Sep 5, 2009 5:46 EDT
TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) - Christopher E. Hitchens, the celebrated journalist, essayist and literary critic whose over 30-year career spanned styles, continents and political ideologies, died today during a combined Allied air strike on a reported insurgent stronghold on the outskirts of the city. He was 60.
Hitchens, whose well-read works ranged from tabloid-like coverage of American culture to almost academic books on the nature of politics and religion, was in the region at an American Air Force base in neighboring Kuwait as part of his "Glorious War Tour" while promoting his most recent book Regan: Grace in Crisis.
After emigrating from his native England, where he received a degree at Oxford University, to the United States in 1981, Hitchens worked for a wide variety of publications including The Nation, The Independent, Spy, Vanity Fair and Shock. Hitchen's style and focus was almost unavoidably political and inflammatory, usually consisting of reasoned, if inordinately impassioned attacks on various ideologies (fascism, liberalism, Islamism) or public figures (Noam Chomsky, St. Teresa of Calcutta, Henry Kissinger). In one of political literature's more discussed sea changes, Hitchens, once a liberal Trotskyite, publicly converted to a personalized form of neoconservatism in response to various grievances with the foreign policies of the first Clinton administration. His altered stance was only hardened after the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001.
Recent months had seen him softening his position on liberalism and openly supporting President Clinton's current campaign in Iran.
During this, his third trip to the region in as many months, Hitchens had been seen enjoying his free time in the company of pilots and loading crews of the 4404th Air Expeditionary Wing stationed here at Ali Al Salem Air Base. It appears that last night Hitchens managed to convince the crew of a B52-H to take him on board for it night mission over the pockmarked edges of Iran's former capital.
While details remain unconfirmed, it appears, through a released night-vision photo, that Hitchens climbed atop one of the larger conventional warheads in the B52-H's bomb bay only seconds before the crew released its payload on target. The Air Force has launched a full investigation and an unnamed Defense Department official stated on the condition of anonymity that he expects the crew to face disciplinary charges calling the incident, "an egregious lapse in battlefield judgment."
Hitchens is survived by his wife, Carol Blue, their daughter Antonia, and two other children, Alexander and Sophia, from a pervious marriage.