Over the last decade, Hitchens has reenacted the drama of Dorian Gray: his prose style has waxed ever more elegant, while his political judgment and his polemical morality have decayed.
American intellectuals, whose responsibility it was to lead the national conversation beyond uncritical acceptance of the premises of state policy, failed entirely.
If the American citizenry ever learn, in relation to their country’s international behavior, Auden’s simple yet difficult lesson that “Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return” (or their benighted sympathizers do), it will be despite rather than because of the efforts of Hitchens and the large majority of American intellectuals who, about these matters at least, agree with him.
Suppose someone says that Pearl Harbor so inflamed American feeling that the firebombing of Japanese cities and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though morally indefensible, were all but inevitable. Does saying this absolve the American officials who ordered the bombings or imply that the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who died as a result was “richly deserved”? By Hitchens’s logic, yes.
It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”
There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.