America

Holbrooke's Last Words Were In Jest, But Still May Say A Lot About Him

Richard Holbrooke

hide captionRichard Holbrooke, who died at 69, began his diplomatic work as a young Foreign Service officer in Vietnam in 1962 and ended it serving as the President's Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

There's an interesting postscript to yesterday's Washington Post report that Richard Holbrooke's last words were "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

Family members told the Post that the famed diplomat said that to his Pakistani surgeon just before he went into heart surgery on Friday. Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, died Monday at the age of 69.

But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says there's more to the story:

"I've consulted with a number of folks who were in the room. There was a lengthy exchange with Ambassador Holbrooke and the medical team, probably reflecting Richard's relentless pursuit of the policy that 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, the medical team 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.'

"But certainly, it says two things about Richard Holbrooke in my mind: Number one, he always wanted to make sure he got the last word; and secondly, it just showed how he was singularly focused on pursuing and advancing the process and the policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring them to a successful conclusion."

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