Christopher Hitchens

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Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, 2007
Born Christopher Eric Hitchens
April 13, 1949 (1949-04-13) (age 59)
Portsmouth, England
Occupation Author, Journalist, Pundit
Nationality United Kingdom
United States

Christopher Eric Hitchens (born April 13, 1949) is a British-born,[1] American author, journalist and literary critic. Currently living in Washington, D.C., he has been a columnist at Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, World Affairs, The Nation, Slate, Free Inquiry, and a variety of other media outlets. Hitchens is also a political observer, whose books — the latest being God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything[2] — have made him a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits. In 2009 Hitchens was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the "25 most influential liberals in U.S. media."[3] The same article noted, though, that he would "likely be aghast to find himself on this list" and that he "styles himself a radical", not a liberal.

Hitchens is a polemicist. While he was once identified with the British and American radical political left, he has more recently embraced some arguably right-wing causes, notably the Iraq War; the war has had the support of some liberal commentators of Hitchens' acquaintance in the UK and Canada. Formerly a Trotskyist and a fixture in the left-wing publications of both the United Kingdom and United States, Hitchens departed from the grassroots of the political left in 1989 after what he called the "tepid reaction" of the European left following Ayatollah Khomeini's issue of a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie. The September 11, 2001 attacks strengthened his embrace of an interventionist foreign policy, and his vociferous criticism of what he calls "fascism with an Islamic face." He is known for his ardent admiration of George Orwell, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, and for his excoriating critiques of Mother Teresa, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger, amongst others.

Hitchens is an anti-theist,[4] and he describes himself as a believer in the Enlightenment values of secularism, humanism and reason. He was recently made a media fellow at the Hoover Institution.[5]


[edit] Early history

In his book God is Not Great (page 11), Hitchens commented that "My parents did not try to impose religion: I was probably fortunate in having a father who had not especially loved his strict Baptist/Calvinist up-bringing, and a mother who preferred assimilation — partly for my sake — to the Judaism of her forebears."

Hitchens was educated at The Leys School, Cambridge (his mother arguing that "If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it"),[6] and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read philosophy, politics, and economics. During his years as a student at Oxford, he was tutored by Steven Lukes.

Hitchens joined the Labour Party in 1965, but was expelled in 1967 along with the majority of the Labour students' organization, because of what Hitchens called "Prime Minister Harold Wilson's contemptible support for the war in Vietnam."[7] Shortly thereafter, Hitchens joined "a small but growing post-Trotskyite Luxemburgist sect."[8] He became a correspondent for the magazine International Socialism,[9] which was published by the International Socialists, the forerunners of today's British Socialist Workers Party. This group was broadly Trotskyist, but differed from more orthodox Trotskyist groups in its refusal to defend communist states as "workers' states". This was symbolized in their slogan "Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Socialism". In addition, like many who came of age politically in the late 1960s, Hitchens was a great admirer of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Hitchens has remarked that "[Che's] death meant a lot to me, and countless like me, at the time. He was a role model, albeit an impossible one for us bourgeois romantics insofar as he went and did what revolutionaries were meant to do — fought and died for his beliefs."[10]

Hitchens left Oxford with a third class degree.[1] His first job was with the London Times Higher Education Supplement, where he served as social science editor. Hitchens admits that he hated the job and was later fired from the position, recalling that "I sometimes think if I'd been any good at that job, I might still be doing it." In the 1970s, he went on to work for the New Statesman, where he became friends with, among others, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan. At the New Statesman, he became known as an aggressive left-winger, stridently attacking targets such as Henry Kissinger, the Vietnam War and the Roman Catholic Church. After emigrating to the United States in 1981, Hitchens wrote for The Nation. While at The Nation he penned vociferous critiques of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and American foreign policy in South and Central America.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

[edit] International journalism

Hitchens spent part of his early career as a foreign correspondent in Cyprus[citation needed]. In the past several years, he has continued writing essay-style correspondence pieces from a variety of locales, including Chad, Uganda and the Darfur region of Sudan[citation needed]. He has visited all three countries in the so-called "Axis of Evil": Iraq, Iran and North Korea. His work has taken him to over 60 different countries.[18]

[edit] Literary review

Hitchens regularly contributes literary reviews to the Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times Book Review[citation needed]. One of his books, Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere, is a collection of such works. Works he has recently reviewed include Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie; Saturday by Ian McEwan; the D. J. Enright translation of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust; the Alfred Appel Jr. annotated version of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (whom he named as on a par with James Joyce); John Updike's Terrorist; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[19] and Enemies of Promise. In the 2008 book "Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left," many literary critiques are included of essays and other books of writers such as David Horowitz and Edward Said.

