GLADSTONE: Michael Herr was 27 when he covered Vietnam for Esquire in 1967. Ten years later, he published a profound and graphic depiction of the war.
The grunts were often warm, but sometimes he felt impersonal hatred, as one might hate a parasite…
HERR: They only hated me … the way you’d hate any hopeless fool who would put himself through this thing when he had choices … Any fool who had no more need of his life than to play with it in this way.
Once he overhears a rifleman airing that disgust in vivid terms…
[Press vehicle shown in background.]
RIFLEMAN: Those fucking guys … I hope they die.
But Herr said reporters also feared a different kind of death…
HERR: We all knew that if you stayed too long you became one of those poor bastards who had to have a war on all the time … I didn’t know — it took the war to teach it — that you were as responsible for everything you saw as you were for everything you did.
GLADSTONE: To well and truly report a war — amidst official lies, commercial pressures, horror, trauma, principles, and patriotism — is to be at war with oneself. Objectivity is essential.
GLADSTONE: Objectivity is impossible.