Streetwise Professor

February 6, 2015

Get Off Your High Horse! Whatabout the Crusades?

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 1:10 pm

On Wednesday, 4 February, 2015, ISIS released a film that ended with the immolation of a Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, whom it had captured after he bailed out from his malfunctioning F-16 in December. The production is a bizarre and disturbing mix of snuff porn and slick, special-effects laden filmmaking. It is beyond vile. The product of twisted minds inflamed by a monstrous ideology.

There are likely multiple audiences for this depravity. The first, and probably most important, is young Muslims especially in Europe whom ISIS wants to recruit. ISIS is being attrited at a rather rapid pace, and needs new bodies to feed into the meat grinder. The sense of power and control that the these depraved videos convey is no doubt intoxicating to aimless youths seeking to fill empty lives and to transcend their tedious existence. But such people get bored easily. Beheadings had no doubt have become routine. Something new was needed to rejuvenate excitement. ISIS had to outdo itself: burning a man alive certainly did that.

But then of course there will have to be a succession of new and more horrible ways of killing people. I shudder to think at what their sick imaginations will turn to next.

The other audience was the outside world. Outraging the world is a way of demonstrating power, and sadly, since the world appeared to becoming inured to beheadings, something novel was necessary. Moreover, ISIS actually wants to provoke a confrontation with the world. Note that its slick online publication is named Dabiq, a city in Syria that will supposedly be the scene of an apocalyptic confrontation between the “Romans” (i.e., the West) and the Muslims, that will result in the triumph of the latter (who will be aided by the Mahdi). In their twisted minds, such vile acts serve a higher purpose.

This is what the world has come to.

Disturbing in a different way has been Obama’s reaction to this. Jordan’s King Abdullah happened to be in DC when the video was released. He met with Congressional leaders and vowed revenge. He had not been scheduled to meet with Obama, but a meeting was hastily arranged. Obama’s remarks after the meeting were perfunctory, diffident and oddly detached.

Obama also met with a group of 15 Muslim-American “leaders”, who are actually better described as activists. The main topic of discussion was not the crime committed in Syria, or the threat posed by Islamism, but an entirely fictitious, or at least heavily exaggerated, wave of Islamaphobia:

My next comment echoed the sentiment we heard often in the meeting. In fact, it was clearly the No. 1 issue raised: The alarming rise in anti-Muslim bigotry in America.

If you want to find bigotry in a country of 316 million people, you can find it. Against any identifiable group you can think of. But this is hardly issue No. 1. Indeed, it should hardly make the top 100.

But Obama outdid himself at a prayer breakfast attended by the Dalai Lama. He said some of the right things about ISIS, and about the depraved killing of the Jordanian pilot: specifically he referred to ISIS as a “death cult”, which it is. But then he completely undermined this with a bizarre turn of whataboutism that insinuated that Americans must temper their criticism of Islamist barbarism because of the sins of our forefathers. Our forefathers going way, way back. Like to the Crusades:

And lest 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.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion.

The  invocation of the Crusades is a pitch perfect imitation of the narrative spun by Islamists and their enablers, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, who bring it up any time Westerners criticize anything in the Arab world, no matter how depraved: like all whataboutism, it is intended to silence critics. What’s more, the invocation of Jim Crow in this context is almost a parody of the classic Soviet whataboutism: “And in America you are lynching Negroes.” (And although there were definitely appalling religious justifications of slavery in the South, I’m hard pressed to recall it being even a minor theme in the justification of Jim Crow.)

Obama’s exegesis is profoundly ahistorical. But even overlooking that unsurprising fact, of what relevance are Godfrey of Bouillon or Richard Plantagenet or Louis VII or Gregory IX or Bull Conner to a serious discussion of or response to the mass slaughter that is plaguing Syria and Iraq today? Of what relevance are these people and events to the thoughts or actions of any living American? About as relevant as the Trojan War. So religion-inspired violence isn’t historically unique. So what? How does that matter when trying to confront a particular outbreak religion-inspired violence that is raging today? The fact that it isn’t reveals Obama’s true motivation: he is trying to avoid confronting it.

Further, the apparent need to reach back centuries, and almost a millennium, to find reasons to knock “us” off our “high horse” actually cuts the other way. For it demonstrates that the Christian West has transcended bloody religious struggles and religiously justified violations of human freedom: indeed, the very fact that Christianity is hardly the West’s distinguishing characteristic in 2015 makes these historic comparisons utterly irrelevant straw men.

