Sunday, July 6, 2008


Unpacking Hitchens

In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and —- as you might expect —- inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.

Christopher Hitchens describes waterboarding in the way only a great writer can ("a huge, wet paw... suddenly and annihilatingly clamped..."). Surely though, there is something pompous about "Graydon Carter [asking] writer Christopher Hitchens if he would be willing to subject himself to the form of torture known as waterboarding" -- as if Vanity Fair was proposing to host a sommelier's sip-off of Istrian upstarts. But this is often how Hitchens is delivered to your doorstep: ensconced in a cheese paper wrap of boomer pretension. In turn I think this overlays a greater flaw: Hitchens' inadequate public reckoning with his support for Bush's Iraq war. George Packer unpacks this and more here.

From Andrew Sullivan.

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