Thursday, December 22, 2011

Burn in Hell, Christopher Hitchens

Note: For discussion of Middle Eastern affairs, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn for insight to General Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, former Israeli Minister of Tourism. Having faked his assassination in the Mt. Scopus Hyatt Hotel, the General has been in deep cover, in Judea and Samaria, posing as an American goy pursuing graduate studies in the Middle East. He last joined us for Bela Lugosi's Dead, Part III: Killing the Bastard Bin Laden, Stage IV of the American Fever Dream.

Reflections in a Gimlet Eye

"To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth."
— Voltaire

Hitchens was human trash, and his corpse should be interred in a grave worthy of his towering legacy, an eternally burning garbage fire, rising as high as a Baghdad sunrise, a smoky immolation of all the worthlessness that could be crammed in his "contrarian" paunch.

Even this dream, of the phoenix never rising from the ashes, preserves that peasant’s megalomania more powerfully than any embalming fluids currently coursing through his veins. Formaldehyde's more potable than his lifeblood's cocktail of lies and booze, a tincture only the diseased imbibe. Hitchens was strictly for suckers, a mouse that roared, a VH1 I Love the 80s panelist with a fancy accent, a rap sheet and cirrhosis. "Rationalist," "skeptic," "contrarian," "public intellectual" — court jester. He plied that ancient trade for the deadliest predators on Earth; his was the reflexive, suck-up, kick-down cruelty of the British madding crowd. That’s all, folks.

To cite an author he hamfistedly emulated (more or less successfully), Hitchens was Squealer the pig, a silver-tongued correspondent to the middlebrow, flattering of power, contemptuous of the weak, the bashful, the foreign — the sincere. He was a kept man to the bitter end, the part-time iconoclast. As Norman Finklestein recalled, "'The last thing you can be accused of is having turned your coat,' Thomas Mann wrote a convert to National Socialism right after Hitler's seizure of power. 'You always wore it the 'right' way around.'" Hitchens afflicted the weak and comforted the powerful, an abnegation of any public service a gadfly could perform. Though his Oxbridge accent and erudition were crucial in fleecing the provincials he knew the USA was composed of, it was his more American qualities that endeared him to the terminal-stage Republic.

The multiple comparisons to Lord Byron that Hitchens received are so disturbing as to deserve no response. I'll try anyway. Byron — a superhuman defender of the voiceless, an impossibly good-looking sex machine, the noble son of "Mad Jack" Byron and sole voice in excoriating the destruction of Ireland, a Bengal tiger capable of ripping apart any of Wordsworth's reactionaries in verse or in person, a man disgusted by the fatuous, self-satisfied corruption of the Tory elite and the once-radical Lake poets (who should "change their lakes for oceans"), a man contemptuous of an imperial masculinity defined by cruelty and weakness, fled that stinking island — died a hero's death in Greece, fighting empire.

Hitchens died in Houston, Texas, headquarters of Halliburton.

Stripped of his pretenses to dissidence, the record reveals Hitchens to be not merely ordinary but comically antediluvian in his beliefs: a chauvinist who despised female intellectuals; a bigot who subscribed to a crude belief in a clash of civilizations, of the West against barbarism; a warmonger who, ensconced in Georgetown, pictured himself on the frontline of the Third World War. Had he stayed in Britain, he would've been just another gadfly, bickering in the London Review of Each Other's Books. But, as Sam Elliott advises in The Big Lebowski, its titular hero's quest beginning "just about the time of our conflict with Saddam and the Iraqis," well, "Sometimes there's a man. Well, he's the man, for his time and place. He fits right in there." And that's Hitch, in the post-9/11 destruction of Earth.

His was a Manichean view of the world, for whom those ranged against him were saps and relativists, no matter their opinion or whether he had once just as viciously espoused it. Kissinger, religion, Mother Teresa — these piñatas were strictly for the cheap seats, so he could get on with eliding any real responsibility to speak truth to power. After all, can a condemnation of Kissinger borne of moral outrage have any credibility following on the heels of an endorsement of Thatcher and preceding one for George W. Bush?

