Michael Hastings, Truthteller, Dead at 33

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, June 19, 2013

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.

hastingsHe will be best known — and all of the eulogies so far lead with this — for his breakout story, Runaway Generalwhich 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.

 

 




25 Responses to “Michael Hastings, Truthteller, Dead at 33”

  1. Did they kill him?

  2. Speeding and hit a tree at 4:00am is all I have heard. Was someone chasing him?

  3. It was a hit alright — by the same cabal behind the MLK hit, Operation Northwoods, and the anthrax letters.

  4. [...] Antiwar.com (blog) [...]

  5. Hastings got himself droned? G-man Mueller spilled the beans about FBI using drones on this very day. Would explain the reports of an explosion prior to the "wreck." I'm not saying the FBI droned Hastings. However, seems entirely possible. That's the way Charles Dorner was taken out. Forensics would suggest.

  6. I am a motor journalist – have been in the business for 20 years (I am german, by the way).

    Not in my lifetime have I seen a Mercedes go up in flames after a head-on crash, at what speed whatsoever.

    Mercedes-Benz litteraly goes NUTS over providing maximum safety for their cars – especially their safety regarding fire hazard.

    But the Merc Michael Hastings died in litterally blew like a torch!

    See vids and pics on 12160.info ).

    Also: In a head-on crash with a tree, POWER-TRAINS OF CARS DON'T GET RIPPED OUT OF CARS TO BE FLUNG 60 FEET AWAY!

    Mercedes builds their powertrains in a way to become part of the crash-box, which is to deform and, thus, absorb huge amounts of energy, in order to protect the passengers of a car in a crash.

    Therefore, there is NO PHYSICALLY VIABLE WAY WHATSOEVER, for how the powertrain of Hasting's Merc could have been ripped out of the body of his car DURING a frontal crash (besides the tiny little fact, that the tree itself would have prevented the merc's powertrain from separating from the body, anyway, because it simply stands in it's way…)

    Instead, the engine ABSOLUTELY NECCESSARILY had to be BLOWN out of the nose of his car BEFORE the crash happened, to be flung to the position it ended up at after the crash!

    An explosion whic blows out the engine and separates the poertrain from te Merc's body is also the explanation for Hasting's Merc "jachknifing" to the sides just before the crash, probably because a. the steering was jmmed by the explosion, or b. because the driver was incapacitated by it, or both.

    About the speeding: Mercedes-cars today have a "fly-by-wire" throttle-linkage from pedal to the engine's throttle-body – i-e, there is no physical connection between the two anymore, bur only an electronic device, translating the movement of the drivers accellerator-pedal into signals controlling an electric motor, which in turn controls the movements of the butterfly-valves in the throttle-box.

    It is known that even the state police today has devices in use, which are able to remotely control modern car engines. Usually they are used to shut an escapee's car's engine down in a chase.

    But it can act in the opposite direction, too.

    So call me, what you may: Even if the real facts may differ slightly from the scenario I have put down for you here, I am and will stay convinced, that Michael Hastings was silenced, because he knew too much about the NSA and FBI, on which he was researching a story just before he died, and was about to talk about it to the public.

  7. Such a bizarre story – my first thought was it was a suicide and Hastings had some accelerant in the car which he touched off just as he aimed for the tree

  8. I didn't read his book, and I hadn't noticed this before…but: http://www.ibtimes.com/michael-hastings-conspirac… " In [...] “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan,” Hastings writes of a McChrystal staffer who allegedly said to him, “We’ll hunt you down and kill you if we don’t like what you write.” " So, death threats ~from-speshul-ops are Hasting's own allegation, not an allegation of anonymous web folk. A video purporting to be of the crash scene appears to show a pristine looking powertrain a very long way from the car, across the next street, on a curb. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LSY3wVuASg I'd like to see that formally explained … for one thing. Saw some calling the road a 'freeway.' I'd be surprised if the speed limit in the area filmed was more than 35mph (close sidewalks, driveways; residential). So we're to believe Mr. Hastings was quite reckless, and that a Mercedes((?) the quintessential safety mobile) will torch itself to tall flames due to impact… Now I finally look and notice that's definitely a discussion out there.

