The Defector

Christopher Hitchens’ memoir details a lifetime in combat journalism

Hitch-22: A Memoir, by Christopher Hitchens, New York: Twelve, 448 pages, $26.99

In 1990, Commentary magazine warned its readers that Christopher Hitchens, then a bomb-throwing columnist at The Nation, was “a highly visible piece of leftist bric-a-brac in East Coast literary salons.” The targets of Hitchens’ wrath, said the conservative monthly, were typically “anyone in the democratic West,” with the exception of the left-wing lion Gore Vidal, the writer who once anointed Hitchens as his dauphin.

Twenty years later, writing in Vanity Fair, Hitchens dismissed his former comrade Vidal as a “crackpot” whose recent political writings were inseparable from the bilge found on loony conspiracy websites. This lefty bric-a-brac, it appeared, had transmogrified into a dues-paying member of the neocon establishment.

While he had always smuggled heterodox views into the pages of The Nation on issues ranging from abortion to the Falklands War, Hitchens’ real apostasy (and it is always referred to in quasi-religious terms) was precipitated by the attacks of September 11, 2001. In the weeks and months following the mass murder in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, Hitchens unloaded on his Nation stablemates, including Vidal, Noam Chomsky, and Alexander Cockburn, for not recognizing what he diagnosed as the West’s decades-long war with Islamic fascism.

The responses to Hitchens’ noisy break with the left were routinely ad hominem and, in the case of his ex-allies, often intensely personal. Cockburn, editor of the radical newsletter and website Counterpunch, seethed that his former friend was a “truly disgusting sack of shit.” Another Counterpunch writer, Jack McCarthy, sputtered that Hitchens was a “lying, self-serving, fat-assed, chain smoking, drunken, opportunistic, cynical contrarian.” Norman Finkelstein, who had previously praised Hitchens’ writings on the Israel-Palestine conflict, suggested that he might do the world a favor by committing suicide.

Sifting through the detritus of post-9/11 opinion journalism, you’ll see newly minted detractors accusing Hitchens of being, variously, an alcoholic, snitch, racist, cad, Holocaust denier, and predatory homosexual. Small wonder that The New Yorker would ask, in 2006, “What happened to Christopher Hitchens?”

It’s a fair question. As late as 1999, Hitchens was bragging of having “soldiered against the neoconservative ratbags” with his former friend Sidney Blumenthal. By 2002, the anti-ratbag warrior found himself in the Bush White House, briefing the neoconservative Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on the problem of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist dictatorship. To his friends on the left, this was the ultimate betrayal, the moral equivalent of abandoning the resistance for a position in Quisling’s occupation government.

But reading Hitch-22, his fascinating memoir of a career in combat journalism (both literal and figurative), one gets a sense that those looking for that tragic moment when a reliable man of the left became a fellow traveler of the right are asking the wrong question. On the big political issues that have long animated him—Middle Eastern politics, the dangers of religious messianism—his views have been surprisingly constant.

Hitchens, whom I count as a friend, is ubiquitous; his writing appears regularly in Vanity Fair, Slate, The Atlantic, and countless other publications that can scrape together money to cover his fee. He is the author of books on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Orwell, Henry Kissinger, and Mother Teresa, as well as the hysterical best-seller God Is Not Great, a stirring defense of non-belief. But for someone so famously prolific, he has been cagey about his post-9/11 political journey. In a scathing 2002 Nation review of David Brock’s book Blinded by the Right, Hitchens observed that the conservative hatchet man turned liberal hatchet man “does what many defectors do, and claims that it was his party, not he, that had changed.” Though Hitch-22 avoids this specific

claim, a variant on the traditional defector’s

tale—the argument that his side simply abandoned its principles—remains.

