Some of you have probably already seen the Vanity Fair piece in which Christopher Hitchens wrestles how his worlds motivated a young soldier to enlist… and now, that young man is dead, killed by an IED while riding in an under-armored Humvee.
Hitchens is one of my favorite writers; even when he’s wrong, his wit and erudition amplify a wider range of emotions than most opinion journalists would dare to encompass. But, I have to say, I’m not sure if even he is up to this particular task.
It’s a lovely piece, but not a revelatory one, unless this parenthetical counts: “As one who used to advocate strongly for the liberation of Iraq (perhaps more strongly than I knew)…” But maybe introspection isn’t what Hitchens was after; in the end, Hitchens praises the young man for having “magically” found “the noble element” in a war that now, by Hitchens’ own account, “sickens” him.
I would guess that almost every American soldier who is or has been to Iraq tries to find something there worth fighting for, the “noble element” that so stirs Hitch. It’s not magic; it’s human, and they have to, for the reasons the government — and Hitchens — gave us all for being there in the first place turn out to have “magically” disappeared.