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October 16, 2006

The Second Children's Crusade


by Jon Basil Utley

"You see, we're invading Iraq, kicking out the wicked witch, establishing democracy, and they will all live happily ever after," explained President Bush to the White House interns, as they watched shock and awe light up the Iraqi skyline. The kids were all happy, dreaming of sugar plums, TV appearances, and big jobs in Washington.

And thus started the Second Children's Crusade. For pointers, we can look back to the first Children's Crusade of 1212. Medieval fundamentalists were "much exercised to explain why God had allowed the defeat of his defenders in so holy a cause," wrote Will Durant in The Age of Faith. "Amid these doubts it occurred that only innocence could regain the Citadel of Christ."

So the children of Europe went off to do what armies of Crusaders could not. Durant describes their fate in his classic book:

"30,000 children started out in Germany, passed down the Rhine and over the Alps. Thousands died along the way from hunger; thieves stole their food, and stragglers were devoured by wolves. The survivors reached Genoa where the earthy Italians laughed them into doubt; they appealed to Pope Innocent III; he gently told them to go home; some returned, many settled in Genoa. 20,000 more started out from France. They expected the Mediterranean 'would divide so they could reach Palestine dry-shod.' When this failed they crowded into seven ships, and sailed forth singing hymns of victory. Two of the ships were wrecked and sunk with all aboard; the other children were brought to Muslim Tunisia or Egypt, where they were sold as slaves. The ship owners were later hanged by order of Frederick II."

Similarly many Christian fundamentalists consider America comparably innocent and therefore favored by God to make war on the evil Muslims who hate us because, as our president said, we are so good, so prosperous, and so free.

Who better to lead America on a Second Children's Crusade than our president, known to his friends as King George the Incurious, a tabula rasa with the naiveté and faith of a born-again convert, just 15 years old (dating from his rebirth) when he took office?

Of course, every children's tale has its evil elves. These were the neocons, scribbling away in their garrets dark machinations to use Incurious George to rule the world. They dreamed and schemed to escape from their think-tank cubbyhole caves in Washington and remake themselves as Roman proconsuls ruling whole nations. Also in their fantasies, they lusted for vicarious violence, as many sheltered intellectuals do.

And out in the deserts and backwoods of America were the mighty Armageddonites, 20 million of them, true fomenters of death and destruction. They prayed daily to their brutal Christ for the end times to come. As their own Tom Delay explained, "war between America and Iraq is the gateway to the Apocalypse." Their hope was to use Incurious George as an instrument of unending war, chaos, and misery in the Middle East, to hurry up God to fulfill their fantasies of being raptured up to heaven, while all the rest of humanity is destroyed.

So Incurious George, also called Simple George by the public, or less charitably, Bush the Fool, sent forth the children to battle evil. (Of course, they were not his children nor those of his advisers, nor even those of his supine parliament.) He promoted lots of lies, and told the children that the "cowardly terrorists" would conquer America if we did not attack fast and first. He explained to them that every enemy who killed American civilians was a cowardly terrorist; while civilians killed by America's brave fighting boys and girls were simply "collateral damage." At the same time Bush terrified all the grownups, so most of them readily agreed to send their youngsters on the crusade.

The children expected to be greeted with garlands of flowers by happy Iraqis asking to be taught about democracy. They did not expect to be hated. Like the Crusaders who in 1099 massacred almost the whole population of Jerusalem, earlier American Crusaders in 1991 also caused terrible death and destruction. They were led by King George the First, who bombed Iraq's water, sewage, and irrigation systems, which was followed by a blockade of reconstruction supplies carried out by Duke William, Conqueror of Kosovo, and his Duchess Madeleine. The duchess later explained on TV how the blockade was worth the deaths of half a million Iraqi children.

Guiding the crusade was the Evil One, Crazy Lord Cheney, King Bush's favorite counselor. It was he who staffed the kingdom with elves and liars, while his oil company and military-industrial backers saw the crusade as a way to gain control of Iraq's oil, to keep the oil price high, and to sell lots of new warships, jets, and expensive missiles to try to shoot down other missiles the terrorists did not have. Billions were wasted on shiny new weapons irrelevant for the war on terror. When the children were then dying because they had no suits of armor, it took a year to gear up production. Then later there were 600 tanks and 1,000 Bradleys awaiting repair because the Army didn't have enough money to fix them. Meanwhile more billions were wasted in uncontrolled expenses to "rebuild" Iraq.

Cheney's elves taught the children how to occupy Arab lands by bringing in Israeli advisers and Christian fanatics. (The Israelis were a bridgehead established earlier in the Middle East after Europeans had killed most of the Jews in their midst. To make atonement, England gave them some of the Arabs' lands, where their forefathers used to live 2,000 years ago.) But their tough tactics made the Crusaders even more hated. And all this made the Armageddonites happy that the war was lasting longer and creating more desperation and misery in the Middle East to help God fulfill His plans. (An unfortunate aspect of the Armageddonites' vision, rarely mentioned, was that God would kill all the Jews who did not convert to Christianity.)

With modern technology, America made its own miracles and did not need God to part the seas. America then dismissed all the government officials in Iraq. Soon there was chaos, which Prince Rumsfeld dismissed by saying "stuff happens." King George explained that it would be a "long war" to rid the world of evil, after which the Iraqis would still all live happily every after. But it was all too complicated for Simple George, so he left the war to Prince Rumsfeld and instead took up the job of cheerleader in chief. Some grown ups offered to help the children with the occupation, but they were rejected by Prince Rumsfeld for party hacks and Heritage Foundation interns instead. And to be sure they were "Godly," they had to confirm first that they opposed abortion.

As often happens with children, they did little planning for the future, about what to do after their mission was accomplished. Their preachers had told them that God would provide, but instead, they learned that "the Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform."

And that was the story of the Second Children's Crusade. America was trapped in a war it could not win nor get out of, as it was slowly bankrupted. It was hated and feared all over the world, even where it had been loved and respected before. Perhaps it's no coincidence that America was losing the war on terror in 36 ways. Thirty-six has an interesting correlation to 666, the sign of Satan for the Armageddonites.

Incurious George, however, was oblivious to it all, even as he traveled his kingdom telling more fairy tales to the children and the voters. He still started every day with his favorite author, Oswald Chambers, who told him that if plans went wrong, it did not mean they were in error, but rather that God was testing his faith. Chambers (a dour Scotsman, as was the founder of the Armageddonites, John Darby) had written that wars were fine and natural for mankind, but when he died in 1917, after seeing the First World War, he had become less sanguine on that point. King George may not have gotten that far in his readings, as he continued to implore the children to "stay the course." And hovering over him was the Armageddonites' Angel of Death demanding that he now attack Iran "to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West."


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  • Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative and Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A former correspondent for Knight Ridder in South America, Utley has written for the Harvard Business Review on foreign nationalism and was for 17 years a commentator on the Voice of America. He is director of Americans Against World Empire.

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