He was the rationalist who not only failed every — every — question in the greatest foreign policy test of his lifetime, but smugly snarled "just you wait" to the "potluckistas" who dared contradict his vision of Iraq, delivered ex cathedra from a throne of blood. He delighted in a global war against Muslims, whom he viewed as slightly sub-human, fecund zealots — agents of the "Islamofascist" (there's a phrase) threat, greater than Hitler and Stalin. The suffering of millions of people as a result of his nostrums mattered little to him, and he never sought to address them, unless there was some way to lash the corpses together into a crude cudgel, and batter some anti-war debating partner. Oh my, how uncompromising he could be in destroying through force of argument Saddam's "mafia state" or Milosevic's Fourth Reich — and how desperate he grew as Iraq ground on.

But, judging by the fulsome tributes his death inspired, Hitchens got away with it. He only adhered to three principles in his lifetime: never admit you're wrong, never admit self-doubt, and never apologize. Call it the Donald Trump law. Follow this sociopathic path to glory, and Americans — wandering through a ruined land, unable to comprehend the desiccation of the American dream into a dry, black lump of misery — will think you know something they don't. They won't stop believing, even as the aegis of the flag sinks, like the head of a dying brontosaurus, sagging to permanent rest.

We are a tired people, in a benighted world. Our national myths must either grow juicier, even grander, or wither on the vine. A learned limey assuring us of our fated place in the sun, of our necessity on the ramparts of civilization, indeed, of our significance even in the face of a godless existence — this was the rearguard gunsel who answered our prayers.

Martin Amis, a collection of psychiatric literature on malignant narcissism and dental anxiety masquerading as a novelist, eulogized the dear cretin last year: "Your corporeal existence, O Hitch, derives from the elements released by supernovae." This is accurate; a supernova is a stellar explosion, occurring when a star has taken on so much mass that it cannot sustain its own weight. Amis entirely misses the fact that the brilliance of a supernova only exists for those who can regard it at so great a distance that even at the moment it's witnessed, it's already lost to the past and boundless expanses of space. Anything within living distance is consumed, while anyone who stares at it burns out his eyes before being barbecued alive. Its illumination brings only blindness and death.

Will To Power: The Myth of a Contrarian
The sycophant—who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy—was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois. "The laws of commerce are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God."

No wonder that, true to the laws of God and Nature, [Edmund Burke] always sold himself in the best market.

— Karl Marx, Das Kapital
Stripping away Hitch's self-proclaimed pretenses of iconoclasm and danger, we are left with an ordinary, unappetizing meal; True Hitchens is like an expired Hungry Man meatloaf dinner, congealing in the microwave. I'd say, in some act of penance, his remains should be donated to an Iraqi soup kitchen, but we've done that people enough backhanded favors already.

Hitchens' true achievement was, in the end, his only achievement. As masterfully distilled by Richard Seymour, the "hammering Hitchensian irony... [was the manner] in which the most consummately bourgeois opinion acquires the mould and fashion of resistance." Hitchens could've dramatized something as genial as a bar mitzvah into a gruesome surrender of free will, to a "celestial North Korea" — and he did! It's evident in his earliest incarnations; he never changed. He was a vodka-sweating boil from cradle to grave.

Looking through his past writings, going as far back as even the 1970s, the most surprising revelation is the rather open admission of his defining crime: his abdication of the basic duties of an anti-establishment social critic, in favor of the bananas of an organ grinder's monkey. In a 1989 article for The Nation, Hitchens articulated a moral code that would have seemed, at the very least, odd for a leftist to trumpet amidst the protracted, arrhythmic collapse of the Soviet Union
The real test of a radical or a revolutionary is not the willingness to confront the orthodoxy and arrogance of the rulers but the readiness to contest illusions and falsehoods among close friends and allies.
I had to read that quotation a few times to make sure I had the gist right. Conventional thought about Hitchens is that he was still left-wing in the 1980s, not some authoritarian twerp elevating a shouting match with Alexander Cockburn to the Lincoln-Douglas debates. But in the first months of the administration of George H.W. Bush — a man Hunter S. Thompson described as "a tall hyena with a living sheep in its mouth" — Hitch openly admitted that he didn't see it as his job to "confront" the most powerful people in the world, but rather, to bicker with his friends — the class of left-wing, intellectual elite that haven't been anywhere near the levers of American power since Franco shot them all.

