Michael Hastings Interview Transcript

Scott Horton interviews Michael Hastings June 23, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, everybody, we’re joined on the phone by Michael Hastings, freelance reporter, friend of the show, and he is the author of the article that’s turned Washington D.C. upside down this week, “The Runaway General” in Rolling Stone magazine. Welcome back to the show, Michael, how are you doing?

Michael Hastings: I’m good man. How are things on your end?

Horton: Everything’s great, I really appreciate you joining us here on the phone from, where, Kandahar this morning?

Hastings: Yeah, I’m in Kandahar right now.

Horton: And how’s things there?

Hastings: Well, we, just a few, it was a half hour, 40 minutes ago, we were hit by a number of rockets, which is a pretty regular occurrence here, and there’s pretty regular fighting all around this area right now. We spent a couple moments on the floor and in a bunker.

Horton: Jeez. Well. And I hope you’re bugging out of there this morning and going back to Kabul or somewhere safer?

Hastings: Yeah, I’m heading out of here.

Horton: Okay, right on. Well in the few minutes before you get in your armored vehicle or whatever it is and get out of there, man, let’s talk about – well, first of all, I guess, the reaction to your piece. You have Gen. McChrystal and his team, “Team America,” his closest buddies surrounding him, really opening up about how much they cannot stand the administration, and that seems to have been the thing that got Washington all upset.

Hastings: Yeah, apparently to criticize and make fun of the vice president in front of reporters, that’s generally probably not a good career move. But I think, I think what the comments point to from Gen. McChrystal’s view is a real frustration that his team has with the White House as well as a frustration he has with other civilian policy makers who are involved in the Afghanistan strategy.

Horton: Yeah, I mean, that’s really what comes across in the article is that it’s not a personal account really of McChrystal, it’s about his inability to succeed in Afghanistan, and then it seems like all the frustration, all the finger pointing goes up from there, instead of them taking responsibility, him and his “Team America.”

Hastings: Yeah, and I think certainly if we look at, you know, President Obama’s role in selecting Gen. McChrystal, why he selected Gen. McChrystal, and what President Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan originally was – remember, in March 2009, you know, President Obama said he wanted to narrow the goals in Afghanistan, narrow them to just fighting al Qaeda. Then he selected a Gen. who proceeded to do just the opposite and expand the goals almost exponentially. We went from 50,000 troops to 150,000 troops. We went from fighting al Qaeda to building a nation on an almost unprecedented scale. So, really, I think, you know part of this hostility is the relationship between the president and the general and the fact that the president has just sort of lost control of the policy.

Horton: Yeah, well, and it doesn’t sound like the troops in Afghanistan seem to be so gung ho about this anymore either.

Hastings: No, I think, I mean I’m sure you’ve discussed counterinsurgency many times on your program, and we’ve discussed this before as well. You know, the US military is made to fight. That’s what they’re really good at, and they’re really efficient at it. And it’s very difficult to put them in situations and then tell them, you know, don’t fight. And that rubs a lot of them the wrong way and a lot of them feel that they may have to make sacrifices and they might be putting their own lives more at risk rather than, say, killing who they view are insurgents.

Horton: Yeah, well, and that’s an interesting thing too, the whole, you know, sent out there to fight with one hand tied behind their back. They’re up against people who have rifles and are willing to shoot back at them and yet then because they’re supposed to be trying to avoid civilian casualties, even though all their enemies are civilians, they’re put in a position where they have to get shot rather than shoot.

Hastings: Really, and I think, I mean I think you know this is a sort of fundamental flaw with counterinsurgency is that, you know, we spend $600 billion a year on our military but then we get involved in these wars where we can’t even use our technological edge. I mean, in a way it doesn’t make much sense. So, yeah, I mean, you know, once you take away the US and the ground troops’ air support, you’re putting a US solider on, you know, a somewhat level playing field with a Taliban fighter. And so these guys who signed up to fight are like, “What the hell, you know, like, why are we here?”

Horton: Yeah, they imagined they were going to be a set piece battle against a different state’s military instead of patrolling around like a, you know, a SWAT cop or something. Well, now, you talk about how they changed the mission from fighting al Qaeda to building a nation and how McChrystal’s gotten his stamp on it, and I guess they had to change the mission because, he says in here, there are no al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Hastings: Exactly. I mean, the sort of connection between nation building and fighting terrorism and fighting al Qaeda is I think, you know, a very tenuous connection at best, and so you get stuck with this momentum of the campaign you’re fighting, and it’s worse than a quagmire. They’re saying that really it’s worse than a quagmire because it’s a quagmire we knowingly walked into. Because if say al Qaeda’s in Pakistan, then what are we doing in Afghanistan?

Horton: Yeah. Well now, the centerpiece of the COIN strategy supposedly was this, or the showpiece for it I guess, was the invasion of Marjah. They were going to give the people of Marjah a “government in a box.” Did you have a chance to talk with Gen. McChrystal much about that operation?

Hastings: Well, I did talk to him about that, and he, you know, was sort of optimistically cautious as that’s the position they take. But then, you know, much later he said that Marjah was a “bleeding ulcer.” So what does that say? And I think one of the funny things about this story is that people have been saying, “Wow, how could he have said these things in private to you?” Well look at what he says in public. He’s calling one of his operations a bleeding ulcer. So what do we expect him to say in private?

Horton: Right, yeah, his centerpiece operation. At least he’s bluntly honest, this guy. Well, and look, this is not nothing here: It seems like there is, you know, a challenge to the civilian supremacy in a sense here, you have a very powerful general mocking and ridiculing the president, the vice president, the special envoy, the ambassador, everybody but the secretary of state, apparently, he thinks he’s better than them, and that’s really not how it’s supposed to be in America. Did you take that as a real challenge to civilian supremacy or as just some drunk old general is letting off some steam here?

Hastings: I think there’s a larger kind of structural issue here about – you just compare the DOD budget to the State Department budget, $600 billion to $50 billion. You know, you look at every foreign service officer – you know, there’s more people in the Army band than there are foreign service officers. You know, you could fit every foreign service officer on an aircraft carrier. You know, so you look like at just the sort of decay of the State Department and basically our foreign policy has become our defense policy. You know, the two are one. And I think that translates into the fact that a lot of the time just the leaders get the blame for all the wars, and they should take their fair share of blame, but I think we also have to start looking at the military leaders in a much more critical way than they’re accustomed to be looked at. We’re packing up here and so I’ve got to take off, but I appreciate your time and we’ll talk again soon.

Horton: Likewise. Be safe, and we’ll follow up hopefully either tomorrow or Friday or next week.

Hastings: Cool.

Horton: Take care, Michael. All right, everybody, that’s Michael Hastings with the story of the week, so far, in Rolling Stone magazine, “The Runaway General.”

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.

3 thoughts on “Michael Hastings Interview Transcript”

  1. McChrystal redeemed himself if he said those things about ‘bidet boy’ and zioturd Joseph Biden, and the second in charge, Barry Soetoro, aka B.H.O.

    Stan clearly didn’t want to participate in the ‘love fest’ that the zio-turds have in store for Iran coming in a few short days in the middle of July. This was the best and most honorable way to unplug himself from being forced to carry out HIGH TREASON under orders of the zio-jackas*es in the Whore House.

    Thanks for having some guts, like Adm. William Fallon, who also said; “go f*ck yourself” to the last zio-puppet, George ‘chimp boy and zio-turd’ Bush.

    if this keeps up, they’ll have to get a cardboard cutout of Betrayeus to do photo ops with, because at some point, that oh so compliant war monger will see the writing on the wall about Iran and know that participation in HIGH TREASON is punishable by firing squad.

    too bad the rest of the zioturds in our government have no fear of being tried for SEDITION and TREASON for their actions.

  2. "You know, the US military is made to fight. That’s what they’re really good at, and they’re really efficient at it."

    Ah, another naif–almost as deluded as the US military command and the neigborhood jingos.

  3. What the US military is really good at is killing civilians and losing wars.

    The wrong-headedness is pervasive, and nicely summarized in the idiocy, "The purpose of the military us to break things and kill people."

    Pardon, little boys, that's not the purpose of a military at all, particularly when the people killed are neutrals, non-combatants, and other civilians.

  4. Maybe Stanley wanted a go-home. If he'd only though about it he could have taken the 'vapors' and been sent home for rest and refit. But that's not macho. Let your posse to make mock of the civilians – to whom the US Army is supposed to be in service – and macho starts to look retarded. Maybe a little weeping at Arlington, and the blubber bus will take him away.

    That posse, though, deserves some front line service – they could mock the Taliban into a defeat, or maybe die heroically, trying.

  5. Betcha Popsi would be happier to watch the Taliban round up all literate women and stone them to death. People like Popsi can't imagine someone sweeping into his home, raping his mother, his sisters, and his little brothers just because they're the wrong religion or voice competing opinions. Popsi needs to look beyond his nose to recognize that there are "isms" in the world that NEVER worry about killing "neutrals, non-combatants, and other civilians." Everyone is expendable until they succumb to a singular ideology.

  6. General McChrystal's policy is (or should I say was) working; trust me I know 1st hand. I can't belive this reporter done this.

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  8. My take ? Mc Chrystal was :

    A. An independent
    B . Too negative about the prospects
    C. Too popular ( or competent) to do away with easy
    D. Was coerced into the embedded reporting
    E. Handled himself as good as possible
    F. Has been ousted as part of a CIA operation to discredit his position

    Why ? Because some don't want an end yet to Afghanistan , his policy was in the way of a 'proper' es calation perhaps ?

  9. Been There.
    . People like Popsi can’t imagine someone [sweeping into his home], raping his mother,[ his sisters], and his little brothers just because they’re the wrong religion or voice competing opinions..”

    You mean something like this :

    “A few months ago, Abir Al-Janabi was just another 14-year-old Iraqi girl in a small town called Al-Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. Both of her parents are from the Al-Janabi tribe, one of the biggest tribes with Sunni and Shia branches.

    Omar Al-Janabi, a neighbor and relative, was informed by Abir’s mother that the young girl was being harassed by U.S. soldiers stationed in a nearby checkpoint. That is why Abir was sent to spend the night in her neighbor’s home. The next day, Omar Al-Janabi was among the first people who found Abir, with her 34-year-old mother Fakhriyah, her 45-year-old father Qasim, and her 7-year-old sister Hadil, murdered in their home. Abir was raped, killed by a bullet in her head, and then burned on March 12, five months before her fifteenth birthday.


    But then the US and its soiders are very moral.They do not sweep into other countries and other people’s homes.

  10. the military leaders in a much more critical way than they’re accustomed to be looked at. We’re packing up here and so I’ve got to take off, but I appreciate your time and we’ll talk again soon.

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  12. All right, everybody, we’re joined on the phone by Michael Hastings, freelance reporter, friend of the show, and he is the author of the article that’s turned Washington D.C. upside down this week, “The Runaway General” in Rolling Stone magazine. Welcome back to the show, Michael, how are you doing?spring holiday limousine

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