There is, of course, a quotidian political maturation that comes with age—looking at a photograph of his younger self from the 1960s, Hitchens comments blithely, with perhaps just a bit of horror, that it was taken at a time when he was “working and hoping for the overthrow of capitalism.” Though Hitch-22 elides any discussion of economics, the implication—that socialist revolution is no longer the goal of Hitchens the bestselling author—is clear. In an interview with reason in 2002, he acknowledged no longer considering himself a socialist in any utopian sense, though he declined to specify what he considered its successor ideology. To complicate matters further, he recently told the conservative City Journal that he still would identify himself as a soixante-huitard— a sympathizer with the street-fighting leftists who nearly toppled the French government in 1968—though with some significant reservations.

This instinct for leftist politics is apparent in Hitch-22, from his questionable observation that as a political theoretician the German Marxist Karl Liebknecht, who was murdered in 1919 after fomenting a communist coup in Berlin, makes “Asquith and Churchill and Lloyd George seem like pygmies,” to his refusal to see the anti-Sandinista guerrillas in Nicaragua as anything more than gangsters in the pay of Ronald Reagan (whom he still loathes with remarkable intensity—hardly a hallmark of neoconservatism). Still, Hitchens complains that “in Nation circles…there really were people who did think that Joseph McCarthy had been far, far worse than Josef Stalin,” and he recalls a catechizing 1968 “solidarity trip” to Cuba, where he discovered the moral and intellectual squalor of Castroism—a point many leftists still refuse to concede.

Unlike many in his orbit, Hitchens was never a Communist Party stooge. He was a member of the International Socialists, a fiercely independent group of Trotskyists. Suppress the urge to dismiss this as a distinction without a difference and recall that, for all of their wrongheadedness on issues from economics to the desirability of a socialist revolution, the Trots resisted the urge to defend those all-too-frequent spasms of Soviet imperialism, refused to shout huzzah as the Khmer Rouge rolled into Phnom Penh, and didn’t see in the mass murdering paranoiac Mao Zedong an alternative model for Western society. Large swathes of the student left, alas, weren’t so prescient.

Hitchens denies having undergone a “dreary drift to the Right,” and musters, to my surprise, some kind words for many of those with whom he has battled over Iraq and the Balkans. Noam Chomsky, he says, was a clear-thinking and principled “libertarian” who went a bit batty sometime in the 1990s, when the linguist defended Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. But surely Hitchens noticed that, when the Khmer Rouge was ridding itself of a third of its population, rounding up glasses-wearing counterrevolutionaries, Chomsky had scoffed at the “vast outcry against alleged genocide in Cambodia,” declaring that the murderous evacuation of Phnom Penh while “undoubtedly brutal…may have actually have saved many lives.” Elsewhere in Hitch-22, we are told of a young Hitchens disrupting a lecture on Vietnam by a member of Her Majesty’s Government, “voic[ing] the outrage that should properly be felt at the destruction of Cambodia.” In this case, the destruction was caused by the awesome power of the American Air Force. But did he express similar outrage when Chomsky was pooh-poohing refugee accounts of communist mass murder?

While many assume that Hitchens first asked of his comrades where do you stand in the aftermath of 9/11, his first mini-rupture with the left can be found in a slim, affecting chapter on the Ayatollah Khomeni’s fatwa against his friend Salman Rushdie, issued shortly after the publication of Rushdie’s more-commented-upon-than-read novel The Satanic Verses. The feminist writer Germaine Greer, Hitchens reminds us, was “noisily defending the rights of bookburners” (a group, I might add, not known for their warm embrace of gender equality). At great personal risk, an Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature called the Ayatollah “a terrorist,” while leading liberal lights Arthur Miller and John Berger refused to sign petitions on Rushdie's behalf.* Hitchens, to his credit, spoke out forcefully in defense of Rushdie and tells of his participation in a public reading from Satanic Verses at which the police found a pipe bomb. It was the beginning of a serious fissure amongst left-wing intellectuals, many of whom would later (rightly) decry the United States’ refusal to allow Yusuf Islam (né Cat Stevens) to enter the country, but would not acknowledge that the fundamentalist folksinger demanded the death penalty for Rushdie’s act of literary insult. (Despite the claims that he is a snitch and a betrayer, there is no greater testament to Hitchens’ loyalty to his friends than his continued defense of Rushdie’s terrible book on the Sandinista revolution, The Jaguar Smile.)