I continued scouring his writings, only to find that, indeed, his accommodation with the powers-that-be was even more explicitly pronounced:
An intellectual need not be one who, in a well-known but essentially meaningless phrase, "speaks truth to power"... however, the attitude toward authority should probably [my emphasis] be skeptical.
That's some real red meat. If Hitchens got in the rap game, he would've been fearlessly urging N.W.A. to "PROBABLY BE SKEPTICAL OF THA POLICE." If he'd been writing for Nathan Hale, the spy would've "probably regretted having one life to lose for my country, I guess." But while Hale and N.W.A. both spoke at least some measure of truth to power, have any of them even read or contributed to The New Statesman?

Finally, and most remarkably, was this statement in his memoir, Hitch-22 (what does that pun signify anyway?):
The usual duty of the intellectual is to argue for complexity and to insist that phenomena in the world of ideas not be sloganized or reduced to easily repeated formulae. But there is another responsibility [my emphasis], to say that some things are simple and ought not to be obfuscated....
Parse what Hitchens wrote here in 2006, knowing that his legacy outside beltway "thinkers" and his drinking group will consist solely of his warmongering against Iraq: he concedes that perhaps the world is too complex for reduction, into black and white, us versus them — before forcefully, crudely defending the need to slam the square into the circle. You can practically hear the crush of tweed as he crosses his arms at the sentence's end. On some deep, psychic level, the old Trotskyite was unable to accept gray; think, after all, how skillfully he could soar on black and white.

There's a reason why Hitchens plied his trade primarily in the United States, besides the obvious financial motive that attended all his work: in the United Kingdom, claiming expertise while trading in disingenuous or nonexistent fact is still something like bad form. You get called out for it over there; just ask Hitch's Iran War circle jerk buddy, Jeffrey Goldberg. Meanwhile, Americans treat serial, greedheaded mendacity like tax evasion, adultery or nose-picking — something only the rare and truly fucked get busted for, while a plurality of Americans goes right on doing all of them. The British have been humbled like only an empire can be, reduced to a vassal people, captive to German bankers and what remains of their zombified aristocracy, and, having been proved emphatically wrong by the forces of history, they now have the grace and wit to suspect that they will be wrong again in the future. Hitchens' pompous certitude was anathema even to his own nation's sense of humor.

So let's examine what was wrought of Hitch's brave pronouncements of fealty to the ruling class and incipient enmity of his closest friends.

Every Damascene conversion needs a first act. Later in life, Hitch made much of his glorious Balliol days, expelled from the Labour party for opposing what he termed as "Prime Minister Harold Wilson's contemptible support for the war in Vietnam." (Wilson managed to resist strong pressure from LBJ to send the British Army into Indochina, but never mind.) Who was Harold Wilson? Well, to hear Hitch tell it, Wilson's lower-class Yorkshire accent dripped with stupidity: "a grinning monkey on a stick" whose "pugnacious plain-man's dislike of 'intellectuals'" and "frequently-retrieved memory of the 'public-school Marxists' he had despised" evidently excised him from the Hitchens cocktail circuit.

Poor Hitch. Here he is, hitting the wildcat strikes of 1960s Britain, the Trotskyite naval officer's son lending his Oxford third-class degree to some striking factory workers, and the Prime Minister not only has the gall to be lower-class, but not Marxist?

This would not be the last time Hitchens would decry the commoner's disdain for those poor misbegotten "men and women who do their own thinking, who are willing to stand the accusation of elitism (or at least prefer it to the idea of populism)." Yes, indeed — whatever their sins, poor Harold Wilson was Hitch's punching bag, in preparation for the 1990s and his war against another down-home populist, Bill Clinton.

But what then are we to make of Hitchens — then in his 1980s incarnation, the man cryptofascist spawn Chris Buckley claims went to Washington to destroy the Reagan administration — and his grotesque infatuation with Margaret Thatcher? Which president did Thatcher prepare Hitchens to embrace?

