Watch me on NewsNight analyzing President-Elect Obama’s new national security team by clicking here.
Archive for the ‘Seth Gitell’ Category
Watch me on NECN NewsNight tonight at 8. The topic is the Obama transition.
For this Veterans Day, I’ve decided to post some of my pieces during the last few years on the contributions those who serve our country in the military.
Early in my tenure at the New York Sun, I did a column on Harvard’s Memorial Hall and the military contributions of Ivy League graduates.
Here’s the story of Tung Nguyen, a former Vietnamese refugee who came to America and gave his life as a Green Beret in Iraq. (The link is not to the New York Sun, where the story was first published, as I am having problems with the site.)
He was born the year of the Tet Offensive, the great turning point in Vietnam on two fronts: It was the year the Viet Cong expended the bulk of its resources turning the conflict from an insurgency to a war more directly executed by the North Vietnamese army. It also marked the moment when the American public, surprised by the enemy offensive on Saigon, and elsewhere throughout the country, began to lose heart in the struggle.
Eight months before Nguyen’s birth, in October, Special Forces Company D, headquartered in his hometown of Cantho, fought off an attack. The elite soldiers, the Green Berets, who defended Cantho did so under the Special Forces motto “de oppresso liber,” which is a fancy Latin phrase meaning “to free the oppressed.”
The Special Forces were among the first Americans to fight and die in Vietnam. President Kennedy believed that these unconventional troops could be an important tool in the fight against communism. He visited the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1961, an institution that took Kennedy’s name after his assassination two years later.
I also wrote about Bruce Crandall, a helicopter pilot at the Vietnamese battle of Ia Drang, who save hundreds of lives and received the Medal of Honor.
Colonel Walter Marm, retired, who received the Medal of Honor in 1966, knows about courage. He was the young lieutenant who charged a North Vietnamese machine gun fortified in a rock-hard anthill to help rescue the lost platoon in the Battle of Ia Drang in November 1965. But when enemy fire tore through his jaw, Mr. Marm had to rely upon the heroism of helicopter pilots to get him out of harm’s way.
When I spoke to Colonel Marm on Saturday morning, he was getting ready to head to Washington, where President Bush presented the Medal of Honor at the White House yesterday to the retired [L]ieutenant [C]olonel, Bruce Crandall, who served as a life line to American forces at the battle.
Colonel Crandall, who was then a major, was the tip of the spear for a new American way of war. He served as a helicopter pilot in the reconstituted 1st Cavalry Division.
In what was a grand experiment to expand the mobility of America’s armed forces, military planners transformed a defunct traditional cavalry unit into a symbol of the country’s high-tech struggle against communism in South Vietnam, albeit one that still needed pilots to put their lives on the line. …
Today, it’s easy to envision the ignoble American evacuation from Saigon in 1975 and perceive the entire struggle in Vietnam as a sweeping defeat. But think about that 10-year delay, to which the American soldiers who fought and died at Ia Drang contributed. During that time, neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia, were able to strengthen themselves and stabilize.
Aside from Cambodia, which was a victim of North Vietnamese aggression, the feared Domino Theory, the idea that the fall of one pro-Western government would be followed by a rapid chain of others in Southeast Asia, never took place in part because of the American effort in Vietnam. It didn’t look like a victory back then, but, in the long view, history sees things differently.
In Massachusetts earlier this month, a horse-drawn hearse carried the flag-draped casket of another helicopter pilot, a casualty of today’s war. Captain Jennifer Harris of the United States Marine Corps was brought to her final resting place in the historic Swampscott Cemetery.
Right now, it’s easy to see Iraq as a cauldron of chaos. But it can take years to recognize the significance of courage, duty, and sacrifice. Long wars are hard wars, old soldiers like to say. It took many years for Colonel Crandall to be properly recognized. In time, we will acknowledge the true courage and import of today’s heroes.
Twenty-five years ago today a simple, sober, monument was riveted into American public life — the Vietnam War Memorial, the distinctive black wall in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial to which the names of 58,000 fallen American service men and women are ascribed.
The story of the memorial, known for its iconic Maya Lin design, begins with one man, Jan Scruggs. An infantryman in Vietnam and then a graduate student at American University in Washington, Mr. Scruggs took his wife to a showing of the 1978 Vietnam War film,“The Deer Hunter.”
I caught up with Scruggs for my New York Sun column.
The Wall lists the names of the fallen in chronological order, which can be disconcerting at first. But veterans can see the names of their fallen comrades together. “It gives them carthasis,” Mr. Scruggs says of Vietnam veterans who come to the wall. “It helps the veterans be able to say goodbye.”
I saw the power of the Wall first hand five years ago in Scottsdale, Ariz., of all places. A touring replica of the Wall was on display, and I happened to be in town for a family gathering with my sister and my parents. We went together. My father, Gerald Gitell, a veteran of U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam, rushed to the Wall and searched to find the names of his friends.
