Friday, August 26, 2005

Admiring the vicious dictator

I have long wondered why David Halberstam isn't considered a left-wing hack. In the last year or so, he was on C-Span with Ben Bradlee doing a community event in a DC hotel which looked (what I saw of it) like a lefty wack-fest on Iraq and Bush. Recently, I was trying to research a post about Robert McNamara and the planned obsolescence which ruined Ford before JFK gave him the Defense Dept to ruin so I went googling for Halberstam and his book about it. My recollection was that Halberstam was so appalled by the idiocy of McNamara and his Vietnam strategies that he then researched and wrote about the "whiz kid" lunacy that did so much damage to Ford. Remember that he used the title "The Best and the Brightest" as irony.

Anyway, I came across an interview that Halberstam gave in the late 80s where he describes Vietnam as simply a war where the Vietnamese people were fighting against American efforts to keep it as a colony. This is the kind of stuff one might have expected during the war from an American journalist who admitted he was close friends with a Vietnamese journalist for Time who turned out to be a communist spy. But not after we had all the history which followed the war. It was as if he had turned off his brain when he left Vietnam and refused to let any new facts in.

Geitner Simmons has a post which I found enlightening. It has this exerpt from Michael Lind's book which may explain a lot:
Similar undisguised admiration for the communists pervades David Halberstam's Ho (1971). Halberstam's book is perhaps the most sympathetic portrait of a Stalinist dictator ever penned by a reputable American journalist identified with the liberal rather than the radical left.

In Ho, Halberstam omits any mention of the repression or atrocities of Ho Chi Minh's regime. For example, Halberstam writes that in August 1945, "the Vietminh had in one quick stroke taken over the nationalism of the country, that Ho had achieved the legitimacy of power."

From reading Halberstam, one would never guess that in 1945-46 Ho's deputy Giap carried out a reign of terror in which thousands of the leading noncommunist nationalists in territory controlled by Ho's regime were assassinated, executed, imprisoned, or exiled.

Halberstam condemns the repression carried out by the Saigon regime ... Of the far more severe repression in North Vietnam, there is not a word in Halberstam's book.

The Maoist-inspired terror of collectivization in the mid-fifties, in which at least ten-thousand North Vietnamese were summarily executed because they belonged to the wrong "class," is not mentioned. Nor is the anticommunist peasant rebellion that followed; nor the deployment of the North Vietnamese military to crush the peasants; nor the succeeding purge of North Vietnamese intellectuals; nor the fact that almost ten times as many Vietnamese, during the brief period of resettlement, fled from communist rule as left South Vietnam for the North.

The equivalent of Halberstam's book would be a flattering biography of Stalin that praised his leadership during World War II while omitting any mention of the gulag, the purges, and the Ukrainian famine ...

More grist for Robert Conquest's mill. There are none so blind ...


Post a Comment

<< Home