THE DEATH of Christopher Hitchens last month, at the age of 62, robbed the world of one its most eloquent advocates for freedom and democracy.
He was a man of contradictions: a graduate of British Marxism whose political hero was Thomas Jefferson; in 2000 he described George W. Bush as "unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things", and then vocally supported his re-election against Democrat John Kerry four years later. The victims of his mercilessly caustic pen also included Republican statesman Henry Kissinger, Democratic President Bill Clinton and even Mother Theresa ("She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction").
However one consistent thread running through his seemingly scattergun worldview was his hatred of tyranny and oppression. Indeed, his uncompromising atheism – of which more later – was based on his belief that religion equaled slavery, with God cast as an all-seeing, authoritarian overlord. His socialism was, in his words, "anti-totalitarian" rather than "anti-imperialist". He eschewed the knee-jerk anti-Americanism so prevalent among European leftists, instead supporting US-led military campaigns against ethnic cleansers like Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.