Hitch's recollections of his first encounter with Maggie should play in sepia, with a primal porno beat thumping alongside his admission to being attracted to her "sexually, not politically." I'm not sure the latter is true, but the former... well, he's written enough to convince me to stop looking for obviating evidence. Onward, Christian soldiers:
[T]he Tories were having a reception in the House of Lords… Almost as soon as we shook hands on immediate introduction, I felt that she knew my name and had perhaps connected it to the socialist weekly that had recently called her rather sexy…. She maintained her wrongness with such adamantine strength that I eventually conceded the point and even bowed slightly to emphasize my acknowledgment. "No,” she said. "Bow lower!" Smiling agreeably, I bent forward a bit farther. "No, no," she trilled. "Much lower!" … [She] smote me on the rear with the parliamentary order paper that she had been rolling into a cylinder behind her back…. She looked over her shoulder and gave an almost imperceptibly slight roll of the hip while mouthing the words "Naughty boy!"
The most damning admission hasn't even come yet:
And the worst of "Thatcherism," as I was beginning by degrees to discover, was the rodent slowly stirring in my viscera: the uneasy but unbanishable feeling that on some essential matters she might be right.
In the words of the Mortal Kombat announcer: "Impressive!" I had no idea the greatest contrarian of the thinking world (i.e. non-Muslims) had sold out as early as — when was it? 1979? 1980? As he confessed in 2001 to Reason, a Koch Brothers rag and employer of people so broken that they're married to Megan McArdle:
The thing I've often tried to point out to people from the early days of the Thatcher revolution in Britain was that the political consensus had been broken, and from the right. The revolutionary, radical forces in British life were being led by the conservatives. That was something that almost nobody, with the very slight exception of myself, had foreseen… I couldn’t bring myself to vote conservative. That’s purely visceral… But I did realize that by subtracting my vote from the Labour Party, I was effectively voting for Thatcher to win. That’s how I discovered that that’s what I secretly hoped would happen. And I’m very glad I did.
I suppose those striking miners Thatcher destroyed in 1984/1985 didn't mind that Hitch never made it to their picket line, such was his relief Thatcher triumphed. After all, America needed him. And then again, the Thatcherite/Reagan victory, and its marking the beginning of three decades of class warfare in which the average wealth of an American household declined 68%, was ultimately of little consequence to the free-wheeling Marxist.

Never mind economics; Hitchens certainly didn't. Given his apparent glee with the electoral victory of Thatcher, it is perhaps less surprising than it was to his socialist brethren that he supported the Falklands War — one of the stupidest conflicts of the Twentieth Century (and that is saying something), in which the brave dissident was "at one with Mrs. Thatcher."

The most memorable moment of that war was an incredible bit of television history, in which Thatcher was roasted by heroic British citizen Diana Gould about the sinking of Argentine cruiser Belgrano, sunk as it was fleeing the Falklands, with the loss of 323 lives. Ms. Gould repeatedly presses the "Iron Lady": what possible justification could have existed for killing these men, when they posed no threat to British forces? When their elimination was merely for sport?

Having admitted where his true sympathies lied, as early as the 1980s, it would nevertheless be two more decades before Hitchens faced his own Belgrano.

Baghdad Dangerous: The Good Soldier Hitchens
Cold-blooded, smooth-faced, placid miscreant
Dabbling its sleek young hands in Erin's gore,
And thus for wider carnage taught to pant,
Transferred to gorge upon a sister shore
The vulgarest tool that Tyranny could want,
With just enough of talent, and no more,
To lengthen fetters by another fixed,
And offer poison long already mixed.

— Lord Byron
There are Anne Geddes infant cowboy models who convey masculine authenticity more convincingly than Hitchens the Iconoclast. The addition of a holstered cap gun and Flintstones diaper would’ve made the spectacle of a puffing Hitchens only mildly more absurd. Cigarettes and alcoholism gave him the instant macho cred he wouldn't have gained any other way, perhaps apart from his repeated assaults on "black dyke" female comedians, "fucking fat slags" like the Dixie Chicks and abortion rights. Although he was "contrarian" enough to admit "he'd twice supported women he'd gotten pregnant in getting abortions": as was the case with his Iraq adventure, there was no price too dear for someone else to pay for Hitchens' liberty, and no way he was going to do the dirty work himself.