[edit] Hitchens and the literary scene

There is speculation that Hitchens was the inspiration for Tom Wolfe's character Peter Fallow, in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities,[20] but others believe it to be Spy Magazine's "Ironman Nightlife Decathlete" Anthony Haden-Guest.[21][22]

Prior to Hitchens's ideological shift, the American author and polemicist Gore Vidal declared Hitchens his dauphin or heir.[23][24]

[edit] Hitchens and The Nation staff

Among his most severe critics is one-time colleague and friend Alexander Cockburn, a weekly contributor to The Nation. On August 20, 2005, Cockburn wrote:

What a truly disgusting sack of shit Hitchens is [— a] guy who called Sid Blumenthal one of his best friends and then tried to have him thrown into prison for perjury; a guy who waited [until] his friend Edward Said was on his death bed before attacking him in the Atlantic Monthly; a guy who knows perfectly well the role Israel plays in U.S. policy but who does not scruple to flail Cindy Sheehan as a LaRouchie and Anti-Semite because, maybe, she dared mention the word Israel.[25]

Hitchens clarified his stance, stating that:

In a recent effusion in the Huffington Post, Cindy Sheehan repeats the lie that her letter to ABC News Nightline was doctored, and says that a colleague of hers inserted the offending words in furtherance of his own "anti-Semitic" agenda. If she regards her own words as anti-Jewish, it's not up to me to correct her. I have not said that she is anti-Jewish, only that she shows a sinister ineptness in handling the wild idea of a PNAC/JINSA pro-Sharon secret government in the United States.[26]

[edit] Hitchens's opinions

[edit] First principles

Alexander Linklater has summarized Hitchens' intellectual outlook as follows:

One of ... [Hitchens’s] old strongholds...[is] the 17th-century contest between king and parliament of the English civil war. For Hitchens, the Cromwellian revolt represents not just the foundational struggle for parliamentary rule, but the great rejection of divine right.... But he is no optimistic Enlightenment rationalist. He identifies himself with Thomas Paine's disillusion at the French terror, and Rosa Luxemburg's famous warning to Lenin about the inexorability of one-man rule. He retains, however, from his Marxist youth an intellectual absolutism and a disdain for liberal dilemmas and trade-offs—hence a brutal assault on Isaiah Berlin's genteel liberalism in a 1998 essay. And there is an undertow of violence in his arguments, an inability to empathize. He is, for example, incurious about what religious belief feels like, or what meaning it has for millions of people—even though, unlike his co-anti-religionist Richard Dawkins, Hitchens concedes that religious feeling is ineradicable.[27]

[edit] "Theocratic fascism" and early disagreements with the Left

Hitchens was deeply shocked by the February 14, 1989, fatwa against his longtime friend Salman Rushdie.[28] He became increasingly critical of what he called "theocratic fascism" or "fascism with an Islamic face": radical Islamists who supported the fatwa against Rushdie and sought the recreation of the medieval caliphate. Hitchens is often credited with coining the term "Islamofascism", but Hitchens himself denies it. (Malise Ruthven appears to be the first to have used the term in an article in The Independent on September 8, 1990.[29])

Hitchens did use the term "Islamic Fascism" for an article he wrote for The Nation, shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks, but this phrase also had an earlier history. For example, it was used in The Washington Post on January 13, 1979; it also appears to have been used by secularists in Turkey and Afghanistan to describe their opponents.

Hitchens also became increasingly disenchanted by the presidency of Bill Clinton, accusing him of being a rapist and a liar.[30][31] Hitchens also claimed that the missile attacks by Clinton on Sudan constituted a war crime.[32] Although a student at Oxford during the same time as Clinton, he maintains that he has no memory of ever meeting him, although they had mutual friends[citation needed].

The years after the Rushdie fatwa also saw him looking for allies and friends. In the United States he became increasingly critical of what he called "excuse making" on the left. At the same time, he was attracted to the foreign policy ideas of some on the Republican right, especially the neoconservative group that included Paul Wolfowitz, whom he befriended.[citation needed] Around this time, he also befriended the Iraqi dissident and businessman Ahmed Chalabi.[citation needed] During a debate with George Galloway, Hitchens revealed he is a supporter of Irish reunification, and was critical of the politician's opposing views on the war, as well as his "insulting" attitude towards the US Senate.[33]

[edit] Ideology

In the 1960s Hitchens threw in his lot with the left, drawn by his anger over the Vietnam war, nuclear weapons, racism and "oligarchy", including that of "the unaccountable corporation". He became a socialist "largely [as] the outcome of a study of history, taking sides ... in the battles over industrialism and war and empire". In 2001, however, he told Rhys Southan of Reason magazine that he could no longer say "I am a socialist". Socialists, he claimed, had ceased to offer a positive alternative to the capitalist system. Capitalism had become the more revolutionary economic system, and he welcomed globalisation as "innovative and internationalist". He suggested that he had returned to his early, pre-socialist libertarianism, having come to attach great value to the freedom of the individual from the state and moral authoritarians.[34]

[edit] Hitchens and Iraq

In 2008, Hitchens has written "I used to call myself a single-issue voter on the essential question of defending civilization against its terrorist enemies and their totalitarian protectors, and on that 'issue' I hope I can continue to expose and oppose any ambiguity".[35]

Hitchens is seen by many as a "liberal hawk" comprising left-leaning commentators who supported the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.[36][37] This informal grouping includes the British writers Nick Cohen, Johann Hari, David Aaronovitch, Norman Geras, Julie Burchill, and the Canadian Michael Ignatieff (see Euston Manifesto).[citation needed] Neoconservatives of the last decade are hesitant to embrace Hitchens as one of their own, in part because of his harsh criticisms of Ronald Reagan[38][39] and his refusal to associate himself as such.[40]

