The Conversation

Vox Twists Pope's Statement on ISIS and Announces 10th Crusade

Vox is suggesting Pope Francis' measured statement about ISIS is the equivalent of a new Crusade. They do so without bothering to quote or even link what the Pope actually said.

Pope Francis was asked his opinion of the U.S. airstrikes taking place in northern Iraq against ISIS. The AP reported the exchange as follows:

On Iraq, Francis was asked if he approved of the unilateral U.S. airstrikes on militants of the Islamic State who have captured swaths of northern and western Iraq and northeastern Syria and have forced minority Christians and others to either convert to Islam or flee their homes.

"In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," Francis said. "I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.' And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated."

But, he said, in history, such "excuses" to stop an unjust aggression have been used by world powers to justify a "war of conquest" in which an entire people have been taken over.

"One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor," he said, apparently referring to the United States. "After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It's there that you must discuss 'Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?' Just this. Nothing more."

So the Pope, in light of the violence against Christians and other minorities, thinks some effort to stop an unjust aggressor is "licit" but adds that it needs to be discussed at the U.N. Vox turns this into the following headline, "News from 1096 AD: Pope endorses military force to destroy Middle Eastern caliphate."

If Politifact wanted to bother, this would be a genuine "Pants on Fire" moment for Max Fisher and Vox. You'll have a hard time finding the sentence where the Pope endorses destroying the caliphate. He didn't do that. In fact, the Pope went out of his way to make a criticism of the U.S. bombing campaign.

What's striking about Max Fisher's post, besides the dishonest headline, is that he doesn't feel the need to parse the Pope's actual words at all. He doesn't quote them or even link them. He simply embeds a tweet summarizing what the Pope said and then uses it as a jumping off point for this:

There is good precedent for this. During the Middle Ages, between 1096 and 1272 AD, popes also endorsed the use of Western military action to destroy Middle Eastern caliphates. Those were known as the crusades; there were nine, which means that this would be number 10. The historical record suggests, though, that prior crusades were usually not endorsed from the comfort of jet-propelled airplanes, nor were they announced via Twitter.

For the record, Pope Urban II's speech endorsing military action happened in 1095. Also, it's probably worth pointing out that Pope Francis did not endorse specific military action, nor did he appeal to Christians to go to war against ISIS. His comments were limited to what elected governments (representing people of all religious persuasions) might do under the circumstances. But, again, these pesky details don't seem to interest Max Fisher very much.

Christians have been the targets of ISIS for months. Now Yazidi children are reportedly being forced to drink the blood of their parents to keep from dying. Now the Pope indicates this may be a case where stopping the aggressor is valid and Vox shouts "10th Crusade!" The only people likely to find his case persuasive are member of ISIS.


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