Tuesday, April 24, 2007

David Halberstam

In all the tributes to legendary journalist David Halberstam, who died in a car crash on Monday, Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute explained Halberstam in Halberstam's own words, quoting a piece Halberstam wrote in 1965 for Commentary:

No one becomes a reporter to make friends, but neither is it pleasant in a situation like the war in Vietnam to find yourself completely at odds with the views of the highest officials of your country. The pessimism of the Saigon press corps was of the most reluctant kind: many of us came to love Vietnam, we saw our friends dying all around us, and we would have liked nothing better than to believe the war was going well and that it would eventually be won. But it was impossible for us to believe those things without denying the evidence of our own senses.... And so we had no alternative but to report the truth....

Clark then brings it home:

This testimony from Halberstam was crucial because it undercut a competing narrative: that young, radical reporters in the 1960s took their counter-cultural lenses to Vietnam war with them and viewed the war through pink-colored glasses.

"The job of the reporters in Vietnam," wrote Halberstam, "was to report the news, whether or not the news was good for America. To the ambassadors and generals, on the other hand, it was crucial that the news be good, and they regarded any other interpretation as defeatist and irresponsible."

In today's political climate, given the war in Iraq, the phrase "whether or not the news was good for America" is worth lingering on. At the time, it was that type of sentiment that inspired columnists such as Joseph Alsop to accuse Halberstam and the other "young crusaders" of being soft on Communism, and therefore disloyal to the American cause.

A half century has passed, and, on the day of Halberstam's death, we find ourselves in a similar position: On whether or not to believe government and military claims of progress in Iraq; on whether the press corps has ignored the "good things" that have come out of this conflict; on whether journalists place their career ambitions above the good of the country and the safety of soldiers who fight on its behalf.

Halberstam was the model. People like to say that in truth there is power. Unfortunately, sometimes that's a false cliché. Halberstam was a journalist who made it real.

Posted by David Corn at April 24, 2007 11:08 AM


Robert S said...

And so we had no alternative but to report the truth.... David Halberstam

Compare that sentiment to the media of today.

Tillman's brother: Reports of 'heroic death' were 'deliberate and calculated lies'
Michael Roston
Published: Tuesday April 24, 2007

In a major hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the brother of deceased Army Specialist Pat Tillman, who appears to have been a victim of friendly fire, said that reports of his brother's 'heroic death' were "deliberate and calculated lies."

"These were intentional falsehoods that meet the legal definition for fraud," said Kevin Tillman, who served alongside his brother in the Army Rangers in Afghanistan.

Tillman testified alongside his mother, Mary, at a hearing on "Misleading Information from the Battlefield." Pat Tillman had been a safety for the Arizona Cardinals who turned down a contract extension in 2002 to enlist in the US Army Rangers.

Also at the hearing was Jessica Lynch, the Army Private whose tales of heroism were exaggerated in the aftermath of her capture and subsequent recuse from an Iraqi hospital in March and April 2003.

Lynch criticized the media for making too much of her heroism.

"My parent’s home in Wirt County [West Virginia] was under siege of the media all repeating the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills who went down fighting. It was not true," she said. "The truth of war is not always easy to hear but it's always more heroic than the hype."

Lynch, who still suffers from many injuries inflicted during her ordeal in Iraq, showed a quiet and reserved manner distinct from the Tillmans, who made it clear that they were pursuing truth and justice.

Kevin Tillman set the scene, arguing that the image of America's military campaign in Iraq was bruised after the US tactical defeat in Falluja, the Abu Ghraib scandal, and the call-up of 20,000 additional American troops to fight in Iraq.

"The media accounts, based on information provided by the Army and White House, were wreathed in a patriotic glow," he said of reporting on the circumstances of his brother's death.

"This was a terrible tragedy that might have further undermined support for the war in Iraq, and was instead transformed into a message," to build support for the war he argued.

When quizzed by one Republican Congressman, Darrell Issa of California, if there was any evidence of a conspiracy to falsify details of the Army Specialist's death, Tillman answered without any doubt.

"The evidence is leading to a point, which is why we came to your committee sir," Kevin Tillman responded.

Referring to the 'disconnect' between the stories told of Tillman's death and the truth about its circumstances, his brother said more investigation was needed.

"Based on how a lot of these wars are perception based, it's imperative that the committee take a look," Tillman argued. "[Politicians were] the ones who ultimately benefited from that story."

When Specialist Tillman's mother, Mary, was asked what gaps there were in the public record, she pointed to the large ring binder sitting on the table in front of her.

"See this binder?" she said to Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA).


Robert S said...

Hypocrisy: Thy Name Is Bush
By Robert Parry (A Special Report)
April 21, 2007


Only after Posada called a news conference to announce his presence was the Bush administration shamed into arresting him. But even then, the administration balked at sending Posada back to Venezuela where the government of Hugo Chavez – unlike some of its predecessors – was eager to prosecute.

At a U.S. immigration hearing in 2005, Posada’s defense attorney called as a witness a Posada friend who alleged that Venezuela’s government practices torture. Bush administration lawyers didn’t challenge the claim, leading the immigration judge to bar Posada’s deportation to Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez accused the Bush administration of applying “a cynical double standard” in the “war on terror.”

“The United States presents itself as a leader against terrorism, invades countries, restricts the civil rights of Americans in order to fight terrorism, but when it is about its own terrorists, it denies that they be tried,” Alvarez said.

As for the claim that Venezuela practices torture, Alvarez said, “There isn’t a shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela.” Alvarez added that the claim was particularly ironic given widespread press accounts that the Bush administration has abused prisoners at the U.S. military base in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Posada-Bosch cases point to one unavoidable and unpleasant conclusion: that the Bush family regards terrorism – defined as killing civilians for a political reason – as justified or at least tolerable in cases when their interests match those of the terrorists.

Terrorism is only a moral evil to the Bushes when the violence against civilians clashes with the Bush family’s interests.

This blatant hypocrisy often has been aided and abetted by the U.S. news media, which intuitively understands the double standard and acts accordingly. The U.S. press corps downplays or ignores cases in which terrorism has connections to U.S. government officials – and especially to the Bush family.


Any fair rendition of the history of the US in Latin America cannot but include terror, torture, death squads and the like, for the benefit of US corporate interests. The Bush WAR ON TERROR is a fallacy of big lie proportions.

And so we had no alternative but to report the truth.... David Halberstam


capt said...

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