The contrast with Islam could not be more stark, as the rampages of warriors clinging to their guns (and knives and torches) and religion from the Philippines to Syria to Nigeria attests. Even slavery (of the most brutal and demeaning kind) can be filed under current events in parts of the Muslim world, including notably in the areas controlled by ISIS, and its practice is vehemently defended by Islamists who cite Koranic authority. The problem is not that religion motivated war and conquest in the West in the historical past: it is that it does today in the Middle East, Africa, the Subcontinent, and Asia. The problem in the Muslim world today is that the past isn’t even past: in the present it is still mired in its medieval pathologies. Dealing with the orgy of violence of which the immolation of Lt.  al-Kaseasbeh is only the most recent lurid example requires facing that reality head on.

But the “high horse” slur, and the stubborn refusal to acknowledge the undeniable religious roots of ISIS , Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and numerous other groups and movements wreaking havoc from Tripoli to Thailand (a denial repeated in the prayer breakfast remarks), demonstrate that Obama is dead set against such an honest reckoning. In fact, he wants to stifle any such discussion because, you know, Crusades.

The tragic irony of this is that by so doing, Obama empowers the most retrograde forces in Islam, and that the primary victims of their ascendance are Muslims. Obama’s moral equivalence kills Muslims. Pace Orwell, that is an objective reality, regardless of Obama’s subjective motivations. His exquisite sensitivity to Muslim feelings costs Muslim lives.

Obama’s remarks provide yet another example of his superciliousness towards his fellow citizens whom he believes need to be knocked off their high horse, because of misguided belief in their exceptionalism makes them unfit to judge others. They spring from the same place as the slap about bitter clingers and their guns and religion. In a weird way, this actually contributes to the rather disturbing tendency of those who belong to that maligned demographic to admire Putin: at least he praises his folk, rather than disdains them.

In sum, Obama’s behavior and words in the days after one of the most horrific and obscene acts in an era of them reveal a great deal about his beliefs and thinking. And what they reveal is disturbing indeed.

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  1. Are you really surprised?

    Comment by Tom — February 6, 2015 @ 2:11 pm

  2. @Tom. Of course not.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 6, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

  3. Nerola’s “Christian” minister once said, “God damn America, and so it is.

    But he is not unique, many like him, voted for him. To use someone else’s phrase, they’re generally low information people. Those like him have little idea what people experienced in history, nor in our time do they know what life is like in a foreign geography.
    The subjects they do know are sports and entertainment.

    Freedom is not doing what you want, freedom is able to do what you should do. (John Paul II )

    Nerola is a slave.

    Comment by traveler — February 6, 2015 @ 5:48 pm

  4. I WAS actually stunned. I literally felt sick to my stomach.

    The manner in which the history of the Muslim world has been understood by the West has always been deeply flawed and ahistorical. The best starting point for understanding these flaws in my opinion is “Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World” by Patrica Crone and Michael Cook. As an aside, I have always found it bizarre(though not surprising) how the Crusades are viewed in the West and singled out as some massive sin which must be accounted for. Very few people actually know anything about the Crusades. Furthermore, no one seems to ask how the Muslims in the holy land got there in the first place. At the very least the Crusades should be viewed in the context of a much longer, and broader sequence of events occurring in both Europe and the Middle East.

    Comment by JDonn — February 6, 2015 @ 6:02 pm

  5. Recommended reading – The Galleys at Lepanto by Jack Beeching

    Comment by Mudak — February 6, 2015 @ 9:22 pm

  6. And yesterday we had France, Germany, and Russia thrashing out a deal over the future of Ukraine. I wonder what they’ll call this deal, somebody said Molotov-Ribbentrop was already taken.

    Comment by Tim Newman — February 7, 2015 @ 1:52 am

  7. perfunctory, diffident and oddly detached

    In sum, Obama’s behavior and words in the days after one of the most horrific and obscene acts in an era of them reveal a great deal about his beliefs and thinking. And what they reveal is disturbing indeed.

    SWP, you could not be more spot on, especially in the above.

    Obama is a severe narcissist living in a fantasy world. He does not like the US.

    Comment by elmer — February 7, 2015 @ 9:36 am

  8. @Tim-Yes. And today Merkel and Hollande quite appropriately jetted off to Munich, but alas that name is taken too. But the spirit lives on.

    I couldn’t help but think when seeing the photos of Putin, Merkel, and Hollande that a French president always comes in handy when you’re negotiating a surrender.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 7, 2015 @ 10:03 am

  9. >a French president always comes in handy when you’re negotiating a surrender

    a picture worth more than a thousand words:

    “We must have faith in our values, but that means summoning our power and influence in their defense against those who prefer force to reason, aggression to justice.”

    What a contrast with the “high horse” rhetoric, what an expensive mistake made in 2008.

    Comment by Ivan — February 8, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

  10. “I’m hard pressed to recall it being even a minor theme in the justification of Jim Crow”

    George Wallace would beg to differ.

    Comment by Ben — February 17, 2015 @ 7:09 pm

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