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Remembering Richard Holbrooke

December 14, 2010 1:48:11 PM PST
What's remarkable in this age of nasty partisanship and immature bickering is the warm bi-partisan condolences pouring in for Richard Holbrooke, the career and brilliant diplomat who has been special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Holbrooke died yesterday, three days after he took ill in the office of Secretary of State Clinton.

As it happens, 15 years ago today, working in the Clinton Administration, Holbrooke helped get the so-called Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnia war, the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II.

There's a report today that Holbrooke, as he was wheeled into the operating room at George Washington University, told the doctor who was of South Asian descent, to end the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's likely apocryphal, but as the episode has been parsed and investigated, it does appear he engaged in some type of back-and-forth about finding peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He was, say those who knew him, always the smartest guy in the room. And don't we need some of that these days, as the longest war in U.S. history drags on during this, the most deadly year of the war?

Two angles that strike me about Holbrooke's death, other than the most obvious one, that this country will miss his intellect and steely discipline.

The first is emotional. Holbrooke was stepfather to Peter Jennings' two children. Liz and Chris Jennings are in Washington, with their mother, as they deal with their stepfather's death. For these two young people, they have in the span of little more than five years, lost their dad and their stepdad.

And for folks in this giant ABC complex who watched Peter's kids grow up, our hearts go out to them.

The second angle is political. And slightly comical. The Taliban, officially known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has commented about the "Sudden Death of Holbrooke."

And the Taliban spokesman, reflecting his group's view that the world revolves around them, suggests that Holbrooke's heart problems were caused by the stress of dealing with Afghanistan.

He also suggested that several former Soviet Union leaders had heart attacks because of Afghanistan-caused stress, including Brezhnev and Andropov.

And he said that General David Petraeus, in charge of the Afghanistan war, fainted during a Senate hearing last summer "when he faced tough questions" about Afghanistan.

Oy.

We'll have the latest on reaction to Holbrooke's death at the age of 69, and developments in Afghanistan, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, is there a serial killer on Long Island? That's the fear tonight, after police, with the aid of a search dog, discovered the decomposing remains of four people, at least two of them women, on Gilgo Beach.

Some of the bodies, say cops, were wrapped in burlap sacks, and were within a quarter of mile of each other.

The first discovery, on Saturday, was by accident, as a cop and his dog were in the middle of a training exercise. The beach they were on is the spot where a prostitute was reported missing earlier this year. She had reportedly arranged, via Craigslist, to meet a client on Fire Island. She apparently was being chased and had called 9-1-1, mentioning someone's name.

Is this connected to the bodies that were discovered? We don't yet know. But the circumstantial evidence can't be ignored. We're following the story tonight at 11.

We're also taking a closer look, with the help of Consumer Reports, at the sometimes confusing hotel rating system. I mean, what qualifies one hotel for a five-star rating, and another for a three? And why is the same hotel ranked differently by various ratings groups? Sade Baderinwa has our story tonight, just in time for the holiday travel season.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's frosty AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports, including reaction to the Yankees being used as bait by ace pitcher Cliff Lee, the free agent who has now signed with the Phillies. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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