Tuesday, December 14

No egg on face here in Punditaland re Holbrooke's last words

At 7:50 PM ET The Washington Post published something close to a retraction regarding their report late last night that described Richard Holbrooke's last words. The first report:
As Mr. Holbrooke was sedated for surgery, family members said, his final words were to his Pakistani surgeon: "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."
Tonight's clarification from the Post:
[...] But Tuesday, a fuller account of the tone and contents of his remarks emerged.

As physician Jehan El-Bayoumi was attending to Holbrooke in the emergency room at George Washington University Hospital, she told him to relax and asked what she could do to comfort him, according to an aide who was present.

Holbrooke, who was in severe pain, said jokingly that it was hard to relax because he had to worry about the difficult situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

El-Bayoumi, an Egyptian American internist who is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's physician, replied that she would worry for him. Holbrooke responded by telling her to end the war, the aide said.

The aide said he could not be sure of Holbrooke's exact words. He emphasized Tuesday that the comment was made in painful banter, rather than as a serious exhortation about policy.

Holbrooke also spoke extensively about his family and friends as he awaited surgery by Farzad Najam, a thoracic surgeon of Pakistani descent. [...]
Tonight's report goes on to mention that the first version of Holbrooke's last words was seized on by critics of the Afghan War and interpreted differently by different people.

I made no attempt to interpret his words when I posted the first report, observing sagely that Holbrooke "took to his grave exactly what he meant by his last words, which could be read in different ways." I then turned to a discussion of a point about Holbrooke's approach to Pakistan that was well-established.

I will not labor the obvious by detailing parables that could be wrung from the tale of those who used the words of a dying man to serve their own ends. Except to note that 99.9 percent of Afghan War analysts are idiots.

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