But as the 1980s ground on into the 1990s, and Hitchens become more trans-Atlantic than British, he was in the midst of a macho metamorphosis, what the radical MP George Galloway termed, "Evolution in reverse, from butterfly to slug."

Hitchens had, by this point, finalized his lineup of flunkies, a sneering klatsch of pals — Julian Barnes, author of the worst book I've ever read, Martin Amis, author of the worst books that Mobutu has read (note: link does not include Amis' casually luxuriant racism, because there are only 140 characters in a tweet) and Salman Rushdie, author of the worst book the Ayatollah Khomeini ever skimmed. It would still be a few years before the full import was made known, but it was the last crony, Rushdie, who illuminated Hitch's path to glory.

In later years, Hitchens made much of Khomeini's horrifying murder contract against Rushdie; it was, as he claimed in a 2009 essay, the first thunderclap of a "climate where every publisher and editor and politician has to weigh in advance [emphasis his] the possibility of violent Muslim reprisal." A faceless enemy, globalized zealotry, able to strike at every publisher, editor and, though unspoken, every writer, including Hitchens.

Yes, after 9/11 — though, notably, not before it — Hitchens would proclaim himself a Cassandra warning of the Islamic threat, a leftist mugged by the reality of Islamic extremism, decrying the decayed, liberal "culture that sustains [Rushdie], and that he helps sustain, [which] has twisted itself into a posture of prior restraint and self-censorship in which the grim, mad edict of a dead theocrat still exerts its chilling force." And so, in defiance of both the fundamentalists and lily-livered anti-war left, who would have seen the Bosnians, the Afghans and the Kurds ethnically cleansed, Hitchens, joined the vanguard of the war against Islamofascism, whom "we have a duty to oppose and destroy [alongside] any similar totalitarian movements."

I guess he's using the "royal 'we'" there: Hitchens admitted he was too old "to shoulder a rifle in any meaningful way." By "we," he means "somebody else" will destroy the amorphous Islamic menace.

Naturally, and in spite of Hitchens' preferred view of the world, the true story of Hitchens' winding journey to Baghdad is not so black and white, not the valiant obsession of the all-seeing modern-day Orwell, sticking up first for his token wog buddy and then for civilization itself.

Salad Days: I Love the 90s
Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
— George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"
Despite how gruesomely — inhumanly — Hitchens came to demand more and more wanton violence against Muslims, in the name of liberating Muslims, Hitchens spent the late 1980s and 1990s largely concerned not with the even-then forseeable "existential threats" of Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, but with a more typical pursuit: climbing the rungs of the Beltway cocktail ladder. Hardly the renegade he gloried in playing on TV, the 1990s saw Hitchens hew to a strident and profitable anti-Clinton talk-radio line of attack, his first point of contact with the "class of 1994" American right wing. This is not to say he stuck simply to easy targets; he also made fun of Princess Diana for being a whore.

Nevertheless, it was his flirtation with the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that would culminate in his and wife Carol Blue's affidavits to Ken Starr's blow-job bureau. In the stunning career-boosting move of a true contrarian, Hitchens claimed his good friend, Clinton administration lackey Sid Blumenthal, had privately smeared Monica Lewinsky to him over lunch, dismissing her as a crazed "stalker" whose statements held no water. Pressed to go further in implicating Blumenthal in a cover-up, and having been shown to have gotten the date of their luncheon wrong, Hitchens promptly clammed-up, refusing to testify publicly against Blumenthal — by which point he had already ruined his friend, saddling him with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for possibly denigrating the president's mistress. It was yet another precedent for an essential quality of Hitchens that would nevertheless fail to shock the chattering classes that knew him long enough: he was willing to viciously betray any of his friends the moment he saw the tide breaking.

