The Tenth Crusade: ISIS, Senator Cruz and the Military Industrial Complex Walk Into a Bar…

unnamed-51To His Eminence, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi, Supreme Puba of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham:

We all know that a Tenth Crusade benefits us all. You kill as many of us as you can; we’ll kill as many of you as we can.

Let’s keep the machine of war well-oiled, then spoil some virgins together in the afterlife and count our coins. And all that jazz.

Sincerely,

The Pentagon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Pat Robertson, Senator Cruz, et al.

This evening, I was contemplating the bizarre events of the Fourth Crusade, and how Christians intent on “liberating” the Holy Land made a pit stop in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1204 and proceeded to sack the city, raid the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia, and rape and murder fellow Christians in such a bloodthirsty manner that more than one historian has described these events as the worst crime spree in recorded history.

One could argue that it’s senseless—even perverted—to rank massacres. Even so, I imagine that historians who know something about the Rape of Nanking might challenge the assessment that the Fourth Crusade is the “worst crime spree” of all-time.

Yet what makes the Fourth Crusade—any of the Crusades—more vile, to my mind, is that they were inspired by religion; whereas, the Japanese military that inflicted horror upon the Chinese residents of Nanking during World War II was secular. Um, except for that whole “we serve at the pleasure of the immortal emperor” part.

Then again, another historical take on the Fourth Crusade could be that it was never designed to secure the Holy Land. Instead, a bunch of Venetian Dick Cheneys decided to wreak Haliburton havoc on a wealthy metropolis and at the same time restore a distant relative to the Byzantine throne. And the easiest way to get Normans and Scots to march east across Europe was to promise them the prospect of murdering Mohammadeans who were pooing on Christ’s tomb. Besides, what Bourges peasant could tell the difference between the Bosphorus and the Sea of Galilee?

Wait. So are there religious wars or not? Or are there just power-mongering psychopaths at the helm of every military who know the effective motivation of a divinely-inspired invasion?

Let’s take a moment to consider the Religious Soldier. Be he (or she) a 13th-century Knight Templar with a broadsword or a Syrian jihadist with a killer Twitter following, it’s hard to imagine anyone thinking: “Well, I’m about to go slaughter some innocent folks. I know God doesn’t approve of this at all, but there’s really nothing that can be done about that.”

Instead, they believe wholeheartedly that God orders followers to circle Jericho, to beat their breasts, then to put every women and children to the sword once the city walls crumble down.

(There are few Dietrich Bonhoeffers, the World War II-era German theologian who believed that even though assassinating Hitler would be immoral, it would be worth the risk of eternal damnation.)

It’s so easy for the warmongers to manipulate us through religion. You call the Immortal Creator of the Universe a different name than I do! And you wear weird divine couture, as opposed to my weird divine couture. Not to mention your idea of painful eternal damnation isn’t my idea of painful eternal damnation! Plus, you kill young children and drink their blood!

(This is what Romans thought early Christians were doing when they celebrated the bread and wine of the Eucharist, by the way. No wonder the emperor had an easy time getting his fellow Romans to approve of tossing Christians to the lions.)

You and I both know that religious differences are a stupid reason to go to war. But our entire global economy—plus several billion religious fanatics—seems to wait with bated breath for Hindu to rise against Muslim to rise against Jew, and for the Christian Crusaders to drone on in and raze all in the name of Doge Enrico Dandolo and black crude. About the only thing we haven’t seen yet is the blue-button Amish taking up arms against the black-button Amish.

But how could anyone really think this way? How could such a perverted and absurd economic system rise?

In his essay “Inventing the Enemy,” Umberto Eco tells us:

From the very beginning, however, the people who become our enemies often are not those who directly threaten us…but those whom someone has an interest in portraying as a true threat even when they aren’t.

I think Eco is correct. And I think that the key to that truth is the word “someone.”

Someone somewhere, right now, is busy manufacturing our enemies. Because without enemies, the military industrial complex fails. Without enemies, the next yacht payment will bounce.

Previous archenemies of Uncle Sam include the Native Americans, the unionists/socialists, the Nazis, the Communists, the drug czars. Now, the Terrorists.

But the Terrorists are different. The Terrorists are special. Religion was sometimes forced into the equation of previous enemies. But the bonfire of religious hate can burn like magnesium.

And defense contractors and military manufacturers the world over know that a Christianity vs. Islam Epic Rap Battle Tenth Crusade will keep everyone in yacht payments for decades.

Personally, I just wish God would show up in a cloud somewhere totally unexpected like over Terre Haute (who would expect God to appear over the skies of Indiana?), wait for camera crews to show up, then announce:

I’m only going to say this once, so listen up. I do not endorse killing in my name. PERIOD. [sounds of terrible forces majeure] I don’t care how valid your reasons seem—trust me, I’ve been watching you screw around with each other for quite some time, and don’t even bring up Dresden—but from now on, any horrible act you commit has to be in your own mortal name and cause. Okay, I’m the middle of a celestial gin rummy hand; I’ve got to go back now. Just knock that shit off. Seriously.

