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Parallels to Crusades are striking

Scary as it may be, there are some huge parallels between Muslim-Christian relations today and Muslim-Christian relations 1,000 years ago. Our military endeavors (for lack of a better label) now bear an ominous similarity to those in the year 1095, known as The Crusades.

The first Crusade began as a popular movement to wrest Christian territory, or what "we" considered Christian territory, like Palestine, Syria and others, from the "enemies of the cross," the Muslim infidels.

When ultra-conservative religious types today invoke prayer against those "infidels," they do so with a lot of precedent. Peter the Hermit gets the credit for being the first one to escalate prayers to action.

Peter the Hermit was a preacher who traveled about Europe, whipping up support for this crusade with his feverish invocations of A Holy War authorized, he sermonized, by no less that Christ Himself.

But he had help. Citizens in Europe had gone through several years of tough times, what with crop failures, leadership failures, plagues and droughts. It was easy for Peter to add to their fears by saying that, on top of all this being caused by Muslims, if this kept up, the Muslims would have all their precious metals and jewels and become rich and powerful enough to take over the world. By "their," of course, we're not talking about the peasantry, but the aristocracy and the merchants.

Now, today, it's not precious metals and jewels, it is oil, and oil's constant threat to destabilize the world through both economical pressures on the western world and oil-financed terrorism. Peter the Hermit was "surrounded by great throngs, received enormous gifts, and was lauded with much fame ..." The religious right today plays to houses packed with religious patriotism, through use of all the mediums that Peter did not have, like television, radio and computer.

What isn't quite as clear is that The Crusades were composed of a lot of people who were angry enough to fight, funded too willingly by a lot more who weren't. Peter the Hermit got the funding, and led 25,000 untrained, misguided peasants to their fate. Peasant bones were used by the Muslims to strengthen castle walls. Very few of these folks made it home.

There were more Crusades, some that even met with some degree of temporary success. And what was this success, exactly? As Muslims retreated, they destroyed everything, and left nothing for the Christians to exist upon. Crops were burned, wells poisoned, storehouses set in flames. Today, terrorists burn oil wells and steal oil tankers.

One of the main problems faced by the Crusaders was that they were not one army, but were from different countries, each under independent control. Often, some kind of victory was within sight, when one or another of the independent armies decided enough was enough. Today we have the United Nations, and independent military missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, which are not under one control. Sound similar?

As usual, Americans will be the last to leave, the last to shoulder the economic and moral burdens that we think are the reason we're there.

It is interesting to note that, back during The Crusades, European vaults were full of the mortgage agreements and bills of promise written to finance the knights' costly military expeditions, as they rode and walked off to a glorious Holy War.

Income taxes began when popes and kings found themselves nearly driven into destitution by the cost of financing these expeditions, and had to find some way out of their economic nightmare. These taxes descended upon peasants who were already dealing with drought and plague, peasants who were already taxed nearly to nothing, while the wealthy merchants and princes and their children continued to live a relative life of luxury.

How much are we in debt today, about a trillion something? Sound familiar? How much of the tax burden today is shared by the top money earners in our "great society?" How many of today's wealthy families' children are fighting in Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, Africa, and who knows where?

Do the wealthy make up for our children fighting their battles by at least supporting their share of the monetary cost? Do our returning middle-class veterans come back to jobs commensurate with their service? Do they come back to jobs at all?

These are questions that need to be answered.

Answers in a democracy come from legislatures.

Unfortunately, our legislatures answer more often to money than they do to what little is left of the middle class.