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War reporter David Halberstam dies in car crash

David Halberstam, an American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, was killed Monday (April 23, 2007) in a traffic accident in Menlo Park, California near the Dumbarton Bridge.

Halberstam, dead. The renowned journalist, whose work for the New York Times on the Vietnam War led many to question the U.S. military presence there, was 73-years-old and was living in New York city. Halberstam recently had finished a book about the Korean War called The Coldest Winter, due out later in 2007. Wonder why the release was delayed. Too bad he is no longer around, to talk about the dumbest war.

Born on April 10, 1934, in New York City, to an army surgeon, Dr. Charles Halberstam, and a schoolteacher, Blanche Levy Halberstam, the versatile author, Halberstam won the Pulitzer Prize at age 30 for his international reporting of the Vietnam War.

Halberstam graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism in 1955 where he achieved the prestigious assignment of managing editor of the Harvard Crimson, the school's daily newspaper, and later, started his career writing for the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi.

In 1960 Halberstam moved to the Nashville Tennessean and the same year left the daily newspaper as a confident reporter and then accepted the position in New York Times. Within three years, during Kennedy era, Halberstam was reporting on the Vietnam War. His reporting on the war annoyed President Kennedy, who asked the New York Times to transfer him to another bureau.

Besides the journalism, he embarked an equally distinguished career as an author. Besides writing books on diverse subjects such as civil rights, the world economy, the auto industry, and the war in Vietnam, he also wrote about sports topics, such as basketball, baseball, and amateur rowing.

"I think the work he was proudest of was his trilogy on war," his wife, Jean said Monday night citing "The Best and the Brightest," the Korean War book, "The Coldest Winter" and a study of U.S. policies in the 1990s called "War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals."

According to David Halberstam, "We're an entertainment society. We want to be entertained more than we want to think. It's a serious problem. We're the most powerful nation in the world, but our network broadcasting is increasingly about celebrity, sex and scandal. It's less about substance than it used to be. It's not as good as it should be. And it makes us a more volatile society. We pay very little attention to the rest of the world, then when the rest of the world doesn't act in concert with us and salute us, we're very angry. We think, how could this happen? Why don't they like us more? We're not paying very much attention."

David Halberstam essentially said that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the September 11 attacks. In his own words:

We are in some ways a much easier target for them, despite our wealth, than they are for us. And that’s a very hard thing for a rich, developed superpower to understand — that our very strength makes us vulnerable. Our strength makes us a target, and it’s hard to respond. There’s a danger that if we use our power carelessly, if we just bomb away, then we’re doing their recruiting and passing the burden on to our children. One of the things that was much more done in the French-Indochina War: a French patrol would go through a village where many of the people were on the fence in the struggle. A Viet Minh solder would kill one French soldier. The French would then open up on the entire village, killing all kinds of people. The French would then leave the village that night, at 6 o’clock, and at 7 o’clock the Viet Minh would arrive to recruit the children of those who had been killed. That’s something we need to be very aware of: to apply power not just with strength, but with wisdom. And we need to be very careful about that.

We will miss David Halberstam. Perhaps, we ought to heed his warnings as well.

In particular, how are we going to resolve the consequences of this quagmire without Halberstam's scathing indictment about American arrogance in Iraq?

David Halberstam said, "In 1968, I had just come back from my second tour in Vietnam. I was deeply depressed by it. We had 500,000 troops there. We were inflicting on this small Asian country the heaviest bombing in the history of mankind. And I had a profound sense that in fact the war was over. It didn't work. I was also deeply dissatisfied with my own reporting. I had done well, won the right prizes, but I had not done well enough for myself. I had too many questions still to answer. It was at the cutting edge of—between being a journalist and a reporter. After I came back, in the fall of '67, and I'd spent 1968, which was an enormously explosive, volatile year, I'd spent that covering the domestic repercussions of the war back in America." Why didn't Richard Nixon listen?

Those of you who pretend to write history or who would like to write history can benefit from what David Halberstam said, just days before he died. In his own words: "Reporters are charged traditionally with "who, what, why, when, where." I think the most important question, as you go towards being a historian, is why. Why do things happen? Why do they not happen? What are the forces at play? And that's really, I think, what put me out of the routine of daily journalism. This is not just a book you do. This is part of your own education. This is a great, great gift you get from this life. And that is the chance to be paid to learn. I mean, what defines your life at the end of it when you hit 70 or even a few years more is love and friendship and family and things you've done. But I think it's the education and the ability to spend, what is now 52 years, learning every day. Going out every day and asking questions and coming away with just a little bit more knowledge. What a blessing. And each book was really like a graduate school. I'd enter graduate school for four years and learn this and go on to the next one and learn something more."

Whatever you read through us, is about "why".

Sauveur Pironti November 22, 1963: After being struck in the back of the neck from an almost horizontal position, the Zapruder film shows Kennedy clutching at his throat, just before Sarti fired the single fatal shot... President Kennedy was murdered because Johnson and Nixon opposed his plans.
Roger Bocognani

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