Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Homage To A Fallen Comrade: Mark Daily, 22

UPDATE: Hitchens on Daily, on NPR.
Much has been said about America's intentions in overthrowing Saddam Hussein and seeking to establish a new state based upon political representation and individual rights. . . anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me). I joined the fight because it occurred to me that many modern day "humanists" who claim to possess a genuine concern for human beings throughout the world are in fact quite content to allow their fellow "global citizens" to suffer under the most hideous state apparatuses and conditions. Their excuses used to be my excuses.

That's from Mark Daily's own account of why he enlisted in order to join the fight in Iraq. Although I was and more or less remain in the "anti-war" camp on the Iraq question (although it's been a moot and wholly obsolete position since the day the bombs started falling), I have yet to read anything in the entire body of American anti-war literature that comes anywhere near Marks' essay as an expression of principled idealism and internationalism.

Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot? …
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house lay wrecked?

That's the horrible question the Irish poet William Butler Yeats asked of himself following the Easter Rising of 1916, and it's the question the essayist Christopher Hitchens confronted after learning that Daily reached his decision to take up arms in Iraq after reading Hitchens' own arguments favoring the Anglo-American overthrow of Iraq's Baathist tyranny. Daily died a hero's death. Hitchens' essay is, among other things, a fine and moving homage to Daily, and to his family:

On a drive to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and again shortly before shipping out from Fort Bliss, Texas, Mark had told his father that he had three wishes in the event of his death. He wanted bagpipes played at the service, and an Irish wake to follow it. And he wanted to be cremated, with the ashes strewn on the beach at Neskowin, Oregon, the setting for his happiest memories of boyhood vacations. The first two of these conditions had already been fulfilled. The Dailys rather overwhelmed me by asking if I would join them for the third one. So it was that in August I found myself on the dunes by an especially lovely and remote stretch of the Oregon coastline. . .

To the Daily family and everyone like them: Maireann croi eadrom i bhfad. Tiocfaidh Ár Lá.

Mark liked the Murphys. So do I. Here they are:




13 Comments:

Blogger dirk buchholz said...

To bad the war in Iraq had nothing to do with such sentiments.
The point of your post being ?

2:27 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

The point being these sentiments were precisely what it was about for Mark Daily.
What is it about that point that was so hard for you to get?

3:13 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

"nothing to do with such sentiments..."

What charmingly naive absolutism! Are you trying to escape from the reality-based community?

11:45 PM  
Blogger dirk buchholz said...

As much as I feel for Mark's family.That fact is he died needlessly in a war his country had no business launching.
His death was needless,and will in the end have meant nothing(of course though,it means something to his family and I bet his suffering mother)
That the young fellow believed he was fighting to liberate others,well what can I say.

Any examination of the facts would should have "convinced" the kid that the invasion had nothing to do with liberation(but I was 22 once also.so I can understand youthful enthusiasm).
At the time most Americans also believed Saddam had something to do with 911.Many people believe...
Anybody who signs up or volunteers to go off killing for the empire better have a damn good reason for killing.Talking other peoples word for it is not reason enough,at least not in my book.
Sorry but Iraq was not in anyway justified.The hundreds of thousands of deaths(Marks included) of mostly innocents is just not worth it.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Grayson said...

A moving post Terry.

Dirk perhaps you could explain
" the invasion had nothing to do with liberation"
in light of the Kurds?

Not saying that lots has gone wrong but your post hoc certainty is unseemly in reagrds to such an OP.

5:50 AM  
Blogger Dr. Meshabob said...

http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/the-death-of-mark-daily/

1:26 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Would it be stating the obvious to say that Hitchens is presenting this young man as a metaphor for the entire war, and looking for a form of redemption for his part in encouraging it?

It's the closest I've seen so far from Hitchens that would demonstrate some self-doubt and sadness on the issue.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Ah, here's DPU, as saucy and provocative as ever. Welcome back.

Your characterization of Hitchens' essay does not state the obvious. I'd grant you it would be reasonable to infer a metaphorical place for Daily in Hitchens' understanding of the struggle, but I think you'd have to agree that redemption isn't something Hitchens , of all people, should be expected to desire.

One thing that really bothers me about the debates these things set off (not meaning you, DPU, or Dirk, or my other detractors here, by the way), is the cheapness, the pettiness, of the responses Hitchens' essays often elicit.

The guy is HL Mencken, for pity's sake. He's Evelyn Waugh.

Now, I'm not expecting you to share my deep respect for his talents as a polemicist and a critic, but people who pretend he's not one of the most arresting, engaging, forceful and important essayists of our time. . . they're just not worth paying any attention to. They don't deserve to be taken seriously. They have no idea how shallow and silly they sound.

End of rant.

As you were.

4:05 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Hitchens is a great writer, and I never pass up an opportunity to read one of his articles. I do, of course, disagree with much of what he has to say, especially when referring to people like myself as objectively pro-fascist, or some other slur that I think not deserved, and I suspect that is the source of much of the antagonism that you refer to.

Whether or not this particular piece is a metaphor or not, it's quite moving.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Hi DPU.

RE "referring to people like myself as objectively pro-fascist." You sure you're not confusing Hitchens with Orwell here?

The original assertion by Orwell has an interesting pedigree and denouement, by the way. Orwell was called to account for the characterization by the anarchist (and British Columbian literary figure) George Woodcock, and Orwell later stepped back a few paces from his initial claim; Woodcock and Orwell then struck up an affectionate correspondence that lasted some while.

There is an element in the contemporary "antiwar movement" that should be understood as objectively pro-fascist, unfortunately. But it's not a term I would want to toss around too casually.

7:57 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

You sure you're not confusing Hitchens with Orwell here?

Nope. I think that occasionally Hitchens may confuse Hitchens with Orwell, but I keep them somewhat distinct.

Early in the Iraq adventure, Hitchens invoked Orwell when denouncing those opposed to the war, ignoring some of the differences between to two situations.

There is an element in the contemporary "antiwar movement" that should be understood as objectively pro-fascist, unfortunately. But it's not a term I would want to toss around too casually.

Then you are far more thoughtful than CH. Yes, there is an element of the anti-war movement that is reflexively opposed to either any military activity, any American activity, or, especially, the two combined. But Hitchens was dismissing all opposition to the war. He never addressed some of the more difficult-to-argue-with points, at least in my reading of him.

7:37 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

The original assertion by Orwell has an interesting pedigree and denouement, by the way. Orwell was called to account for the characterization by the anarchist (and British Columbian literary figure) George Woodcock, and Orwell later stepped back a few paces from his initial claim; Woodcock and Orwell then struck up an affectionate correspondence that lasted some while.

I've been meaning to pick up a copy of Woodcock's The Crystal Spirit for a few years now. I just noticed that Black Rose Books seems to have reprinted it.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

DPU:
This is well worth putting your feet up sometime and watching:
http://tinyurl.com/3cm5z5

It's Hitchens, David Rieff, Michael Walzer and Harold Ko in a sweeping and expansive discussion on the eve of the Iraq war.

It well demonstrates the complexity and thoughtfulness of the debate among certain principled people of the left prior to the war, as opposed to the caricature of the "pro-war left" so commonplace these days.

For whatever it's worth, my only hard and firm opinion on the Iraq question is that any Bush-led overthrow of Saddam was doomed to go horribly wrong, so Canada was quite right to stay out of it - but that the "antiwar" position was obsolete the minute the bombs starting falling. From that moment, whatever allegiance I harboured towards the American left was eclipsed by what I considered a much more important duty of solidarity owed the Iraqi left (particularly the PUK).

8:18 AM  

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