Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hitchens and 911

Christopher Hitchens is one of my heroes. I loved his book god is Not Great and bought Hitch 22 with some enthusiasm right after it came out. I had also heard via the grapevine about his support for the war in Iraq and wondered if the book would address that in any way. I wasn't disappointed. So perhaps it's apropos to discuss the book as it also discusses 911 and his view of the event today.

I will say quickly, concerning god is not Great, that the books is well written, witty, and thought provoking. I came to the book as a former believer who had begun to wonder if I could believe in a deity as it was taught in the church. The only thing that held me back were the negative images of atheism that had been imprinted on me by my upbringing. It was his writing of humanism and what it meant in his life and to the world that convinced me that I would be safe without the "morality" of religion to tell me what to do. (Sam Harris was another convincing factor but Hitchens was the first of the two that I read).

Thus it was that I picked up Hitch 22 with great enthusiasm and I was not disappointed. Hitchens can weave a tale with wit and drollery and he has plenty of dirt for those readers who enjoy a bit of mean-spirited gossip, sparing no rod with the back of his ire for those he despises. I personally have no great love for Bill Clinton and feel the liberal media have given him a medal where none were due him (his accomplishments are barely step above those of a Republican in terms of what he did for employment or social services in this country) but Hitchen's uncritical eye on the Bush administration is almost maddening to the point of eye gouging. But I have leapt ahead of myself...

In the concluding chapters (which is the segment I am most interested in dealing with) Hitchens was born as an American in New York. That was where his love affair with the US began and when he later moved to Washington DC, it was not without a great of "parting is such sweet sorrow" on his part. So when he received the call about the planes hitting the Twin Towers in New York, no surprise that he wrote about it like it was a personal attack. For any reader of god is not Great, you cannot be surprised that the author is immediately alarmed at the behavior of the religious fanatics who committed the crime of obliterating the twin towers and smashing into the pentagon in Washinton. And  you read of his political shift in the years prior to the incident, it is simply another step for the author to assume that the war in Iraq is the correct step to take in light of Sadaam Hussein's supposed connection to Al Qaeda. You might be surprised to learn via his memoir that he was on the cutting edge of leading the US to war against Iraq, pressing political leaders to look into Sadaam's financial ties to Osama Bin Laden when none were really bothering to look. Unfortunately, I am afraid history has shown him to be on the wrong side of this stick while the people he most bitterly chides (Noam Chomsky for one) look to have correctly called not only the US's motives (oil) but the misguided way the military was being used- leading us into a quagmire that we would never get out of. Thus we have now been in Iraq longer than we were in Viet Nam and long after Sadaam Hussein, Hitchen's supposed archness of all evil, is long dead. And of course what we are now learning is that the Saudi's had far stronger ties to Al Qaeda than did the evil Sadaam, yet to them we turn a oil blinded eye. Funny how money can do that, can't it?

Still, well worth the read and I am considering purchasing his newly released (large) collection of essays.

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