The Conversation: Why Was McChrystal So Honest in Rolling Stone?

Journalist Michael Hastings on why McChrystal may have been so open in interview

ByABC News
June 21, 2010, 12:53 PM

June 22, 2010— -- Reporter Michael Hastings, who has covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for years, finds himself in the center of a media firestorm over his Rolling Stone article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The article, entitled "The Runaway General," characterizes McChrystal as an outsider who doesn't get along with many in the Obama administration.

The story quotes one top McChrystal adviser referring to Vice President Joe Biden as "Bite Me." Another aide speaks of McChrystal's disapointment with Obama after their first meeting.

The article has led to serious repercussions, McChrystal has been called to the White House for a meeting with the President tomorrow to explain his actions. In the White House briefing this afternoon Robert Gibbs made it clear that "all options are on the table" when it comes to McChrystal's future role in the Afghanistan war.

In today's Conversation ABC's Diane Sawyer spoke with Hastings from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to get his take on the attention the article has received. Hastings explained to Sawyer that he spent a significant amount of time with McChrystal and his staff over the month of reporting.

When he first began the project nothing was off-the-record. "I had my tape recorder out in front of his face with my notebook for most of the time. So, from what I understand it was on the record, said Hastings, adding that even was surprised to get that kind of transparency.

However, towards the end of his reporting, Hastings found that more conversations, phone calls and meetings became off-the-record.

On McChrystal's motivation for doing the interview Hastings said he can't say exactly why McChrystal agreed to such an open arrangement, he believes it may have come from McChrystal's natural personality and time in the special forces community.

"It was a sort of natural kind of recklessness that General McChrystal had, that has been with him through his entire career," said Hastings, adding, "Their willingness to take a risk is a part of their whole persona. And inviting me in, was a obviously a risk, as it always is when you invite a journalist in."

After spending so much time with McChrystal and his inner circle, Hastings said he sees McChrystal's lack of understanding towards civilians as one of the biggest problems facing him.

"Clearly, General McChrystal, his father's a General, and he grew up in the armed forces, I don't think he understand civilians really. And actually the US officials told me that: General McChrystal doesn't understand civilians, and I think that there's some truth to that."

Hastings also told Sawyer that many of the soldiers he met in Afghanistan didn't share the overwhelming adoration of McChrystal that is often portrayed in articles.

"I've had people come up to me and say, who found out that I was here, and congratulating me on the story, for getting the message out there on how upset American troops are with Stanley McChrystal," said Hastings, adding, "if you spend any time with the soldiers, they will tell you how unhappy they are with the rules that they have to fight under."

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