Then, going forward, “someone” would have to come up with better excuses for declaring someone else the enemy.

Such as: “You’re the enemy because your people group has mired my people group in poverty for centuries.”

As screwy as it seems, I have a feeling society weighs secular violent messaging more carefully. (Maybe this is why there were more protests against the Vietnam War than the Bush Wars?)

I’m no expert on the immolation that spring-boarded the Arab Spring, but it appears that Mohammed Bouazizi acted not in the name of religion, but in the name of his own desperate humanity. And people listened.

Then again, no one listened to the Unabomber. But Ted Kaczynski wasn’t really endearing himself to anyone by picking off perfect strangers with nail bombs.

I’m not endorsing secular violence. But perhaps expressing a problem in human terms is the best way to determine whether a cause is worth dying for.

After all, if the Venetians had told Western European peasants that they wanted to rape and sack Byzantium in order to get Philip of Swabia’s nephew back on the throne, it’s hard to imagine anyone would have rallied to the cause.

And to put that in perspective, imagine George W. Bush addressing the nation and saying, “Everybody, we’re going to Iraq for oil and so the Vice President’s company can build shit.”

Instead, we all know the real reason we were so collectively willing to cowboy up to the Middle East: “Someone” told us that Muslims had flown planes at Christians. Just as “someone” had told the terrorists that Christians were threatening Islam.


Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!

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  • Steve Brains

    ‘As screwy as it seems, I have a feeling society weighs secular violent messaging more carefully. (Maybe this is why there were more protests against the Vietnam War than the Bush Wars?)’

    NO. Bush learned the Dictator 101 lesson of Vietnam : CONTROL THE DISTRIBUTION AND SPiN OF THE NEWS. Period, at all costs. Truth be Damned. Thus Fox rose to the challenge, damned the truth and proceeded @ all cost to become the defacto Broadcasting, Propaganda and Advertising arm of the Red Menace Army. The UnSinnFein if you will. (The ‘legal’ part of the IRA bombing militia who swore in curt they were the Sgt Schultz of the conflict and only sought peace, love and understanding.)

    Buch limited access ato information and had EVERY soundbite censored. The Patriot Act and secret black hole prisons in 70 allied Nations, manned and controlled by private contractors at the direct order of Commissar Cheney and his humpbacked bellringer Generalisimo Bush II, pretty much cowed the press into docile obedience.

    There is a case SCOTUS refused to hear in which a reporter (James Risen, NYT) claimed the shield law and refused to name his source. He is being violated by the NSA (who incidentally violated 300 American people’s 4th Amendment WITHOUT A WARRANT!!!! rights in this story) 8 years after the President and his most secret staffers threatened the New yourk Times into 18 months of SILENCE, just long enough to corrupt a second election to the White house….

    But to get back to the original premise: If Bush had allowed the daily flights into Dover, DE of the war dead and wounded and the delivery of slain volunteers (and conscripts if you think STOP LOSS rotations of duty ARE/WERE Indentured Servitude, A SLAVE Army if you will) to the families of the brave to be televised just as the 1st Amendment forced Nixon to allow in the Vietnam crime of War, then America would NEVER have re elected him 450 days after “Mission Accomplished”.

    they CERTAINLY would have called for impeachment at the THOUGHT of a Surge (which did NOT work) and in January 2007, we just might have had THAT to further distract us from the imminent and planned collapse of the economic engine formally known as America.

    Look how well Dubya’s Children ( Think Bob Seger… “all of Chuck’s children…”) are Goebbellizing reality with that special Mao Say Stalin twist.

    • Andrew Patton

      Stop loss isn’t a form of conscription. When you enlist, the contract says that you agree to serve for eight years total between active forces and reserves. Reservists can be recalled to active duty on an as-needed basis. Therefore, the government has the right to stop loss anyone who hasn’t yet served eight years, because that’s what the enlistee agreed to when he/she signed the enlistment contract.

  • scottwsomerville

    I’m a big fan of the video game “Civilization.” Every time I play that game, i have a problem with “Democracy.” If your culture chooses Democracy, you get twice as much money and science–but you can’t declare war on anybody. You have to switch to Communism or Fundamentalism to crush your neighbors. What you are saying, in essence, is, “How about we stick with Democracy and don’t crush anybody?”

    In Civilization, that only works until your NEIGHBORS switch to Fundamentalism (or Communism) and crush YOU.

    What we need here is a new world order where the evil Communists turn to free market capitalism and the Butcher of Baghdad gets deposed so we can set up a true Arab democracy… no, wait a minute, we tried that…

    What we need here is a new species.

    • Arik Bjorn

      Or a religion based on Gene Rodenberry TV scripts.

      • Pipercat

        Pacifists in pajamas!!!!

    • Robyn Ryan

      Avowed Christians are the ones with the 5000 mile logistics tail. We travel great distances to crush the heretics.

  • Milan

    Right to the center! Bravo!

    • Arik Bjorn

      I prefer the heart of the matter, but there you go.