Who, at the moment, seems just a little kooky.
Speaking in Qatar this week, Hersh delivered what Foreign Policy calls "a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe ... expressing his disappointment with President Barack Obama and his dissatisfaction with the direction of U.S. foreign policy."
Nothing particularly kooky there. A lot of people (although not at the Egg!) are less than enthusiastic about the president these days. But here's the kooky part. He said that, both in the Cheney era and today, the wars in Asia have been conceived (on the part of American policy makers) in explicitly religious terms:
First off, if that's true, they're incompetent. Because in the chaos created by our invasions, the Christian populations of central Asia have been pounded savagely. Far from protecting them, our troops have put them in significantly greater danger, and in Iraq may well have assured their eventual extirpation. Second, and needless to say, the Pentagon denies it all. And they sound pretty credible doing it, which is more than Hersh can say.
Now, there is some stuff that isn't kooky at all. When Hersh talks about a military in which religion is used as a tool for motivating the troops, he is on to something we have heard elsewhere, and often. Hersch goes on to say this:
"They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins," he continued. "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.”"
We don't know whether it is true, but it does match up with other things we have seen. In case it needs saying, this is -- if true -- a bad thing for many reasons, ranging from military strategy to the First Amendment.
But. The Knights of Malta? Opus Dei? This is the stuff of conspiracy nuts, the same people who put on tin-foil hats to block the CIA transmission through their fillings. The actual Knights Hospitallers of St. John etc. are a charitable organization, and Opus Dei, while certainly sinister enough if one is a liberal Roman Catholic still nursing the dream of a new John XXIII, isn't that kind of sinister. (And of course, they've been a huge boon to the small guild of craftsmen making hair shirts. Joking.)
In fact, so far as we can tell, the religious wing-nut contingent in the US armed forces is largely run by neo-Protestant fundamentalists. (Here, here, here, here, for starters.) It is vocal and aggressive, but not especially well-organized. Less a conspiracy than a movement -- although a very wicked movement indeed.
But please do note our qualifiers here: If. So far as we can tell. The fact is that Hersh does not sound credible, and has yet to lay out any evidence. We suspect him very strongly of having turned an unfortunate emotional corner, much like the former Lutheran former theologian Bob Benne. But the other fact is that he has been, for many years, a reliable reporter of facts which might otherwise seem unbelievable. So let's see if he's got some now.