This is amazing. It is an hour long debate between Eric Alterman and Christopher Hitchens. It is mostly a discussion of Hitchens’ support of the Iraq War. The debate takes place right before the 2008 presidential election. It is really worth watching. Alterman is great as usual, and quite reasonable. I don’t completely agree with him; he’s quite a bit more conservative than I am. But Hitchens is just amazing. In this one video, he shows how he had lost all credibility toward the end of his career.
The last decade he was alive, he spent it using his considerable intellect and erudition to avoid admitting that he had been wrong to cheerlead for that war. I won’t take the time, but there must be at least thirty times when he simply lies. (His comment about the Bush administration having to be forced into going to war is contradicted by just about everyone who was around at that time. See, for example, Richard Clarke.) And when he’s not lying, he’s brushing aside important questions with snarky comments. This is a great example of why his death had absolutely no effect on the level of public intellectual discourse. He had long ago gotten out of that business.
It’s interesting that he was an outspoken atheist. First, it was the only thing that kept him relevant in the public. The atheist community found him too amusing to throw away, even though his thinking on religious topics was pathetic. Second, his previous writing in favor of the Iraq War became his own personal Bible. He effectively became an apologist for that corpus. Remember, this is a man who to the end would savage the Ronald Reagan presidency. But he couldn’t say anything bad about Bush. Bush could have been decapitating babies and it would have been okay because he killed that very dangerous man Saddam Hussein. (Funny how the CIA couldn’t be trusted because they over-estimated the strength of the USSR, but Bush is great despite the fact that he over-estimated Hussein hundreds of times worse.)
I’m glad Hitchens is gone (he wouldn’t have to be dead). As a public figure, he was a disaster. He made the world a worse place. Plenty of people do that, of course. But few of them have the brilliance to do good. Christopher Hitchens used his gifts to push for an unnecessary and evil war. And then he spent the rest of his life trying to justify it. He should have either admitted his error or just shut up. We are so much better off without him.