By now much of the world has learned that Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone reporter, war correspondent and author, has died in a car crash at the age of 33.
He will be best known — and all of the eulogies so far lead with this — for his breakout story, Runaway General, which was published almost three years ago to the day, and ultimately got General Stanley McChrystal fired. Hastings was lambasted by the establishment hive for supposedly “breaking the rules,” which meant he did his job: McChrystal and his A-team of chest-thumping commandos had said too much in front of Hastings, who had seized the rare opportunity of being brought into their inner sanctum for an extended series of interviews. Rather than succumbing to the heady experience, Hastings quoted them outright, including McChrystal himself, openly mocking the White House leadership and questioning the Obama war policy. It was a brilliant portrait of a general who was dangerously close to going rogue – fueled by his own authority and narcissism. Beyond that, McChrystal had symbolized just how big the Civilian-Military gap had become over the course of the war. To the hive that had been “covering for power” as Kevin Gosztola so succinctly called it in a tweet this morning about Hastings’ death, Hastings had committed an unforgivable sin. For the the rest of us, he did the American people, which was and still is so much in the dark regarding the war, a tremendous favor.
That was followed by his book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, which gives us a broader, unvarnished view of “Team America” and how the war policy not only unfolded and was interpreted by the generals on the ground, but how they continued to push for action even when they did not believe the war could be won anymore. I reviewed his book, here. Hastings got right back to me when I sent him a link. His words were kind, encouraging and humble, quite the opposite of what one would expect of a prize-winning journo who had taken down a general.
I believe his book is one of the few “must reads” to come out of the war reportage in that it rankled the powerful while keeping faith with the people, and that’s real journalism. That is why he became a correspondent and why he will be forever remembered as a truthteller. To say he will be missed would be a gross understatement. We are losing so much.