Monday, January 24, 2011

What Constitutes Proof

Seymour Hersh said a bunch of weird things recently:
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 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."
Now there are some dim bulbs in the military camp and always have been, but I think Hersh is going a little far there, and there were people pushing for the Iraq war who do not give a single shit about Jesus or puppies or rainbows. My own feeling is that the camp of cynical exploitation was enough to get that godforsaken - HA - war going. Mind you I am not Seymour Hersh and I know nobody and nothing and I have never been anywhere or broken a story and he has and so I will give the benefit of the doubt to him, hoping that he comes up with the goods even though, you know, woo woo. But look at Charles Lane's take on it:
What I find bizarre about Hersh's latest iteration is how blatantly it flies in the face of the tragic facts about Christianity in Iraq since the U.S. invasion. Specifically, and as reported just two days ago in the New York Times, Iraq's Christian population has plunged: by about half since March 2003.

Far from securing the Middle East for Christians, the U.S. has done little or nothing to stem or reverse the exodus, which is due in large part to harassment and violence by Muslim extremists.

Hersh says: "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."

You would have thought these covert warriors would have tried to keep some Christians around to attend mass in their newly converted houses of worship. But apparently their crusade has been a failure. Or maybe it's all just a part of the cover-up.
Yes, of course, the best anti-Hersh argument is that the Christian Cabal didn't manage to create a Christian paradise in Iraq. Because, of course, if there was a Christian Cabal, they would have succeeded.

14 comments:

Brendan said...

I haven't read that Hersch piece yet, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that a serious strain of evangelican/fundamentalist Christianity is pervasive throughout the officer corps of the US military, and that there is, in fact, a holy war/crusade mentality among many of them. This has been well-documented by numerous independent reports. I've noted a few of these stories as they've broken over the past few years (e.g.).

That they haven't succeeded in turning Iraq into Christendom 2.0 is not proof that the mindset doesn't exist.

Substance McGravitas said...

It's not that I don't think the mindset exists - it clearly has existed in some generals and may still in many now serving. But it seems shockingly weird to think that Faith In Anything At All But Power has hijacked American foreign policy.

And yeah, your last sentence is quite right: Lane has proven nothing at all.

Smut Clyde said...

The failure of the invasion to secure a reliable supply of oil from Iraq proves that securing control of Iraq's oil resources was not a motive for invading after all...

The failure to install a loyal government, grateful for the US and obedient to US instructions, likewise...

Lane is overestimating the competence of the US military and intelligence services if he thinks that the ultimate outcomes of the invasion coincide with the intentions and predictions of the people who planned it.

Substance McGravitas said...

Mildly reworded for clarity of sarcasm.

The failure of the invasion to secure a reliable supply of oil from Iraq proves that securing control of Iraq's oil resources was not a motive for invading after all...

On the other hand there's an argument to be made that the conservatives who fuelled the war have gotten themselves some subjugation of women. Mission accomplished!

Brendan said...

@SMcG:

But it seems shockingly weird to think that Faith In Anything At All But Power has hijacked American foreign policy.

I did look at the link after I posted my comment (my usual back-asswardness) and I then saw it was a talk by Hersh, not a New Yorker article. He does tend to go overboard in those settings.

In any case, agreed. I'm not saying that the overall strategic vision is that dominated by fundies being fundies. There are many strains of faith at work among the high command, and certainly the predominate one is Might Makes Right (as long as it is American Might). But analogously to the job of police officer, which tends to attract a disproportionate number of the people who were bullies in high school, the American military tends to attract a overly large fraction of people who truly believe they're on a Mission From God. And it does affect at least some aspects of day-to-day operations, for sure, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it also affects, for example, the way briefings of superior officers are put together.

M. Bouffant said...

Our previous "research" indicates the Knights of Malta are putting their eggs in a private basket.

Dictionary-length. You've been warned.

Smut Clyde said...

Christian Cabal

What did he star in?

Smut Clyde said...

Also I would like to see the Knights of St. Lazarus featuring more in geopolitical intrigue.

Open Cahoots said...

He also said that American soldiers were killing entire villages of Vietnamese but there are still Vietnamese.

mikey said...

I think you (and Seymore, for that matter) are whacking Occam in the cranium with a shovel here.

First, JSOC IS tremendously competent. They excel at their core mission - breaking things and hurting people. That there are political and economic contratemps that cannot be solved by breaking things and hurting people is something the US leadership has not come to grips with yet, but are slowly recognizing that they'll have to face up to it at some point.

A General is the equivelent of a C-Level executive in a large organization. He gets there by a combination of success, politics, not EVER screwing up too badly and serendipity. He continues to hold his position of power and authority be doing what the executive leadership instructs and desires.

He needs no further motivation to do exactly what it is he does - he would be doing exactly the same things, in exactly the same way, REGARDLESS of his personal theology. Just as the executives at Intel or Roche act in a manner best calculated to return them further wealth and power, not how their personal philosophies instruct them to act, so too do General officers act to please their superiors and carry out the tasks assigned them in the manner expected.

All else is superfluous....

Substance McGravitas said...

Lissen mikey, school painting is explicitly within the military domain. Iraq should also be awash in Hershey bars.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Also I would like to see the Knights of St. Lazarus featuring more in geopolitical intrigue.

I wish the Sleeping Knights of Jesus would be more involved in world affairs.

Jennifer said...

Iraq should also be awash in Hershey bars.

And hosiery...

Whale Chowder said...

mikey is right as far as his thesis goes and Subby is right that the military leadership didn't put us in Iraq in order to create a Crusade.

That said, I think the military has had a lot of scope to run operations in-country. It wouldn't be hard to argue that their Dominionist attitudes have affected their approach to the mission, their attitudes about the local leadership, the opposition and how the population should be handled.

After all, if they're just heathen animals, then whoopin' up on them a little or stacking them in naked piles or whatever's perfectly OK, right?