Wednesday, April 25, 2007

David Halberstam 1934-2007

David Halberstam passed away the other day. You youngsters might not have heard of him, but I sure have. He was at first a supporter of the Vietnam War, but as time went by and he saw what was going on, he turned against it. His most famous work was "The Best and the Brightest" about those who got us into it. The first book of his I read was "One Very Hot Day", written in '67, about a combat patrol he went out on. From his bio:

Thousands of readers began The Best and the Brightest feeling that the U.S. must pursue the war in Vietnam until "victory" was achieved, but became convinced by Halberstam's book that the U.S. could not win and therefore should withdraw from Vietnam.

I think you see what I'm gettin' at here. His words ring oh so true today as well.

From "A Letter To My Daughter" by Mr. Halberstam in 1982:

I do not think I was alone in what I went through in those years. I think I was simply a part of a great national interior debate taking place throughout the country; we were reexamining not just America in Vietnam, but America itself. If we doubted that we were in the right war, or even on the right side, it did not mean that we loved our country any less. If anything, knowing America's faults and imperfections, perhaps I love it more than your grandfather and great-grandfather, for perhaps I love it more wisely. During all those years, I kept on my desk a small quote from Albert Camus which he had written during France's war in Algeria: "I should like to be able to love my country and love justice."

I have thought long and hard about Vietnam over the last 20 years, for something like this does not lightly leave you, and I have decided that the true innocents are not those - as Washington would have it - who are afraid to use force and thus do not understand the real world, but in fact those who still think that in this day and age we can impose our values and our will upon peasants by force. And your godfather was right: I wish in fact that someone had shown me a photo of Vietcong bodies and I had cried.

Anyone who thinks we're "over" Vietnam isn't paying attention, but we will be thinking long and hard over the next twenty years, maybe over the next generation or two, about Bush's Criminal War as well. It's going to hurt. The slight difference will be that those who started it are far from the 'Best' and nowhere near the 'Brightest'. This time, they're pure evil, arrogance, and incompetence.

Why can't people who are supposed to know about these things ever learn from history?

It's a rhetorical question, but the answer is they don't want or need to because the lessons of history don't apply to them because they're special.

Yeah, right.

So long, Mr. Halberstam. Ya done good.

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