Christopher Hitchens died yesterday, at the far-too-young age of 62.
Matt Labash offers up one of the first of what will surely be a tidal wave of encomiums from Hitchens' vast list of friends (and enemies). Labash recalls Hitchens leading a rag-tag band of reporters from Kuwait into Iraq during the first Gulf War:
At the first checkpoint, we were turned back by a British Air Force policeman who told us passage was unthinkable due to security reasons. Hitchens was incensed. “Security is only a word, but it’s not a reason, is it?” When we wished to talk to the head Kuwaiti in charge, our efforts to bribe him were met with cool resistance, and our yellow-bellied driver breached his contract and turned back. We made it onto a humanitarian run the next morning, rolling down the Highway of Death, while being periodically pulled over and delayed for hours as the Kuwaitis—worshippers of all things bureaucratic—kept demanding we fill out more paperwork declaring our affiliations. “Who wants to know?” barked Hitchens, castigating reporter colleagues for complying like sheep, while pointing out particularly egregious offenders: “Look at him, reading the list upside down. Do you sign anything they put in front of you? You’ve got to push back hard or you’ll get too used to being pushed around.”
Steve Green and I have had a running bet for years regarding which one of us would manage to go drinking with Hitchens first. Sadly, we--along with those of any ideology or religion who love great writing and admire the mighty of heart--both lost.
UPDATE: Speaking of Steve, he knocked it out of the park today.