Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
As erudite and informed as I pretend to be, the fact is that there is much that is important that I either miss, or fail to see any significance in. The death of investigative reporter Michael Hastings showed me that because my first reaction to the news flash was “who is Michael Hastings?” Reading further into the story I discovered that he was the reporter who brought down General William McChrystal and that he was considered to be one of America’s premier investigative journalists. As I read that original story, the thought occurred to me that possibly Hastings’s death in an auto “accident” was not simply a case of reckless driving, but I initially dismissed that as merely the operation of my cynical mindset. Nevertheless, the thought nagged at the back of my consciousness and then I saw a story on http://whowhatwhy.com/ , my favorite investigative website, run by the renowned Russ Baker. The stories title: “The Michael Hastings Wreck-Video Evidence Offers a few Clues” http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/07/14/the-michael-hastings-wreck-video-evidence-offers-a-few-clues/
For my own benefit and perhaps yours, I’ve done a little research into who Michael Hastings was and what he did that deserves attention. I explore the possibility that his death was no accident. I admit that I have no proof beyond speculation. Hopefully I can give you enough information to make your own judgments. In a world where American Presidents openly arrogate to themselves the right to kill people deemed enemies of the United States, all things suddenly become possible. When the basic right of habeas corpus can be denied to American citizens, based upon unproven allegations of their being threats to this country, isn’t it possible for those with the power to detain and to eliminate individuals, to make decisions as to someone’s existence doing harm to this country? Finally, doesn’t this unconstitutional expansion of powers give individuals with government connections the leeway to take revenge on those who expose them? While I’m not privy to knowledge of the actions of those in power and can claim no inside information, I certainly can speculate based on the experience of my lifetime. This then is my speculation about the death and life of Michael Hastings in the context of current life in these United States.
At about 4:30am a man driving a Mercedes swerved off of the straight as an arrow North Highland Avenue, in Los Angeles and into a Palm Tree. It is known that the man was driving at a high rate of speed. That man was:
“Michael Mahon Hastings (January 28, 1980 – June 18, 2013) an American journalist, author, contributing editor to Rolling Stone, and reporter for BuzzFeed. He was raised in New York, Canada, and Vermont, and attended New York University. Hastings rose to prominence with his coverage of the Iraq War for Newsweek in the 2000s. After his fiancee, Andrea Parhamovich, was killed when her car was ambushed in Iraq, Hastings wrote his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story (2008), a memoir about his relationship with Parhamovich and the violent insurgency that took her life.”
“He received the George Polk Award for “The Runaway General” (2010), a Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO‘s International Security Assistance Force in the Afghanistan war. The article documented the widespread contempt for civilian officials in the US government by the general and his staff and resulted in McChrystal’s resignation. Hastings followed up with The Operators (2012), a detailed book account of his month-long stay with McChrystal in Europe and Afghanistan.
Hastings became a vocal critic of the surveillance state during the investigation of reporters by the US Department of Justice in 2013, referring to the restrictions on the freedom of the press by the Obama administration as a “war” on journalism. His last story, “Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans”, was published by BuzzFeed on June 7. Hastings died in a fiery high-speed automobile crash on June 18, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hastings_%28journalist%29
It is of course possible that Michael Hastings death was an accident and that he was merely driving too fast on the wrong road. The WhoWhatWhy article linked above looks into the accident and I think fairly concludes that foul play was possible, but certainly not proven. We do know from Hastings’s friends that in the days before his death he felt he was being harassed our government:
“Earlier the previous day, Hastings indicated that he believed he was being investigated by the FBI. In an email to colleagues, which was copied to and released by Hastings’ friend, Army Staff Sergeant Joe Biggs, Hastings said that he was “onto a big story”, that he needed to “go off the radar”, and that the FBI might interview them. WikiLeaks announced that Hastings had also contacted one of its lawyers a few hours prior to the crash, and the LA Times reported that he was preparing new reports on the CIA at the time of his demise. The FBI released a statement denying that Hastings was being investigated.
