President Barak Obama didn't intend to make the Battle of Yarmuk (636 A.D.) a 2015 news item.
However, his bizarrely incomplete sketch of the Crusades, delivered last week at a national prayer breakfast, did just that.
The president's media defenders contend he intended to make a justifiable point: Throughout history, people have corrupted religious faith to self-serving, murderous ends.
That, however, is an oft-repeated truth -- something everyone already knows.
But our president, while repeating something we already know, equated medieval Christian crusaders with 21st-century Islamic State terrorists. See, man? They both committed atrocities.
Obama started solid, dubbing the Islamic State "a vicious death cult." Yes, sir. IS burns alive Jordanian Muslim pilots. But "Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition," Obama said, his solemn, deploring tone reminiscent of a preacher instructing benighted fools in the pews, "people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."
Obama then added that Christianity was used to justify slavery and segregation. While verifiably true, if you indict cross-burning Southern bigots, Mr. President, why neglect to mention that the 18th- and 19th-century worldwide anti-slavery movement was driven by Gospel-guided Christian abolitionists?
Christian abolitionists condemned slavery as evil and waged relentless political war on the slave trade. This inspired activism had policy effects and poetic drama (for example, the hymn "Amazing Grace"). Royal Navy anti-slaving patrols had global punch. The Jack Tars couldn't shut down every Persian Gulf Islamic slave market, but they certainly deterred slavers operating in the Atlantic.
If only for the sake of fairness, Obama should have mentioned this Christian-led liberation instead of going knee-jerk and playing his worn-out leftist academic multiculturalist racism guilt-trip card.
ATTENTION WHITE HOUSE STAFF: Your boss could have stigmatized Christian killers and provided a history lesson relevant to the challenge presented by Islamist terrorists. During The Thirty Years War, Protestants hacked Catholics and Catholics hacked back. In the process, they devastated Europe. The war ended with the Treaties of Westphalia. The "Westphalian system" separated political and ecclesiastical power. Twenty-first-century culturally Islamic nations need this, desperately -- the separation of mosque and state.
Though invoking The (singular) Inquisition invites debate, Obama might be able to defend an Inquisition analogy. As Dark Age centuries became Medieval then, the Renaissance re-birthed, inquisitors with various inquiring courts waxed and waned. They were fundamentally intra-European affairs, and harsh theologies justified "terrible deeds." Islamic terrorists murder Muslim "apostates" by the tens of thousands. That's intra-Islamic murder. The president may have something here.
But our Provocateur in Chief went guilt trip, equating the Crusades with IS depredations. In so doing, he handed every Middle Eastern Islamo-fascist terrorist organization on the planet a propaganda weapon.
Middle Eastern Islamist extremists leverage victim narratives to justify mass murder. "The Crusades" are a premier victim frame tale. Their cultural and religious victimization begins in 1096 (1st Crusade) as rapine European knights attack the Levant. In 1099 these thugs seize Jerusalem from peaceful Muslims. The 2nd through 9th Crusades are follow-on imperial atrocities. By the way, Israelis are just Jewish Crusaders.
Obama reinforced this crabbed and distorted but politically powerful claptrap. That's Very Stupid Diplomacy, people, from those who touted his Smart Diplomacy as a cure for George W. Bush's dumb bunny.
This victim tale starts with Yarmuk. The Yarmuk River flows east from Syria through Jordan to the Jordan River. In 636 A.D., somewhere near the river, Muslim Arabs defeated a Christian Byzantine army. Thirty years of conflict with the Persians had exhausted the boys from Constantinople. Their tattered formations were no match for horse-mounted zealots. One of Christendom's wealthiest regions, the Levant, fell to these Arab Muslim warriors. Then they turned on the exhausted Persians.
A counter-narrative: The Crusades and the Spanish Reconquista are belated European responses to Islamic imperialism. Yes, that's shaky. But if you know Muslim Saracens seized Sicily in the ninth century, and Rome was repeatedly attacked (and the Vatican sacked), you can start building a real multiculturalist case for embittered Western European grievance. Je suis Charlie? Naw, je suis Charles Martel (Battle of Tours, 732 A.D.).