Halberstam opposes war in Iraq

Renowned journalist David Halberstam gave the keynote address of PSU Weekend at a luncheon held in Smith Memorial Student Union on Saturday.

Halberstam, who won the Pulitzer Prize at 30 for his groundbreaking coverage of the Vietnam War for the New York Times, is the author of 17 books, the last 11 of which have been New York Times best sellers.

As Portland State University President Daniel Bernstine introduced Halberstam, pro-Vikings sentiment was strong. University of Montana President George Dennison “is getting on my nerves,” Bernstine said in jest.

“I thought about coming out as a tight end,” Halberstam said. But he was discouraged by his age and the fact that his “GPA is a bit low.”

Halberstam was also introduced by political cartoonist and PSU alumnus Jack Ohman. “David Halberstam ruined my life,” Ohman said.

Ohman described how a relative’s gift of Halberstam’s book about the Vietnam War and its causes ruined his high school social life. “I was the only 13-year-old kid in 1973 who read ‘The Best and the Brightest,'” Ohman said.

“I can’t remember the last time I was introduced by a cartoonist,” Halberstam said. “It reminds me of the boredom factor which I give off so readily.”

Contrary to that disclaimer, Halberstam was well-received by those attending, who responded with a standing ovation at the close of his remarks and initial applause at his opposition of President Bush’s Use of Force Resolution.

“I want to express my very serious reservations about any military action in Iraq,” Halberstam said.

Urging political leaders exercise caution in regards to Iraq, Halberstam said, “We’ve really entered a new and difficult, extremely volatile era.”

“I can remember a similar rush to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,” Halberstam said, likening today’s possible war with Iraq to the Vietnam war.

Halberstam expressed concerns for the effects on not only the soldiers involved in an Iraqi war, but the country as a whole. “I think we would pay for it for decades,” he said.

America needs to be strong, wise and patient, in Halberstam’s view. “Strong is easy, wise and patient are not so much in the American grain,” he said.

Halberstam also spoke of America’s isolationism. He said, “We are, by instinct, apart from Europe, and we like being apart from Europe.” In his assessment, it’s this isolationism that makes attacks such as Pearl Harbor and those of Sept. 11 so shocking to Americans. He feels that the media mirrors this isolationism: “It is a scandal, the lack of foreign reporting.”

Halberstam’s speech was just one of many seminars offered during PSU Weekend. Other speakers included Mercy Corps director-at-large Landrum Bolling, former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts and Oregon state economist Tom Potiowsky.

Potiowsky’s presentation on Oregon’s economy, titled “Riding the Roller Coaster,” talked about Oregon’s increasing reliance on the manufacture of durable goods in place of reliance on natural resources.

He fielded questions from an engaged audience that was concerned about the future outlook of Oregon’s economy.

Potiowsky doesn’t think that Oregon’s economy will take a “double-dip,” meaning that the dire state of today’s economy is probably the low point, but he does feel “it’s a slow, slow recovery” ahead.

Potiowsky says that shipping down the Columbia is still a good deal coming from Japan or China, but sees possible trouble in the future as the industry moves toward larger cargo ships. “If the Columbia’s not dredged, there will be some problems.”

“The Motto of Portland State is ‘let knowledge serve the city,’ and PSU Weekend does exactly that,” said Patricia Trout, chair of the PSU Weekend Volunteer Committee.