According to Biggs, Hastings’ remains were cremated and returned to Vermont. Biggs stated that his family did not want Hastings to be cremated. Los Angeles medical examiner and police authorities indicated that it took two days to identify Hastings because he had been burned beyond recognition, and that the cause of death was undetermined, pending the results of an autopsy and toxicology tests.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hastings_(journalist
We probably will never know what CIA stories Michael Hastings was working on before he died in that auto crash, or if indeed the FBI was investigating him, but given all that we have learned and are beginning to learn about the excessive use of government powers both by civilian and military intelligence, is it possible that Hastings was deemed a “threat” to our country and eliminated? Were I not a young adult in the 60’s I might have banished that type of idea with dismissive disdain. However, as I have written before, the assassinations of the 60’s and the murders at Kent State, have taught me to not be dismissive of the possibilities of conspiratorial actions by some with present or past connections to government. https://jonathanturley.org/2012/03/17/a-real-history-of-the-last-sixty-two-years/ and: https://jonathanturley.org/2012/10/27/murder-at-kent-state/
Hastings’ article that led to the McChrystal dismissal is a detailed and nuanced story of a tough, Spartan-like General: “McChrystal is reported to run 7 to 8 miles daily, eat one meal per day, and sleep four hours a night.” The General and his hand-picked staff had disdain for civilian leadership and basically he was given carte blanche by the President, who the General felt he had cowed in their meetings together. If you read it, as linked below, it seems a fair appraisal of the man and those men who he surrounded himself with.
“Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss [McChrystal] was pretty disappointed.” This was a statement from one of McChrystal’s aides.
“As McChrystal leaned on Obama to ramp up the war, he did it with the same fearlessness he used to track down terrorists in Iraq: Figure out how your enemy operates, be faster and more ruthless than everybody else, then take the fuckers out. After arriving in Afghanistan last June, the general conducted his own policy review, ordered up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The now-infamous report was leaked to the press, and its conclusion was dire: If we didn’t send another 40,000 troops – swelling the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by nearly half – we were in danger of “mission failure.” The White House was furious. McChrystal, they felt, was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president’s ass.” This was Michael Hastings’s interpretation based on his access to General McChrystal and his team.
Below was Hastings assessment of the staff and culture that McChrystal surrounded himself with as taken from an evening in Paris:
“The general’s staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. There’s a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority. After arriving in Kabul last summer, Team America set about changing the culture of the International Security Assistance Force, as the NATO-led mission is known. (U.S. soldiers had taken to deriding ISAF as short for “I Suck at Fighting” or “In Sandals and Flip-Flops.”) McChrystal banned alcohol on base, kicked out Burger King and other symbols of American excess, expanded the morning briefing to include thousands of officers and refashioned the command center into a Situational Awareness Room, a free-flowing information hub modeled after Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s offices in New York. He also set a manic pace for his staff, becoming legendary for sleeping four hours a night, running seven miles each morning, and eating one meal a day. (In the month I spend around the general, I witness him eating only once.) 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.
By midnight at Kitty O’Shea’s, much of Team America is completely shitfaced. Two officers do an Irish jig mixed with steps from a traditional Afghan wedding dance, while McChrystal’s top advisers lock arms and sing a slurred song of their own invention. “Afghanistan!” they bellow. “Afghanistan!” They call it their Afghanistan song.
McChrystal steps away from the circle, observing his team. “All these men,” he tells me. “I’d die for them. And they’d die for me.” http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-runaway-general-20100622
Those three quotations can give you a feeling for why Michael Hastings article in Rolling Stone was explosive enough to lead to the end of Stanley McChrystal’s military career. Hastings was an excellent writer and whether you agree with his conclusions or not the full Rolling Stone article will give you a flavor of his competence as a journalist and I suggest to reading it in its entirety.
