Dennis M. Howard
The truth about the Crusades
By Dennis M. Howard
February 12, 2015

If there is one thing about the practice of deception, it's that sooner or later, the truth catches up with you – often to your embarrassment.

For a host of politicians that has certainly been true, from Bill Clinton's famous denial – "I did not have sex with that woman!" to Nancy Pelosi's "You'll have to pass the bill to see what's in it" to Hillary Clinton's "What difference does it make?"

Fortunately, lies meant to deceive often reveal far more about a person's character than if he had just kept his big mouth shut.

There are of course many different kinds of lies. Outright lies like the ones told by politicians in order to get elected. Distortions designed to twist what actually happened into something that will advance your ideology. Complete inversions designed to convict the good guys and make the bad guys look like heroes. And sugar-coated lies meant to make stinkers smell good.

Yet I find it amazing that so many of my colleagues in the media are willing to give big lies a pass or at least the softball treatment that is almost as bad as the original lie.

I suppose that's why so many of the heavies on Fox News Sunday – still confess to "confusion" about Barack Obama's refusal to use honest terms like "radical Islamists" or "Islamic terrorists" in any of his statements about terrorism. They forget that the undisguised objective of the so-called "fog of war" is just plain deception. That's why the Navy used smoke screens in World War II to hide their fleet from the guns of the enemy.

Two exceptions to this polite confusion are Sean Hannity and Judge Jeanine Pirro, who have bluntly called the president's obfuscations what they are – not confusion or lack of awareness or sensitivity to religious feelings – but plain old deception.

Nevertheless, I was badly shaken by Judge Pirro's choice of the Rev. John Hagee as her guest to answer the President's distortion of history in his Prayer Breakfast speech. Unfortunately, Hagee's view of the Crusades and of the Inquisition is just as distorted as the President's.

At the Prayer Breakfast, the President had said: "Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. It is not unique to one group or religion."

This twisted version of history was plainly an attempt to soften the public reaction to the bombings. beheadings, crucifixions, and public immolation of innocent men, women and children that the jihadists have been pursuing for years – indeed, long before 9/11 brought their terror tactics to our attention. Call it "the fog of propaganda."

However, Hagee's comments only increased the confusion about the President's statement by distorting history even more.

Hagee was totally wrong, for example, in stating that the Crusaders' objective in going to the Holy Land was "to kill Jews." By the time of the First Crusade, the Jewish people were already dispersed throughout Europe as a result of their famous diaspora. The Holy Land at the time was in Muslim control. It was their refusal to allow Christians access to the Holy Places without risking death or enslavement that was one of the main reasons for the First Crusade.

Second, the Jews were not a singular target of the Inquisition. That doesn't make the Inquisition a pleasant piece of history. But they burned a lot of "heretical" Christians at the stake, too, Joan of Arc being one of them. Her later canonization as a saint was, in fact, a sign of the church's repentance for some of the horrors committed in its name during the Inquisition.

Let's be honest, the Inquisition was a sign of very barbaric times. New England fundamentalists were burning women at the stake as late as 1692. Lots of people took their religion to extremes in those days. Until the founding of the American Republic, the world was not exactly a civilized place. All things considered, I'm not sure how civilized it is even today.

To put this in proper context, however, you have to go all the way back to Mohammed who, according to historians, didn't amount to much until he hit 40 – when after too many days and nights in the desert he began prophesying and laying the foundations for the basic teachings of the Koran. In 622, he made his first pilgrimage to Mecca, but wore out his welcome there only to return with an army seven years later to conquer Mecca. News of this victory spread far and wide and his following grew. He died just three short years later.

Aggressive Muslim expansion continued under his successor, the first Caliph – a sort of Muslim Pope. A split then developed with the Shiites, who recognized Mohammed's son-in-law as their head. That split still survives between the Sunni and the Shia. (It's the Muslim version of the Hatfields and the McCoys – except they hold grudges centuries longer than we do.)

Winning converts by the sword soon proved to be very successful. Within a dozen more years, Muslim rule extended throughout Arabia. Soon Muslim armies threatened the Byzantine and Persian empires. Syria, Eqypt. Iraq and Persia fell to Muslim armies, and by 732, the territories they controlled extended across North Africa and well into Spain.

The Muslim invasion of Europe met its first setback when Frankish King Charles Martel defeated invading Muslim armies in 732 at the battle of Tours, France. In other words, they got more than halfway to Paris before they were stopped. After Tours, they retreated behind the shelter of the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain.

Meanwhile, in the East, their territory extended all the way to the Indus River, which flows from Kashmir through Pakistan. In short, they had already made Alexander the Great look like the captain of the "Jayvee" team – to borrow a phrase from the President.

But all of that was 363 years before Pope Urban called for the First Crusade in 1095!

