The American Crusades: Preamble

For some historians, Western Europe came of age in medieval times as the result of unexpected successes achieved by the first armed pilgrimage to the Holy Land : the First Crusade. At the very least, such epic undertaking had a profound effect in eroding some aspects of feudalism.

Nine centuries later, America , too, is being asked to come of age. Ideologue followers of canonic neo-conservatism, well entrenched in the Bush administration, want these United States to exert hegemony in the world, starting with the Middle East . How? By establishing a military foothold in the very cradle of human civilization under the guise of self-defense (WMD), combating terrorism (Al Qaeda links) or bringing democracy to the region. Take your pick, one or all.

In 1095, Pope Urban II assembled a council of bishops and abbots, with a sprinkling of important knights, and gave at Clermont in Auvergne ( France ) the speech of his life. Vividly, he told the gathering how the Seljuk Turks had desecrated and polluted the altars of the Church, circumcised Christians and cut open their bellies… with an endless litany of loathsome practices. The inspiration for the crusades was at that moment born with the battle cry of Deus vult! (God wills it!).

Nine centuries later, President Bush II, without the eloquence of Urban, is also granted by Congress the power to conduct a “holy war,” a war against Iraq , a rogue nation; a vertex in a triangle of evil; a menace to its neighbors and the US ; a country led by a ruler despised by his dad. The battle cry this time was Novem úndecim! ( Nine eleven !) … although many cynical critics prefer the battle cry of Oleum indigeat! (Oil requires it!)

The start of the crusades finds all Europe inebriated with naïve Christianity and ready to follow the lead of the pope blindly and trustfully, rendering the close of the 11th century in Europe as a time of ignorant and confiding men without an iota of skepticism. With an unquestioning following, and a request for help from Alexis Comnenus, the emperor of Byzantium, Urban was ready to give his blessing to the first expedition against the Moslem world, not a menacing force to Christianity but a scapegoat for the papacy.

Nine centuries later, President Bush rallies Americans around the flag with lie after lie (… let’s stop politely calling them exaggerations!) until Americans had surrendered the essence of civilized men: their ability to question and reason. With an unquestioning citizenry, and an ongoing helping hand for Ariel Sharon, the “other Judeo-Christian emperor,” Bush gave his blessing to the invasion of Iraq , not a menacing force to its neighbors or the US , but a nation ruled by a cruel dictator that could easily become America ’s scapegoat.

Both the papacy and the nobles throughout Christendom saw this quest, the Crusades, as a way of combining religious interests with secular and military enterprises. A way, they thought, for Europeans to expand their reaches to the Outremer (beyond the seas). A way, as far as Pope Urban was concerned, to unify the Greek Church with the Latin Church, and find a cure for the existing schism.

Nine centuries later, both the Bush administration and its enmeshed corporate interests see this crusade as a way of combining political interests with commercial and military enterprises. A way to show the world a decisive America: an unchallenged superpower. A way for Bush to purge every socio-economic aspect in the country… make them conform to predatory, Darwinian views of social justice.

It took more than three years for the crusaders to reach, siege and conquer Jerusalem . Then, seven score of years fighting battles, and much disillusion, saw the transformation of ignorant Europeans into a far more civilized population.

Nine centuries later, American troops have reached and entered Baghdad , but have yet to conquer the hearts or minds of the Iraqi people. Will it take Americans long to reach the level of disillusion of their original European counterparts? Hopefully not! Enlightenment should come soon, be it the moral or economic route… or an election barely a year off.

Hegel hit a bull’s-eye when he proclaimed that “peoples and governments never have learned anything from history”. An even more difficult task when those at the helm of government have never even read a history book.