Discussing Afghanistan with Michael Hastings

Uploaded by vice on Jun 14, 2012


MICHAEL HASTINGS: I had never heard that level of disrespect
directed towards the commander-in-chief from an
officer or any officer, certainly.
Guys on the ground, and this is a very underreported story,
you could go into Afghanistan and do day after day of
stories of quoting Marines, quoting American soldiers
trashing President Obama.
Nobody does that.
They did it for Bush in Iraq.
When a soldier criticized President Bush, it was news.
So this criticising Obama because of the media's love
for Obama is not news.

BEN ANDERSON: McChrystal was supposed to have gotten fired
because of your piece in Rolling Stone.
Do you think he was fired because of that piece?
I think there had been tensions between the Pentagon
and the White House.
Was the Rolling Stone story the excuse to fire this guy?
Look, if he'd been winning the war, and the president would
have been happy with him, they could have easily said, oh,
it's Rolling Stone.
People make mistakes.
General McChrystal and his staff didn't think they were
going to get fired even when the story came out.
They thought the story was going to be worse,
according to them.
I had overheard this other comment, which
was very, very bad.
BEN ANDERSON: From McChrystal himself?
MICHAEL HASTINGS: From one of his guys.
I can't even go into what it was,
because it's so explosive.
So to see these senior military officials criticize
the president not only in front of me, but in front of
staffs of dozens, I think was--
they questioned the judgment.
Everything came out in the book.
You named people you hadn't named in the
Rolling Stone article.
BEN ANDERSON: Well, did you get a reaction
from the guys featured?
MICHAEL HASTINGS: The book critically did quite well.
It was well received.
Really positive response in terms of consumers and
whatnot, actually.
The most overt volley from the sort of Pentagon was this
review in the Wall Street Journal, which they had a
military contractor who worked for Petraeus and General
Caldwell and was an unofficial advisor to General McChrystal
trashed the book in the Wall Street Journal
in the first day.
And he didn't disclose that he actually worked
for all these generals.
So that's how they operate.
They had made attempts over the previous year.
There had been two, actually three Pentagon investigations
into my work.
They had made pretty serious attempts to try to undermine
the reporting in Rolling Stone.
I bet they felt on some level they were making progress
there, but I think that with the success of the book and
the fact that no one has disputed anything in the book.
No one has ever-- has yet to dispute any facts in the
original story.
BEN ANDERSON: Whenever you meet anyone from the very top
guy to the very bottom guy, nothing is off the record.
BEN ANDERSON: That's one of the first
things they tell you.
You actually have to sign a piece of paper when you go on
embed that says everything is on the record.
And it was interesting.
Complicit in this were my colleagues in the Washington
Pentagon Press Corps, who would just sort of take this
bullshit that the Pentagon was feeding them and run stories,
not calling for comments from me, not even reading the
reports that they were quoting from and characterizing.
So this is me complaining about my Pentagon colleagues.
BEN ANDERSON: I think I was in Afghanistan and someone said
you'd applied for an embed and been denied
BEN ANDERSON: --an embed.
That's true?
MICHAEL HASTINGS: I had already been approved for an
embed, and I don't think the military knew.
ISAF didn't even know about it.
And then I was doing a talk, and someone asked me, well,
how is your relationship with the military?
I said, actually, I talk to soldiers all the time, and in
fact, I'm going on an embed next month.
They sent in, someone did a blog post within 24 hours.
Apparently my name is in Google Alerts somewhere.
I got a letter that said, because of your story about
General McChrystal and the political fallout, you're no
longer allowed to come over unless you get like four
written sworn statements.
And it was a headquarters thing.
BEN ANDERSON: I was reading before the fuss it caused, you
still thought this would make a--
MICHAEL HASTINGS: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
And I interviewed them for hours and hours when
I was on this trip.
I knew after day two of them that I want to write a book
about them.
BEN ANDERSON: And they knew that?
MICHAEL HASTINGS: Yeah, I'd make jokes
about it all the time.
And one of the interesting things was they were sort of
holding out access.
They were playing this game with a variety of reporters,
some big names, about who was going to get the best access
for the book projects.
BEN ANDERSON: Because someone was going to do the official
biography of McChrystal, which was going to be a big seller.
MICHAEL HASTINGS: So this was sort of the carrot they were
putting out there for me.
BEN ANDERSON: You know, they seemed excited by the idea of
having a Rolling Stone journalist as opposed to Wall
Street Journal, or Washington Post, or New York Times.
McChrystal said, my kids want me to be on the cover of
Rolling Stone.
So you feel like you've change the course of the war in
Afghanistan or changed policy?
MICHAEL HASTINGS: Well, a lot of this story is actually
about how counter-insurgency doesn't work.
We can take credit for sort of cementing that narrative or at
least making it very obvious that this is a real problem.
BEN ANDERSON: Michael, thank you very much.