real nutbag got a hold of a nuclear weapon. Now we're about to find out.
Martin Amis: The first suicide bomber measured in megatons. (Ahmadinejad) is, widening boulevards to accommodate the return of the hidden Imam, where Christ would also be present but as a minor figure in his entourage, you know, number nine after Abraham --
CH: Still, nine is not nothing..
Jeffrey Goldberg: Go to the pressing policy question: do you think it's worse for someone to intervene militarily to stop this program or delay it, or to try to contain it afterward?
CH: I take Holocaust denial as Holocaust affirmation. People who say it didn't happen are people who wish it would happen again. I don't think there are any exceptions to that. This is not a fit person to be in command of nuclear weapons.
I was not long ago at a very unpleasant event, a Hezbollah rally in Beirut where the news that Iran officially disclaims any desire for a nuclear weapon had not been passed on to their proxy, because the election poster for Hezbollah was a nuclear mushroom, and I remember thinking -- standing in this terrible, segregated, chest-beating crowd -- that I would not have thought, later on, that maybe I should have paid attention to that. I think warnings like that deserve to be taken seriously. And I think if they behave like that, that's enough already to say well, we overdid it, but you made us err on the side of overdoing it. I don't believe they intend to use the bomb to destroy Israel or attack the United States. These mullahs are basically scrofulous racketeers. They have a very rich country that they are bleeding it to death and the blood goes into their own treasury. They don't care that the host is basically dying.
MA: But the collateral stuff is intolerable, in that it will nuclearize the whole region.
JG: You'll have a nuclear arms race in the world's most volatile explosive region.
CH: Well, you don't need me to tell you what they definitely want it for -- or what they thought that they have it for -- which can be enough, as Saddam Hussein showed. This is strategic ambiguity, in other words, nuclear blackmail of the neighboring Sunni Arab countries.
JG: This is going to be hard for you, but if you were Benjamin Netanyahu, but still possessing Christopher Hitchens's knowledge of the Holocaust and of Jewish history, and of the protean, eternal nature of anti-Semitism, what would you do? Just assume the shoes of a leader of a country of six million Jews, whether you agree with the founding of that country or not.
CH: It's just as likely that I'd be president of the United States. In fact, slightly more so. Why not that, because that's really where the question has to be asked.
JG: Well, why don't you answer both.
CH: The United States is the host country of the United Nations, the promulgator of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. The U.S. is not just a signatory but they're people who cause other people to sign all these things. The Iranian regime has several times publicly not just sworn but signed its name to documents in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations, and the European Union, that it has no ambitions to weaponize its nuclear capacity. If, after that, it is found that they have such impulses, then there is no such thing as international law anymore that would meant that we watched while that was contemptuously dismantled, trampled. In that case I see no reason not to take out the regime.