It was a magazine article that made international headlines and led to the resignation of the General running the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Vermonter Michael Hastings is talking about his profile of General Stanley McChrystal, an article he's exploring in his new book.
Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings says he does some of his best work from his family home in Burlington. "If I have a view of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks and enough coffee, then I am good to go," he said.
It was here in the attic that the 32-year-old wrote his 2010 profile of General Stanley McChrystal -- then the man leading U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
"The surprise was just how poisonous the relationship was between the Pentagon and the White House," Hastings said.
Quotes in the piece sharply criticized members of the Obama administration and led to the 4 star general's resignation. It also led to some criticism of Hastings, about whether McChrystal knew what he said was fair game.
"The intent of the story was never to make the military happy or to make even the people I was writing about happy, it was to treat them fairly. And my responsibility, I felt, is mainly to the readers," Hastings said.
Hastings thought the piece might grab some attention on cable news, but didn't imagine it would lead to a shake up in leadership while the United States was at war. He's now sharing his experiences in his new book--The Operators.
The book takes readers from the Green Mountains to Afghanistan, giving the story behind the piece that made headlines.
Reporter Keith McGilvery: "What is your reaction to the reaction that the article received?"
Michael Hastings: "I was quite surprised. I have been covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now for over six years I have been a journalist for 10 years and most of the times you do a story, it is like a drop in the ocean."
The writer who has spent time in multiple war zones and has navigated the big cities like New York and D.C. says his Vermont roots are strong.
"I was a graduate of Rice High School. I went to New York University. I got an internship at Newsweek in my early 20's and then was able to go to Baghdad for Newsweek. I was Newsweek's Baghdad correspondent, but I have always loved Vermont and have close ties here," he said.
They're ties he's taking seriously. The young journalist says the stories he's covered have particular importance here at home. "The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has touched Vermont in a way that it has touched few other states, the number of soldiers killed in Iraq per capita is extremely high," he said.
Hastings is offering advice to young writers---telling them to stick with it. As a student at Rice he was banned from writing for the school paper after he wrote an editorial comparing the then principal to Jabba the Hut. It was never published. Today he's writing for readers around the world.
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