Hitchens: Macbeth on the Oregon Strand.

(FP’ed 3:17 AM EDT, Monday, October 8, 2007
– promoted by exmearden

Christopher Hitchens discovers from the LA times that his war-mongering influenced a now dead soldier to take up arms in Iraq:

Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … “


I don’t exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.? Over-dramatizing myself a bit in the angst of the moment, I found I was thinking of William Butler Yeats, who was chilled to discover that the Irish rebels of 1916 had gone to their deaths quoting his play Cathleen ni Houlihan. He tried to cope with the disturbing idea in his poem “Man and the Echo”:

Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot? …
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house lay wrecked?

Abruptly dismissing any comparison between myself and one of the greatest poets of the 20th century…

Hitchens compares himself to Yeats.

Hitchens bereft:

Yet what, and how, should we feel? People are not on their oath when speaking of the dead, but I have now talked to a good number of those who knew Mark Daily or were related to him, and it’s clear that the country lost an exceptional young citizen, whom I shall always wish I had had the chance to meet.

Hitchens channeling Rumsfeld: Whose fault is it?

In his brilliant book What Is History?, Professor E. H. Carr asked about ultimate causation. Take the case of a man who drinks a bit too much, gets behind the wheel of a car with defective brakes, drives it round a blind corner, and hits another man, who is crossing the road to buy cigarettes. Who is the one responsible? The man who had one drink too many, the lax inspector of brakes, the local authorities who didn’t straighten out a dangerous bend, or the smoker who chose to dash across the road to satisfy his bad habit? So, was Mark Daily killed by the Ba’thist and bin Ladenist riffraff who place bombs where they will do the most harm? Or by the Rumsfeld doctrine, which sent American soldiers to Iraq in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment? Or by the Bush administration, which thought Iraq would be easily pacified? Or by the previous Bush administration, which left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 and fatally postponed the time of reckoning?

C’mon Hitch, you forgot to mention yourself even once in that matrix of contingencies.  Or did you?  No.  You said just “one drink too many.”  I don’t blame you for your drinking. 

I blame your pre-war dirty secret:

A dirty secret is involved here. From the US point of view, the present regime in Iraq is nearly ideal. It consists of a strong Sunni Muslim but approximately secular military regime. All it needs is a new head: Saddamism without Saddam. Mesopotamia means “between two rivers,” and we are, like Macbeth himself, “in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.” The United States had at least a hand in the coup that brought Saddam to power. It encouraged him in his attack on Iran and in the filthy war that followed. At the very time of his worst conduct in Kurdistan, Washington was his best friend. When he plotted to straighten the Kuwaiti frontier in his favor, he was given the greenest of lights. This is a record of continuing shame. However–and one cannot underscore this enough–these, too, were all interventions in the affairs of Iraq. And if there can be interventions one way, in favor of the regime, there is at least a potential argument that an intervention to cancel such debts would be justifiable.

Flashback: One record of continuing shame potentially justifies another.  Flashforward to Macbeth in Oregon, where Hitchens describes the scattering of Mark Daily to the winds.

Quoth Hitchens on the ash-strewn strand:

Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt;
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm’d
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.

Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.

Sorrow measured by worth hath no end.

I became a trifle choked up after that, but everybody else also managed to speak, often reading poems of their own composition, and as the day ebbed in a blaze of glory over the ocean, I thought, Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell’s when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, “I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.”

But for the Orwellian Hitch, the sorrow ends: Because they were noble and he was noble, the whole state of affairs is noble. 

I, Christopher Hitchens, am noble.


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  1. For the most part, Hitchens’ article is otherwise painstakingly written, and certainly portrays Mark Daily and his family honorably.  I am simply pointing out that he fails to accept any culpability.

  2. at least i can say one thing for Hitchens: he may not accept culpability, but he realized a while ago that he was on the wrong side of the issue.

    i remember thinking that the rest would follow. i was hopeful back then. i’ve learned to put my hope elsewhere.

    hey Compound F… i told this blogger, PiledHigherandDeeper (i call them PhD) to look for you… i thought you might find this interesting:

    What I have actually been writing about is my experiences working in Guantanamo in 1995 with the Cuban rafters who did this artwork. They were suffering so much but at the same time they did an incredible amount of artwork, in addition to music and storytelling. It was a real eye opener to see people so desperate for change and who really believed in the symbol of the Statue of Liberty. I was and am cynical about that, but it has real salience to oppressed people around the world.

    One of the things I think they were doing is reordering their meaning systems as an aftermath of trauma, which gives one a psychological imperative to do this.

    I think s/he will write about this. but it made me think of your writing on PTSD. anyway hope all is well…

    this was from my writing in the raw last thursday, if you want to see the art s/he collected from the refugees and is wrting a narrative for…

  3. from the Vanity Fair article (linked in essay above):

    “As one who used to advocate strongly for the liberation of Iraq (perhaps more strongly than I knew), I have grown coarsened and sickened by the degeneration of the struggle: by the sordid news of corruption and brutality (Mark Daily told his father how dismayed he was by the failure of leadership at Abu Ghraib) and by the paltry politicians in Washington and Baghdad who squabble for precedence while lifeblood is spent and spilled by young people whose boots they are not fit to clean.”

  4. of the highest order. There is nothing noble about this war nor the policies that caused it. Most chilling was his desire to have a ‘Homeland’ security made up of misguided zealot warriors. Orwell’s spinning like a top, the cause he fought against was fascism, the cause Hitchens feels worthy of killing and dying for is the same one Orwell spent his life fighting against. Same goes for his drunk driving, somebody needs to take his license away, and he should be charged with vehicular homicide if he kills while drunk behind the wheel.

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