Washington Post Casts Doubt on Hersh's 'Crusader' Conspiracy Theory

January 21st, 2011 4:16 PM

The Washington Post on Friday took on Seymour Hersh's outlandish conspiracy theory that "neo-conservative" members of Opus Dei and the Knights of Malta inside the military "overthrew the American government" and are waging a "crusade" against Muslims. The newspaper reported that, contrary to Hersh's claims, General Stanley McChrystal was not a member of either organization, and that there was "little evidence of a broad fundamentalist conspiracy within the military."

Writer Paul Farhi began his article, "Hersh rebuked on 'crusaders,'" by stating that the journalist for The New Yorker's "latest revelation is drawing some puzzled reactions and angry denunciations." After recounting Hersh's accusations from his recent speech, that he "advanced the notion that U.S. military forces are directed and dominated by Christian fundamentalist 'crusaders' bent on changing 'mosques into cathedrals'" and his accusations against McChrystal and other members of the special operations community, Farhi continued that there "seem to be a few problems with Hersh's assertions," and quoted from the former general's spokesman:

One is his allegation involving McChrystal. A spokesman for McChrystal said the general "is not and never has been" a member of the Knights of Malta, an ancient order that protected Christians from Muslim encroachment during the Middle Ages and has since evolved into a charitable organization. These days, the Knights, based in Rome, sponsor medical missions in dozens of countries. McChrystal's spokesman, David Bolger, said Hersh's statement linking McChrystal to the group was "completely false and without basis in fact."

...Further, Pentagon sources say there is little evidence of a broad fundamentalist conspiracy within the military. Although there have been incidents in which officers have proselytized subordinates, the military discourages partisan religious advocacy.

Later in the article, the Washington Post writer quoted from Hersh himself, who refused to withdraw his accusations and his questionable comment  President Obama:

Seymour Hersh, taken from http://bengalunderattack.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.htmlHersh said Thursday that he couldn't remember every detail of his speech because it was "a rumination" rather than a scripted talk. But, he said, "no one said the whole war was waged as a crusade. My point is that some leaders of the Special Forces have an affinity for that notion, the notion that they're in a crusade.

"I'm comfortable with the idea that there is a great deal of fundamentalism in JSOC. It's growing and it's empirical. . . . There is an incredible strain of Christian fundamentalism, not just Catholic, that's part of the military."

He called his "angry black man" comment about Obama a "figure of speech, a cliche" that his audience, consisting primarily of American expatriates, laughed at. The speech was sponsored by Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, which has a campus in Qatar....

Hersh declined to comment on some of the specific statements he made in the speech, such as the notion that American military officers pass "crusader" coins among themselves. "I said what I said," he responded. "I can't get into it because I'm writing a book" about the small group of neoconservatives who directed U.S. foreign policy in the Bush administration.                                          

Not only did Hersh double-down on his comments, his publisher at The New Yorker stood by him: "Hersh's editor at the New Yorker, David Remnick, declined to comment on Hersh's speech. But Remnick said, 'Sy is one of the greatest reporters the country has ever known, and that is all I need to know about him.'"

I don't know about "the greatest reporter," but he may have the beginnings for a best-selling novel. Maybe he could consult with Dan Brown.