Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, died yesterday after undergoing surgery for a torn aorta. Holbrooke’s record as a government official is long, complex and mixed on many levels, but — based on the last line of his long Washington Post obituary — I just want to flag what his “last words” were according to his family members, which he uttered as he was being sedated for surgery: ”You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”
Ironically, Holbrooke was the author of one of the volumes of the Pentagon Papers — which revealed that government officials knew of the futility of the Vietnam War at the same time they were falsely assuring the public they could win — and Afghanistan seems to be no different. As official Washington rushes forward to lavish praise on Holbrooke’s wisdom and service, undoubtedly they will studiously avoid acknowledging his final insight.
UPDATE: The Obama administration has been busy trying to persuade media outlets that the “context” of Holbrooke’s remarks undercuts the implications of The Washington Post obituary. Decide for yourself.