Irving Charles Krauthammer was born on March 13, 1950 in Manhattan, New York, U.S. He was a well respected American political columnist, a political conservative, and a medical doctor. I first read his article in TIME magazine in those years of the Iraq war. He was also a FOX News contributor.
In his first year in medical school at Havard he had a diving board accident which affected his spinal cord and made him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
He spent 14 months in the hospital. And after recovering he went back to medical school to become a medical doctor. He stayed back for his residency programme in psychiatry and eventually became the chief resident. It was during his time as chief resident, he found out about a variant of manic depression (bipolar disorder) which he called “Secondary mania”. He published his findings in the Archives of General Psychiatry. He also coauthored a work on the epidemiology of mania, and was part of those who created the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III in 1980.
But Krauthammer was better known for his political articles in TIME magazine and The Washington Post, articles syndicated to more than 400 newspapers and magazines the world over. His writings won him the Pulitzer Prize.
In October 2002, he wrote why America should go to war in Iraq. He said, “Hawks favor war on the grounds that Saddam Hussein is reckless, tyrannical, and instinctively aggressive, and that if he comes into possession of nuclear weapons in addition to the weapons of mass destruction he already has, he is likely to use them or share them with terrorists. The threat of mass death on a scale never before seen residing in the hands of an unstable madman is intolerable—and must be preempted. Doves oppose war on the grounds that the risks exceed the gains. War with Iraq could be very costly, possibly degenerating into urban warfare.”
A day before the invasion, Krauthammer wrote, “Reformation and reconstruction of an alien culture are a daunting task. Risky and, yes, arrogant.” In February 2003, Krauthammer warned that “it may yet fail. But we cannot afford not to try. There is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the monster behind 9/11. It’s not Osama bin Laden; it is the cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world—oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism,” which I might add violence against the free world which is still on today in many guises.
On April 22, 2003, Krauthammer humbly predicted that he was going to have a “credibility problem” if weapons of mass destruction were not discovered in Iraq within the next five months.
In August 2017, he had a cancerous tumor excised from his abdomen. The surgery was believed to have been successful; however, on June 8, 2018, Krauthammer told the world that his cancer had returned and that doctors had given him only weeks to live. On June 21, 2018 he lost the battle to cancer of the small intestine. He was 68. He left behind a lawyer wife and a son.
Krauthammer, who was also Jewish, had his critics dwelling mostly on his role in the war in
Iraq. After his death one cynically wrote: “A lover of death gets his wish: The very end of his career, Charles Krauthammer was shoving the world as hard as he could toward death. He loved death. Now he has it.”
But a media person once rose to his defence. Krauthammer is “a god in our world.” And that he “is a thoughtful guy, he’s not a bomb thrower, he’s one of the intellectual voices among conservatives.”
I cared less about Krauthammer’s political view, or his role in Iraq. Krauthammer was to me first and foremost a writer. For writers it is not really about their views, but about using letters and words as ingredients to cook a literary meal that is food for the mind. He was much of an inspiration. Friends and those who read my articles always thought I should not have read medicine. They have the erroneous belief that writing should be for journalists, and those who read English or literature. Yet we keep saying medical “literature!” But I am glad there are physician writers like Krauthammer to tell the world that doctors can indeed hold a pen to any other writer. Medicine is an art and so is writing. There have been great physician writers like Hippocrates, Father of modern medicine, Saint Luke, author of one of the gospels, Edward Jenner who introduced smallpox vaccine, Mungo Park who discovered River Niger, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Ronald Ross of malaria, Sigmund Freud of psychoanalysis, and many more.
Again, for all his detractors see in Krauthammer’s role in Iraq, he was “only a writer.” Dwell less on any writer’s views, but more on their mission to live out the art of writing. Death may have halted Krauthammer’s pen, but the words written by him will never be erased in the memories of time.
Dr. Odoemena, medical practitioner, Lagos