ROSE: Good Evening. Tonight we have with us Christopher Hitchens, author, polemicist, adventurer….
HITCHENS: You’re too kind, really.
ROSE: Who has given us the first big political book on Samson released today, called “Night Falls on the City.” Tell me about that title.
HITCHENS: It’s a perfectly awful title, but it suits my point. We did not lose only Samson that morning. We have lost every city we have.
ROSE: Now how can you say that. Here it is only a few months after the disaster, which is…
HITCHENS: Easily the greatest modern disaster since the Second World War, and not manmade…
ROSE: And you have the first book about it. Is it too soon?
HITCHENS: I believe this sort of event needs narration. There is a great need for an inquiry about why relief efforts have failed so badly. Why there is not yet even the beginning of a consensus in Congress about even how much money to send. The utter failure of this administration, or anyone else for that matter, to truly lead.
ROSE: And Mayor Tom Quinlan?
HITCHENS: I understand he’s become the sort of motivational center of this crisis for many who want to help. But in practical terms, he disappeared and probably died crushed by a building somewhere and his remains have yet to be found. There’s been no leader, and no leadership. And people ought to care when tens of thousands of Americans die and almost a million more are displaced.
ROSE: You write in your book, and I’m quoting here. “The administration reacted the way some do at a car wreck: they mumbled, they gaped, and they did nothing.” Those are fairly strong words.
HITCHENS: Well, you do understand that what happened. Early martial law. The mass shootings, which have now been proved by witnesses—we’ve heard no more about that. The impossibility of getting transmissions into or out of the city, and the forced media blackout until that helicopter wreck destroyed those congresspeople. We’ve seen a lot of footage, I’ve watched a fair portion of it myself, of block after block of refugees and dusty dead bodies in heaps. I mean, I can just barely understand not pursuing Henry Kissinger for war crimes. I can understand failures in war aims. I do not understand the way this was handled.
ROSE: You’re definitely not alone there. Since the disaster, all there have been have been questions. Will we rebuild it, will we not. Should we spend money on aid, should we not.
HITCHENS: Which is exactly my point, actually. There was once an America that would have said, yes, immediately, we’re going to do everything we can to help. We’ll take it up as a national mission and give a buck more in our taxes. We’re all in this together.
ROSE: And now?
HITCHENS: Well, it’s in the book and you’ve seen it on television. It’s every man for himself. We can’t afford to rebuild one of the most remarkable cities in the world. And it didn’t help anything that the major players in that transaction on either side of the debate died while reconnoitering it. And just as a side note, the very quiet hearings on Tryon have been officially cancelled today, so I suppose that’s at least two cities in recent memory who deserve better than they got.
ROSE: What do you think should happen?
HITCHENS: Well, first of all find and make responsible those who executed people in the street in the name of martial law, as well as those who made it possible. Find out the reason for those big cages we’ve all seen. Explain the presence of troops we’ve never seen before in rubberized, horrible suits with those massive assault rifles, who now are supposed to be a myth. Much, much more happened in Samson that we are being led to believe.
And then I think you come up with a plan of resettlement, to do something for the city that has already begun growing weeds over the ruins of its landmarks. You solicit and accept the help of the world, but now I believe that ship has sailed. It wasn’t handled well diplomatically, the aid workers were underfed and overworked. There was no money to support the simple endeavor of finding and feeding survivors. It’s got to make you angry, if you care about anything, that any government could fail so many."
ROSE: And the…what were they? Serpent monsters, something?
HITCHENS: The only serpents to plague Samson are in Congress.
ROSE: And with that we’ll take a quick break and be right back.