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The President’s History Lecture

06 Feb 2015

On January 5, President Obama, in a speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, equated the current jihadist threat with “terrible deeds committed in the name of Christ.”  Read the entire speech to get the full context. But if you do, you will find President Obama bending over backward to find some moral equivalency between current terrorism and the Crusades.  Let’s first set the historical record straight.

In 1095 (nearly 1000 years ago by the way) the Crusades began (one of eight) when Pope Urban called for war against the Muslim forces which had attacked and occupied the Holy Land, including Jerusalem.  So, first fact:  The Crusades were not a unilateral attack.  Second, they were a military operation, a multi-lateral engagement from various kingdoms of Europe, led by a few of those rulers.  Third, and you can read more about this, the Muslim forces were not by any stretch “paragons of virtue” when they attacked Palestine.  They themselves report a good deal of slaughter of Christians.

Now when the Crusaders reached Palestine, they did engage in real war with the Muslims, not terrorism.  Reports from both sides tell of bloodshed.  After all, it was a war, unlikely to be bloodless.  The Crusaders won that first round and established  “Crusader Kingdoms” throughout Palestine.  Several  more Crusades followed, more and usually less successful.  In the end, the European Christians gave up and went back to their normal business.  The Muslims were left to control Palestine and continued to do so until after World War One.

Let me now ask the reader:  How is that first (or any subsequent) Crusade morally equivalent to modern terrorism?  One could argue, I suppose, that at times the Crusaders did not fight by the rules of Just War theory—and neither did the Muslims, who had no Just War theory like the Europeans.  The problem with that argument is that to say that sometimes the Crusaders did follow the rules of just war is simply to admit that no theory is likely to work out perfectly because of imperfect people.  So to say that some of the forces did not act as they should have is to say very little.

So why did the president apparently deliberately distort history?  The answer is, to suit his political purposes.  Now I cannot fully understand why he continually refuses to accept the ugly fact that radical Islamic terrorists—they are Islamic, albeit “heretical” by some interpretations, this itself being a contentious point—are out to take the Middle East and to kill all infidels they feasibly can.  In the meantime, they use terrorism to cause other people to cower.

I grant the president is in something of a conundrum.  If he appears too hard-line on Islam, he looks bad to other, more moderate, Islamic allies who might help us with ISIS and other terrorist groups.  But it seems that he goes way too far in conciliation.  Even Jordan, an Islamic nation, has taken a more aggressive stance than we have.

At any rate, my main point was to say that there is simply no moral equivalency between modern Islamic terrorism and Crusading of the Middle Ages by Christians.  The progressives and liberals will now complain that the Crusades were a blight on the Christian faith and show how bigoted and intolerant we really are.  Even if that accusation was merited for that time, what has happened in the West in the last 1000 years, especially after World War Two, and especially in the United States?  Our approach to war has become so much better morally that now there can be no argument at all of moral equivalency.  The president should stop trying to be a historian, or at least study his history before he speaks.