AS HE WAS being prepped Friday for emergency, and ultimately unsuccessful, surgery for a ruptured aorta, Richard Holbrooke told his Pakistani surgeon,"You've got to stop the war in Afghanistan."
So Holbrooke's dying words, revealed by his family following his death on Monday, ran directly counter to the policy he had strenously pursued and defended as President Obama's representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The tragic thing about it is that Holbrooke's deathbed declaration wasn't really shocking or even much of a surprise. Instead, it confirms what's become obvious: the Obama Administration is pushing ahead on a plan that it must know is a failure.
And should have known before last year when Obama doubled-down on the war, committing more troops to the conflict in a wild hope that doing more of what hadn't worked for eight years would somehow magically work in the ninth.
Holbrooke knew first hand what happens when governments refuse to acknowledge the truth - during the Vietnam War, he authored a section of the Pentagon Papers.
Reporter Bob Woodward wrote that Holbrooke didn't buy into the main rationale for being in Afghanistan: to keep Al Qaeda from establishing a "safe haven." Even if the Taliban were to regain control, he believed, Al Qaeda wouldn't leave its own "safe haven" in Pakistan.
And when pressed in a public forum in 2009 to define success in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Holbrooke said this: "In the simplest sense, we'll know it when we see it." Apparently, he never did.
In a bitter irony, tomorrow is the date scheduled for the "review" of the supposed "progress" in Afghanistan that the president promised last year.
Of course, the review isn't really a "review." It's already been decided that the U.S will stay until 2014. At least. And there's not much that can be labeled "progress," either; a National Intelligence Estimate released a few days ago found that NATO troops' efforts to provide security represent mere "inkspots" in a land controlled by the Taliban - and that the Afghan people don't want us there. (Not surprisingly, the military disputes the findings.)
It's up to ordinary Americans to ask the questions about Afghanistan, and question the answers. The Obama Administration doesn't seem to know disaster when it sees it. *