USA — Leaders Pay Tribute to Holbrooke

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2010 — Defense Depart­ment lead­ers today joined the pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent, sec­re­tary of state and oth­ers in mourn­ing the death of U.S. Ambas­sador Richard C. Hol­brooke.
Hol­brooke was serv­ing as spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Afghanistan and Pak­istan when he died last night from a tear in his aor­ta. He fell ill dur­ing a Dec. 10 meet­ing with Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton at the State Depart­ment and was tak­en to a hos­pi­tal here, where he under­went two lengthy oper­a­tions over the week­end, accord­ing to a State Depart­ment news report released this morn­ing.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates released a state­ment today call­ing Hol­brooke “one of the most for­mi­da­ble and con­se­quen­tial pub­lic ser­vants of his gen­er­a­tion, bring­ing his uncom­mon pas­sion, ener­gy, tenac­i­ty, and intel­lect to bear on the most dif­fi­cult nation­al secu­ri­ty issues of our time.” 

Gates went on to say that none of Holbrooke’s high-pro­file diplo­mat­ic assign­ments was more dif­fi­cult than his last mis­sion in Afghanistan and Pak­istan. Still, he said, Hol­brooke tack­led the task “with the same dri­ve that char­ac­ter­ized every­thing he did dur­ing near­ly five decades of pub­lic life. Richard’s tal­ents and efforts were crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant to achiev­ing our goals in that part of the world.” 

On a per­son­al lev­el, Gates said, “I first start­ed work­ing with Richard in the Carter admin­is­tra­tion and long con­sid­ered him not only a col­league, but a friend, and I will miss him.” 

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a state­ment from Iraq, where he was trav­el­ing as part of the USO hol­i­day tour for troops. Hol­brooke, he said, “nev­er lost time fight­ing for ideals he believed in. He nev­er lost touch with the prob­lems faced by mil­lions of peo­ple he nev­er knew. And he nev­er lost hope that those same peo­ple could live in peace, secu­ri­ty and safe­ty. Indeed, he shared their vivid aspirations.” 

“More crit­i­cal­ly,” the admi­ral con­tin­ued, “Richard nev­er lost his sense of loy­al­ty to coun­try, to friends, or to his fam­i­ly. He was fierce­ly devot­ed to those he cared about as he was to his prin­ci­ples, even more so.” 

Mullen called Hol­brooke “a big man in every sense of the word, a cher­ished friend and true patriot.” 

“We also will miss him at the table as we fin­ish this week the president’s review of our Afghanistan strat­e­gy, a strat­e­gy he helped write and one he deeply believed in,” the chair­man said. “That we have been mak­ing steady progress in this war is due in no small mea­sure to Richard’s tire­less efforts and ded­i­ca­tion. Few have done as much to achieve suc­cess; none have done more. 

“I know he would want our work to con­tin­ue unabat­ed,” Mullen added. “And I know we will all feel his bul­ly pres­ence in the room as we do so.” 

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. and inter­na­tion­al forces in Afghanistan, released a state­ment from Afghanistan call­ing Holbrooke’s death “a trag­ic loss for our coun­try, this region, and our world.” 

“Richard Hol­brooke was a true titan in the diplo­mat­ic are­na and a cen­tral fig­ure in the effort in Afghanistan and Pak­istan. … It was with con­sid­er­able pride that we called him our ‘diplo­mat­ic wing­man,’ ” Petraeus said. “He was, in short, a tremen­dous diplo­mat­ic part­ner, a great Amer­i­can, and a good friend.” 

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, who appoint­ed Hol­brooke to his final diplo­mat­ic assign­ment, released a state­ment prais­ing the ambassador’s con­tri­bu­tions to the nation. “Like so many pres­i­dents before me, I am grate­ful that Richard Hol­brooke was on my team, as are the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” the pres­i­dent said. 

Oba­ma not­ed that Hol­brooke was the child of refugees, and he cred­it­ed him with progress in Afghanistan and Pak­istan, as well as many oth­er parts of the world. He memo­ri­al­ized Holbrooke’s diplo­mat­ic achieve­ments that began with the Paris peace talks that end­ed the Viet­nam War, and includ­ed nor­mal­iz­ing rela­tions with Chi­na, bring­ing Europe out of the Cold War, and, most notably, being the chief archi­tect of the Day­ton Accords, which end­ed the Bosn­ian War 15 years ago this week. 

“There are mil­lions of peo­ple around the world whose lives have been saved and enriched by his work,” Oba­ma said of Hol­brooke. “The Unit­ed States is safer and the world is more secure because of the half cen­tu­ry of patri­ot­ic ser­vice of Ambas­sador Richard Holbrooke.” 

In a sep­a­rate state­ment, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden said Hol­brooke “was a larg­er-than-life fig­ure who, through his bril­liance, deter­mi­na­tion and sheer force of will, helped bend the curve of his­to­ry in the direc­tion of progress.” 

In a state­ment released last night, Clin­ton said that “Amer­i­ca has lost one of its fiercest cham­pi­ons and most ded­i­cat­ed pub­lic ser­vants,” not­ing that Hol­brooke rep­re­sent­ed the Unit­ed States “in far-flung war zones and high-lev­el peace talks, always with dis­tinc­tive bril­liance and unmatched determination.” 

Like oth­ers, Clin­ton not­ed the tough diplo­mat­ic style Hol­brooke was known for. 

“He was the con­sum­mate diplo­mat, able to stare down dic­ta­tors and stand up for America’s inter­ests and val­ues even under the most dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances,” she said. “He served at every lev­el of the For­eign Ser­vice and beyond, help­ing men­tor gen­er­a­tions of tal­ent­ed offi­cers and future ambassadors. 

“Few peo­ple have ever left a larg­er mark on the State Depart­ment or our coun­try,” Clin­ton added. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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