November 7, 2011
By Christopher Hitchens
There were two generally depressing controversies last week, in both of which an exercise of free speech might have done more harm than good. The first concerns our disordered policy in Afghanistan and the second our ongoing and increasingly dishonest discussion of sexual harassment.
In the first instance, it was announced by Gen. John Allen, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, that Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller had been “relieved of his duties” as deputy commander for the Afghan army’s training mission. This demotion, which may or may not result in the major general’s reassignment or retirement, was a direct consequence of an interview he gave to Politico. And this interview followed a speech made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in which he had said that, in the event of a war between Pakistan and the United States, Afghanistan would take Pakistan’s side.
This was too much for Fuller, who nonetheless restricted himself to calling Karzai’s remarks “erratic.” He extended himself a bit as he went on: “Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle? You’ve got to be kidding me. … I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you’re telling me, ‘I don’t really care?’ ” Referring to what he termed unreasonable requests from his army-to-be, or army-in-the-making, Fuller continued: “You can teach a man how to fish, or you can give them a fish. … We’re giving them fish while they’re learning, and they want more fish! [They say,] ‘I like swordfish, how come you’re giving me cod?’ Guess what? Cod’s on the menu today.”