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."
[. . .]
"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."
"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."
This seriously sounds like the man was sauced. But it got me thinking, what would the old Crusading Knights of Malta look like today?
The Order was, by the 14th century, a warmaking institution. These were fighting men sworn to the defense of Christendom against the forces of Islam (i.e., the Turks). When all Crusading Kingdoms were defeated and ousted from the Near East, the Knights holed up at Rhodes, before retreating to Malta, where they hung on despite a massive assault in 1565.
They were independent of Rome and of national powers like the Hapsburgs. They were occasionally a real headache for conciliatory churchmen. They somewhat counterbalanced the business-oriented callousness of the Italian marine powers like Venice and Genoa, who were often content to placate the Turks and let threatened Christians rot in order to maintain trading relationships. The Knights’ seamanship was legendary. They were at every major naval battle of that age. They operated like pirates against the Turks. It was a bloody business, and they were tough SOBs. When the Sultan decided he had had enough of them, he dispatched a colossal force to drive the Knights from the sea for good. A great battle ensued and Malta defended her liberty.
So what would an organization like this look like today? Interesting question. Harassing and embarrassing the Egyptians and sheltering Copts? Cyberwar on CAIR? Constant annoyance of the State Dept and all diplomats everywhere? I can promise you it would annoy American policymakers. Probably they would have opposed the Iraq war as a major distraction from the real action. Probably liberals in 2003 would have discovered a Strange New Respect for the Knights of Malta.
Long live the Knights of Malta!