Hitchens’ précis of his shift on matters Mesopotamian (he was opposed to the first Gulf War at the time) will be familiar to those who closely followed the Iraq War debate and, therefore, will be viewed as either the book’s most or least interesting chapter. He adds little to what he has previously written on the subject for Slate, though it is worth being reminded that it wasn’t just the antiwar movement that spanned across the ideological spectrum. Those agitating for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, he writes, were a varied group too, including social democrats, Trotskyists, communists, former leading lights in the anti- Soviet movement (such as Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel), the Scoop Jackson liberals of The New Republic—an assemblage that is often imprecisely herded under the label “neoconservative.”

But when, in his student days, Hitchens first involved himself in the hideously messy tangle of Middle Eastern politics, the battle lines were rather different, and much of the debate was framed in the language of anti-imperialism and socialism, with many Arab revolutionaries being dues-paying members of the Socialist International. So among the religious dogmatists and Khomeini enthusiasts, it was a “blessed relief to meet a consecrated Moscow-line atheist-dogmatist” in Edward Said, the late Palestinian activist and Orientalism author with whom Hitchens also publicly quarreled after 9/11. Those convinced of Hitchens’ neoconservative turn will be surprised to find that, while deploring the rise of the messianic religious parties such as Hamas and Hezbollah, his support for the Palestinian cause is undiminished.

As even his most obstreperous critics concede, Hitchens is a deeply talented writer; his prose sparkles, his wit is wicked, and the reader will search his memoir in vain for a dead sentence. A few phrases are worth highlighting. Buried in a footnote, Hitchens observes that the religious leader intoning gravely against sodomites will “sooner rather than later…be discovered down on his weary and well-worn old knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed upon by some Apache transvestite.” Watching Edward Said’s full-body laugh looked as if “a whole Trojan horse had been smuggled into his interior and suddenly disgorged its contents.” The Argentinean dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, with his “scrubby mustache,” looks like “a sub-human impersonating a toothbrush.”

And while this is very much a political memoir, with chapters devoted to Said and travels to occupied Prague and Cuba, it is the personal narrative that drives Hitch-22—the beautifully rendered chapter on his mother’s suicide is some of his best writing to date. The British memoirist is generally expected to include a series of terrifying reminiscences of the “official sadism” sanctioned by English primary schools, a theme with a tradition stretching from Tom Brown’s Schooldays to the pop music of the Smiths, and Hitchens doesn’t disappoint. In a series of anecdotes that made headlines in the UK, Hitch-22 adds further confirmation to Robert Graves’ claim that “For every one born homosexual, at least ten permanent pseudo-homosexuals are made by the public school system,” by revealing that he bedded two men who would later serve in the Thatcher government.

Hitchens ends with a stirring and necessary call to arms, upbraiding those who believe that free speech needs to be constrained, that we in the West must learn to be “respectful” of the theological Other: “More depressing still, to see that in the face of this vicious assault so many of the best lack all conviction, hesitating to defend the society that makes their existence possible, while the worst are full to the brim and boiling over with murderous exaltation.” 

As I read these words, Viacom was censoring South Park for satirizing the supposed prohibition on depictions of Mohammed; the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had drawn the Muslim Prophet, was assaulted during a lecture on free speech and soon thereafter had his house set ablaze; and a Danish newspaper that had reprinted the famous 2005 cartoons issued another groveling apology to those “offended” by pen and ink drawings, promising that the images would never again befoul their pages.

For the unreflective and rigidly ideological, those who insist upon ignoring Hitchens for his pungent atheism, his promotion of war against Iraq, or his rejection of Zionism, be aware that you will miss a book that is touching, enraging, wonderfully crafted, and brimming with gossipy anecdotes. And it answers the question posed by The New Yorker during the darkest days of the Iraq War: What happened to Christopher Hitchens, the man who had a crush on Thatcher, supported wars in the Falklands, Balkans, and Iraq, and scoffed long ago at Alexander Cockburn’s sympathy for the Soviet Union? 

