Michael Hastings: Journalist who brought down an American general

He was one of the first writers to investigate the use of killer drones by the US army in Pakistan

Michael Hastings, the author and campaigning journalist for Rolling Stone magazine and for BuzzFeed, has died at the age of 33 following a car crash. His writing was characterised by a quest for the truth and for not holding back, regardless of the subject matter, the people involved or their status. He will be best remembered for his profile of General Stanley McChrystal, International Security Assistance Force commander in Afghanistan, which led to the subject’s resignation.

Hastings was born in Burlington, Vermont, the son of doctors Brent and Molly Hastings. He studied at Rice Memorial High School and New York University, from which he graduated in 2002. It was in June 2010 that Rolling Stone published his piece “The Runaway General”, on General Stanley McChrystal, the scoop which was to boost his own career while ending the career of an eminent soldier.

In an age of “embedded” war reporters, it is usual for the interaction between journalists and military leaders to be strictly controlled. However, during April that year, air transport to Afghanistan had been complicated by the volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Hastings found himself on a bus from Paris to Berlin with McChrystal and his entourage. The visit, which was supposed to take place over two days, turned into a month, during which time Hastings had considerable access to the general.

His candid and unguarded remarks, reported in Hastings’ article, included the line, “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?”, then, while laughing, “Who’s that?” Reacting to the piece and to McChrystal’s words, President Obama said that, “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general… It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

The general found himself obliged to resign. Interviewed later, Hastings said, “I did not think General McChrystal would be fired. In fact, I thought his position was basically untouchable, I thought it would give them a headache for maybe 72 hours.” The piece went on to win a Polk Award and was nominated as a 2010 “Game Changer” by the Huffington Post.

In April 2012 he published “The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret”. This was one of the first mainstream articles in the US media to investigate the subject in depth. In this critical examination he observes that “…the implications of drones go far beyond a single combat unit or civilian agency. On a broader scale, the remote-control nature of unmanned missions enables politicians to wage war while claiming we’re not at war – as the United States is currently doing in Pakistan.”

Aside from his journalism, he wrote a number of books about US foreign policy and his own experiences as a war correspondent. His debut, I Lost My Love in Baghdad, which told the story of the death in that troubled city of his girlfriend Andi Parhamovich, who was working for the National Democratic Institute, which provides training and material to political parties and the media in fragile democracies. was published in 2008. Publisher’s Weekly said of it: “Like Mariane Pearl’s A Mighty Heart, this is a tragic love story with broad appeal married to an unflinching account of wartime violence and brutality; as such, it should do even more than that bestseller to fill in a general audience on the dire state of Iraq.”

In The Operators (2012) Hastings provides a more detailed account of the time spent travelling with General McChrystal. That book has gone on to become a New York Times bestseller. His last work was Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama’s Final Campaign, which covers the anxious campaigning activity leading up to the most recent presidential election.

His colleague Matt Farwell said of him, “As a journalist, he specialised in speaking truth to power and laying it all out there. He was irascible in his reporting and sometimes/often/always infuriating in his writing: he lit a bright lamp for those who wanted to follow his example.”

Rolling Stone’s managing editor, Will Dana, said, “Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity, the sense that there are stories burning inside them, and that there’s no higher calling or greater way to live life than to be always relentlessly trying to find and tell those stories. I’m sad that I’ll never get to publish all the great stories that he was going to write, and sad that he won’t be stopping by my office for any more short visits which would stretch for two or three completely engrossing hours. He will be missed.”

Michael Hastings, author and journalist; born Burlington, Vermont 28 January 1980; married 2011 Elise Jordan; died Los Angeles 18 June 2013.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments