Chris Hedges Tells Dinesh D’Souza That His Obama Film Is 'Void of Facts, Reality, Intellectual Depth'
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SK: Are you defending Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak?
DD: No, no. I’m not defending either of them. They’re both dictators but the main difference between them is one dictator was friendly to the United States and the other wasn’t. So in other words, Hosni Mubarak, call him what you will, he was a despot in a region full of despots. There aren’t too many democrats in the Middle East right now. If you don’t count the state of Israel, the whole region is run by despotic powers. All I’m trying to say is there are two kinds of despots, despots who are friendly to America and despots who are against us. And I’m saying, weirdly, an American president who is elected to protect and defend our interests is friendlier to the despots that are against us than he is to the despots who are for us.
SK: Chris Hedges, do you see any patterns in Obama’s actions or inactions regarding the Arab Spring?
CH: Yeah, Libya has oil and Syria doesn’t. And Dinesh knows that as well as I do. The oil companies, especially the Italian oil companies, about 98 percent, because of the configuration of Libyan oil, Italy gets shut down without Libyan oil. That’s why Italy could never be part of the sanctions as Libya. It makes zero sense and the fact is, they hung onto Mubarak. They were clinging to Mubarak until the last minute. That was part of the problem. It was the Egyptians that overthrew Mubarak and the Americans were the last allies Mubarak had along with the Israelis. The idea that we push Mubarak out is just factually not true.
SK: Let’s hear another clip from the film, 2016 Obama’s America. In this excerpt we hear conservative commentator Daniel Pipes speculating about what lies in store for the U.S. and the world if Obama is re-elected and then we hear Dinesh D’Souza talking about what he calls the “United States of Islam."
[Clip of D’Souza from film]: [Pipes] I think it will be a much more vicious environment in which wars will be more common, in which extremist ideologies will be more common and there will be no great power to hold them back. So I think the power of the United States is crucial for people around the world. [D’Souza] So bad not just for us but bad for everybody? [Pipes] Indeed. [D’Souza] We are out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Egypt moves from being an ally to being governed by the radical Muslims. Libya, Saudi Arabia and Jordan follow the same path. No road blocks are placed in the way of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Israel is isolated. The Middle East transforms itself into the United States of Islam.
SK: Dinesh D’Souza, isn’t this a little bit speculative to say the least?
DD: Well it is, but remember it comes at the end of the film when I am speculating about what America might look like in 2016, that’s the title of the film, if Obama is re-elected. So what I’m doing is taking what Obama’s done and I’m projecting it outward. Now look, number one there are three critical countries in the Middle East. There’s Iran, there’s Egypt, there’s Saudi Arabia. Iran has been in the hands of the radical Muslims since 1979, the Khomeini Revolution. Egypt is on its way there now. And, all that’s left is Saudi Arabia. So recently I was watching a map, I think this might have been on CNN, listing all the places with little dots around the world where there have now been uprisings and clashes and protests and if you look at that map you will basically see right there the same map in our film that delineates the United States of Islam. In other words radical Islam is on the march. This is not just about an assassination in Libya or an inflammatory film out there, this is basically about the fact that the radical Muslims see an opportunity to use the transmission belt of democracy to restore Islam as a global power. Islam hasn’t been a global power in four centuries so something very big is going on and it takes a very blind person not to see that.
SK: Chris Hedges, your response to what Dinesh D’Souza just said and also the clip we heard in that Daniel Pipe essentially says that the US is a stabilizing force in the world, with the US weakened under Obama the world will go into chaos?
CH: I think certainly since the first Gulf War, the US cannot in any way be considered a stabilizing force in the Middle East. And unlike Dinesh I’ve spent seven years in the Middle East. I was the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times. I speak Arabic. Painting the Muslim world with this kind of brush is what fanatics do. The idea that Algerian Muslims or Egyptian Muslims or Turkish Muslims is childish. It creates a kind of binary vision of the world. Black and white, good and evil. But it’s not real. It's not the way it works. Even the Islamists who may share certain aspects of their ideology usually come down along national lines. Most people are not aware that Al-Qaeda, for instance, has declared Hamas or Hamas members to be apostates because they negotiate or they were negotiating with Israel through Egyptian security officials. Those kinds of tensions which exist when you’re on the ground make it a far more complex and even confusing clash of interests even Islamic interests. All of that is ignored for this cartoonish vision of this world that he paints and Pipes paints. It’s scaremongering. We saw it in the age of communism. It again, has no correlation to reality itself. It’s a non-reality-based belief system.
SK: In your film, Dinesh, you explain the 2008 election of President Obama as essentially a racialized vote that people voted for him because he was a black man. Can you expand on that a little bit?
DD: Sure, now the argument, I agree with it, but it comes from the commentator Shelby Steele who is a scholar at the Hoover Institution. Basically what Shelby Steele says is that what made Obama so attractive and magnetic was not simply the fact that he’s African American but that he was a different kind of African American. What Obama should have put on his resume is “I’m not Jesse Jackson,” “I’m not Al Sharpton.” There’s a tremendous resistance in America to that style of African American politics which you can call shakedown politics: “I’m gonna call you a racist unless you give me benefits and programs and essentially pay me.” People are sick of that.