"That's the attitude," he continued. "We're gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That's an attitude that pervades, I'm here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command."The Knights of Malta and Opes Dei in cahoots? Not usually.
He then alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before briefly becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, "are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta."
Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic organization commited to "defence of the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering," according to its website.
"Many of them are members of Opus Dei," Hersh continued. "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 13th century. And this is their function."
"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.”
And, General Stanley McCrystal is an unlikely member of either the Knights of Malta or Opes Dei, both Roman Catholic organizations. Possible, but not likely. His brother, retired Army Colonel and Chaplain, Scott McCrystal, is the endorsing agent for the Assemblies of God, a protestant Pentecostal denomination.
In the United States Knights of Malta are usually people who have helped the local Cardinal Archbishop with Charitable activities. In Lowell, the late Joe Sullivan is an example. A wonderful man, whose time in the Service was as a medic. Not your typical Special Forces soldier, and from the World War II era anyway.
Insignia, coins? Just about every military organization has a "challenge coin" that identifies members of that unit to one another. Forget your coin and you buy the next round, if challenged. The coin tends to have insignia associated with unit. I have one given to me when I was in Oklahoma City, by a member of the National Air Training Center, Air and Marine, Customs and Border Patrol. Nothing about crusades on the obverse or reverse. The same with military "challenge coins" I have seen.
As for protecting Christians, if that is the mission of the Joint Special Operations Command, they are doing a very poor job of it, as can been seen by the current situation of Copts in Egypt and Christians across the Near and Middle East. The status of religious freedom around the world, as assessed by the US Department of State can be found here. A less secular view can be found here. See especially Page 3.
I think Mr Seymour Hersh is off base here and is not speaking in the light of the new civility we have been encouraged to adopt.
But, since Mr Hersh is not ultramontane,♠ he will likely avoid much criticism.
Regards — Cliff
♠ I am looking for something besides "Right" to describe that crowd of Republicans, Tea Party people and perhaps even Libertarians.