Charlie isn't sure how Abu Muqawama feels about Christopher Hitchens, but she's always been rather conflicted about him. Is he the most irritating ex-pat British commentator this side of Andrew Sullivan? Or is he the most literate enfant terrible of our day? Maybe both. Perhaps some of her deep ambivalence derives from his witch's brew of righteous indignation and masterful prose. He can draw you in despite yourself.
But none of that prepares your for his most recent piece (free, online) in Vanity Fair--a gut-wrenching-sucker-punch if ever there was one. (Charlie has now been brought to tears by it on three separate occasions.) Hitch tells the story of a UCLA honors grad who joined the Army upon graduation, partially as a result of reading one of his columns. In his own words Lt. Mark Daily joined with full knowledge of the dangers in Iraq:
Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).…
For those concerned with the growing civil-military divide in America, he could be the poster child of an ideal recruit. Smart, deft, eager, and dedicated, he is exactly who we say we want in the Army today. Lt. Daily was killed by an IED in Mosul in January of this year. And while his death is no more or less tragic than the other 3,000 of this war, it hurts in a different way.
Upon reading Hitch's mournful recounting, Charlie felt much the same way as she did up on learning of the death of Andy Bacevich, Jr. in May. Hollow and unworthy. Perhaps it is because she knows these boys...not them personally, but the others like them who instead of going to law school or Wall Street go to Benning and Quantico. Boys she taught, boys she mentored, boys she loved. Boys who might not come home.
At the end of the article Hitchens notes the lines from Macbeth he was invited to read at the family's private memorial service, alongside the family's other words of remembrance. He concludes far better than I:
Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell's when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, "I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for."
Amen. And Semper Fi.