I am predisposed to like Christopher Hitchens. He is a witty and erudite writer. His view's on everything from Orwell to religion are often perfectly in tune with my own (though his ignorance of Nietzsche is unforgivable). It is because of these great correspondences that his advocacy of the war in Iraq is all the more painful and baffling.
However, more than his tortured logic of using violence to stop violence, is his generalization of Pacifists and Pacifism as a whole. Those on the left who opposed and oppose the war are being somehow disingenuous he believes. We are using the word peace as a smokescreen for hidden bigotry. Perhaps he is right, but if true, Mr. Hitchens is privy to information denied to the rest of us.
As a pacifist myself, I know one need not be a Quaker to see the folly in war. I have no qualms regarding self-defense when the need arises. However, War with a capital W, is a military institution, and institutions have their own bigotries and agendas. The Military-industrial complex that Eisenhower (finally) warned us about so long ago has failed to make much of an impression upon the, as always, temperamentally bellicose American people. The concept that the military is just a department in the government and not a full partner does not seem to cross the mind of men and women inculcated since birth with the propaganda of God, Country and Guns. Not necessarily in that order.
We must also forgive Mr. Hitchens blindness due to his other handicap. Coming from a privileged background, and educated in quality private schools in a foreign land, he may be unable to see that it is always the poor who fight the wars and the rich who prosper from the loss. As someone who has studied Marx it is all the more astonishing that this should not smack him in the eye. Perhaps as a recently anointed citizen, like all converts since Saint Augustine, he can find little to fault in his new faith.
In an article published in 2001 on the invasion of Afghanistan, he had the following errors to relate:
"Well, ha ha ha, and yah, boo. It was obvious from the very start that the United States had no alternative but to do what it has done. It was also obvious that defeat was impossible. The Taliban will soon be history. Al-Qaida will take longer. There will be other mutants to fight. But if, as the peaceniks like to moan, more Bin Ladens will spring up to take his place, I can offer this assurance: should that be the case, there are many many more who will also spring up to kill him all over again. And there are more of us and we are both smarter and nicer, as well as surprisingly insistent that our culture demands respect, too."
"Ha ha ha to the pacifists", The Guardian, Wednesday November 14, 2001.
The Taliban appears now resurgent, Bin Laden is apparently alive and well, and as for being smarter and nicer, is it nice to bomb civilians and call them "collateral damage", or smart to believe that violence ever brought an end to violence?
To paraphrase that old saw of Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to stop thinking."