After the American/Northern Alliance vanquish of the Taliban in Afghanistan a video was discovered in a “Al Queda training base.” Today its images are the most familiar representations of Al Queda terrorists in action. One famous scene, replayed countless times on American media, depicts black clad troopers kicking down a door and shooting targets draped in a white robes blazoned with red crosses. The video was intended as a recruiting tool so it is safe to assume that the Islamic audience would be well aware of the symbolism of the white clad targets.
Of course the Cross is familiar to most people on the planet. But the Cross on the white cape? This combination is the symbol of the Knights Templar, a 1000 year old symbol of brutal Western occupation.
1099 AD after the initial conquest of Palestine and Jerusalem, the victorious French knights established fiefdoms centered on native population centers with nominal leadership from a “king” in Jerusalem, Baldwin the First. Pilgrims from across European Christendom began to trek, by land and sea, to the Christian holy sites. The countryside, like Iraq of today, was overrun with insurgents and simple brigands. Many pilgrims, poor and wealthy met miserable ends, beaten, robbed, and sold at Damascus slave markets to be lost forever. A volunteer group of knights emerged to safeguard the passage, established a monastic order as knights of the temple or Knights Templar. They wore white capes with a red cross over their armor.
Surrender of all worldly possessions and wealth to the Order was the price of admission as a Knights Templar. They were heavily armed elite shock troops with shaved heads and long untrimmed beards. The Order grew wealthy and became a potent political force and was not answerable to any authority short of the Pope in Rome and then with reluctance. The Knights Templar roamed Palestine at will inflicting brutality on civilians and combatants alike. They served as front line troops at every major Christian/Islamic conflict until Saladin’s great victory at the Horns of Hattim, 1187. Saladin allowed all survivors safe passage to exit Palestine except the Knights Templar. The captured Templars were executed.
2003, as Bush’s war began he boasted his effort was a “Crusade” until wiser heads, at home and across the world, silenced his insane intemperance. The Islamic world is hard wired with the history of Western conquest and children throughout the region know by heart the symbol of the Cross on a white cape. The memories of Islam are deep and the Bush war for oil reinforces their ancient traditions and understanding of the West. Their history tells them to sacrifice and fight for generations to defeat the invader. The Bush mythology of liberation and terrorism is for domestic political consumption.
We are in a war without moral merit beyond our cultural and historical understanding for the worst of all reasons: Greed for a few.