Despite his many articles supporting the US invasion of Iraq, Hitchens made a brief return to The Nation just before the 2004 US presidential election and wrote that he was "slightly" for George W. Bush; shortly afterwards, Slate polled its staff on their positions on the candidates and mistakenly printed Hitchens' vote as pro-Kerry. Hitchens shifted his opinion to "neutral", saying: "It's absurd for liberals to talk as if Kristallnacht is impending with Bush, and it's unwise and indecent for Republicans to equate Kerry with capitulation. There's no one to whom he can surrender, is there? I think that the nature of the jihadist enemy will decide things in the end".[41]

In an interview with journalist Johann Hari[42] in 2004, in which Hitchens described himself as "on the same side as the neo-conservatives," he also states that he does not support George Bush per se (still less Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld) but rather allies himself with "pure" neo-conservatives, especially Paul Wolfowitz. Although Hitchens defends Bush’s foreign policy, he has criticized Bush's support of intelligent design.[citation needed]

In contributions to Vanity Fair, Hitchens criticised the Bush administration for its continued protection of Henry Kissinger, whom he called complicit in the human rights abuses of Southern Cone military dictatorships during the 1970s. In 2001, he had published a book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, on Kissinger's alleged role in the crimes of regimes in South America and Asia. In that book Hitchens accused Kissinger, first as National Security Advisor to President Richard Nixon, and then as Secretary of State to the same president, of either actively participating in or tacitly condoning decisions that would lead to the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities on Bengali Hindus and moderate Muslims in East Pakistan by Pakistani Islamist dictator Yahya Khan.[43] He also asserts that Henry Kissinger, and by extension, the Ford administration, bore direct responsibility for the invasion of East Timor. Hitchens also asserted Kissinger and the Nixon administration's responsibility for the coup that resulted in the overthrow of the Allende government, and installation of Augusto Pinochet as president of Chile.

[edit] Cyprus

Hitchens's first book focused on the partition of Cyprus. While Hitchens did not unilaterally support either the Greek or Turkish side of the conflict, he severely criticized Western governments and the Western media for ignoring the Greek Military junta's active support of the EOKA-B — a nationalist, pro-Enosis, Greek Cypriot terrorist organization[44][45] which ultimately overthrew Greek Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios III. Hitchens argued that this coup d'état, and the political machinations of Nikos Sampson, the new dictator of Cyprus, instigated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

[edit] Vietnam

Hitchens regarded America's intervention (and that of its allies) in Vietnam as a continuation of European colonialism, betraying the Enlightenment principles of liberal democracy and human emancipation. Hitchens regards the Vietnam War as America's attempt to inherit colonial Indochina from the French empire. Today, he also views it as a betrayal of the principles of the American Revolution.[citation needed]

[edit] Milošević and the demise of Yugoslavia

Hitchens argued that the choice in Yugoslavia was between a multi-ethnic plural democracy led by Muslim[46] president Alija Izetbegović in Bosnia and a fascistic, religiously inspired ethnically-cleansed state driven by Christian Orthodox Yugoslav Communist leader Slobodan Milošević. He has called Milosevic a fascist and a "national-socialist",[47] and considered the Croatian nationalist president Franjo Tudjman "equally detestable".[48] In God Is Not Great, he writes that the crimes of the Roman Catholic Croatian neo-fascists during this period are "often forgotten".[49] He was highly critical of Western inaction against Christian Orthodox Serbian and Roman Catholic Croatian nationalism in protection of the Muslim Bosnians, partially blaming this on the Clinton administration and specifically Hillary Clinton.

He argues "In effect, the extremist Catholic and Orthodox forces were colluding in a bloody partition and cleansing of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They were, and still are, largely spared the public shame of this, because the world's media preferred the simplification of "Croat" and "Serb," and only mentioned religion when discussing "the Muslims." But the triad of terms "Croat," "Serb," and "Muslim" is unequal and misleading, in that it equates two nationalities and one religion. (The same blunder is made in a different way in coverage of Iraq, with the "Sunni-Shia-Kurd" trilateral.)"[50]

[edit] Regarding civil liberties

In March 2005, Hitchens supported further investigation into voting irregularities in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election.

In January 2006, Hitchens joined with four other individuals and four organizations, including the ACLU and Greenpeace, as plaintiffs in a lawsuit, ACLU v. NSA; challenging Bush's warrantless domestic spying program; the lawsuit was filed by the ACLU.[51][52] In February 2006, Hitchens helped organize a pro-Denmark rally outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, DC in response to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.[53]

Hitchens favors the legalization of cannabis, and has said "Marijuana is a medicine. I have heard and read convincing arguments and had convincing testimony from real people who say that marijuana is a very useful medicine for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and for glaucoma. To keep that out of the reach of the sick, it seems to me, is sadistic."[54]

[edit] Waterboarding

Hitchens initially rejected the notion that waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique that has allegedly been used on prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, constitutes torture. Subsequently, he was asked by Vanity Fair to experience it for himself. In May 2008, Hitchens voluntarily experienced waterboarding, after which he fully changed his opinion. He concluded "if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."[55][56]

[edit] Regarding specific individuals

Over the years, Hitchens has become famous for his scathing critiques of public figures. Three figures — Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, and Mother Teresa — were the targets of three separate full length texts, No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, and The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. Hitchens has also written biographical essays about Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson: Author of America), George Orwell (Why Orwell Matters) and Thomas Paine (Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man": A Biography). However, the vast majority of Hitchens's critiques take the form of short opinion pieces, some of the more notable being his critiques of: Jerry Falwell,[57] George Galloway,[58] Mel Gibson,[59] Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama,[60] Michael Moore,[61] Daniel Pipes,[62] Ronald Reagan,[63] Jesse Helms,[64] and Cindy Sheehan.[8][65][66][67][68][69][70]

[edit] Antitheism

Christopher Hitchens is antitheist and antireligious. Hitchens often speaks out against the Abrahamic religions, or what he calls "the three great monotheisms" (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). In his book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens expanded his criticism to include all religions, including those rarely criticized by Western antitheists such as Hinduism and neo-paganism. His main argument is that the concept of God or Supreme Being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom. His book had mixed reactions, from praise in the New York Times for his "logical flourishes and conundrums"[71] to accusations of "intellectual and moral shabbiness" (The Financial Times).[72] Hitchens told an interviewer that he thinks all educated people should have a knowledge of the Bible. He also claimed to have instructed his children in religious history and that he encouraged his wife to hold a Seder dinner for their daughter.

At the New York Public Library in May 2007, Hitchens debated the Reverend Al Sharpton on the issue of theism and anti-theism, giving rise to a memorable exchange about Mormonism in particular.[73]

In his latest book, God is not Great, Hitchens contends that,

above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man and woman [referencing Alexander Pope]. This Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person. The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals, can now easily depose the scrutiny of sacred texts that have been found to be corrupt and confected. The pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry, and the availability of new findings to masses of people by electronic means, will revolutionize our concepts of research and development. Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse. And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone.[74]

Hitchens has been accused by William A. Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties of being particularly anti-Catholic. Hitchens responded, "when religion is attacked in this country [...] the Catholic Church comes in for a little more than its fair share".[75] Hitchens has also been accused of anti-Catholic bigotry by others, including Brent Bozell, Tom Piatak in The American Conservative, and UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge.[76][77] When Joe Scarborough on March 12, 2004 asked Hitchens whether he was “consumed with hatred for conservative Catholics”, Hitchens responded that he was not and that he just thinks that “all religious belief is sinister and infantile”.[78] Piatak claimed that “A straightforward description of all Hitchens’s anti-Catholic outbursts would fill every page in this magazine”, noting particularly Hitchens's assertion that U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts should not be confirmed because of his faith.[77]

[edit] Middle East conflicts

The long and several conflicts in the Middle East and the violence that some Muslims have perpetrated against the West has prompted Hitchens's most hawkish stance, which is against Muslim terrorism. While this is part of his much more general anti-theism, he has attracted many critics.[79][80][81][82][83][77]

In February 2009 he was physically attacked on Hamra St., West Beirut, after scribbling “No, no, FUCK the SSNP” on a sign erected by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party commemorating party member Khalid Alwan, who killed two Israeli soldiers there in the Wimpy café during the Israeli occupation of Beirut [84]. He was able to escape with relatively minor injury to the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel.

[edit] Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Hitchens regards the existence of Israel as a complete occupation of Palestine, an example of colonialism, and an unjustifiable subjugation of another people.[citation needed] He has described Zionism as being based on "the initial demagogic lie (actually two lies) that a land without a people needs a people without a land."[85] Hitchens supports Israel's right to exist, but has argued that

Israel doesn't "give up" anything by abandoning religious expansionism in the West Bank and Gaza. It does itself a favor, because it confronts the internal clerical and chauvinist forces which want to instate a theocracy for Jews, and because it abandons a scheme which is doomed to fail in the worst possible way. The so-called "security" question operates in reverse, because as I may have said already, only a moral and political idiot would place Jews in a settlement in Gaza in the wild belief that this would make them more safe. Of course this hard-headed and self-interested solution of withdrawal would not satisfy the jihadists. But one isn't seeking to placate them. One is seeking to destroy and discredit them. At the present moment, they operate among an occupied and dispossessed and humiliated people, who are forced by Sharon's logic to live in a close yet ghettoised relationship to the Jewish centers of population. Try and design a more lethal and rotten solution than that, and see what you come up with.[85]

On November 14, 2004, Hitchens noted that

Edward Said asked many times, in public and private, where the Mandela of Palestine could be. In rather bold contrast to this decent imagination, Arafat managed to be both a killer and a compromiser (Mandela was neither), both a Swiss bank-account artist and a populist ranter (Mandela was neither), both an Islamic "martyrdom" blow-hard and a servile opportunist, and a man who managed to establish a dictatorship over his own people before they even had a state (here one simply refuses to mention Mandela in the same breath).[86]

[edit] Historic views on Saddam Hussein

In July 2007, the New Statesman printed selected portions of a 1976 piece by Hitchens which they claimed "took a more admiring view of the Iraqi dictator" than his later strong support for ousting Saddam Hussein.[87]

"An Arab country with the second largest proven oil reserves, a fierce revolutionary ideology, a large and recently-blooded army, and a leadership composed almost entirely of men in their thirties is obviously a force to be reckoned with. Iraq, which has this dynamic combination and much else besides, has not until recently been very much regarded as a power. But with the new discussions in OPEC, the ending of the Kurdistan war and the new round of fighting in Lebanon, its political voice is being heard more and more. The Baghdad regime is the first oil-producing government to opt for 100-per-cent nationalisation, a process completed with the acquisition of foreign assets in Basrah last December. It was the first to call for the use of oil as a political weapon against Israel and her backers. It gives strong economic and political support to the ‘Rejection Front’ Palestinians who oppose Arafat’s conciliation and are currently trying to outface the Syrians in Beirut. And it has a leader — Saddam Hussein — who has sprung from being an underground revolutionary gunman to perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser."