I’ve written much on what I call the “Corporate/Military/Intelligence/Complex” (CMIC) as I see it. https://jonathanturley.org/2013/07/12/who-do-you-trust-us-or-your-lying-eyes/#more-66997 One of its’ features is that there is an interrelationship between those in the Military and Intelligence fields with those corporations who receive funding for providing supplies for them. I see this interrelationship as rather incestuous and harmful to our country, since the permeability between these entities can and often does leads to corruption of all parties. In General McChrystal’s case one can see that his Army Retirement has certainly not ended his career:
“In 2010, after leaving the Army, McChrystal joined Yale University as a Jackson Institute for Global Affairs senior fellow. He teaches a course entitled “Leadership,” a graduate-level seminar with some spots reserved for undergraduates. The course received 250 applications for 20 spots in 2011 and is being taught for a third time in 2013.
In November 2010, JetBlue Airways announced that McChrystal would join its board of directors. On February 16, 2011, Navistar International announced that McChrystal would join its board of directors. He is also Chairman of the Board of Siemens Government Systems, and is on the strategic advisory board of Knowledge International, a licensed arms dealer whose parent company is EAI, a business “very close” to the United Arab Emirates government.
In 2011, McChrystal advocated instituting a national service program in the United States. McChrystal stated, “‘Service member’ should not apply only to those in uniform, but to us all … America is falling short in endeavors that occur far away from any battlefield: education, science, politics, the environment, and cultivating leadership, among others. Without a sustained focus on these foundations of our society, America’s long-term security and prosperity are at risk.”
McChrystal’s memoir, My Share of the Task, published by Portfolio of the Penguin Group, was released on January 7, 2013. The autobiography had been scheduled to be released in November 2012, but was delayed due to security clearance approvals required from the Department of Defense. Portfolio publishers stated, “We have decided to delay the publication date of General McChrystal’s book, My Share of the Task, as the book continues to undergo a security review by the Department of Defense … General McChrystal has spent 22 months working closely with military officials to make sure he follows all the rules for writing about the armed forces, including special operations.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_A._McChrystal This is a case of Old (General) Soldiers not only not dying but certainly not fading away. In fact one can detect a political future in the making.
Based on what I presented above let me present a hypothetical, which is only buttressed by my background as a psychotherapist, life experience and love of history. I have little doubt that the General and his cronies believe themselves to be good men and patriots all. They view the world from a perspective that arrogates to themselves knowledge not available to those who have never “walked in their shoes”. While capable of nuanced judgment, it is a judgment nevertheless informed by their world perspective and self-concept of being heroic individuals. Among his men the General is no doubt looked at as the Alpha. As he was quoted in saying: “McChrystal steps away from the circle, observing his team.”All these men,” he tells me. “I’d die for them. And they’d die for me.” I believe the General is stating the truth. So then hypothetically, how would he and/or his men view Hastings’s article that led to the General’s retirement? They believed that the General had the insight to bring the war to a successful conclusion. They believed that our President and his vice President didn’t have a clue as to how to successfully prosecute this war. They therefore then believed that those who opposed the General and his plans were acting against the best interests of the United States, possibly skirting treason. Finally though, Hastings’s was a person who they opened up to and allowed to sit in on their inner circle. They trusted him to produce an article that would highlight the greatness and successes of Stanly McChrystal, after all how could he not after spending so much time with them? Hastings’s article and McChrystal’s ouster probably infuriated them all and raised an angry reaction in men who were described by Hastings as:
“The general’s staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. There’s a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority.”
Am I being unfair in speculating that perhaps the death of this Journalist, three years after this article, may well have been payback? Who knows, not I, but my senses tell me that there are at least two scenario’s whereby Michael Hastings death may be no accident. One could be the government itself, or certain parts of it related to the CMIC and another could be those able to take revenge on someone who in their opinion “brought a good man down to the detriment of our country”. I doubt that the public will ever know the truth if the death was not accidental and really that is not my point in writing this. What I’m trying to bring out is that beyond the unconstitutional behavior of our government in the name of “National Security”, which escalated after 9/11, a situation which in itself is terrible, is the heightened speculation and concomitant loss of faith in our government which follows in its wake. We are supposed to be a nation that exists under the rule of law and guided by our Constitution. How can we maintain faith in these institutions if we suspect that those in government or in the Corporate/Military/Intelligence Complex are able to act outside the law with impunity? What do you think?
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Other links about Hastings death and the suspicions about it: