Monday, April 23, 2007

another chance to reflect on the legacy of Vietnam

David Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Vietnam War over forty years ago, was killed in a car crash earlier today. He was 73.

Though Halberstam had not worked as a daily reporter since the late Sixties, his boundless curiosity, his intense work ethic, and his unfailing attention to detail continued to serve as a model for what all journalists should aspire to be. Of course, some found Halberstam’s attention to detail to be more unceasing than unfailing, earning him the not always affectionate nickname “Halberstammer,” but in an age where access is often valued over accountability, and many in the media give the impression that an invitation to the right cocktail party is more rewarding than weeks spent doing the less glamorous detective work that used to be considered the meat and potatoes of investigative journalism, Halberstam’s obsessive voice, stammering or otherwise, will be sorely missed.

For instance, here’s Halberstam’s voice talking about a certain disastrous, bloody, and futile foreign military entanglement:

The crueler the war gets, the crueler the attacks get on anybody who doesn't salute or play the game. And then one day, the people who are doing the attacking look around and they've used up their credibility.

The war David Halberstam is referring to there is not Iraq, it is Vietnam, but his words of warning could echo through the corridors of power today.

Would that anyone in those corridors could hear them. Would that an obsessive Halberstam was still around to repeat them. . . as often as he wanted.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

Update: David Corn says it even better. . . .

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