Cockburn's death was announced on Saturday by Jeffrey St. Clair on the web site CounterPunch he edited together with Cockburn. Cockburn kept his illness secret. He continued writing until he was near death. St. Clair said:
“His body was deteriorating, but his prose remained as sharp, lucid and deadly as ever,”
skills were recognized not only by leftist publications such as 'The Nation' but also by establishment papers such as the Wall Street Journal. Cockburn wrote regular columns for both publications. Cockburn grew up in Ireland and graduated from Oxford University. Cockburn was exposed to leftist journalism quite early. His father Claud Cockburn covered the Spanish Civil War for the communist paper The Daily Worker and even joined the Republican forces.
After working for the Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman in the UK Cockburn moved to the U.S. and became a permanent resident in 1973. He was a columnist for the Nation. Cockburn often feuded with Christopher Hitchens another left wing journalist and UK expatriate. Hitchens also died of cancer but unlike Cockburn did not go quietly into that good night but blogged about it. Cockburn
often refused to follow standard polite protocols. Even in death Hitchens remained the target of Cockburn.
“He courted the label ‘contrarian,’..
“but if the word is to have any muscle, it surely must imply the
expression of dangerous opinions. Hitchens never wrote anything truly
discommoding to respectable opinion and if he had he would never have
enjoyed so long a billet at Vanity Fair.”
Cockburn always stood firmly for whatever he believed
even when that involved going against what a large majority of his leftist friends might think. On global warming he takes a position more often identified with the right rather than the left. This just shows that the distinction between left and right is not that sharp always. Cockburn believes that it has not been proved the warming is caused by human activity.
Cockburn wrote a number of books including "Whiteout:: The CIA, Drugs and the Press" (1998 with Jeffrey St. Clair) and more recently "A Short History of Fear" (2009). Throughout his career Cockburn was an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy starting from U.S. activities in Central America in the 1980's through to the first Gulf War in 1991. Cockburn was critical also of the Kosovo war in 1999, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and also the overthrow of Hussein in 2003.
Cockburn was very critical of the Democratic Party. He believed that the party failed to present a progressive alternative to the Republican Party. He supported Ralph Nader for president in the 2000 and 2004 elections. He has been critical of many regarded as being on the left including Barack Obama, the New York Times, and the liberal establishment in general. Cockburn was best when he exposed with his acidic prose policies that were corrupt or hypocritical on either left or right.