Tuesday's Washington Post print edition ran a front-page obituary for Richard Holbrooke which closed by noting that the veteran diplomat told his surgeon "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."
Of course numerous news outlets latched onto that quote. Leftist magazine Mother Jones even made the line their quote of the day late Monday evening as blogger Kevin Drum approvingly added in a December 13 post, "That would be a fitting memorial."
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But politicizing a dying man's last words has its risks. It turns out Holbrooke's exchange with his doctors taken out of context:
The initial Washington Post report that Richard Holbrooke's final words to a Pakistani surgeon were, "You've got to stop this war," felt like a stark message to the wider world...
But now the State Department has provided important new detail and context to what Holbrooke said. And a rather different picture emerges:
There was a, you know, lengthy exchange with Ambassador Holbrooke and the medical team, probably reflecting Richard's relentless pursuit of the policy that he had — he had helped to craft and was charged by the president and the secretary with carrying out.
At one point, the medical team said, "You've got to relax."
And Richard said, "I can't relax. I'm worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan."
And then after some additional exchanges, you know, the medical team finally — finally said, "Well, tell you what; we'll try to fix this challenge while you're undergoing surgery."
And he said, "Yeah, see if you can take care of that, including ending the war."
As of 12:55 p.m. EST today, Mother Jones had no updated Drum's post: