Halberstam's Death an Excuse to Dwell on Ominous Iraq-Vietnam Parallels

Reporter Dexter Filkins, back from Iraq, penned "A Skeptical Vietnam Voice Still Echoes in the Fog of Iraq," an "Appraisal" of Vietnam War-era journalist David Halberstam, killed this week in a car wreck.

AsWednesday's headline implied, Filkins linked Halberstam's famous reporting from Vietnam (encapsulated in the book "The Best and the Brightest") to the Iraq War and what Filkins considered to beominous parallels between official misinformation divvied outabout Vietnam and Iraq.

"During four years of war in Iraq, American reporters on the ground in Baghdad have often found themselves coming under criticism remarkably similar to that which Mr. Halberstam endured: those journalists in Baghdad, so said the Bush administration and its supporters, only reported the bad news. They were dupes of the insurgents. They were cowardly and unpatriotic. Indeed, reporters who filed dispatches pointing out the pitfalls experienced by American troops sometimes found it difficult to secure an embed with an American military unit. Other reporters - including this one - were sometimes excluded from official briefings inside the Green Zone."


"In another incident in 1963, Mr. Halberstam filed an article about a series of arrests staged by the Saigon government that was flatly contradicted by the State Department in Washington. After much debate, editors at The Times decided to run two articles on its front page - one from Washington, based on the State Department's version, and the other from Mr. Halberstam. 'Three days later,' Mr. Sheehan wrote, 'other events forced the State Department to admit that the official version had been wrong.'

"Similar clashes between the Bush administration and the press have unfolded during the war in Iraq, particularly in its early phases. In late 2003 and early 2004, as security around Iraq was deteriorating, reporters in Iraq were sometimes mystified by the rosy briefings they were given inside the Green Zone. In the streets where they lived and worked, they witnessed car bombings and assassinations, while the spokesmen for the Bush administration talked mostly about smiling Iraqis and freshly painted schools."