Rick Santorum Cheers the Crusades

Politico reports this week that, in a recent speech, Rick Santorum, a Republican presidential hopeful, defended the Crusades.

Yep, those Crusades. Seriously. Here’s Politico:

“The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical,” Santorum said in Spartanburg on Tuesday. “And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom.” He added, “They hate Western civilization at the core. That’s the problem.”

No, the problem is not the “American left” hating “Western civilization at the core.” It’s that Rick Santorum is apologizing for ethnic and religious cleansers from another century—and he wants to be POTUS in this one. The core of Western civilization is not religious fanatics fighting a religious war; it’s philosophers like Aristotle and Adam Smith, artists like Leonardo and Raphael, scientists like Galileo and Einstein, and the advancers of the Western Enlightenment like Francis Bacon, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, and Mary Wollstonecraft. These are the people at the core of Western civilization; they’re what makes the West different (and worth defending).

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary, responding to Santorum, nicely corrects the record:

[A]ny effort to portray the Crusaders in a positive light is contrary to historical truth. From the time of the First Crusade in 1096 to the Ninth and last Crusade at the end of the 13th century, the conduct of the European armies assembled to fight the Muslims was atrocious. Enflamed by hate-filled sermons, Crusaders massacred Jewish communities in Europe on their way to the Middle East and sacked and murdered some of the Christian communities they found in the Levant as well. The victory of the First Crusade culminated in the mass murder of all non-Christians in Jerusalem and brought to a temporary end the Jewish presence in the city.

Does ethnic and religious cleansing cease to be ethnic and religious cleansing if enough time elapses?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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18 Responses to Rick Santorum Cheers the Crusades

  1. TomH says:

    Maybe it would help to read the actual history of the crusades.

    http://crusades.boisestate.edu/contents.shtml

    http://www.amazon.com/Crusades-Authoritative-History-Holy-Land/dp/0060787287

    Santorum was correct in his remark about the cause of the First Crusade. The Turks caused the initial problems by murdering pilgrims and refusing to allow Christians to visit Jerusalem. Any subtext about Crusaders behaving exclusively nobly is wrong.

    Tobin’s commentary is irrelevant. Christians were maltreating Christians, Jews, and Muslims–sure. Muslims were maltreating Christians, Jews, and Muslims as well. So, the Christians weren’t behaving abnormally or with any kind of special bias. Perhaps the only reason that the Jews didn’t have a history of bad behavior during the Middle Ages is because of a lack of opportunity. Wherever we look, mankind has a record of bad behavior.

    • santitafarella says:

      Tom,

      It was not irrelevant to the Jews living at that time.

      And regardless of who pushed who first, the model that Muslim and Christian medievalists fought their wars on was an extermination model. Santorum, if he wants to be POTUS, ought to have the good sense (and basic decency) not to wax nostalgic for a civilizational war that ended in ethnic and religious exterminations. It’s not what the American military’s mission in the Islamic world is in the 21st century (nor should it ever be).

      —Santi

  2. TomH says:

    Oh well, then I suppose the Russian massacre of Polish officers was also relevant. What was Santorum’s point again? Was it that the Crusaders behaved nobly? Or was it that the Crusades were not wars of agression? What was 9-11 all about again? Where was the massive provocation? Did the U.S. destroy an office tower in Mecca or Medina? And what of Mohammed’s original invasion of the countries of the middle east, which were Christian at the time? Wasn’t that provocative?

    And where does “the American military’s mission in the Islamic world is in the 21st century” come from? Certainly not from the Politico site. Wow, you are waxing off-topic all of a sudden.

    • santitafarella says:

      The categories that you’re trying to make subtle distinctions between are dubious. All wars of the period were “wars of aggression,” opportunistic, and exterminative wherever feasible. It was a barbaric age. It’s precisely why we shouldn’t be idealizing it—it lends legitimacy to contemporary abuse and tries to revive old ethnic and religious categories for justifying the demonization of others. The revival of Inquisition methods of torture under the Bush administration is an example. And something like a million Iraqis have died since Bush started his war in 2003. Just because Muslim extremists demonize the West in the old terms, it doesn’t mean that we should follow suit and do so for the whole of the Islamic world.

