Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Perspective: A Skeptical Vietnam Voice Still Echoes in the Fog of Iraq

David Halberstam with the troops in Vietnam.

The news reports streaming out of Vietnam in the fall of 1963 were unsettling to President Kennedy, and in a White House meeting the talk turned to a particularly irritating young reporter named David Halberstam.

“How old is Halberstam?” one of the participants asked, according to a recording unearthed by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

“About 25,” said William Bundy, a presidential adviser. In fact, he was 29.

“He was a reporter when he was in college,” said McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser and a professor at Harvard when Mr. Halberstam was a student there. “So I know exactly what you’ve been up against.”

He laughed. Mr. Halberstam, then working for The New York Times, went on to demonstrate through a series of forceful dispatches that the chaotic reality unfolding on the ground in Vietnam bore little resemblance to the upbeat accounts offered by American presidents and generals who were prosecuting the war. Journalism and, more broadly, the relationship between the American people and their elected servants in Washington, was never the same again.

Read the rest at the NY Times