Nothing much, actually. 

Michael C. Moynihan is a senior editor at Reason magazine.


* The print version of this article stated that an Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature called Salman Rushdie “a terrorist.” The Nobelist, Naguib Mahfouz, was referring to the Ayatollah Khomeini, not Rushdie. We regret the error. 

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  • Paul||

    “lying, self-serving, fat-assed, chain smoking, drunken, opportunistic, cynical contrarian.”

    Oh this is fucking transparent:

    Unless he's our guy, then he's a committed, hard-bitten solid guy with the devil-may-care attitude when it comes to his nervy, edgy writing. A guy with whom you can have a real man's drink and engage in honest intellectual banter. He tells you like it is, pulls no punches...

  • jj||

    Hitch is a fucking neocon. I'm amazed at the adoration of him here in contradiction to the conservative neocons who earn our revile.

    Anti-religion and arrogance surely cover a multitude of sins.

  • Paul||

    There's much I disagree with about Hitches. But he's one of the most intellectually honest commentators on the scene, bar none. When Hitchens disagrees with a position I hold, I read, consider and learn. Rarely do I roll my eyes.

    He's considered a 'contrarian' by his former left colleagues because he's one of the few who's got the balls to take a position that's counter to echoes in the chamber, and defend it.

    When Hitchens is your friend, you've the most powerful ally, when he's your enemy, he'll make you stronger by forcing you to work for your ideas.

  • Miku||

    Those descriptors sound like a good summery of Hitchens. And that is why I love him.

  • Tman||

    Hitchens was not alone in realizing the hypocrisy of the left after 9/11. He was the most well recognized literary figure that I'm aware of to do so, but there were many, many others.

    It's amazing how heinous, evil acts performed by real in-the-flesh religious zealots can dwarf the assumed and hypothetical evils of capitalists and conservatives. The fact that so many on the left did not see this and continued in their moral equivalency arguments ("we deserved it, America is just as bad, etc") shows how incredibly ignorant those folks can be.

    As Moynihan accurately states, Hitchens didn't really change that much. It's just that the principles for which he stood -opposition to tyranny, despots and fascism, liberation of oppressed peoples- were no longer things the left gave a shit about. They did and still do care more about proselytizing the evils of America and capitalism than standing up to actual tyrants who really do terrorize their own people.

    I get turned off at times by Hitchens militant atheism (I'm agnostic) because I find it a bit overdone, but he's been a lightning rod for truth over the last few years.

    Time to go get Hitch-22.

  • Paul||

    The only quibble I take is that Hitchens' party didn't abandon their principles, they never had them... he just woke up to it.

    The moral equivalency arguments to "real in-the-flesh" murderers of many a stripe go way, way back... Noam Chomsky included.

  • Paul||

    decry the United States’ refusal to allow Yusuf Islam (né Cat Stevens) to enter the country, but would not acknowledge that the fundamentalist folksinger demanded the death penalty for Rushdie’s act of literary insult.

    He played the folk guitar, how bad could he be?

  • dennis||

    that machine was fixin' to kill infidels

  • Forgie||

    "Chomsky had scoffed at the “vast outcry against alleged genocide in Cambodia,”"

    He merely said that while there was definitely genocide the US media reported vastly inflated "unconfirmed" figures of fatalities while the confirmed figures were significantly lower. Which is actually a pretty unexciting criticism.

  • Paul||

    He merely said that while there was definitely genocide the US media reported vastly inflated "unconfirmed" figures of fatalities while the confirmed figures were significantly lower. Which is actually a pretty unexciting criticism.

    I recall his criticism to be much more of a scoff on the notion that Genocide was occurring.

    I mean, without digging up any relevant quotes... you're saying he acknowledged "genocide" but said confirmed figures were "significantly lower".

    Genocide suggests you're attempting to kill everyone. So a significantly lower figure is not-that-bad Genocide?

