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Crusades and Crusaders

On D-Day in 1944, Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, referred to the invasion of Nazi-occupied France in his message to the troops as “the great crusade.” Later, his book about World War II was titled Crusade in Europe. More than 700 years earlier, the original Crusades began. Their basic intent was to take back some of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem from Muslim rule.

In the tiny Italian hill town of Montefiascone, this family supported five Crusades

Since World War II, one of the countless and more pathetic manifestations of Western European self-hatred has been to portray the Crusades as brutal, barbaric and completely unwarranted attacks on Muslim territory. A mob of American academics and media types have also gleefully piled on in support of this notion. The Crusades were brutal and barbaric, but not exceptionally so for the times, on either side. They were also horribly inept military enterprises.

But unwarranted or unjustified? I think not.

Constantinople, capiral of the Eastern Roman Empire fell to the Muslim Turks long after the last Crusade

Here is the real story. Islam burst out of the Arabian desert in the early 600s AD. At that time, from Babylon in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and from Egypt in the south to the Crimean Peninsula in the north, Christianity was the dominant religion. Then, Mohammed and his followers showed up, conquering in the name of Allah. Within a few hundred years, and long before the first Crusade, the Sword of Islam had swallowed two thirds of Christendom. Along with Zoroastrian Persia and a big chunk of the Hindu and Buddhist world.

At a critical early point in this process, the first outbreak of bubonic plague killed one third of the Eastern Roman Empire’s people. This prevented a massive, effective counterattack that would have rolled back some of the huge loss.

At that point in the West there was little but chaos. Help was not possible from lands shriveling in the sickening shade of great things lost. No net wealth was created for several hundred years after the fall of the old Western Roman Empire about 150 years earlier.

A Crusader Cross

In fact, both population and wealth in the West declined hugely from Late Roman levels. Anything a local strongman thug had in the West, he’d taken from people in the surrounding countryside, with inevitable destruction of some valuables in the taking. Then, a stronger thug took his stuff, with more destruction of valuables. There was just churning chaos for hundreds of years. The Catholic Church was the single point of stability.

Finally, by the time of the first Crusade (1096), some of the strongman thugs had gained enough control over enough people for long enough that some in the West passed the threshold of stability needed to create wealth rather than destroy it. And, finally, the West was able to look outside itself.

In light of all this, it’s clear to me that the nine Crusades from 1096 to 1272 were in fact a long-delayed and inept series of counterattacks, pure and simple. Most wandered off course (some very far), but they all had a limited objective, not to retake the two-thirds of Christendom swallowed by Islam, but just to the retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

It was not a proto-Imperialist attack against the self-declared Religion of Peace, but a groggy underdog’s clumsy, pinprick counterattack against the Sword of Islam.

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Another Crusader Family Crest from Montefiascone

So, how did I figure this out? Lot’s of study and cross-checking of facts. It’s been a tough slog to wade through the self-loathing, revisionist drivel poured out by post-war European academics and parroted on this side of the Atlantic. It’s also been bothersome to ignore the din of modern Islamist propaganda about the Crusades. One bright spot though was that the titanic, laughable ignorance of the media was a breeze to sail past. None of them is able to remember yesterday, let alone something historical.

I’d say that geese or turkeys have more sense, but what do I really have against those relatively noble and intellectually accomplished birds anyway?

  1. September 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Do really think that is true?

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