His heart was in the right place; too bad he didn’t see that the Bush administration’s wasn’t. And too bad the Left couldn’t tell the difference.
I think Christopher Hitchens was wrong to support the U.S. war in Iraq (interesting that his life ended a day after the war did), but his reasons for supporting it were all good, and it would be nice if the anti-war camp kept that in mind.
Saddam Hussein was a rare breed of monster, and Iraq’s Kurds and Shi’ites and anti-Saddam Sunnis deserved deliverance from his regime. But even that worthy goal didn’t justify the war the Bush administration started – one whose goals were very different from Hitchens’, a reckless, delusional war fought for a post-9/11, paranoid notion of American security and the contemptible tradition of American supremacy.
But at least the U.S. had the “right” enemy, and Hitchens was right to keep pointing that out. One of the war’s collateral benefits, Kurdish independence, was one hell of a collateral benefit, and Hitchens was right to point that out, too. And it’s to the antiwar camp’s discredit that its hatred of the Bush administration and American militarism blinded it to the magnitude of the enemy’s evil, and to the war’s great achievements – the end of Saddamism, a better life (so far) for Iraqis, and independence (so far) for the Kurds.
If those achievements hold, if a new tyranny doesn’t overtake Iraq and the current instability doesn’t explode again, the U.S. war in Iraq, and Hitchens’ support of it, will start to look a lot better and wiser. Myself, I still see no justification for sending hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to war for nine years, for getting 5,000 of them killed and many thousands more maimed, and for setting off the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the devastation of that country, especially knowing that in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal, a lot of vultures will be competing to fill the vacuum.
But neither do I say that Hitchens “sold out” to the neocons, or that he supported the war for immoral reasons. His heart was in the right place, which definitely cannot be said for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their associates, and I think it was Hitchens’ ferocious hatred for the likes of Saddam and love for the likes of the Kurds that blighted his overall judgment about the war. It was a judgment, though, that tried to separate right from wrong, that was made in the name of justice, not nationalism. I’m afraid that the Left’s virtual demonization of Hitchens for his support of the war said more about the Left than about him.