Pope Urban did so in the hope of restoring Asia Minor to Byzantium, and stopping the practice of capturing pilgrims trying to visit the Holy Land, and holding them for ransom or worse.

Far from being powerful armies, the crusades were largely fought by ragtag volunteers inspired by visions of being able to visit the Holy Places. That's why most of them failed. The height of the ridiculous was reached with the so-called "children's crusade." Those who organized it thought that God would miraculously bless them because the children were innocent.

Needless to say, they were slaughtered.

All of this needs to be viewed in the context of history. Europe itself was only slowly becoming civilized after centuries of invasions by various bands of huns and vandals. Muslim aggressions into Europe were not finally stopped until the Battle of Vienna in 1529 and the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571. Both were essentially defensive battles to ward off Muslim invasions.

If not for these decisive victories, we'd all be worshipping Allah and living under Sharia law today. Left unchecked, Muslim armies could have taken Europe with ease. In fact, they made extensive use of gunpowder long before we did.

Meanwhile, it was common for Christians captured by Muslim aggressors to be either enslaved or killed. The only hope for many was to buy their freedom with ransom money. Indeed, in the early days of our Republic, ransom money paid to Barbary pirates amounted to as much as 20% of our national budget. Jihadism is nothing new.

These tributes continued long after Thomas Jefferson and John Adams protested them. The Muslim reply to their protest was that all nations who failed to acknowledge their authority were "sinners" and that it was the Muslim "right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise."[1]

Sound familiar? The only thing missing was the promise of 72 virgins to keep jihadists happy.

When Jefferson became President, the first thing he got from the Pasha of Tripoli was a note demanding immediate payment of $225,000 plus $25,000 a year thereafter. Jefferson's answer was to send a squadron of frigates to the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the war lasted four more years and didn't end until the U.S. Marines put a stop to it on the famous "shores of Tripoli."

It just amazes me that our President – and his softball critics in the media (including Fox) and in Congress seem to have forgotten this important bit of history.

The God's honest truth is that what's going on in Syria and Iraq – or France and Denmark – and threatens to happen again in the United States is nothing new. Have we already forgotten the Barbary wars and the lessons of 9/11?

This is just a fresh chapter in a war against Christendom and the West that has been going on and off for nearly 1400 years! Today's jihadists are motivated, not just by a few words in the Koran, but by dreams of restoring the former glory of the vast Muslim empire that once stretched from Spain to Pakistan.

After 1600, the Muslim world largely retreated back into its Bedouin past until World Wars I and II. You can credit their resurgence on the Western need for oil and the British belief that they could tame the Muslim threat by restructuring the Middle East after World War I, Europe was lulled into thinking that the great Muslim war was all over. With the rise of Hitler and the Soviet Empire, managing a few sheiks and pashas seemed like diplomatic child's play.

The reality is that oil brought huge riches to the Middle East, rendering ransoms obsolete. And with that came education and tremendous technological progress, including the ability to wreak as much havoc as the major powers inflicted on the world during World War II.

Iran, for example, has missiles capable of reaching all of Europe and the United States. All they need is full nuclear weapons capability, and Armageddon could be a blink of an eye away.

Our biggest danger now is the soft lie that the President is asking us to swallow, namely, that if Iran only gets this close to full nuclear capability, it will settle down and play nice with the rest of the world – including Israel, which Iran has already pledged to wipe off the face of the earth. Anyone who believes this will believe anything.

Our best hope for a moment of truth is the coming visit of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. Ever since 1948, we've pledged to defend the right of Israel to coexist peacefully with its neighbors in the Middle East and the rest of the world. Now it appears that Netanyahu's main task will be to try to save us from our own folly.

If their bones can still rattle, I suspect that the heroes who fought and died at Tours, Vienna, and Lepanto – yes, and Tripoli – must be turning over in their graves. The victories they fought and won are being negotiated away. And so are the victories won by the men and women who sacrificed their lives in Irag and Afghanistan. It is history being rewritten all over again.

As a journalist who has been at this since 1950, I am horrified by the willingness of so many members of my profession to indulge in lies and half-truths. It's about time the folks at Fox News Sunday recognized that the problem is not just ignorance or confusion or forgetfulness in the White House. It is the growing smell of ideological betrayal.

# # #


[1] Ron Valiquette

© Dennis M. Howard


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Dennis M. Howard

(Dennis M. Howard passed away on May 6, 2021. His obituary can be read here.

Dennis M. Howard is founder and president of The Movement for a Better America, a non-profit, pro-life educational organization. Before starting MBA in 1995, he had a long and successful career in journalism and creative marketing. He has been writing since 1950, when he helped launch The Sun Herald of Kansas City, America's last attempt at publishing a Catholic daily... (more)


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