Kevin Buckley, Foreign Correspondent and Magazine Editor, Dies Aged 80 | Social problems

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Kevin Buckley, a Foreign Newsweek correspondent who wrote compelling stories about the Vietnam War, including revealing previously unknown atrocities committed by American troops, and then wrote a book on the tangled relationship between the United States and Panama , died on November 4 at his Manhattan home. . He was 80 years old.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said his wife, Gail Lumet Buckley.

Buckley, described by a colleague as “one of the great boastful reporters of the Vietnamese era”, spent four years reporting on the front lines of the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1972.

He arrived at 27, barely older than the young soldiers he was covering. He quickly became the Newsweek bureau chief in the former capital of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). Most reporters of the time, he said, still supported the US war effort and accepted the official statements of military leaders. But Buckley’s experience in the field gradually made him more disillusioned.

“When I arrived in Vietnam,” he told the Yale Daily News in 2009, “the question was, ‘How are we? It wasn’t until later that I changed it to: “What are we doing?” “

One of Buckley’s most revealing stories in Vietnam was his last, published in Newsweek in June 1972. The year before, he and Vietnamese Newsweek reporter Alexander Shimkin found evidence of a protracted US military operation. called Speedy Express which devastated the Mekong. Kien Hoa Delta Province in 1968 and 1969.

“I traveled Kien Hoa – on foot, jeep, boat and raft – to talk to people,” Buckley wrote in his Newsweek article. “All the evidence I gathered pointed to a clear conclusion: A staggering number of non-combatant civilians – possibly as many as 5,000 according to one official – have been killed by US firepower to ‘pacify’ Kien Hoa. “

More recent estimates put the death toll among civilians at 7,000. Thousands more have been injured. The carnage was far greater than in My Lai, a village where up to 500 Vietnamese civilians were killed by American troops in 1968. An army lieutenant, William Calley, was the only military officer convicted of wrongdoing during the My Lai massacre.

“Virtually everyone I spoke to suffered in one way or another,” Buckley wrote. “’There were 5,000 people in our village before 1969, but there were none in 1970,” a village elder told me. “The Americans destroyed all the houses with artillery, air strikes or by setting them on fire with lighters.” “

Buckley was furious with his Newsweek editors for delaying publication of his account for nearly six months and for cutting out some of his most damning details. (Shimkin, his fellow reporter, was killed in a North Vietnamese grenade attack in July 1972.)

The published article did not contain any reference to Major-General Julian Ewell, the commanding general in charge of the 9th Infantry Division, who conducted Operation Speedy Express. Ewell was subsequently promoted and no military officer who participated in the attacks was court-martialed.

Buckley’s struggles to have his story told were recounted in Phillip Knightley’s 1975 war correspondents book, “The First Casualty”, and Nick Turse’s 2013 book, “Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam “.

After a one-year journalism fellowship at Harvard University, Buckley left Newsweek in the mid-1970s and embarked on a varied career, often working for struggling publications including The New Times and Look magazine. relaunch. For six years he was editor-in-chief of an American version of Geo, a glossy European travel and social magazine, before it closed in 1985.

He later became the editor of Lear’s, a startup magazine for older women. Buckley came up with the magazine’s catchy slogan – “To the Woman Who Wasn’t Born Yesterday” – but after disagreements with its founder, Frances Lear, he was gone before the first issue was published in 1988.

At the time, Buckley was studying the murky relationship between the United States and Manuel Antonio Noriega, the dictatorial military leader of Panama. In a 1991 book, “Panama: The Whole Story,” he described Noriega’s long-standing ties to US intelligence agencies, which sought his help in arming the contras, a counterrevolutionary force in Nicaragua. Noriega was later charged with human rights abuses and coordinating with drug cartels before being ousted in a coup in 1989, encouraged by US military troops.

In a New York Times review of Buckley’s book, political scientist Jorge Castaneda called it “an extraordinary tale of a largely unrecognized, dramatically underestimated, and often unbelievable story.”

Kevin Paul Buckley was born on December 31, 1940 in New York City. His family then moved to Larchmont, NY. Her father was a government official and her mother was a housewife.

Buckley graduated from Yale University in 1962, where he was editor of the Yale Daily News. He worked for the Associated Press in Chicago before joining Newsweek as a religious writer.

“I wrote two cover articles,” he later said. “One of them had the lowest newsstand sale in Newsweek history: ‘The New Missionary’. I guess I was missing a word: “Position”. “

He was highly regarded by his fellow journalists, who noted his humor, wit, and casual, idiosyncratic slang. When he set out on foot, he invariably said: “Let’s go to the ankle.”

While working at Newsweek’s London office in the 1960s, Buckley told the Yale Daily News: play. “

Single for many years, Buckley was linked to a number of glamorous women, including writer Frances FitzGerald, author of “Fire in the Lake” on the Vietnam War.

“He certainly had a lot of charm and was incredibly good looking,” FitzGerald said in an interview. “He was pretty dashing. “

She added that he later introduced her to her future husband – and she introduced Buckley to his future wife, writer Gail Lumet Buckley, the daughter of artist Lena Horne.

In addition to his wife of 37 years, the survivors include two daughters-in-law; a brother; a sister; and two grandchildren.

Beginning in 1992, Buckley spent over 10 years as editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine, dealing with non-fiction articles.

“It’s a great magazine,” he said later. “And I admire Playboy’s defense of the First Amendment. What comes out of the Pentagon is real pornography.

He also taught journalism at Columbia University and was a long-time member and leader of the Century Association, a private club of artists and writers in New York City.

During his brief tenure at Lear magazine, Buckley told the Yale Daily News that one of his jobs was to hire an astrologer.

“In the interview, she said, ‘Can I be honest, Buckley? “He recalls.” “Your future in this magazine looks very cloudy.” I said, ‘That’s it! You’re engaged!’ “


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