Christopher Hitchens's War
There is an interesting article in Vanity Fair about a solider who was killed by an I.E.D. in Iraq. The pro-war writer, Christopher Hitchens, later discovered that his pro-war articles helped persuade the dead man to enlist
I don't exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.? Over-dramatizing myself a bit in the angst of the moment, I found I was thinking of William Butler Yeats, who was chilled to discover that the Irish rebels of 1916 had gone to their deaths quoting his play Cathleen ni Houlihan.
Now there is food for thought on why this man decided to join the army and fight in Iraq. This is his (not Hitchens's) words:
Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).… Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.
In the article while Hitchens's clearly feels angst and grief over what happens, he does seem to me to try to wriggle off the hook of guilt:
In his brilliant book What Is History?, Professor E. H. Carr asked about ultimate causation. Take the case of a man who drinks a bit too much, gets behind the wheel of a car with defective brakes, drives it round a blind corner, and hits another man, who is crossing the road to buy cigarettes. Who is the one responsible? The man who had one drink too many, the lax inspector of brakes, the local authorities who didn't straighten out a dangerous bend, or the smoker who chose to dash across the road to satisfy his bad habit? So, was Mark Daily killed by the Ba'thist and bin Ladenist riffraff who place bombs where they will do the most harm? Or by the Rumsfeld doctrine, which sent American soldiers to Iraq in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment? Or by the Bush administration, which thought Iraq would be easily pacified? Or by the previous Bush administration, which left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 and fatally postponed the time of reckoning?
And wriggle off the hook as to what his 'just war' has become;
"I have grown coarsened and sickened by the degeneration of the struggle: by the sordid news of corruption and brutality (Mark Daily [the dead solider] told his father how dismayed he was by the failure of leadership at Abu Ghraib) and by the paltry politicians in Washington and Baghdad who squabble for precedence while lifeblood is spent and spilled by young people whose boots they are not fit to clean."
But what dismays me for the the liberal (and not so liberal) hawks is they never seem to reflect on their own naivety: How else could it have turned out? The people who helped death squads
, people who were 'too busy' to fight in Vietnam
, people who wanted to bomb a TV station
. How else could it have ended?
Nor is there any repentance for the scale of death they helped unleash. While the death of this solider is a tragedy for his family, and I would not wish death on any family - he is just one of the million people
this war has now killed. A million. Where is his eulogy for the other 999,999?