Monday, 2 January 2012

Hitchens on War

I've just finished Christopher Hitchens excellent memoir, Hitch 22.  He seems to divide people in equal measure, but whatever you think of his political persuasion, Christopher had a certain gravitas that is rare amongst public speakers and almost absent among politicians.  His command of the English language coupled with a sharp wit, logical mind, broad knowledge of literature, and experience from the world's trouble-spots made him an accomplished journalist and raconteur.  He was an engaging and forthright speaker and fearless in defence of his opinions.

One point in Hitch 22 that particularly jumped out at me (and which is something that I had long suspected but have never seen any public figure actually tackle), is the damaging conceit afforded to those leading 'resistance' campaigns around the world,
  • "The local leaderships that are generated by the troubles in such places [as Lebanon, Gaza, Cyprus, NI and several other 'hot spots'], do not want there to be a solution.  A solution would mean that they were no longer deferred to by visiting UN or American mediators, no longer invited to ritzy high-profile international conferences, no longer treated with deference by the mass media, and no longer able to make a second living by smuggling and protection-racketeering.  The power of this parasitic class was what protracted the fighting in Northern Ireland for years and years after it had become obvious to all that nobody (except the racketeers) could 'win'.  And when it was over, far to many of the racketeers became profiteers of the 'peace process' as well."
As Orwell wrote, some animals are truly 'more equal' than others. 

Hitchens goes a long way to explain his move from the left (he was a Marxist in his youth), but it would be too simplistic to suggest he simply lurched to the right.  His Marxism was fuelled by an anti-fascist instinct - an instinct that lead him to support the war in Iraq.  He didn't really move from the Left, it is just that the Left became impotent.

It is at this point in the book that Hitchens takes a brief detour to document the life of Mark Jennings Daily - someone with similar instincts to Hitchens and in part motivated by him.  This story in the LA Times gives a background to Daily and Hitchens' influence upon him.  I can't really do it justice here, but both Daily's actions to fight for what was morally right, and Hitchen's actions in taking time to honour Daily (in both word and deed), makes for moving reading.  There is a you tube video here in which Hitchens narrates the relevant extract.

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