Jacob Heilbrunn

Seymour Hersh's Wild Attack on the Military and Neocons

Seymour Hersh has always had a gift for stirring up controversy. But his latest remarks in Doha, Qatar alleging that the American military is run by Christian fundamentalist "crusaders" are undermining his reputation as a leading investigative journalist. Hersh himself appears to see a conspiracy, led by neoconservatives in league with members of the Knights of Malta, who, he wrongly says include Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, to convert the Muslim world to Christian values.

Hersh, of course, is entitled to spin whatever theories he likes. But it is doubly unfortunate that Hersh would ventilate half-baked theories about the American military and neocons in a talk in Qatar. The Arab world is already swirling with conspiracy theories about American and Jewish influence in foreign affairs. It doesn't need fresh ones from American journalists.

As the Washington Post reports,

Neoconservative advisers to President George W. Bush took the attitude that "'we're gonna change mosques into cathedrals,'" Hersh, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, said in the speech. "That's an attitude that pervades, I'm here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command." The command is the part of the military focused on targeted missions to kill enemy leaders, primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its operations are almost always secret.

He added: "This is not an atypical attitude among some military—it's a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They're protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function."

Far be it from me to downplay the influence of the neocons, but I'm afraid that in this instance Hersh, the exposer of conspiracies, is seeing ghosts. There is no evidence that the military leadership is filled with fundamentalist Christians. It's not clear, either, why the Knights of Malta would attract Hersh's ire. It's primarily a charitable organization, focused on helping provide medical assistance in places like Namibia. Or is that just a smokescreen for neocon influence?

Hersh goes on to declare about President Obama that "Just when we need an angry black man, we didn't get one."

So Obama is supposed to conform to a stereotype of black men. Can you imagine anything more patronizing?

The most intriguing revelation is that Hersh himself says that he's working on a book about the neocons. Another book about neocons! Soon there will be more volumes about the movement than there are neocons.

Hersh has long been a thorn in the side of the neocons. He broke enormously influential stories about the Pentagon and neocon influence during the George W. Bush administration. But now he seems to be once more trying to squeeze the neocon lemon for a fresh story when it's already gone dry.