He was one of the best writers I ever read (and certainly the best I ever met--once, at Mickey Kaus's "moving back to California" party). Hitch was smart as hell, and loyal to those who deserved loyalty. But he could be just plain mean. And he also retained all the instincts of 20 years of Marxism, in his reflexive distrust of tradition and hatred of religion.
I probably despise Henry Kissinger as much as he did, but Hitch saw him as a war criminal, where I saw cowardice. Kissinger's détente was a morally bankrupt side-step that prolonged the Soviet empire for two decades, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. (Realpolitik is always a consideration, but Kissinger couldn't tell when it was wrong.) Hitch, I think, got Kissinger exactly backwards--because of his instinctive opposition to anyone he would have classed, at age 17, as right-wing.
"Hitch-22" was the most self-centered autobiography I ever read. Yet, it also displayed his most praiseworthy trait: the man knew history and literature, revered Western Civ., and thought our most important task was to defend it (except for Judeo-Christianity). I only wish the book had devoted more than one sentence to his admirable willingness to tell the truth to the grand jury--that his one-time friend Sid Blumenthal was a liar. Fortunately, Hitch did that elsewhere.
But even more brave than that was Hitchens's support for the Iraq invasion--a position he never abandoned. This cost him friends -- which took more courage than voluntarily being waterboarded -- and gained him (wrongly in my view) comparisons with Whittaker Chambers.
All that doesn't make Hitch a conservative. But, as commenter KitWistar said:
I agreed with him, I violently disagreed with him, but he always made me think & re-think. Thank you, Hitch.So, if history calls Hitch a liberal, he was among the best in my lifetime.
See Peter Hitchens, Christopher Buckley, John Podhoretz, Graydon Carter, David Corn, and Hitch himself about Iraq in the 2004 Wall Street Journal.
(via reader Warren, reader Doug)