Christopher Hitchens was certainly a man “of ferocious intellect,” whose criticism of religion bordered on pugnacious or belligerent. He was a man of great audacity and seemed willing at any moment to challenge all proponents of religion–even among his audience–to a debate. His sharp invectives against Jihadism, Zionism or the Catholic church sex abuses demonstrate ‘religion gone wrong.’ Hitchens found the very idea of a conscious and interested higher power–a “big brother”–who watches our every move and judges us in draconian fashion to be particularly odious. For his insults against God and his disdain for lingering human superstition, Hitchens earned both the respect and resentment of his interlocutors. However, these were some of his positive and valuable intellectual contributions that will be were worthy of debate for years to come.
There is, alas, another dimension to Christopher Hitchens which, for lack of better words, seemed much less enlightened. By this I mean his support for George W. Bush’s War on Terror, the subsequent US-led War on Iraq in 2003 and his hawkish statements against Iran. Despite being a humanist, Hitchens could somehow justify the inhumanity of war (not unlike Ayn Rand perhaps). That is to say the murder, destruction and criminality of the Bush administration and other disreputable interests unleashed upon millions of Iraqi citizens. Added to this was his doubt as to whether water boarding detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan in the Guantanamo Bay prison constituted torture (which he later conceded after trying it out for himself!).
As a man of intellect, Hitchens did not appreciate those who made fun of George W. Bush’s lack thereof. For a long time I had trouble understanding how a rationalist powerhouse like Hitchens was playing out of the same foreign policy book as a dim witted religious fundamentalist like Bush? This apparent contradiction was reconciled as I came to realize that Hitchens was a bit of a neo-Imperliast in the spirit of Winston Churchill, whom he loved to quote. Military intervention and regime change–at whatever human cost?–was a worthy enterprise because it “put Caligula on trial,” as he said on December 2, 2010 to RFE/RL Radio. About regime change there could be no debate. Thankfully Hitchens was a public intellectual and not a policy maker!
Hitchens demise on December 16, 2011 came only 1 day after the Obama administration formally declared the end of the War on Iraq. Hitchens was finally relieved of his battle against cancer and my hopes are that the Iraqi people will one day be relieved of widespread cancer in Fallujah and the sectarianism that has taken hold in Iraq.