It’s only fair to balance the light — Hitchens was a glorious writer and rhetorician, an advocate for atheism, and a brave human being — with the dark, and point out that there were subjects on which he was infuriating.
And so we had the world’s self-appointed supreme defender of Orwell’s legacy happily joining an extended misinformation campaign designed to sell an incompetent right-wing government’s war of choice. The man who carefully laid out the case for arresting Henry Kissinger for war crimes was now palling around with Paul fucking Wolfowitz.
I remember his talk at a FFRF meeting that dismayed the audience. He promoted jingoistic violence as the solution to everything in the Middle East.
Then it was Hitchens at his most bellicose. He told us what the most serious threat to the West was (and you know this line already): it was Islam. Then he accused the audience of being soft on Islam, of being the kind of vague atheists who refuse to see the threat for what it was, a clash of civilizations, and of being too weak to do what was necessary, which was to spill blood to defeat the enemy. Along the way he told us who his choice for president was right now — Rudy Giuliani — and that Obama was a fool, Clinton was a pandering closet fundamentalist, and that he was less than thrilled about all the support among the FFRF for the Democratic party. We cannot afford to allow the Iranian theocracy to arm itself with nuclear weapons (something I entirely sympathize with), and that the only solution is to go in there with bombs and marines and blow it all up. The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.
Slaughtering civilians does not seem to be a solution that ever brings peace…unless it’s carried to the degree that an entire people is exterminated, and then the only peace is the peace of the grave.
Hitchens was a complicated fellow: talented and intelligent, and on some subjects he was warm and humane and a true child of the Enlightenment. And on others, a bloodthirsty barbarian and a club-carrying primitive. At least in his final months it was the civilized and thoughtful humanist who emerged most.