We had to look up their coordinates. Major John Arnn. Second Lieutenant Bryan Grogan. Specialist Robert Stepanov. Arnn was his commanding officer who was ambushed. Grogan and Stepanov were his buddies from Fort Bragg who were killed together in the tall grass near Pleiku. “I couldn’t even breathe,” my father, remembering how moving the replica Wall was that day, said.
Yesterday I drove down Route 1A for the funeral of Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich at St. Timothy’s Church. I described the scene in my New York Sun column. “Mourners sang “America the Beautiful” as pall bearers wheeled the casket carrying First Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich out of St. Timothy’s Church in Norwood, Mass., yesterday. Before exiting into the bright May sunshine and the sight of the soothing waters of Willett’s Pond, they paused and draped an American flag over the coffin.”
You can listen to me along with Charley Manning on the Hank Morse Show on 96.9 FM-Talk tomorrow at 8 a.m.
Jim Braude on NECN’s NewsNight will host tonight what in the 1970s was called “a very special episode.” Tonight is the regular NewsNight quiz. It is no surprise that I will be a contestant, having competed on many occasions. The special aspect of tonight is that the show’s diabolical producer, John Van Scoyoc, has scheduled my wife, The Fabulous Dana, to be among those competing against me. This should ratchet up the already high stakes on what is already high intensity television. Dana has a solid grounding in current events and a rapier-like wit especially when it is directed at me. Such programming schemes are undoubtedly what t.v. professionals must resort to when the Boston Red Sox are in the ALCS.
The show will air at 8 p.m.
As I made the drive from Roslindale to Natick for a Rosh Hashanah meal with my family, I got some disturbing but not entirely unexpected news: The New York Sun, a paper for which I had written since leaving the mayor’s office, was to be closed. As it so happened, I had written a column for Tuesday’s edition, which was to be the paper’s last.
There’s a lot out there about the Sun and its demise. I recommend these excerpts of the farewell speech of Seth Lipsky to the staff. I also identify with the sentiments in Hillel Halkin’s final column, where he writes about what it was like to be a Sun columnist (like me.)
My arc with the Sun was different from some of those I saw as its brightest lights, the members of its national reporting staff. From Washington, Eli Lake’s scoops on foreign policy and the national security establishment represented a form of path-finding for the D.C. press corps. Josh Gerstein cornered the national market on the intersection of the legal and political worlds; he was also the first reporter during this election cycle to concentrate on Bill Clinton, a political actor who helped do in his wife’s campaign. My roommate in Denver, Russell Berman, provided energetic coverage of New York’s political delegation and the 2008 election. I wrote a weekly column for the paper and took advantage of my New England vantage point to cover New Hampshire.
Often unrecognized are the younger editors who help craft pieces prior to publication. I had the good fortune to have my column handled for the bulk of my tenure by Katharine Herrup.
I’m grateful to the Sun’s two top editors, Seth Lipsky and Ira Stoll, for giving me a chance to write about the most interesting election in decades. They afforded me an opportunity to watch the rise of Barack Obama, whom I’ve seen speak countless times since October, 2006, the failure of Hillary Clinton and the complete electoral collapse of Rudy Giuliani. I attended John McCain’s first announcement of his campaign in April, 2007, then forecast how he could rebuild his campaign by regaining magic and momentum in the state he had won in 2000.
If you google the New York Sun and the name “Seth Lipsky,” you will find many pieces that reference Seth’s commitment to the craft of newspapering, his visionary status as a founder of newspapers, and even his personal sartorial style (i.e. he likes fedoras.) But I have something else to add: Seth is a fundamentally loyal man, loyal to his causes, such as Israel, loyal to his newspapers, such as, first, the Forward, and, second, the Sun, and, most importantly, loyal to people. In my book, that counts for a lot.
I’d also say a word about Ira Stoll. Ira edited me at the Forward and was the architect behind one of my greatest stories in journalism, the tale of Hillary Clinton’s Jewish step-grandfather. Ira has rigorous standards. He pushed me to write the best columns I possibly could up until the last possible moment. In that regard, I’d note that my column about the fiscal crisis, datelined Newton, ran yesterday and bears some resemblance to a Boston Globe piece of today. Ira, a talented writer as well as editor, will come out with his biography, Samuel Adams: A Life, next month. He is a Worcester native, and his book should be an important read for those interested in local history and enthusiasts of the Adams family.
As I drove up Route 9 reflecting on what happened, I remembered something that Pete Hamill had written in his masterful memoir, A Drinking Life. During a period of upheaval at one of the newspapers Hamill worked for — I think it was his first stint at The New York Post — an old-time reporter took Hamill out for a beer and gave him some advice I’ll paraphrase: Be careful about newspapers kid. They’ll always break your heart.
As far as how this development affects me, see my updated bio.
I will be on WTKK with Hank Morse at 7 a.m. Charley Manning will be the other guest. The subject will be tonight’s debate.