If Hitch's civic activism on behalf of presidential cocksuckers was not the stuff of Orwell, then his foreign policy prior to the Yugoslav War was reliably liberal and, indeed, for the U.S., largely non-interventionist. While admitting his support for the Falklands War in a 1983 C-Span interview, Hitchens had this to say about then-President Reagan's wrangling with the "Axis of Evil"
General Amin and the Ayatollah Khomeini would belong in any kind of central casting of rogues — nonetheless it doesn't give the United States the right to appoint the governments of those countries, in fact, the reason you have the Ayatollah is because the United States for so long did believe it should have a say in who governs Iran.
This skepticism seemed borne out by his stances throughout the 1980s and 1990s; Hitch's Iraq War bête noir, George Galloway, would wryly praise his opponent's opposition to the Gulf War, "appalled" as he was by "the 100,000-200,000 killed." This dovishness was embodied most vividly by his humiliation of the pro-war Charlton Heston on CNN, when, challenged by Hitchens to name the countries bordering Iraq, Ben Hur could not.

While Hitchens would later laud himself as the only leftist willing in the early 1990s to condemn Slobodan Milosevic and call for military intervention in the Balkans, no less than two giants of the leftist establishment, Noam Chomsky and Edward Said, also called for intervention in some form. And despite his later excoriation of the anti-war left, who would've left Milosevic to carve out a greater Serbia, he admitted he thought the Serbian "cleansing interval... was both provoked and provided by the threat of air attacks on other parts of Yugoslavia" — and that Clinton administration officials might not "avoid being indicted for war crimes themselves."

Finally, Hitchens later mocked those activists who wished to give weapons inspectors more time in Iraq, dismissing The Nation as "the voice and echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden" with his paws on nuclear weapons, and sparred heatedly with former weapons inspector Scott Ritter over his assertion that Saddam Hussein retained ten percent of his WMD capabilities in 2003 (itself an overestimation). In spite of this bellicosity, inter alia, Hitchens fiercely opposed the 1998 Desert Fox air strikes.

Moreover, Hitchens went on to smear Noam Chomsky as a 9/11 denier for stating the casualties of the 9/11 "atrocities… may not reach the level of many others, for example, the bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people." But shortly following the 1998 attack, in which air strikes destroyed a pharmaceutical factory incorrectly believed to be producing nerve gas for Osama Bin Laden, Hitchens said pretty much the same thing: "only one person was killed in the rocketing of Sudan. But many more have died, and will die, because an impoverished country has lost its chief source of medicines and pesticides."

Was Hitchens the flinty contrarian he imagined himself to be throughout the 1990s — or just as much of a sucker and relativist as the rest of the left-wing intelligentsia he would so loudly decry? A careful examination of his record reveals an almost quaintly typical politics. But while many of his colleagues, even on the left, even at The Nation, failed the post-9/11 test, the qualities that distinguished Hitchens as the loudest squawking chickenhawk were already apparent to anyone looking. He despised Clinton for his "mock-compassionate and pseudohumanitarian bilge," an insufficiently pure mish-mash to which Hitchens would be a clear-cutting, "authentic" antidote.

Hitchens' characteristic disloyalty, both to people and to ideals, as well as his up-close admiration of uncompromising power, had turned him into a closet Thatcherite, so struck as he was by the "revolutionary, radical forces in British life… led by the conservatives." Had his admiration of the far right's dynamism ended with his move across the Atlantic? His hatred for the feminized left was increasingly apparent in the late 1990s; it would take only the sharp shock of 9/11 to put him on the road to glory, as firmly as Thatcher's makeshift paddle across his wide, white ass.

If What I Think Is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right: Deep Moral Vacuity
I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.... [It] would spread a lively terror.
— Winston Churchill, on how to handle rebellious Kurdish tribes
Christopher Buckley, son of longtime segregationist William F. Buckley, penned a florid tribute to dear Hitch that quickly made the rounds last week — a veritable collage of subhuman inanities, a straight-up soulfucker of an essay. I was struck by this sentence, which does, after all, seem to reflect the consensus forming about "Hitch": "His journalism, in which he championed the victims of tyranny and stupidity and 'Islamofascism' (his coinage), takes its rightful place on the shelf along with that of his paradigm, Orwell."

Indeed, perhaps it does take its rightful place on that shelf, as John Dolan wryly noted: Orwell was, after all, Britain's man in Rangoon, a cop in a colonized country, whose barely concealed loathing for the Burmese forms the rancid spine of his short story, "Shooting an Elephant."

Hitchens, stripped of his pretensions, could match Orwell's fear and loathing of the colonial subject, of "the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere." For Hitchens, it was a hatred that found its ultimate expression in the war in Iraq, merely one battle in the war against the "Islamist threat," a conflict that "will absorb all of our energies for the rest of our lives." His racism and bigotry against Muslims — excuse me, "Islamofascists" — extends to their children; having "staked everything on fecundity," the "deracinated young Muslim men" of Europe are not natural-born citizens, with the same rights as Hitchens. For Hitchens, demography and cultural masochism, especially in combination, hand a bloodless victory to the forces of Islamization.

There's no shading here: it is the Islamic community itself, and its very perpetuation, that is the threat. As Hitchens advised, "there is another responsibility, to say that some things are simple and ought not to be obfuscated," and this hatred of sexually vital young Muslims by moribund, paunchy European intellectuals is hardly an uncommon point of view and has been written about perceptively by writers like Michel Houellebecq. It is a fascistic racial hatred, a fact even Hitchens nearly concedes when he quotes "fellow atheist" Sam Harris: "The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists."

A fierce racial hatred of antediluvian, scarcely human Muslims, coupled with a disgust at Western liberal accommodation — how ever did the Jeffersonian, Enlightenment thinker Hitchens sign up for the Iraq War?

Might is right, and in his insane, savage war of peace, Hitch really wanted us to win. And if you believe he may in fact be exaggerating the power of a small gang of Islamic extremists, or conflating all Muslims with a tiny, radical clique, well, that's where Rushdie comes in handy. With the Rushdie fatwa, Hitchens, the tough-acting, would-be warrior — whose one attempt at hands-on regime change in Lebanon resulted in his getting his ass kicked, along with two neocon remorae, by a single Syrian Nazi — could claim that "The Intellectual" was the target and that Hitch was now on the frontline.

It was a comical idea he elucidated further, largely to defuse the criticism that his wanton warmongering would kill scores and not affect Hitch in the slightest; Norman Finklestein found the money quotation:
Outraged at the taunt that he who preaches war should perhaps consider fighting it, Hitchens impatiently recalls that, since September 11, "civilians at home are no safer than soldiers abroad," and that, in fact, he's not just a but the main target: "The whole point of the present phase of conflict is that we are faced with tactics that are directed primarily at civilians…. It is amazing that this essential element of the crisis should have taken so long to sink into certain skulls."
Considering some of those "certain skulls" might be the family members of dead U.S. servicemen — not to mention, the voiceless, victimized Iraqis — it's easy to see how one might conclude that some British fruit is panicking about Al Qaeda.

Along with everyone of any importance and possessing any power in America, Hitchens bought the ticket to Iraq, in a series of vicious, smug columns which, as the war ground on, came to resemble the final pages of Kurtz's journal in Heart of Darkness, when he just gives in and scrawls "EXTERMINATE THE BRUTES" in grease pencil across the page.

It is almost unnecessary to run down the specifics of how Hitchens sold that moronic war; the given facts were hardly important for a man who in the 1970s described Saddam Hussein as "perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser." To 1974 Hitchens, "there seems no getting round [the] point" that under Saddam, "from the festeringly poor and politically dependent nation of a generation ago, Iraq has become a power in every sense — military, economic and ideological." Does anyone care what Hitchens had to say to turn "Saddam-as-Robin Hood" into "Stalin and Hitler combined"?

Well, let's say someone did. Hitchens' motivation for the war appeared to spring from his Trotskyite impulse for dynamic revolution — the most potent vanguard of which was, inimically, the right wing — in a remaking of the world that would finally demolish the craven left, while marking the opening salvo in the post-9/11 fight back against the Muslim forces of darkness. There could be no shades of gray in this struggle, of good and evil; the stakes were simply too high.

