Christopher Hitchens died yesterday, Thursday, December 15, 2011, the very day the Iraq War ended for the US. You can’t make this stuff up. I first learned of The Hitch while I was serving in Iraq in the Marines and found him to be the most passionate and persuasive proponent of the "delayed" invasion of Iraq. If only the Bush administration had had someone half as articulate as Hitch. But no, we had to be taught the wars justifications via Youtube debates between Hitchens and whoever his unlucky opponent was. He remained, until his last day – yesterday – proud of both the American intervention in Iraq, and his vocal support of it. Good for him.
Hitchens received fame more for his vehement positions against religion. He wasn’t just an atheist – one who does not believe in a god – but an antitheist – he wishes that there is not god, and that the very concept is itself immoral. Although I don’t agree with his religion arguments completely, he more than anyone else forced me to question, and ultimately reject, my religious views.
I had the pleasure of drinking Scotch with him once – Johnnie Walker Black, neat, with a splash of club soda – and discussed his writings on the Iraq War. I remember telling him then that I disagreed with his writings on religion. It was an off-the-topic remark, and I don’t recall exactly his response, but it was along the lines of, ‘Well, that’s unfortunate.’ It wasn’t, but I was eventually persuaded by his reason and logic, and have since developed a distaste for all things superstitious.
I’ll miss that irascible bastard.
The NYT has a nice obit.
He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me,” he told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2010, adding that it was “impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle.”
As does the Washington Post:
Mr. Hitchens rejected the neoconservative label — and all others — and maintained that his views went beyond political partisanship. Rising totalitarianism in Muslim states and his antipathy toward religion of any kind led him to cry out against what he called “fascism with an Islamic face."
“It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved,” he wrote in “Hitch-22.” “In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression.”
Eloquent and intemperate, bawdy and urbane, he was an acknowledged contrarian and contradiction—half-Christian, half-Jewish and fully non-believing; a native of England who settled in America; a former Trotskyite who backed the Iraq war and supported George W. Bush. But his passions remained constant and enemies of his youth, from Henry Kissinger to Mother Teresa, remained hated.