Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quarrel between friends

It's always been something of an exaggeration to say that Christopher Hitchens has blood on his hands in re the was in Iraq. It's impossible to imagine Cheney and Rummy on the edge of our seats, saying, "We need at least one of the two snotty English guys at The Nation, and then it's a go." Similarly just about all of Congress made up its mind without much thought to the intellectuals. And if Hitch's job was to sell the left on the enterprise, well, mission unaccomplished.

But the thing about claiming the principled high ground is that inevitability isn't much of a defense. If the evil effects of your actions were a fait accomplit anyway, that doesn't mean you did the right thing. Only that you had company.

And the thing about being morally superior in the face of opposing evidence is that you tend to double douwn on the indefensible. Many cases in point here.

Katha Pollitt has a good and thoughtful in memoriam here. There's personal affection, but she certainly doesn't let him off the hook.

Having had some complications from acid reflux, I can only imagine that esophygeal cancer is a very painful thing to have, and a crappy way to die. I felt for him in those last months. Never prayed for him, though. In his case it would have been disrespectful.


susan said...

That was a very well written, sensible obituary about him. There’s not much I can add to what others have said about Hitchens’s political degeneration. Radical journalists often go astray because of a political downturn that leaves them disoriented. Perhaps if back in 1999 there was a powerful mass movement taking shape like the Occupy movement of today, Hitchens might not have gone off the rails. In any case, whatever his sins, I find myself touched and saddened by his death.

Ben said...

Radicals I think can get turned around pretty easily. At some point they come to believe that the most important thing is their own leadership, which others are too stupid and ungrateful to appreciate. I don't know if that's what happened to him. It is a sad story, though.