Thursday, July 05, 2007

David Halberstam was my hero...

He was prolix, some of his books are better than others, he was obviously a larger-than-life personality who took up a lot of psycho-emotional space, but damn could he write, and damn did he have balls.

Peter Arnett (another old-school correspondent, whose modern heir is the great Christiane Amanpour) told a story of being assaulted on the streets of Saigon around 1963 by the White Mice, the infamous white-helmeted South Vietnam-government military police, after he took photos of them brutalizing Buddhist monks protesting Diem's regime. In Arnett's own description, Halberstam, who despite a patrician, bespectacled appearance, stood over 6'4", waded into the melee and said "Listen, you fucks, you keep your hands off him or I'll beat the shit out of you." David Halberstam was not going to be intimidated by a bunch of punk-ass street thugs in military uniforms.

Halberstam was killed in April in California when a car in which he was riding was T-boned, but he gets off one last devastating broadside at the same fascist greed-heads he'd fought ever since the Sixties. In an article to be published posthumously by Vanity Fair, here he talks about the Boy King's delusional self-identification with the great Harry Truman:

President Bush lives in a world where in effect it is always the summer of 1945, the Allies have just defeated the Axis, and a world filled with darkness for some six years has been rescued by a new and optimistic democracy, on its way to becoming a superpower. His is a world where other nations admire America or damned well ought to, and America is always right, always on the side of good, in a world of evil, and it's just a matter of getting the rest of the world to understand this...

The president tends to drop off in his history lessons after World War II, especially when we get to Vietnam and things get a bit murkier. Had he made any serious study of our involvement there, he might have learned that the sheer ferocity of our firepower created enemies of people who were until then on the sidelines, thereby doing our enemies' recruiting for them.
Even in death, David Halberstam was not going to be intimidated by Texas Air National Guard deserters and five-deferment Dicks "with other priorities," either.

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He was a real warrior.

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