      —Santi

    • santitafarella says:

      Tom,

      And looking at Santorum’s quote again, it appears to be functioning as a straw man: there are lefties out in the world who say that medieval Islam was not an aggressive religion and that CHRISTIANS aggressed on peace-loving Muslim lands. Medieval Muslims would have lived in peaceful coexistence but for the Crusaders.

      Can you name a single liberal or leftist historian who has written a book bearing this ridiculous thesis? Or a website in which the thesis is proposed or promoted? Most people, if they think about the Crusades at all, understand that it was a barbarous time on all sides; a time when religious fanaticism and paranoia held sway everywhere.

      If, however, Santorum believes this thesis is possessed by “those on the left”, he’s paranoid and cannot think clearly; if he doesn’t, he’s deeply cynical toward the level of intelligence of his supporters. In either case, it makes him ill-suited for the presidency.

      —Santi

      • TomH says:

        I have frequently seen leftists use the Crusades as evidence against Christianity; Crusaders are portrayed as agressors against peaceful Islam. E.g., http://liberalforum.org/liberalforum/index.php?/topic/26650-yes-the-islam-religion-is-barbaric/page__st__4625

        The First Crusade was in response to the perceived threat of the Seljuk Turks, who had just captured Jerusalem from the Fatimid Caliphate and were threatening Byzantine territory. The Turks forbade Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The Crusades didn’t really end until the 17th century when the Turks were finally subdued. The Fatimids, who were the original Muslim rulers of Jerusalem, were relatively benign as far as Christians were concerned. The Turks were very martial, like al Qaeda, so they caused problems.

        As regards the perception that the Crusaders were aggressors, there’s a recent movie about the Crusades, “The Kingdom of Heaven,” where the Crusaders are again depicted as aggressors.

        Tobin adds nonsense when he writes, ” Americans have come to fight the oppressors of Muslims….” Please. American soldiers also go to war to fight Muslims–especially al Qaeda and other supporters of terrorism like Saddam Hussein. Remember how Hussein allowed terrorists to train in Iraq and he gave $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers? http://usiraq.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000863 So please stop the codswallop about Iraq being “Bush’s war.” That’s just more leftist revisionism. The war wasn’t only about WMDs.

  3. santitafarella says:

    Tom,

    If Gore had won the presidency in 2000, he would never have invaded Iraq.

    Oh wait.

    He did win the election. What I mean is if Gore had been fairly seated as president, we would never have gone into Iraq. It’s Bush’s war. In Aristotalian terms, he was both the efficient and final cause. Absent his triggering excuse (WMD) and his determination to do so, that obscene and wasteful war would never have achieved orbit.

    As regards any contemporary liberals or leftists treating contemporary Islam as peaceful and the West as beligerant, this is, of course, ridiculous, but that doesn’t get to any serious discussion of the Crusades. The reality is that the Crusades in no way set the West apart from the rest of the world. What does is the Enlightenment and the ancient Greeks.

    No religious tradition is worth shedding blood over because every existing religious tradition is quite obviously, and at some central and important level, NOT TRUE.

    When religious wars occur, they are the deluded fighting the deluded.

    Not so with freedom. Not so when you are defending your family. These are things that have some actual connection with reality.

    The proper war analogies for AMERICAN PRESIDENTS (and not Herderian European nationalists) are the American and French revolutions and World War II against the Nazis. My problem with Santorum is his Herderian reaching back to a pre-Enlightenment analogy for just war.

    I have a similar problem with conservatives who push Jefferson out of the school curriculum and try to bring a medievalist like Aquinas in (as ridiculously happened in Texas this past year).

    —Santi

    • TomH says:

      Gore won the election? Uh, no. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_election_recount

      Your assertion that WMDs were a triggering cause lacks any evidentiary support. There were 22 reasons for going to war against Saddam–any one of which would have been sufficient.

      As to the Crusades setting the west apart–that is an issue in your mind only. I’ve seen no evidence that Santorum thinks that it’s important. From the article, what Santorum thinks is important is the value of the individual and freedom. Period. He’s very much in the modern western tradition.

      There are no such things as “religious wars.” Religions don’t control armies. Armies are controlled by political entities. Rulers may use religious pretexts as excuses for attacks, but aggression is almost always the reason for war.

      I’m surprised that you speak of the French Revolution as something to emulate–with its Reign of Terror.

      What do you mean by “push Jefferson out of the curriculum?” And what’s wrong with having Aquinas in the curriculum? (I’m not even Catholic.) Might not studying Aquinas have some benefits?