    And frankly, aren't there a number of holocaust deniers who use this very argument? "Well yeah, the Nazi's killed some Jews, but it weren't no six million."

  • Forgie||

    Actually Hitchens himself writes a defence of him here: http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/1985----.htm

  • Forgie||

    "Genocide suggests you're attempting to kill everyone. So a significantly lower figure is not-that-bad Genocide?"

    Historical accuracy doesn't minimize the crime any of course. If someone reported 50 million victims of the Holocaust, correcting them doesn't mean sympathizing with the cause.

  • Forgie||

    Also it's amazing what "..." can do because one google search brought the actual Chomsky quote: "the evacuation of Phnom Penh, widely denounced at the time and since for its undoubted brutality, may actually have saved many lives."

    It makes even more sense in context: http://tinyurl.com/28yjawk

  • ||

    Forgie|7.9.10 @ 6:29PM|#
    "He merely said that while there was definitely genocide the US media reported vastly inflated "unconfirmed" figures of fatalities while the confirmed figures were significantly lower."

    You're too generous:
    "If, indeed, the Cambodian regime was, as Lacouture believes, as monstrous as the Nazis at their worst, then his comment might be comprehensible, though it is worth noting that he has produced no evidence to support this judgment. But if a more appropriate comparison is, say, to France after liberation, where a minimum of 30-40,000 people were massacred within a few months with far less motive for revenge and under far less rigorous conditions than those left by the U.S. war in Cambodia, then perhaps a different judgment is in order."

    No he wasn't arguing numbers, he was engaged in brain-dead false equivalence.
    http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/chomsky.htm

  • Paul||

    Hitchens ends with a stirring and necessary call to arms, upbraiding those who believe that free speech needs to be constrained, that we in the West must learn to be “respectful” of the theological Other: “More depressing still, to see that in the face of this vicious assault so many of the best lack all conviction, hesitating to defend the society that makes their existence possible, while the worst are full to the brim and boiling over with murderous exaltation.”

    And this kind of stuff is why I will always like the Hitch...

  • ||

    Hitchens is a deeply talented writer; his prose sparkles, his wit is wicked, and the reader will search his memoir in vain for a dead sentence.

    Nice, Michael. Despite the present tense, I hope that isn't an early obituary. I found myself unexpectedly hooked for three or four hours one weekend a few years ago watching a live C-SPAN interview with Hitchens. One needn't agree with everything he says or thinks, but he's a compelling intellect, and his writings on the cosmic joke of religion and his wickedly entertaining skewering of Mother Teresa have earned him a place on my bookshelf.

  • Sudden||

    Such is the great asset of Brits. The wit and sharp commentary of Brits is something I've always generally admired. I find myself occassionally hooked on questions to the Prime Minister. Another British pundit I'm a fan of, with some reservations concerning his own political stances, is Mark Steyn. Although, I think it safe to say that Hitchens is the most entertaining of the whole lot.

  • ||

    Sudden who?

  • Tman||

    Sudden is a Steyn fan? Does not compute.

  • ||

    Steyn writes well. It's just that he writes neocon bullshit well, which can't hide the fact that it's neocon bullshit. His movie reviews, when not tainted by political musings, are quite good.

  • Suki||

    -1

  • ||

    Sure it does. You would be surprised how often Steyn quotes Matt Welch, for instance. He regularly uses the term "statist" too.

    The other day he called himself a "libertarian leaning conservative" or something similar. Why wouldn't libertarians enjoy his wit when they agree ideologically?

  • ||

    Not saying he isn't a conservative, just that certainly on some issues his positions would be identical to those of the majority of this board.

  • Sudden||

    Disregarding the chickenhawkishness, I enjoy the tone of his writing and his general mastery of the English language. And in spite of not agreeing with him on a fair amount of his foreign policy prescriptions, I agree with his assessment of some of the major underlying trends (culture of dependence, issues with demographic trends and its implications for the Western nannystate model and global geopolitical future, european defense welfare). The only difference is he wants to send the boys in where I think we're just making the problem worse. I think he views the world the same way but just desires the actions to be substantially different, and in a way, its easier to find common ground with the guy who views things the same but wishes to act differently than the guy who wishes to act the same way but views the world entirely differently.

    His musings on the relationship between the citizen and the state and how it is being corroded are fairly spot on, if only he'd cease his desire to grow the state in terms of war, we'd be on a very similar page (though with undoubtedly other exceptions).

  • dave c||

    Actually Steyn is Canadian

  • Sudden||

    True, though he was educated in England and still retains a bit of that traditional English accent and resulting wit.

  • ||

    I only wish American politicians could exhibit half the wit, education and ability to think outside the talking-points box as British European Parliament member Daniel Hannan. He seems at times more American than his American counterparts.

  • Sudden||

    Hannan is probably my favorite politician in the world presently, not like its a really high bar set, but its nonetheless an achievement.

  • ||

    Hannan is a bright light amongst the dim bulbs.

  • Zenmaster||

    Why settle for half-wits?

  • ||

    The days when Mark Steyn fills in for Rush Limbaugh are the only days the Rush Limbaugh Show are worth listening to.

  • ||

    Walter Williams
    Jason Lewis

  • Jason||

    Still, Hitchens complains that “in Nation circles…there really were people who did think that Joseph McCarthy had been far, far worse than Josef Stalin,”

    And they probably admire Woodrow Wilson's record...

  • jj||

    I don't see why hitchens does not admire Wilson either. Hitchens had a hard-on for bush, after all.

  • ||

    What a waste of bandwidth...

    Reason could save money and hire a chimp with a keyboard and quality would go way up compared to Michael's "thought provoking" LOL commentary...

  • ||

    Good idea! And while they're tossing money about, they could hire some more accomplished trolls!

  • ||

    There's plenty of things to argue with about Hitchens; he contains multitudes, and most of them are noisily drunk. But one thing he said during the debate with Chomsky strikes me as the most essential thing, the more compressed-to-the-hardness-of-a-diamond thing about 9/11: "They hate us not because of what we do wrong, but because of what we do right."

    If you have that thought as a moral compass, you are unlikely to fall prey to radical chic sympathy for the woman-fearing, free-speech-hating bastards.

  • jj||

    Crap. The "they" you talk of are millions of people. "They" don't hate you solely because of your cross-dressing immoral ways. "They" hate you also because you sit in safety here at home and fund the murder of their families overseas. How is that so hard to understand?

  • ||

    jj|7.9.10 @ 11:09PM|#
    "Crap. The "they" you talk of are millions of people...."
    Cite? Or fantasy?

    "They" don't hate you solely because of your cross-dressing immoral ways. "They" hate you also because you sit in safety here at home and fund the murder of their families overseas. How is that so hard to understand?"
    And how many of "they" sat safely in their homes while "their" whackos murdered thousands of those in the west?
    How hard is that to understand?

  • Suki||

    +100

  • phearmonger||

    Who made you diviner of the minds of the middle east?

    You're right. The Ay-rabs sat around cheering on them terr-rists while we Americans did no more than protect the world.

    Strange how so many innocents over their died as collateral in a war over which "they" had no say.

    +1000 for racism

  • ||

    The irony of this last statement is quite remarkable. Divining the mind of the middle east is precisely what people like Noam Chomsky and The Nation crowd and so on did after 9/11. Chomsky gave interviews in which he proclaimed quite confidently that al-Qaeda was dismayed by the same things that dismayed him-- Reagan's support for the Contras and so on-- which had resulted in an escalation of the cycle of violence which was quite regrettable. (Cycle of violence being his way of denying al-Qaeda having any active role; they're merely passive reactors to whatever the CIA has done in Quemoy and Matsu or whatever.) They couldn't wait to sweep the son of one of the richest men in the world and his followers under the customary rubric of the poor and oppressed.

