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Robert Greenwald and Reporter Michael Hastings Take on the Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War Machine

Hastings, in his hard-hitting new book, discusses "politically correct imperialism," why the military is obsessed with its legacy, and why we're stuck in post-9/11 thinking.

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So the fact that they haven't ... well, they have been but it just doesn't stick because they're all complicit. I mean, that's the rub. And I understand that it's tough to make a living as a writer, and these institutions give you an office space, they give you time, they give you money to do more interesting projects, but what's the price of that? The price is that you have to pull a lot of punches. And you may not even be realizing you're doing it. But I think they do, I think they're just playing the game.

RG: Right, the club. Moving from that to the final question I wanted to ask you about. When you exposed what was going on with McChrystal and his team over there, you said you learned by going out in the field not at the K Street cocktail parties …

MH: Yeah, and that was a comment that endeared me to many of my friends in Washington, I'm sure.

RG: I'm sure it did. But an important one because it's a very clear dividing line, and a very clear perspective. You got quite viciously attacked. Was it organized? Was it the club? And how did you respond to those attacks? And have they had any lasting effect?

MH: Well, look, at first I was perplexed and thought, 'oh, these guys just don't get what I'm doing or they're confused.' But then I realized it was a little more pernicious than that. I'm trying to think of exactly how I should put this. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by it.But I was. I got a horrible review in the Wall Street Journal which was comical in many ways because it was written by a defense contractor, it was written by a guy who worked for General Petreaus and general Caldwell, and they didn't disclose that.

But this reviewer says, you know, 'Hastings is a fuck up because he follows in the tradition of Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, and not reporters who work for the New Yorker or The New York Times .' And why that was interesting to me was because, I agree, I totally agree with that analysis, but it's because Neil Sheehan and Dave Halberstam, their experiences were forged while they were in their 20s in Vietnam, you know? They were young reporters covering this stuff. So they saw the war not working first-hand. And that had a very profound impact on how they viewed everything.

And there's a number of journalists, of my contemporaries, who I would name but I don't want to get them in trouble, who also have seen these sort of same sort of things unravel in our 20s. And that's the most formative kind of experience for us. Now on the other hand, you have these kind of liberal hawks guys who their first big war was Iraq, and they were dead wrong about it, you know? They're these foreign policy experts who were just dead wrong.

And so how do you deal with that? How do you come to terms with that? And my answer to that would be I don't think they came to terms with it well. As you see when they lash out.

And you can't ever forget the impact of the complete failure of many of the top names in the media when it comes to the Iraq war. And we've never come to terms with it. They just can't. The guys who were the worst offenders cannot come to terms with their moral responsibility in terms of waging the war in Iraq. And in fact, again, you see them making statements today like, 'oh, well I didn't really support that,' or 'I was ambivalent,' or 'well, I didn't publicly support it.' And you think they would have learned with Afghanistan to question more and to not just cheerlead the whole thing.

 
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