I used to talk with Christopher Hitchens from time to time between 2003 and 2010. But as in the case of most who knew him, I was an acquaintance of someone with far more acquaintances than I had. So while his company stood out to me, I am sure that mine did not to him to the same degree. With that now-customary Hitchens prooimion out of the way, I continue with what I recall of him.
I was once in extremis with a ruptured appendix and peritonitis in Libya. I could make only one call before the ad hoc operation, and I left a brief message for my wife and son to give them the grim prognosis. For reasons I never quite fathomed, in desperation late at night they called one number of the many written on my desk: Christopher Hitchens. When I awoke after the operation in a dingy Tripoli Red Crescent clinic, there soon arrived a Libyan-American neurosurgeon (by happenstance there on vacation) to insist on proper antibiotics (hard to find then in Qaddafi’s Libya); later I was visited by the newly arrived American chargé d’affaires. Back home, I gathered that their presence somehow was the result of various phone calls Christopher made, though to whom and when he never quite disclosed. Later he told me only — in connection with the struggle in Iraq — “Anyone stupid enough to keep supporting these incompetent bastards in Washington deserves a second chance to be stupid enough to keep supporting these incompetent bastards in Washington.” Note here that Hitchens felt by 2006 that the Bush administration had botched the occupation, but that fact was no reason for him to abandon them or it — given what was at stake.
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