Off He Goes Into the Wild Blue Yonder

You can say a lot of things about Christopher Hitchens’s role as a cheerleader for the war in Iraq, most of all that it stank to high heaven. Of course it’s pure coincidence that he died on the same day that marked the official end of the war. But it’s a fitting irony that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s lie to the departing troops — “You will leave with great pride, lasting pride” — applies to Hitchens’s departure as well. All the fine principles that Hitchens stood for were tarnished by his relentless drumbeat for an unforgivable war. When they took down the American flag in Baghdad for the last time, the band played “Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder.” I doubt that the lyrics will be recited at Hitchens’s funeral, but they would be a fitting sendoff for him, too.

Postscript: Dec. 20 — I see that Alexander Cockborn wrote a welcome antidote to the Hitcharoma that has gripped the press.

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  1. says

    Hitchens wouldn’t accept that the invasion of Iraq caused far more death and suffering than anything Sadam and his successors might have done. The Lancet survey put the death toll at 600,000. There are also millions of Iraqi refugees who have fled the country, including 2 million in Syria and 1 million in Jordan. See:
    Americans just ignore the consequences of our foreign policy. As Harold Pinter noted in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the reaction is, “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”
    Truth flies into the wild blue yonder too.
    Bill — Thanks for the comment. As long as we’re at it, I might as well get on the record my private message to you from last September about a related subject:
    “I put your idea to Christopher Hitchens and George Packer last night, separately, after a little event at the CUNY Graduate Center, where they both appeared.
    ‘Do you agree that if the American foreign policy establishment wants to keep Israel as dependent as possible on the U.S., it is in the U.S. interest not to have a peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians, because a settlement would mean that Israel could or would be more independent to pursue its own interests? Thus, the U.S. really doesn’t want a settlement. If it did, it a settlement would happen virtually in the blink of an eye.’
    “Packer disagreed. He didn’t think the idea of the U.S. not wanting a settlement in order to keep Israel more dependent holds up. He said the U.S. was already having trouble keeping Israel in line — which is obvious —  and he didn’t offer any other thoughts. His demurral wasn’t very convincing, but he was unconvinced by your idea.
    “Hitchens also disagreed. But he probed a little further,  asking, ‘What kind of settlement? Do you mean a territorial settlement or a political settlement?’ I said either or both. He said he agreed that if the U.S. wanted a territorial settlement, ‘It could impose one, yes, in the blink of an eye.’ A political settlement was a more complicated matter. But he was being rushed off by various poobahs who wanted face time with a celebrity, so we couldn’t pursue the discussion further.
    “Btw, both agreed — from their different perspectives — that Obama has pretty much fucked up foreign policy for the most part, or to put it another way, hasn’t been able to work through what he thought he wanted to do because events had overtaken him. It’s a familiar argument about all presidents, of course. Anyway, Packer gave Obama more credit on Iran than Hitchens, who said essentially that the U.S. is morally obliged to prevent Iran from getting a nuke bomb and that he has no doubt there will be war with Iran — the question being, is sooner better than later or vice versa? Oy.”