One hates to kick a man when he’s down – and Christopher Hitchens, facing an almost certain doom from cancer, is certainly down. But as he has lived his life pulling no punches against those whom he felt (by whatever standards he held at the time) to be spewing murderous bullshit, let us honor this cherished principle of his by applying it to his own words.
Hitchens was given a lavish and almost entirely adulatory spread in The Observer this weekend, holding forth in his usual “young trendy leftist turned aged imperial apologist” manner. There is not much of interest in the interview, and I would have passed over it in silence if not for one extraordinary passage, in which Hitchens demonstrates to perfection the wilful self-blindness of all those who end up worshipping at the altar of the militarist Moloch.
In defending his advocacy for the unprovoked, illegal invasion of Iraq – and reiterating his still-staunch support and glowing approval of this ongoing war crime, Hitchens makes this statement:
I’m glad we’re not having an inquest now, as we would be [if there had been no invasion], into why we allowed a Rwanda or a Congo to develop on the Gulf, an imploding Iraq right in front of our eyes, a vortex of violence and meltdown, a whole society beggared and fractured and traumatised, waiting to fall to pieces.
Of course what Hitchens is doing here — as even his sycophantic interviewer realizes — is describing exactly what has happened in Iraq because of the invasion. It is in fact an excellent description of the conquered nation’s fate at the hands of the monstrous assault that he has championed.
And yet he has somehow convinced himself that the rape of Iraq has prevented what he has seen happen right in front of his eyes, year after year after year. Obviously, somewhere in his mind, he dimly knows the truth; that is, his brain has registered the undeniable fact that that Iraq has indeed become a “vortex of violence and meltdown, a whole society beggared and fractured and traumatised.” But this present reality – which has come about precisely because and only because of the invasion and occupation which he still defends – has been transposed into what he now believes were his fears of what could happen if Iraq had not been invaded.
One could charitably attribute this befuddled backward projection to the wretched side effects of chemotherapy — were it not for the fact that Hitchens has been demonstrating this same moral blindness for years, indeed since the days when he was openly exulting in the 9/11 attacks, seeing in those mass murders the glorious promise of a worldwide conflagration — yea, verily, a Biblical Armageddon, “a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate.” The thought of such a tsunami of blood and destruction, which would — and is — consuming the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent people left him “exhilarated,” Hitchens declared.
But it was ever thus with religious extremists. Hitchens may have shifted from from Marx to Moloch in his zealotry, but his blind and — not to put too fine a point on it — dimwitted adherence to the doctrine of sacred violence (whether it be Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” or the American imperium’s Terror War) has remained steadfast. And even as he stares into the last abyss, he is dosing himself with pure delusion to avoid the realization of his complicity with evil.