  9. [...] Michael Hastings, Truthteller, Dead at 33 [...]

  10. Kelly Vahlos ended her review (“Michael Hastings vs. Team America”) of ”The Operators” on a melancholy note: “The predominant feeling … is not outrage, nor gleeful satisfaction in seeing everything one suspects about this rotten war confirmed in tawdry black and white detail and in the rise and fall of one of the most celebrated generals in a generation. The overwhelming feeling is, well, sadness. … sadly familiar: a million film plots of mortal men who flew too high and came down with a crash. The rest … — is just plain sad.” As his Michael’s untimely death.

  11. "In its obituary for the journalist [Michael Hastings]… the New York Times toed a line peddled by the government at the time of the McChrystal scandal by casting some doubt on Hastings’ reporting. The journalist’s widow, Elise Jordan, has been swift to take issue with the Times obit."
    — Natasha Lennard, Salon.com (June 20, 2013)

    In his April 2011 piece, “Pentagon Inquiry Into Article Clears McChrystal and Aides,” the Pentagon’s New York Time reporter Thom Shanker wrote that the DoD investigation had “found no proof of wrongdoing by the general,” “were unable to confirm the events as reported in the June 2010 article in “Rolling Stone,” and “challenged the accuracy of the profile of General McChrystal” written by Michael Hastings.

  12. In his 2012 book “The Operators” Michael Hastings responded to criticism of of profile: ”The investigation reads comically. It is the last whitewash of McChrystal’s military career. … Pentagon officials would privately tell journalists that the intent of the investigation wasn’t even to find wrongdoing; it was to “damage” my credibility.”

    In an interview Hastings was asked the question: “are there individual reporters whom you want to call out publicly for their sort of following the Pentagon line and not doing their job?” He replied, “Yeah. I saw a pretty egregious example with the New York Times Pentagon correspondent [Thom Shanker] who literally just published the Pentagon spokesperson's anonymous quotes when he was reporting on my stories. And he didn't bother to call Rolling Stone for a comment, of course, because, well, he's got the official line from the Pentagon.”

  13. It’s worth noting that Shanker also previously whitewashed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s key role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan. In May 2009, President Obama nominated McChrystal to be his new commander of the Afghan War. Conveniently, just before McChrystal’s June 2009 Senate confirmation, the NYT’s published Thom Shanker’s piece, “Nomination of U.S. Afghan Commander Revives Questions in Tillman Case” supposedly “exonerating” McChrystal of all ‘wrongdoing.” Although Shanker’s article was full of official government-approved “facts,” he ignored clear evidence of McChrystal‘s central role in the cover-up [for details, see the posts "Something to Die For," “The [Untold] Tillman Story,” and "Lies Borne Out by Facts, If Not the Truth" at the Feral Firefighter blog].

  14. The evening after his Senate confirmation, McChrystal gave Shanker (& fellow NYT reporter Eric Schmitt) a private tour of his new Pentagon HQ! A few months later, Shanker became a "writer in residence" at the think-tank CNAS which worked closely with McChrystal on the Afghan War “surge, ” and CNAS hosted his book release party in 2011. Isn’t “access” a grand thing!

    I didn’t come away from my personal experience with Thom Shanker & the NYT with any confidence in our “watchdog” media. As Hastings said, “they call it the Pentagon Press Corps, right? And you sort of think, oh, well it means the people who kind of watch over the Pentagon and perform the media's watchdog function, but no, it's an extension of the Pentagon.”

  15. Once again, with their obituary of Michael Hastings (as with their coverage of the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman story) the NYT’s reporting has lacked journalistic integrity (“it’s not The Times that is questioning the article’s accuracy; it was the Defense Department. We're simply reporting what it publicly said”). So, instead of a search for the truth, the NYT’s has once again displayed its stenographic ability to parrot the official government position “borne out by facts, if not the truth.” Not just stenography, but stenography in the service of smearing a real journalist after his tragic, early death!