    It was people like Hitchens, Paul Berman, etc. who insisted that we actually listen to what they said. They didn't decry the many instances in which Muslims were killed by the thousands by someone backed by this or that side; they seemed quite untroubled by that. They didn't even bring up the Palestinians until much later, when they sensed it would be good for their cause to do so. (No one actually gives a rat's ass about them.) They protested the presence of American female soldiers on Saudi land; they denounced the destruction of the Caliphate by Ataturk in the 20s, which America had about as much to do with as with the red spot on Jupiter. If you think your causes had anything to do with theirs, you're a dupe; their causes are to go boldly into the Bronze Age under religious totalitarianism of the most vicious and incompetent kind. Hitchens' point is exactly what you've missed all these years: there's nothing in their bloody, heartless, progress-hating program for any decent progressive to have anything to do with.

  • ||

    phearmonger|7.10.10 @ 1:50AM|#
    "Who made you diviner of the minds of the middle east?..."
    Uh, ESL? Try reading all the posts above.
    I *didn't* claim to be the diviner, I called BS on someone who did.
    -1000 for intelligence.

  • boohoo||

    What should "they" have done? idiot! What did you do when your government murdered them?

  • ||

    Actually, no, I was talking of a rather small number of extremists. But thank you for demonstrating my point in spades. Hitchens' point, of course, is not only that they despise our feminists and pop culture and freedom, but that they have no particular problem with killing each other in vast numbers, or us doing it if it helps them at any given moment. But that doesn't fit into the Chomskyite all-evil-comes-from-us worldview, so it gives them a pass for everything and blames us for everything. Hitchens calls you on that bullshit, and so do I.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    How many of us WILLINGLY "fund the murder of their families overseas"?

    I can speak for myself: If I could, I'd opt out of that part of my tax burden.

    How about you, jj?

  • John||

    They hate us for some of both.

  • ||

    Nice belt and suspenders there, pal.

  • Suki||

    I do not agree with many of his past or present attitudes, but it is so sad that he now has cancer. I hope he gets better. Hitchens is a great man, great writer and great thinker.

  • TheCheeseStandsAlone||

    The Defector...?

    Truth does not take sides...

    Hitchens rules the day...

    Amen...

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  • Old Man With Candy||

    Have you met Lou?

  • BakedPenguin||

    wbj is right: Al-Qaeda hates us for the Yankee jerseys we wear.

  • ||

    ... but everyone knows that JESUS HATES THE YANKEES!

  • jester||

    One apotheosis leads to another. You'll soon be with us, brother Hitchens. Beleive me, we need your exciting prose in the comment section.

  • jester||

    i before e except after c

  • Soonerliberty||

    Except in words like weird, neighbor, neigh, reindeer, reign, rein, deign, their, weir, heir, heirloom, any others? ;)

  • ||

    Weight, weigh, eight, eighty, seine....
    All I can think of right now.

  • Sudden||

    Weimar.

    I before E except before Hitler.

  • ||

    I before E except after C, unless it makes the sound "A" as in neighbor and weigh, and these: Neither the weird foreigner nor the ancient financier can seize leisure at its height.

    I think that covers it all. :)

  • ||

    I subscribed to the Nation back in the mid-eighties. Hitch and Cockburn were the writers that made it worth reading. Both of then hold to a belief in anti-authoritarianism and personal liberty in a way that most libertarians would find congenial. I disagreed with most but as others here have noted their writing stimulated thinking rather than just provoking angry opposition.

    I think their flaw is that they appear to think that an educated populace would simply have the sense to choose socialism, so no coercion would ever be required.

  • ||

    Michael: Thanks for the typically well-written piece. You've produced a fair look at a complicated man.

  • ||

    I love Hitchens. The world needs more like him and I was truly sad when I found out he had cancer. I don't agree with a lot of what he has to say but I love how he's out there letting the world, the media, the politicans, the theocrats all know what he's about. Of all the writers of the modern era, I think he's among the best.

  • mk||

    While we are on the subject, I wish Hitchens good health. I hope he stays around for a while.

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