by George Eaton, New Statesman, November 24, 2011
The second notable intervention came from Hitchens himself. “More Bosnia, less Iraq,” he wrote in a text message to Fry. It felt as if he was trying to edit his own obituary. As he told the New Statesman, though he is unrepentant about his support for the invasion of Iraq and believes that history will vindicate him, he does not want to be “defined by it”. His reference to Bosnia was an attempt to place his support for the war in the context of a wider commitment to anti-totalitarianism. It was also a reminder that he supported a war that saved Muslim lives, rather than ended them.
Hitchens was already preoccupied with his legacy when I interviewed him. He spoke of his desire to write a memoir before it was “too late”, almost as if he knew even then that something was wrong. Now, as he prepares for death, he is determined to ensure that he is not remembered simply as a “lefty who turned right” or as a contrarian and provocateur. Throughout his career, he has retained a commitment to the Enlightenment values of reason, secularism and pluralism. His targets - Mother Teresa, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, God - are chosen not at random, but rather because they have offended one or more of these principles.
The tragedy of Hitchens’s illness is that it came at a time when he enjoyed a larger audience than ever. Of his tight circle of friends - Amis, Fenton, McEwan, Rushdie - Hitchens was the last to gain international renown, yet he is now read more widely than any of them. The great polemicist is certain to be remembered, but, as he is increasingly aware, perhaps not as he would like.