Consummate reporter, writer is Elon's guest
Halberstam headlines Baird Lecture


Author and journalist David Halberstam delivered the Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture at Elon University Jan. 16, telling the audience that U.S. military action in Iraq could have no foreseeable ending and promises consequences for an entire generation.

Halberstam said he is concerned about any "war-as-a-first-option approach" and said he hopes that the threat of war will be sufficient to effect positive change in the region. He likened a war with Iraq to smashing one's hand "into the largest hornet's nest in the world," saying, "We could pay for it for decades....I am deeply bothered by the potential consequences of war, especially if it is unilateral. This is new, difficult and uncharted territory for all of us" and is a situation "without a preferred outcome."

Halberstam, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Vietnam War as a New York Times reporter, said President Bush's focus on Iraq may be deflecting attention from the more important war on terrorism and weakening the support of our allies in that effort.

"I believe the preeminent struggle today is with the terrorists and al-Qaeda," he said. "The last thing we want is American kids, black and white, mostly Christian, doing occupation duty in an Islamic country."

While Halberstam said he doesn't underestimate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, he said he believes U.S. leaders have not taken the time to consider the consequences of going to war against Iraq. He said the U.S. will not be able to control those consequences, and said the scenario can be considered to be quite similar to the way events unfolded in Vietnam.

"Events are in the saddle and ride mankind," Halberstam said, quoting Emerson. "The unexpected almost always happens."

Halberstam said the U.S. has been isolationist and ignored its responsibilities around the globe since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. "If we don't see the rest of the world, it will see us," he said. "If we don't find the rest of the world, it will find us."

Halberstam said he is optimistic the U.S. can emerge from the trials brought about by the sluggish economy and the terror attacks of September 2001 because it is a strong nation. He said he expects there will be more major terror attacks, but the nation will continue to steadfastly maintain its democratic principles. "It's easy to underestimate the strength and resiliency of America," he said.

Halberstam's lecture to a packed house in McCrary Theatre concluded his visit to campus. Earlier in the day, he was the special guest at a luncheon with journalism and international studies majors. He took questions from students during a question-and-answer session led by School of Communications professor and Fletcher Chair David Copeland in Whitley Auditorium. He also answered questions at a press conference in the School of Communications broadcast studio.

Halberstam's last 13 books have made The New York Times bestseller list, including "The Best and the Brightest," "The Powers That Be" and "The Reckoning." He has also written extensively on sports, with several sports books and a bi-weekly column to his credit.

His latest bestseller, "Firehouse," tells the story of Ladder Company 36 in Manhattan, which lost 12 of its 13 firefighters in the attacks on the World Trade Center. He said he lived only a few blocks away from the station, and he was inspired by the stories he found there.

The Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture Series, which brings some of the nation's most accomplished writers and journalists to campus, is endowed by James Baird and his wife, Jane, of Burlington, N.C. The Pulitzer is the nationŐs most prestigious award in journalism and the liberal arts.



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Last Modified:  1/19/03
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