Hitchens leered from strength to strength, arrogantly dismissing concerns over civilian casualties, non-existent WMDs, the likelihood of civil war, and the possibility of a mass exodus of refugees. In a 2003 debate with Tariq Ali, Hitchens flatly stated, "Of course, there was a weapons of mass destruction program. It's just been interrupted and now terminated," then went on to dismiss "all of the things that were predicted wrongly by the anti-war movement, such as mass exodus of refugees, humanitarian crisis, total social breakdown, ethnic and sectional civil war." His April 9, 2003 column was a thing to behold — a smug, comically premature rejoinder to all the nattering nabobs who had predicted things like a protracted war, or an insurgency:
"Stop the War" was the call. And the "war" is indeed stopping. That's not such a bad record.... What else? Oh yes, the Arab street did finally detonate, just as the peace movement said it would. You can see the Baghdad and Basra and Karbala streets filling up like anything, just by snapping on your television. And the confrontation with Saddam Hussein did lead to a surge in terrorism, with suicide bombers and a black-shirted youth movement answering his call.... We were told that Baghdad would become another Stalingrad—which it has. Just as in Stalingrad in 1953, all the statues and portraits of the heroic leader have been torn down.
Oh Hitch, you comically stupid clown. Rarely has such a dismissal of a possible outcome so accurately described precisely what the future held. He kept up the fight, in a series of increasingly desperate, flailing attempts to keep the flag flying. Here's Hitch adorably clinging to the security blanket that Saddam shacked up with Al Qaeda; here he is claiming the WMDs must have been carefully hidden; here he is inflating despised, small-fry extremist butcher Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the status of a James Bond villain, pulling the strings of his Iraqi marionettes.

But it was a wearying struggle, and, just as U.S. forces pulled out the day Hitch died, so too did Hitch have to redeploy. He tried getting lightly waterboarded, as a low-cost way of condemning part of the War on Terror; the Youtube deservedly went viral, as any video of Hitchens getting tortured should, but little else came of it.

No, Hitchens mostly got away with Iraq and his lifelong abdication to the powerful because he never admitted doubt, never said he was sorry, never said he was wrong. And so what we have for a legacy — for a coda — are the statements he never retracted, mutually contradictory, a multiplicity of beliefs and values that cannot be reconciled.

I believe we have to take Hitchens at his word when he is at his most extreme, his most purely vicious, when the hate rises up off the page; it was then he couldn't control his "erudition," as when he finally confessed what he really thought of the smoking men, women and children of Falljuah:
We can't live on the same planet as them and I'm glad because I don't want to. I don't want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murders [sic] and rapists and torturers and child abusers. It's them or me. I'm very happy about this because I know it will be them. It's a duty and a responsibility to defeat them. But it's also a pleasure. I don't regard it as a grim task at all.
This was the fantasy of the dashing wit, the bon vivant: slaughter and death on a massive scale.

It must be noted that this eliminationist dream, of the man celebrated by the dying elite of the American star was, for him, the makings of the greatest empire man has yet produced:
So what did divide Hitchens from the Left? I think it may more reasonably be argued a sense of decency, which Hitchens too often lacked. In October 1992, Hitchens explained in The Nation that his "old comrade, David Dellinger" — one of the most extraordinary and inspiring men of the last century — had phoned to inform Hitchens of his impending protest on Colombus Day. Hitchens rejected this protest. Hitchens was not sure whether such a protest was "merely risible or faintly sinister." Such a protest is sinister "because it is an ignorant celebration of stasis and backwardness, with an unpleasant tinge of self-hatred."

"1492 was a very good year," Hitchens impatiently explained, and "deserves to be celebrated with great vim and gusto."

Those "who view the history of North America as a narrative of genocide and slavery" fail to understand that this is "the way that history is made, and to complain about it is as empty as complaint about climatic, geological or tectonic shift." The annihilation of the Native Americans was an instance that left "humanity on a slightly higher plane than it knew before," inaugurating an "early boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation."
Burn in hell, Christopher Hitchens — watched over by the loving grace of the Iraqi and Native American chattel, in the heaven I hope exists.