A terrible loss


Michael Hastings was a balls-out, fearless reporter who didn’t suck up to his subjects. He was badly needed and will be sorely missed:

Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33.

Hastings’ unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House. The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general,” Obama said, announcing McChrystal’s departure. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

Hastings’ hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal’s bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war. “Runaway General” was was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings’ book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.

For Hastings, there was no romance to America’s misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fianceé, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.

A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America’s drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army’s illicit use of “psychological operations” to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, “America’s Last Prisoner of War.”

Via Kush Arora.

9 thoughts on “A terrible loss

  1. So sad to have lost someone so young and so intense. Also someone who would report what the PTBs sure as hell didn’t want reported.

  2. The car Hastings was driving “crossed the median, slammed into a tree, and burst into flames,” at 4:25 AM. The car Karen Silkwood was driving “ran off the road and slammed into a culvert.” The car David Halberstam was riding in was “broadsided by a graduate student attending the UCSF School of Journalism. The other three people involved in the accident were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.” “…..excuse me while I kiss the sky….”

  3. My monies on something much worse katiebird. You don’t bring down generals and live too much longer to tell about it.

  4. Well, Mercedeses (sp?) are notoriously unreliable cars, especially when new.

    The car David Halberstam was riding in was “broadsided by a graduate student attending the UCSF School of Journalism. The other three people involved in the accident were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.”

    Going on memory here, but I thought that the graduate student was the driver, and Halberstam the passenger. In any case, Halberstam’s muckraking days were long past him at that point.

  5. Kevin Jones was the grad school driver in whose car Halberstam was riding. Jones turned left into oncoming traffic when the light was red. His car was broadsided on the passanger side and Halberstam was killed. Jones was convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter; given 5 days in jail, put on probation for 2 years, and lost his license for 3 years. You’re memory is better than mine Izquierdo. But what interested me was that the book Halberstam was writing at the time of his death, “The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War,” published after his death, Halberstam went after General Douglas MacAruther. He reduced MacArthur’s stature by laying out a case which showed him to be an incompetent general. So the lesson here is that it’s dangerous to be riding in or driving an automobile after you’ve dissed a general.

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