  4. santitafarella says:

    Tom,

    I have no problem with Aquinas in the curriculum (in a non-zero sum game). But that’s not what happened in Texas. See here:

    https://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/in-texas-thomas-jefferson-and-the-enlightenment-lose-to-thomas-aquinas/

    As for those 22 reasons, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Gore would not have led the country into Iraq. And John Kerry, if he had won in 2004, would have gotten us out by now. It has been left to Barack Obama to exit a mess. And given the events in the Middle East over the last few months, a policy of containment would have ultimately seen Sadaam Hussein (or his sons) brought down in a way similar to Mubarak. The Middle East is evolving toward democracy; the youth in these countries will not be denied.

    It’s not the Reign of Terror but the Rights of Man that constitutes the lasting legacy of the French Revolution. It’s why France is a republic today.

    As for religious wars, read the Hebrew Bible.

    —Santi

    • TomH says:

      Certainly, Jefferson’s ideas came from Locke and Hobbes, so Dunbar’s correct on that point. I think that the standard to limit ideas to the enlightenment is rather arbitrary. Aquinas and Calvin’s ideas about freedom and the value of the individual are also worth studying.

      22 reasons in the joint resolution for going to war against Iraq: http://knottiesniche.com/2008/12/10/the-reasons-for-going-to-war/

      I don’t know why you think that Gore wouldn’t have led the country to attack Iraq. Who’s to know what he would or wouldn’t have done? Seems about as useful to speculate about that as to speculate about what might have happened if Goldwater had won in 1960. AuH2O

      Obama to exit the Iraq mess? How was it a mess when Obama took over? Rather, Obama and the rest of the dems were ready to partition Iraq into three and for the U.S. to run from Iraq with our tail between our legs. That would have done wonders for peace in the Middle East. Not.

      Your idea that Hussein would have been brought down by events in the Middle East are a fantasy. Go read Stratfor. If a govt. has the support of the military (and Hussein’s grip on it was ironclad), then it will survive protests.

      I think that you can still find the Reign of Terror practiced in Cuba, North Korea, and China. There’s the Enlightenment for ya.

      Many of the Hebrew wars were certainly wars of aggression since the Hebrews were attempting to carve out a space for themselves. The Hebrews definitely invested their governing power in one man–Moses or Joshua or Samson, etc.–who was called a judge. Certainly, the Hebrews justified their wars as being commanded by God. This is hardly anything unique. FDR pushed America into the European war and justified it as a fight to make the world safe for democracy. In reality, FDR wanted to limit Axis expansion. All kinds of justifications are used for war to mask the real reasons for going to war.

      • santitafarella says:

        Well, now you’re reaching. You’ve linked things that are dubiously related (at best): Gore with the Iraq War; Calvin with individual liberty; the Enlightenment with North Korea (!); FDR with Joshua (a genocide conducting theist).

        Your deep perception of the interconnectedness of all things is more elaborate than a Buddhist monk! Have you taken up some sort of Eastern meditative practice to arrive at these mystical (and mystifying) linkages?

        —Santi

      • TomH says:

        I linked Gore with agnosticism about what he would have done regarding Iraq had he been president. You’re the one who made the strong claim that Gore wouldn’t have led us into Iraq. How can you know that?

        Calvin and liberty: http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/jcchrliberty.htm You may not like Calvin’s definition of liberty, but he is certainly talking about liberty. Similarly with Aquinas.

        North Korea is a communist state and communism is one of the children of the enlightenment, just like the Reign of Terror. Napoleon was a child of the enlightenment, too–an early neo-con aggressively exporting political ideals.

        All rulers attempt to justify their wars. It matters not a whit whether it’s FDR or Joshua who does this. The justifications may be valid or not. They may be religious or not. They often mask the real reasons for a war. I don’t see how any of this is controversial.

        I’m trying to look below the surface to see what are the real issues.

  5. santitafarella says:

    As for Gore v. Bush, I’m still annoyed at Ralph Nader. Whatever method of counting, if Nader had not been siphoning votes from the left, Gore would have won handily.

