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Fri Dec 16, 2011, 05:52 PM

Christopher Hitchens' Unforgivable Mistake [View all]

http://m.gawker.com/5868761/christopher-hitchens-unforgivable-mistake

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
Christopher Hitchens' Unforgivable Mistake

By John Cook, Dec 16, 2011 12:57 PM

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In its obituary, the New York Times quoted Hitchens' friend Ian Buruma, who told the New Yorker in 2006 that Hitchens was "always looking for the defining moment — as it were, our Spanish Civil War, where you put yourself on the right side, and stand up to the enemy." He shared that impulse with George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz, and they found their moment in the stupid decision to invade Iraq. For Hitchens, it was the opening maneuver in a grand, imagined clash of western civilization against the Islamofascist hordes.

It was something else for 113,000 civilians who died in the chaos unleashed. The great tragedy of Hitchens' life was that, toward its end, he aligned himself so stridently with the very fools, cowards, and charlatans who most desperately invited exposure by his prodigious skills as butcher. How can someone who devoted so much of his life to as noble a cause as destroying the reputation of Henry Kissinger blithely stand shoulder to shoulder with Rumsfeld?

People make mistakes. What's horrible about Hitchens' ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made. In September 2005, he defended the debacle in Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard in terms that are simply breathtaking in their lack of concern for the victims of his Mesopotamian adventure. It was headlined "A War to Be Proud Of."

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But surely Christopher, you recognize that the war has been badly bungled even if all your hearts were in the right place, right? "We need not argue about the failures and the mistakes and even the crimes, because these in some ways argue themselves." For Christopher Hitchens to identify a subject about which no argument is required is a rare thing indeed. Abu Ghraib—why argue? The $9 billion in cash that simply disappeared—what's to argue? Two months after the Hitchens wrote those words, U.S. Marines massacred 24 men, women, and children in Haditha. No need to argue.

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