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October 05, 2007

Christopher Hitchens Reflects On His Role In Lt. Mark Daily's Death in Iraq

Wrenching stuff as Hitchens confronts that fact that it was his columns that persuaded a young man to fight for his country, and that man ultimately died due to an IED blast.

Hitchens never got to meet Lt. Mark Daily, but he now at least gets to speak with his parents. Who seem chiefly concerned with consoling Hitchens:

In the midst of their own grief, to begin with, they took the trouble to try to make me feel better. I wasn't to worry about any "guilt or responsibility": their son had signed up with his eyes wide open and had "assured us that if he knew the possible outcome might be this, he would still go rather than have the option of living to age 50 and never having served his country. Trust us when we tell you that he was quite convincing and persuasive on this point, so that by the end of the conversation we were practically packing his bags and waving him off." This made me relax fractionally, but then they went on to write: "Prior to his deployment he told us he was going to try to contact you from Iraq. He had the idea of being a correspondent from the front-lines through you, and wanted to get your opinion about his journalistic potential. He told us that he had tried to contact you from either Kuwait or Iraq. He thought maybe his e-mail had not reached you … " That was a gash in my hide all right: I think of all the junk e-mail I read every day, and then reflect that his precious one never got to me.

A pity.

Here's one of Lt. Daily's last letters home:

I was having a conversation with a Kurdish man in the city of Dahok (by myself and completely safe) discussing whether or not the insurgents could be viewed as "freedom fighters" or "misguided anti-capitalists." Shaking his head as I attempted to articulate what can only be described as pathetic apologetics, he cut me off and said "the difference between insurgents and American soldiers is that they get paid to take life—to murder, and you get paid to save lives." He looked at me in such a way that made me feel like he was looking through me, into all the moral insecurity that living in a free nation will instill in you. He "oversimplified" the issue, or at least that is what college professors would accuse him of doing.

From a love letter to his now widowed wife:

One thing I have learned about myself since I've been out here is that everything I professed to you about what I want for the world and what I am willing to do to achieve it was true. …

My desire to "save the world" is really just an extension of trying to make a world fit for you.

I have nothing to say that isn't glib and inappropriate to the moment so I'll just say read the whole thing.

Thanks to CJ.


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posted by Ace at 02:12 PM

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