I don’t mean that slightly provocative title as saying that I’m glad Obama fired our main guy in Afghanistan or anything, more so that it’s good to see that the power of the press is still very much there.
If you haven’t read Michael Hastings article about Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the war in Afghanistan yet, do it. Now.
The President did. And, like any boss who happens upon a note that trashes him written by his employees, he promptly fired McChrystal last week.
This has created all sorts of hubbub, especially in concern to media ethics. Some unnamed official claims that he broke some ‘unspoken’ ground rules and quoted stuff he shouldn’t have. Lara Logan, who covers the military, railed against him for breaking those same rules on CNN.
As any journalist knows (yes, a sports journalist still qualifies as a journalist. At least I think my degree says ‘journalism’ on it…), there’s a fine line that needs to be walked when dealing with subjects like this. After reading around on the issue, I’ve decided that I’m definitely in Hastings’ camp. He was doing simple fly-on-the-wall reporting. Sometimes what you see isn’t very pretty. It all goes back to those J-school 101 classes: be fair, be accurate, be truthful.
I felt that CNN’s Howard Kurtz kind of twisted Hastings’ words into saying that he suggested “that he did a job that the regular beat journalists have not done.” This pissed off Logan, a beat journalist, who went to the weak, but still valid, defense on building relationships with your sources, while still citing some critical pieces she had written.
My take: Hastings was lucky to have been around the general and his staff at their most honest. If they didn’t lay down any ground rules or say any part that was reported was off the record, well, then tough nuts. They probably were just trying to show off and act cool around the Rolling Stone reporter. Maybe they thought they could get Kings of Leon tickets out of the deal.
Regardless, it’s a fantastic article. But what makes it really good is largely being overlooked due to the fallout created from McChrystal’s firing: We’re losing the war. Or if not that, we’re at least not winning it, and probably never will. It paints a stark picture of what’s happening on the ground over there and in the minds of our leaders and soldiers. It leaves you thinking, what are we even trying to accomplish any more?