He also described the means through which the Baathist regime rose to power as similar to that of Iran; having crushed any political dissent and notions of an independent Kurdish state.

"In their different crusades, both Iraq and Iran take a distinctly unsentimental line on internal opposition. Ba’ath party spokesmen, when questioned about the lack of public dissent, will point to efforts made by the party press to stimulate criticism of revolutionary shortcomings. True enough, there are such efforts, but they fall rather short of permitting any organised opposition. The argument then moves to the claim, which is often made in Iraq, that the country is surrounded by enemies and attacked by imperialist intrigue. Somewhere in the collision between Baghdad and Tehran on this point, the Kurdish nationalists met a very painful end."

[edit] Post-9/11

Hitchens has strongly supported US military actions in Afghanistan, particularly in his "Fighting Words" columns in Slate. Hitchens had been a long term contributor to The Nation, where bi-weekly he wrote his "Minority Report" column.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Hitchens and Noam Chomsky debated the nature of radical Islam and of the proper response to it. On September 24 and October 8, 2001, Hitchens wrote criticisms of Chomsky in The Nation.[88][89] Chomsky responded[90] and Hitchens issued a rebuttal to Chomsky[91] to which Chomsky again responded.[92] Approximately a year after the 9/11 attacks and his exchanges with Chomsky, Hitchens left The Nation, claiming that its editors, readers and contributors considered John Ashcroft a bigger threat than Osama bin Laden,[93] and were making excuses on behalf of Islamist terrorism; in the following months he wrote articles increasingly at odds with his colleagues. This highly charged exchange of letters involved Katha Pollitt and Alexander Cockburn, as well as Hitchens and Chomsky.

His employment of the term "Islamofascist" and his support for the Iraq War have caused Hitchens's critics to label him a "neoconservative". Hitchens, however, refuses to embrace this designation,[40] insisting that "I am not a conservative of any kind". In 2004, Hitchens stated that neoconservative support for US intervention in Iraq convinced him that he was "on the same side as the neo-conservatives" when it came to contemporary foreign policy issues.[94] He has also been known to refer to his association with "temporary neocon allies".[95]

[edit] The Iraq War

[edit] Pre-war American and British Intelligence

In a variety of articles and interviews, Hitchens has asserted that British intelligence was correct in claiming that Saddam had attempted to buy uranium from Niger,[96] and that US envoy Joseph Wilson had been dishonest in his public denials of it.[97] He has also pointed to discovered munitions in Iraq that violated U.N. Security Council Resolutions 686 and 687, the cease-fire agreements ending the 1991 Iraq-Kuwait conflict.

On March 19, 2007, Hitchens asked himself whether Western intelligence sources should have known that Iraq had "no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction." In his response, Hitchens stated that

[t]he entire record of UNSCOM until that date had shown a determination on the part of the Iraqi dictatorship to build dummy facilities to deceive inspectors, to refuse to allow scientists to be interviewed without coercion, to conceal chemical and biological deposits, and to search the black market for material that would breach the sanctions. The defection of Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law, the Kamel brothers, had shown that this policy was even more systematic than had even been suspected. Moreover, Iraq did not account for — has in fact never accounted for — a number of the items that it admitted under pressure to possessing after the Kamel defection. We still do not know what happened to this weaponry. This is partly why all Western intelligence agencies, including French and German ones quite uninfluenced by Ahmad Chalabi, believed that Iraq had actual or latent programs for the production of WMD. Would it have been preferable to accept Saddam Hussein's word for it and to allow him the chance to re-equip once more once the sanctions had further decayed?[98]

[edit] Abu Ghraib

In a September 2005 article, he stated "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."[99] Hitchens continued by stating that he

could undertake to defend that statement against any member of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and I know in advance that none of them could challenge it, let alone negate it. Before March 2003, Abu Ghraib was an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp. Now, and not without reason, it is an international byword for Yankee imperialism and sadism. Yet the improvement is still, unarguably, the difference between night and day.[99]

[edit] Haditha

In a June 5, 2006 article on the alleged killings of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha, he stated that

all the glib talk about My Lai is so much propaganda and hot air. In Vietnam, the rules of engagement were such as to make an atrocity — the slaughter of the My Lai villagers took almost a day rather than a white-hot few minutes — overwhelmingly probable. The ghastliness was only stopped by a brave officer who prepared his chopper-gunner to fire. In those days there were no precision-guided missiles, but there were "free-fire zones," and "body counts," and other virtual incitements to psycho officers such as Capt. Medina and Lt. Calley. As a consequence, a training film about My Lai — "if anything like this happens, you have really, truly screwed up" — has been in use for U.S. soldiers for some time.[100]

[edit] Awards and accolades

In September 2005, Hitchens was named as one of the "Top 100 Public Intellectuals"[101] by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect magazine. An online poll was held which ranked the 100 intellectuals, but the magazine noted that Hitchens' (#5), Chomsky's (#1), and Abdolkarim Soroush's (#15) rankings were partly due to supporters publicising the vote.[102]

In 2007 Hitchens's work for Vanity Fair won him the National Magazine Award in the category "Columns and Commentary".[103] He was a finalist once more in the same category in 2008 for some of his columns in Slate, but lost out to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone.[104]

He is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.[105]

Hitchens was nominated for a National Book Award for God Is Not Great on October 10, 2007.[106]

Hitchens received the 1991 Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction.[107]

Rush Limbaugh is an admirer of Hitchens's writing, of whom he said "He’s misguided sometimes, but when you read him, you finish the whole article."[108]

[edit] Personal

[edit] Family

Hitchens has a daughter, Antonia, with his wife Carol Blue, whom he married in 1991. Hitchens has two children, Alexander and Sophia, by a previous marriage in 1981 to Eleni Meleagrou, a Greek Cypriot, whom Hitchens divorced in 1989 while she was pregnant with his second child.[109]

[edit] Use of alcohol

A profile on Hitchens by NPR stated: "Hitchens is known for his love of cigarettes and alcohol — and his prodigious literary output."[15] However in early 2008 he claimed to have given up smoking, undergoing an epiphany in Madison, Wisconsin.[110] His brother Peter later wrote of his surprise at this decision.[111] Hitchens admits to drinking heavily; in 2003 he wrote that his daily intake of alcohol was enough "to kill or stun the average mule." He noted that many great writers "did some of their finest work when blotto, smashed, polluted, shitfaced, squiffy, whiffled, and three sheets to the wind."[112] George Galloway, on his way to testify in front of a United States Senate subcommittee investigating the scandals in the U.N. Oil for Food program, called Hitchens a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay",[113] to which Hitchens quickly replied, "Only some of which is true."[114] Later, in a column for Slate promoting his debate with Galloway which was to take place on September 14, 2005, he elaborated on his prior response. "He says that I am an ex-Trotskyist (true), a "popinjay" (true enough, since its original Webster's definition means a target for arrows and shots), and that I cannot hold a drink (here I must protest)."[115] Oliver Burkeman writes, "Since the parting of ways on Iraq [...] Hitchens claims to have detected a new, personalised nastiness in the attacks on him, especially over his fabled consumption of alcohol. He welcomes being attacked as a drinker 'because I always think it's a sign of victory when they move on to the ad hominem.' He drinks, he says, 'because it makes other people less boring. I have a great terror of being bored. But I can work with or without it. It takes quite a lot to get me to slur.'"[116]

[edit] Ethnic identity

In an article in the Guardian Unlimited on April 14, 2002, Hitchens says he is Jewish because Jewish descent is matrilineal. According to Hitchens, when his brother, Peter Hitchens, took his new bride to meet their maternal grandmother, Dodo, who was then in her 90s, Dodo said, "She's Jewish, isn't she?" and then announced: "Well, I've got something to tell you. So are you." She said that her real surname was Levin, not Lynn, and that her ancestors were Blumenthals from Poland.[117] According to The Observer of 14 April 2002, Christopher "insists that he is Jewish," and explored the issue in depth in the title essay of his book Prepared for the Worst.

In a column he wrote for the Los Angeles Times on February 9, 2006, Hitchens wrote, "my grandmother told me as an adult that both she and my mother were Jewish, and it sent me looking for my forebears on the German-Polish border". Peter Hitchens disputes that the brothers have significant Jewish ancestry, adding that "they are only one 32nd Jewish".[117] Nonetheless, according to Halakha, Jewish maternal lineage guarantees one to legally be considered a "full-blooded" Jew, regardless of the father's ethnicity or religion.

[edit] Relationship with younger brother, Peter Hitchens

Hitchens's younger brother by two-and-a-half years, Peter Hitchens, is a socially conservative journalist, author and critic. The brothers had a protracted falling-out after Peter wrote that Christopher had once joked that he "didn't care if the Red Army watered its horses at Hendon"[118] (a suburb of London). Christopher denied having said this and broke off contact with his brother. He then referred to his brother as "an idiot" in a letter to Commentary, and the dispute spilled into other publications as well. Christopher eventually expressed a willingness to reconcile and to meet his new nephew; shortly thereafter the brothers gave several interviews together in which they said their personal disagreements had been resolved, although a recent review of Christopher's book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Peter appears to have re-ignited the debate.[119] This, however, did not stop them both appearing on the June 21, 2007 edition of BBC current affairs discussion show Question Time. The pair engaged in a formal televised debate for the first time on April 3, 2008, at Grand Valley State University.[120]

[edit] U.S. citizenship

Hitchens became a United States citizen on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, on his fifty-eighth birthday, April 13, 2007.[121]

[edit] Favorite writers

Hitchens has written a book Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere, which includes information on his favourite writers. During a three-hour interview by Book TV,[122] he named authors who have had influence on his views; namely the following.

[edit] Filmography

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] As sole author

[edit] As sole editor

[edit] As co-author or co-editor

[edit] As a contributor

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Alexander Linklater (May 2008). "Christopher Hitchins". Prospect Magazine. Retrieved on 2009-02-17. 
  2. ^ New York Times Bestseller list
  3. ^ "The 25 most influential liberals in U.S. media, according to Forbes". 
  4. ^ Andre Mayer (2007-05-14). "Nothing sacred — Journalist and provocateur Christopher Hitchens picks a fight with God". CBC. Retrieved on 2008-06-29. 
  5. ^ Hoover Institution-Media Fellows
  6. ^ Lynn Barber, The Observer, April 14, 2002 Look who's talking April 14, 2002
  7. ^ Slate: Long Live Tony Blair
  8. ^ a b PBS Interview with Christopher Hitchens
  9. ^ International Socialism: Christopher Hitchens "Workers’ Self Management in Algeria" (1st series), No.51, April-June 1972, p.33
  10. ^ Just a Pretty Face? by Sean O'Hagan, The Observer, July 11, 2004
  11. ^ Interview with Brian Lamb for the show Booknotes, an author interview series on C-SPAN (some biographical information) October 17, 1993
  12. ^ In-depth interview and profilein New York Magazine April 19, 1999
  13. ^ "Free Radical", interview in Reason by Rhys Southan, November 2001
  14. ^ Atlantic Monthly profile 2003
  15. ^ a b Guy Raz, Christopher Hitchens, Literary Agent Provocateur, National Public Radio, June 21, 2006
  16. ^ New Yorker profile October 16, 2006
  17. ^ Christopher Hitchens video interview 2007
  18. ^ Twelve Books: Christopher Hitchens
  19. ^
  20. ^ Reason Magazine: Free Radical
  21. ^ Timothy Noah, Meritocracy's lab rat
  22. ^ Vogue daily news
  23. ^ Andrew Werth (January/February 2004). "Hitchens on Books". Letters to the Editor. The Atlantic. Retrieved on 2009-02-17. 
  24. ^ John Banville (March 3, 2001). "Gore should be so lucky". The Irish Times. Retrieved on 2009-02-17. 
  25. ^ Can Cindy Sheehan End the War? August 20 / 21, 2005
  26. ^ Reply to Cockburn
  27. ^ Alexander Linklater, “Christopher Hitchens”, Prospect, Issue 146, May 2008
  28. ^ Cartoon Debate
  29. ^ William Safire (2006).) "Islamofascism Anyone?" The New York Times, Language section. October 1, 2006. Retrieved November 25, 2006.
  30. ^ "Hitchens: Clinton could sell out Blair". BBC News. 1999-06-03. Retrieved on 2007-05-25. 
  31. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (1999). No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton. Verso Books. ISBN 1859847366. 
  32. ^ Christopher Hitchens, No One Left To Lie To (Verso, 2000)
  33. ^ "George Galloway debates Christopher Hitchens". Retrieved on 2007-11-20. 
  34. ^ "Free Radical", Reasononline, from November 2001 print edition
  35. ^ All Against Bush: Whom would the Democrats nominate? Slate, February 8, 2004
  36. ^ James Verini, The Liberal Hawks, Los Angeles CityBeat, 2004-12-02
  37. ^ Liberal Hawks Reconsider the Iraq War,, Monday, January 12, 2004
  38. ^ Not Even a Hedgehog: The stupidity of Ronald Reagan. Slate June 7, 2004
  39. ^ Dennis Campbell The snivelers of the Left are not fit to judge Ronald Reagan Renew America; June 15, 2004
  40. ^ a b "Tariq Ali v. Christopher Hitchens". Democracy Now. Retrieved on 2007-05-09. 
  41. ^ My Endorsement and Osama's Video: The news in Bin Laden's comments had nothing to do with our election. Slate, November 1, 2004
  42. ^ "Johann Hari — Archive". Retrieved on 2008-09-07. 
  43. ^ The Case Against Henry Kissinger March 2001
  44. ^ "Middle East: Missing Persons", Accessed June 17, 2006.
  45. ^ "Speech by Makarios", Accessed June 17, 2006.
  46. ^ Bodansky, Yossef (1996). Some Call It Peace: Waiting for the War In the Balkans. International Media Corp. Ltd. ISBN 0952007053. 
  47. ^ "In Defense of WWII: Chapter 5 of 5". Youtube. Retrieved on 2008-09-07. 
  48. ^ "FrontPage Magazine". Retrieved on 2008-09-07. 
  49. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (May 2007). God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Twelve Books, 21.
  50. ^ Hitchens, Christopher God is not great:how religion poisons everything Hachette Book Group USA, 2007, Page 20-22
  51. ^ New York Times
  52. ^ Statement – Christopher Hitchens, NSA Lawsuit Client
  53. ^ Fronter Centre for Foreign Policy interview
  54. ^ Just a Pretty Face? by Sean O'Hagan, The Observer, July 11, 2004
  55. ^ Believe Me, It’s Torture
  56. ^ On the Waterboard
  57. ^ Video: Christopher Hitchens (May 15, 2007) appearance on Anderson Cooper 360
  58. ^ Unmitigated Galloway May 30, 2005
  59. ^ Mel Gibson's Meltdown July 31, 2006
  60. ^ His material highness article by Christopher Hitchens
  61. ^ Unfairenheit 9/11 June 21, 2004
  62. ^ Christopher Hitchens, "Daniel Pipes is not a man of peace", Slate 11 August 2003.
  63. ^ "The stupidity of Ronald Reagan". Slate. Retrieved on 2007-05-09. 
  64. ^ Christopher Hitchens "Farewell to a Provincial Redneck", Slate 7 July 2008.
  65. ^ Christopher Hitchens, Cindy Sheehan's Sinister Piffle, Slate 15 August 2005.
  66. ^ Hitchens's op-ed for Slate regarding Mother Theresa
  67. ^ Hitchens's NPR discussion regarding Thomas Jefferson
  68. ^ Hitchens's BBC Video Essay in support of George Orwell
  69. ^ Interview with Bill Moyers
  70. ^ Edward Luce (2008-01-11). "Lunch with the FT: Christopher Hitchens". Financial Times. Retrieved on 2008-01-12. 
  71. ^ Michael Kinsley, The New York Times Review of Books
  72. ^ Here’s the hitch by Michael Skapinker in The Financial Times
  73. ^ Google video has the full debate
  74. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (May 2007). God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Twelve Books. pp. 283. 
  75. ^ Look Who's Hammering Mel August 1, 2006
  76. ^ Hood, John Hollowed Be Thy Name Miami Sun Post
  77. ^ a b c Tom Piatak, The Purest Neocon: Christopher Hitchens, an unreconstructed Bolshevik, finds his natural home on the pro-war Right, The American Conservative, 2005-10-10
  78. ^ Scarborough County Transcripts for March 12, 2004
  79. ^ Fraternally yours, Chris, by Norman Finkelstein: criticizes Hitchens for perceived "opportunism", 2004
  80. ^ Christopher Hitchens's last battle, by Juan Cole, September 5, 2005
  81. ^ Hitchens Backs Down, by Alexander Cockburn
  82. ^ Christopher Hitchens Rants Again, by Daniel Pipes, August 24, 2005
  83. ^ The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens, Monthly Review, November 26, 2005
  84. ^ | Eye-witness account by Michael Totten
  85. ^ a b "Frontpage Interview: Christopher Hitchens Part II". Front Page Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-05-09. 
  86. ^ "Arafat's Squalid End". Slate. Retrieved on 2007-05-09. 
  87. ^ Christopher Hitchens, Iraq Flexes Arab Muscle, New Statesman, July 5, 2007 (originally published 1976)
  88. ^ Of Sin, the Left & Islamic Fascism September 4, 2001
  89. ^ Blaming bin Laden First October 4, 2001
  90. ^ Chomsky Replies to Hitchens
  91. ^ A Rejoinder to Noam Chomsky: Minority Report
  92. ^ Reply to Hitchens's Rejoinder October 4, 2001
  93. ^ Taking Sides September 26, 2002
  94. ^ Johann Hari, "In Enemy Territory: An Interview with Christopher Hitchens"", The Independent 23 September 2004.
  95. ^ Christopher Hitchens, "The End of Fukuyama", Slate 1 March 2006.
  96. ^ Slate: Wowie Zahawie
  97. ^ Slate: Clueless Joe Wilson
  98. ^ Slate: So, Mr. Hitchens, Weren't You Wrong About Iraq?
  99. ^ a b "A War To Be Proud Of" September 5, 2005
  100. ^ The Hell of War June 5, 2006
  101. ^ Foreign Policy, registration required
  102. ^ Foreign Policy, registration required
  103. ^ Press release, Magazine Publishers of America
  104. ^ Magazine Publishers of America, NMA Winners
  105. ^ National Secular Society Honorary Associate: Christopher Hitchens
  106. ^ Associated Press
  107. ^ Lannan Foundation – Nonfiction Awards, webpage retrieved November 13, 2007.
  108. ^ New York Times Magazine, July 6, 2008 [1]
  109. ^ New York Magazine feature April 19, 1999
  110. ^ Edward Luce, Lunch with the Financial Times, 11 January 2008
  111. ^ Hitchens, Peter (April 5, 2008). "Hitchens vs Hitchens ... Peace at last as a lifelong feud between brothers is laid to rest". The Daily Mail. Retrieved on 2008-04-08. 
  112. ^ Christopher Hitchens, Living Proof, Vanity Fair, March, 2003.
  113. ^ Unmitigated Galloway , The Weekly Standard, 2005-05-30.
  114. ^ "There's only one popinjay here, George", Evening Standard, 2005-05-19.
  115. ^ George Galloway Is Gruesome, Not Gorgeous, Slate, 2005-09-13.
  116. ^ Oliver Burkeman, War of words, The Guardian, October 28, 2006.
  117. ^ a b Look who's talking April 14, 2002
  118. ^ Christopher Hitchens,Oh Brother, Where Art Thou
  119. ^ James Macintyre, The Hitchens brothers: Anatomy of a row, The Independent, 2007-06-11, accessed 2007-06-11
  120. ^ "Hitchens v. Hitchens: Faith, Politics & War". Grand Valley State University. Retrieved on 2008-03-29. 
  121. ^ Lou Dobbs' interview of Christopher Hitchens (video)
  122. ^ Christopher Hitchens In Depth. Book TV. Sunday, September 2, 2007. List of writers can be seen @ 1:13:10.

[edit] External links

NAME Hitchens, Christopher
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Hitchens, Christopher Eric (full name)
SHORT DESCRIPTION Author, journalist and literary critic
DATE OF BIRTH April 13, 1949
PLACE OF BIRTH Portsmouth, England, United Kingdom
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