Journalist Michael Hastings, 33, died in a car crash on Tuesday.
The Buzzfeed writer and Rolling Stone contributing editor fearlessly covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and American society in general — without pandering to power, while writing in ways that citizens could understand.
“When writing for a mass audience, put a fact in every sentence,” Hastings, who wrote the book “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan,” told young journalists on reddit.
Hastings is best known for “The Runaway General,” a June 2010 article that led to the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, who had been leading the war in Afghanistan since June 2009.
In his honour, we’ve pulled out a few excerpts that struck us as particularly profound, many of which are just as relevant three years later:
- “COIN, as the [counterinsurgency] theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military’s preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states.”
- “The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps.”
- “Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the fifth-poorest country on earth has failed to win over the civilian population, whose attitude toward U.S. troops ranges from intensely wary to openly hostile.”
- “The general’s staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs.”
- “It’s a kind of superhuman narrative that has built up around him, a staple in almost every media profile, as if the ability to go without sleep and food translates into the possibility of a man single-handedly winning the war.”
- “His most compelling work was extracurricular: As managing editor of The Pointer, the West Point literary magazine, McChrystal wrote seven short stories that eerily foreshadow many of the issues he would confront in his career. In one tale, a fictional officer complains about the difficulty of training foreign troops to fight; in another, a 19-year-old soldier kills a boy he mistakes for a terrorist.”
- “After Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former-NFL-star-turned-Ranger, was accidentally killed by his own troops in Afghanistan in April 2004, McChrystal took an active role in creating the impression that Tillman had died at the hands of Taliban fighters.”
- “McChrystal was also open to new ways of killing. He systematically mapped out terrorist networks, targeting specific insurgents and hunting them down – often with the help of cyberfreaks traditionally shunned by the military.”
- “We’ve shot an amazing number of people,” McChrystal recently conceded.
- “Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan.”
- “So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war.”
Here’s Hastings appearing on Piers Morgan of CNN on November 12, 2012, to speak about General David Petraeus in the wake of the sex scandal that derailed his career. Hastings had just published the article “The Sins of David Petraeus.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.