The Context of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s final words

By Jenny Schlesinger

Dec 14, 2010 2:36pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports:  Ever the driven diplomat, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke’s final words before surgery on Friday were something to the effect of "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan," according to officials briefed by those in the room at the time.  The context of Holbrooke’s final words, however, is important. Some have suggested the remark reflected his final anti-war wish, but new information from the State Department says his last words came at the end of a lengthy exchange as doctor’s tried to get the bombastic Holbrooke to relax before surgery. The ambassador passed away Monday night after he underwent two surgeries, including one lasting over 20 hours, after suffering a tear in his aorta on Friday.  State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters today that he's consulted multiple people in the room during Holbrooke's final exchange before surgery on Friday and provided the following context of Holbrooke's final words. Note: these are not exact quotes as there is no recording, but he says multiple people in the room have given the same account.  "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 helped to craft and was charged by the president and the secretary with carrying out," Crowley said.  "At one point the medical team said:  You've got to relax.  And Richard said:  I can't relax; I've got — I'm worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan.  And then after some additional exchanges, you know, the medical team finally — finally said:  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," he said.  Crowley said that, to him, this said two things about Holbrooke.  "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 an advancing the — you know, the process and the policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring them to a successful conclusion," he said.  A senior administration official also cautions against reporting that the comments were directed towards a doctor because he was of Pakistani descent. In fact, the official said the doctor may have been Indian or Egyptian, though we're told there were multiple doctors of South Asian descent in the room.

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