  16. McChrystal ended his 2013 memoir [see the post "Never Shall I Fail My Comrades" at the Feral Firefighter blog] with a brief, disingenuous discussion of the “Rolling Stone” profile which led to his firing by President Obama. Although McChrystal claims he “took full responsibility” (neglecting to mention his PR guru Duncan Boothby fell on his sword) he also blamed Michael Hastings for his supposed lack of fairness and accuracy. However, it's worth noting that McChrystal has dodged, repeatedly refusing to confirm or deny the accuracy of Hasting’s quotes when questioned by reporters. Why? Probably because he knows Hasting's has many of the quotes on audiotape.

  17. Since the NYT has persisted in smearing Michael's credibility even in their obituary, why shouldn’t Elise Jordan release the tapes to clear Michael’s journalistic reputation? (and stick it to McChrystal and the NYT!). I hope that she decides to posthumously publish Michael Hasting's transcripts (and release the audiotapes) of his interviews with "Team America" & General McChrystal.

  18. I’ll miss Michael’s honest, no BS reporting that is sadly lacking among the stenographic mainstream press. A few days ago, “The American Conservative” (and antiwar.com) reporter Kelly Vahlos ended her eulogy, “Michael Hastings, Truthteller, Dead at 33,” by writing: “Hastings was lambasted by the establishment hive for supposedly “breaking the rules,” which meant he did his job … 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.”

  19. Last year, Vahlos also wrote a touching tribute (“Carl Prine’s Line of Departure”) to another iconoclastic blogger/reporter who has been sidelined by migraines he got from IED hits in Anbar. She wrote: “he is “one of the good guys, a veteran who obviously loves the military for what it could be and loathes it for what it has been used for… He’s not been right about absolutely everything … and sometimes I think he could go easier on other writers [a reference to Michael Hastings], especially when they have their hearts and heads in the right place. … But he’s always consistent when it counts — in his loyalty to the rank and file and exposing the corruption of power. And that makes him tops with me … because there aren’t a lot of veteran-journalist-critics with his talent willing to write the things he does” [One of Carl’s last columns, “McChrystal Clear” was a caustic review of McChrystal’s road show; see the post “Never Shall I Fail My Comrades” for an archived copy].

  20. Finally, last year Kelly Vahlos ended her review (“Michael Hastings vs. Team America”) of ”The Operators” on a melancholy note: “The predominant feeling … is not outrage, nor gleeful satisfaction in seeing everything one suspects about this rotten war confirmed in tawdry black and white detail and in the rise and fall of one of the most celebrated generals in a generation. The overwhelming feeling is, well, sadness. … sadly familiar: a million film plots of mortal men who flew too high and came down with a crash. The rest … — is just plain sad.” As his Michael’s untimely death.

  21. Thanks for the insights. While my initial thought is also foul play I'm not one to buy the corporate propaganda from MB either. I suspect no one tests their car this kind of scenario. A head on very high speed crash against a tree, if that's what happened. And we don't know if the driver was smoking at the time. Some intact beer bottles are around the site. So fire is entirely possible. The clean rip of the powertrain sure looks odd, since there isn't a whole lot of damage visible on it either from an explosion or collision. But again, whatever the physics involved it's not impossible that it's exactly at the weak spots that the powertrain came lose- engine mounts, and some driveshaft joint.

  22. On the flung engine. E.g. when you throw something as hard as you can, you release it with as little forward resistance as possible (unless you throw-like-a-girl). If you shot an engine out of a cannon with initial free speed 60mph, and it skidded/rolled for x feet, x would be further than if it had to break all it's mounting as the car decelerated from 60mph –given the engine's path saw the same skidding and rolling in both cases. Same initial momentum, but in the latter case it saw one more resistance along the path.

    If you're don't see an 'expert' trying to explain how an engine traveled as far as it did from the 'crash,' let alone was 'released' from the chassis at all, that's how little respect for you the establishment has. Nothing requires explaining to you; things just 'are,' and 'are' as they say. If he was murdered, he may as well have 'hung himself' at GTMO, shot himself in the head twice, or been "shot while trying to escape."

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  25. 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.buy instagram followers