05 January 2012

Michael Hastings is NOT Looking Good After This

A lot of military folks hated Hastings after his infamous hit piece on McChrystal. What comes out in the review of his new book The Operators over at the Wall Street Journal isn't going to make anyone like him any more.

In the Rolling Stone article, Mr. Hastings sketched a trip to Paris in April 2010, when the McChrystal team allegedly made the inflammatory comments, without attributing most quotes to specific individuals. In "The Operators," he names names. We now discover that the large majority of the incendiary statements came from a 33-year-old lieutenant commander. In "The Runaway General," Mr. Hastings attributed the lieutenant commander's assertions at various times to a "team member," an "aide" and an "adviser," leading readers to conclude that the statements emanated from a broad range of Gen. McChrystal's staff members. Moreover, an investigation by the Defense Department's Inspector General found insufficient evidence to attribute some of the offending quotes to team members and determined that other quotes had been taken out of context.

According to members of Gen. McChrystal's team, Mr. Hastings represented himself as a supporter of the Afghan war and the U.S. military upon meeting the team in Paris. When "The Runaway General" was published, he dismissed accusations that he was antiwar, explaining that his views of the war "are critical but that shouldn't be mistaken for hostile." In "The Operators," he states unabashedly: "I hated the war."

Most telling perhaps, is the final paragraph of the review. If Hastings hated the war, he sure found an excellent way to torpedo it.

Like David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, Mr. Hastings ignores the harm that his reporting caused to America's overseas interests. The firing of Gen. McChrystal removed the one American who enjoyed the confidence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and of Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of staff of Pakistan's army. It also widened the gulf between Mr. Karzai and Washington. Mr. Karzai became convinced that the White House had removed Gen. McChrystal as another slap in his face for disregarding American lectures. To the Afghan president, it was inconceivable that the U.S. government would fire its top military officer because of unattributed quotes in a pop-culture magazine.

No doubt the Rolling Stoners will claim that they're more than a "pop culture" magazine. But if they are, then it's only to become a very strident and partisan voice on one side of the political spectrum, and not in a good way. Rolling Stone used to have some excellent reporting - even about national security topics - but since 9/11 has made a hard left turn into the culture wars and alienated a lot of readers who preferred their serious writing about entertainment topics and read other sources for serious writing about serious topics.

By: Brant

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