If there’s one thing which irritates me about the left – in general – it is their rank ignorance of history. It is hard to get someone on the left to properly understand what happened even a few years ago – when they were alive and presumptively noticing things happening – let alone anything which happened more than a few decades ago. Now, to be sure, there are a few historical events that the left has latched on to in order to justify their world view…one of them is the Crusades.
To the left, the Crusades were just wanton cruelty – hordes of Christian bigots went into Muslim lands to kill, steal and destroy everything in their path. This was done in the name of religion and, so, religion is bad. This isn’t even a childish view of history – this is a view of history entirely divorced from historical fact. Bring up to a liberal the fact that, for instance, Egypt was once entirely Christian and only became Muslim after the Muslims conquered Egypt in an imperialist war – and then forced, over time, the population to become Muslim, or suffer – and you’ll get a blank stare, or immediate reference to one of the other things liberals heard about: the Inquisition (we’ll deal with that issue some other time). There is just no knowledge on the left of what happened – nor any desire to know what happened because the facts just get in the way of the Narrative.
But, still, I just want to enter into the record, as it were, that the Crusades were a defensive war against a rapacious, cruel enemy who attacked Christian civilization without reason. To give an idea of the flavor of the Muslim way of war, here’s a passage from The Hapsburgs: Portrait of a Dynasty by Edward Crankshaw:
The Turks were not nice fighters. They burned and massacred for the love of it, not in the heat of battle or victory, not in drunken rioting, but in cold blood and under precise instructions from their command. In Perchtoldsdorf, for instance, just outside Vienna, the townspeople and refugees from the surrounding countryside had taken refuge in the church and barricaded it. The Turks first burned down the little town, then sent an envoy to the church to promise safe-conduct to all inside on payment of a certain sum. The pasha in command sat himself down on a red carpet in the ruins of the village square and demanded that the keys of the church and the ransom money be brought to him by a fair-haired virgin who should carry a flag of truce and wear a crown of flowers. The village bailiff’s seventeen-year-old daughter was chosen to lead the way. As the villagers emerged into the light of day they were disarmed and seized. The men were slaughtered on the spot. The pasha reserved to himself the pleasure of killing the unfortunate young girl. The rest of the women and children were sent back to Turkey to be sold as slaves…
That was in 1683, quite a long time after the Crusades – but conquering Muslim armies were like that from the start. Just read up a bit on the captures of Constantinople or Famagusta. At Famagusta, after enduring a siege of 13 months, the Christians were offered terms – surrender and be allowed to leave. And so, in good faith, they surrendered. Nothing doing. Marco Antonio Bragadin, the commander, was flayed alive and his skin stuffed with straw and then sent on to the Turkish Sultan as a trophy; the rest of the Christian population was massacred. It is small wonder that when faced with enemies like this, Christian armies were often ungentle with Muslims when they defeated them.
The Crusades, themselves, were a counter-attack. For four hundred years the Christians had been attacked and forced ever back. One Muslim army made it to central France before being turned back. Muslims were continually boasting of their desire to conquer all of the Christian west – and often making good on their boast as one Christian nation after another fell to Muslim arms. The immediate spur to the Crusades was the Muslim victory over the Christian Greek Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071…with that defeat, the Byzantine Empire was rocked on its heels and no one could say that the Greeks, who had barred the door to Muslim conquest in Europe for 400 years, would be able to stem the tide. An army was needed to redress the balance – and an army was provided: the Crusaders.
In the end, the stated purpose of the Crusades – the recovery of the Holy Land – was a failure. But by projecting power into the heart of Islam and fighting them there, Europe received some breathing room. Time to continue the reconquest of Spain and time for Europe’s nations to become powerful enough to repel the Muslim onslaught when, at long last, the Muslims finally conquered the Byzantines in the middle of the 15th century. They still made the running for a while – conquering Greece, Serbia and Hungary before running up against the rock of resistance known as Vienna. In 1683 they made their last try, as described in that quote above. Only the timely arrival at Vienna of a Polish army commanded by the hero-King Jan Sobieski saved the day, and in the nick of time – Vienna’s defenses were breached the day before the Poles rode in to battle and scattered the Muslim army.
All of that was a long time ago. Let no one say that what happened in the 11th century justifies any action taken in the 21st century. The Muslims have their gripes, but the graves of Europeans in Austria and France attest to the fact that non-Muslims also have their gripes.