    —Santi

    • dcyates says:

      And if Ross Perot hadn’t been siphoning votes from the right, the presidency would’ve been spared the indignity of the soiled, stained dress of a chubby intern.
      As you well know, American elections are ultimately not determined by the popular vote, but instead by the total votes of the electoral college. This system allows for those, thankfully, rare occasions where one candidate may actually win the popular vote, yet still lose the election because he or she has simply failed to attain the sufficient number of votes in the electoral college. In 2000, Gore may have won the popular vote (though ever so slightly), yet nevertheless he legitimately lost the election (and the number of recounts — with Democrats hoping against hope that at least one of them would favour Gore, but none did — was, quite frankly, getting ridiculous). If it had been the other way around, with Bush winning the popular vote, but Gore gaining the electoral college, I highly doubt we would have heard any Democrats objecting. Rather you would have heard them sagely asserting something along the lines of, “Hey, sorry fellas, that’s just the way the system works. Better luck next time — suckers!” (And how much would anybody like to bet that as soon as one of those recounts did favour Gore, there would all of a sudden not be any need for any more recounts. It’s like that with anything the political left wants passed: an issue, such as gay marriage, just as an example, will continually be brought up over and over again, until the one time they get the result they want, then it’s suddenly never to be brought to vote again. And should such a suggestion ever be made, then one hears all manner of excuses as to why it’s a totally unacceptable idea — absolutely beyond the pale — “You can’t turn back the clock!” “What are you? A Neanderthal?” et cetera, et cetera. In the end, this is both disingenuous and hypocritical.)

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        On gay marriage, you are certainly free to fight a rearguard action against legislative and court victories, seeking to overturn them. Good luck on that. Woe is you that you might get called names by your opponents for getting out front publicly and trying to reverse the civil rights of some of your fellow citizens. I guess you want a free ride.

        As to the electoral college, it’s not good for democracy to have the popular vote and the electoral college diverge. It’s demoralizing to voters, regardless of the winner.

  6. dcyates says:

    Looking at the history of the conflict between Islam and Christianity, and starting with the Crusades, is like looking at the history of World War II, and starting with D-Day.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Islam is a monotheism that sprang out of Judaism and Christianity. Near cousins are in conflict (as evangelicals are in conflict with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses). It is the narcissism of small differences turned toxic and violent.

      Is that the historical starting point to which you are referring?

      • David Yates says:

        But, Santi, a rather crucial difference here is that evangelicals are not killing Mormons and JWs. On the exact same day as the Boston Marathon bombings, nearly 50 people were killed (not including the many critically injured) in 10 separate Jihadi-motivated attacks just in Iraq. (One such bombing alone killed 10 people at an auto mall in Habibiya Square, Baghdad, injuring 12 more. Starting off the day, Islamic bombers destroyed a market, along with of its four patrons in the town of Umm al-Maalif, southwest of Mosul, with at least 15 others injured. Six car bombs left at least 9 Iraqis dead in Kirkuk with another 79 badly injured. An al-Qaeda bombing near an elementary school in the East Baghdad neighbourhood of Kamaliya left 4 dead and 13 injured. Earlier in the day, a Fedayeen suicide bomber took out 2 innocents along a city street in Fallujah, injuring 14 more. Two Mujahid bombings left 4 dead in a commercial district in Baghdad and 29 more were left injured. Closing out the day, in the northern city of Tuz Khurmatu, 6 people were torn to shreds by al-Qaeda bombers, injuring 67 others.) There were also several such attacks elsewhere, including a Taliban bombing in Mali Zai, Afghanistan, killing 7 and injuring 4 others (The very next day, another Taliban-planted bomb in the same town killed 8 members of the same family.) And there were three separate Islamic acts of violence in Pakistan the same day, leaving 4 murdered and 3 injured.

        I should hasten to add that this is far from an exhaustive list and there is nothing particularly special about April 15. There were also at least nine terrorist attacks committed the day before, including 29 killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, with another 58 injured, when six suicide bombers stormed a courthouse. And there were at least eight acts of violence the day after, including 2 children who were among 16 innocent victims torn to shreds by a Holy Warrior suicide bomber in Peshawar, Pakistan, with another 35 injured.

        Just since 9/11, there have been 20,786 (and counting) terrorist attacks committed by Muslims, and in just the month of March of this year there were 189 Islamist acts of terror resulting in 988 fatalities and over 2,000 people critically injured.

        Given all this, Santi, please, let’s not even try to equate Islam with Judaism and Christianity.

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