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Burn in Hell, Christopher Hitchens

Hitchens is one of those public figures I have never had an easy time with. I admired his bluastering attacks on the Catholic Church in the wake of the priests-raping-kids scandal. I liked his broadsides against Kissinger's war crimes. He had a way with a turn of phrase.

But. The guy publicly said that women couldn't be funny. He was a total drunk. He had a bizarre hatred of the Clintons that went past disappointment at Bill's embracement of globalization. He was pro-Bush for a while. He loved the Iraq War as a way to teach the Muslims a thing or two.

He was a complicated guy. But on balance, what's the take?

Et tu, Mr. Destructo?: Burn in Hell, Christopher Hitchens

Stripped of his pretenses to dissidence, the record reveals Hitchens to be not merely ordinary but comically antediluvian in his beliefs: a chauvinist who despised female intellectuals; a bigot who subscribed to a crude belief in a clash of civilizations, of the West against barbarism; a warmonger who, ensconced in Georgetown, pictured himself on the frontline of the Third World War. Had he stayed in Britain, he would've been just another gadfly, bickering in the London Review of Each Other's Books. But, as Sam Elliott advises in The Big Lebowski, its titular hero's quest beginning "just about the time of our conflict with Saddam and the Iraqis," well, "Sometimes there's a man. Well, he's the man, for his time and place. He fits right in there." And that's Hitch, in the post-9/11 destruction of Earth.

His was a Manichean view of the world, for whom those ranged against him were saps and relativists, no matter their opinion or whether he had once just as viciously espoused it. Kissinger, religion, Mother Teresa — these pi�atas were strictly for the cheap seats, so he could get on with eliding any real responsibility to speak truth to power. After all, can a condemnation of Kissinger borne of moral outrage have any credibility following on the heels of an endorsement of Thatcher and preceding one for George W. Bush?

He was the rationalist who not only failed every — every — question in the greatest foreign policy test of his lifetime, but smugly snarled "just you wait" to the "potluckistas" who dared contradict his vision of Iraq, delivered ex cathedra from a throne of blood. He delighted in a global war against Muslims, whom he viewed as slightly sub-human, fecund zealots — agents of the "Islamofascist" (there's a phrase) threat, greater than Hitler and Stalin. The suffering of millions of people as a result of his nostrums mattered little to him, and he never sought to address them, unless there was some way to lash the corpses together into a crude cudgel, and batter some anti-war debating partner. Oh my, how uncompromising he could be in destroying through force of argument Saddam's "mafia state" or Milosevic's Fourth Reich — and how desperate he grew as Iraq ground on.