The veteran journalist and scourge of the Vietnam War, Seymour Hersh, has angrily claimed that US military leaders in the Iraq War were linked to the Knights of Malta – that they saw their mission as one to replace mosques with cathedrals.
“That’s the attitude – we’re gonna change mosques in to cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades. I’m here to say. A large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command.”
This speech was being delivered in Qatar this week and Hersh said the war against Saddam Hussein was seen as a crusade pure and simple.
Alleging that commanders in the US army were also connected to Opus Dei, he went on:
“They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally. They seem themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the thirteenth century. And this is their function.”
He added the curious allegation that these generals pass crusader coins or that have crusader insignia between them.
“They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community.”
Needless to say Catholic bloggers have not been delighted by the reference to the Order of Malta. Catholic League president Bill Donohue blasted Hersh on the Catholic Online website:
“So this is the group that Seymour Hersh seeks to demonize. His long-running feud with every American administration-he now condemns President Obama for failing to be “an angry black man”-has disoriented his perspective so badly that what he said about the Knights of Malta is not shocking to those familiar with his penchant for demagoguery.”
I bring this spat to your attention as it conjures up images of Christian knights versus Saracens being replayed a thousand years later. But is it actually true? There’s no doubt that some of the rhetoric post-9/11 had an unfortunate crusader tinge to it – and the word ‘crusade’ was even used injudiciously to refer to the Iraq War.
But we then have to take a leap further and ask is the US military really engaged on a project to roll back Islam and establish crusader states in the Middle East (excepting Israel which muslim fundamentalists would call a de facto crusader state)?
If they are – they’ve failed spectacularly. The only state with a smile all over its face in the Middle East today is Iran – is that what our erstwhile crusaders thought would be the outcome in 2003?