I was truly shocked to read the following paragraph in today’s David Brooks column:
Several months ago, Christopher Hitchens was sent an article about a young soldier, Mark Jennings Daily, who had been killed in Iraq. Daily was improbably all-American — born on the Fourth of July, an honors graduate from U.C.L.A., strikingly handsome. He’d been a Democrat with reservations about the war. But, “somewhere along the way, he changed his mind,” the article said. “Writings by author and commentator Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him.”
My heart almost went through the floor when I read the last sentence. Christopher Hitchens’ “moral case for war deeply influenced him???” Ugh, what a waste. Hitchens has a moral conscience the size of a pea. His reasoning is spurious. Everything about his writing is hyperbolic and almost clown-like. He’s a WASP [note: reader Mark Klein advises me that Hitchens is Jewish!] version of Alan Dershowitz though with a much posher accent. And this poor boy gave his life under the influence of Christopher Hitchens’ moral world view?
How do you think a man of such moral vacuity would react to indirectly leading a man to his death?
“I don’t exaggerate by much when I say I froze,” Hitchens wrote about reading that sentence.
I should hope so. At the very least.
Brooks gives Hitchens the benefit of the doubt in the following passage:
His essay in the November issue of Vanity Fair is a meditation on his own role in Daily’s death, and a description of the family Daily left behind. Hitchens asks painful questions and steps on every opportunity to be maudlin, and yet for all its tightly controlled intellectualism, the essay packs a bigger emotional wallop than any other this year.
I don’t even have the heart to read what I’m certain will be a morally self-serving exercise. Everything about Hitchens makes me sick to my stomach. None more so than a story like this. Talk about someone with blood on their hands. I hope that Hitchens will ponder what Mark Daily might’ve done with his life had he spurned the former’s pipe dreams. What contribution could this boy have made to society? What family might he have created? And what contribution has Hitchens himself made and what part has he played in this tragedy?
It is certainly true that someone as intelligent as Daily clearly was was the agent of his own fate. He was guided by his own conscience and takes as much responsibility for his actions in life and death as Hitchens must. But had I written something that led a boy to fight and die in a conflict as muddled and hopeless as Iraq I don’t think I could face myself. I’m certain Hitchens will find a way to block out his own culpability.