Daily Beast: Pope Francis, ISIS, and the Last Crusade

Daily Beast: Pope Francis, ISIS, and the Last Crusade

This article originally appeared in The Daily Beast:

Is the Pontiff of Peace advocating war? No, but the self-proclaimed “Caliph” Ibrahim wants his fight to be a true holy war on both sides, and his strategy seems to be succeeding.

Pope Francis is walking a knife edge–or perhaps, better said, the blade of a crusaders’ sword–as he tries to mobilize support for Christians and other minorities victimized by the ferocious partisans of the so-called Islamic state. 

“Where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” he told reporters throwing questions at him on the plane as he returned from South Korea to the Vatican on Monday. 

“I underscore the verb ‘to stop,'” he told them. “I am not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ but ‘stop him.’ The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated. Stopping the aggressor is legitimate.”

The “him,” the “aggessor” in this case is the self-anointed “caliph” whose forces, formerly called ISIS, now dominate swathes of Syria and Iraq, and this is just the kind of reaction he’s been hoping for.

The crucifixions, the beheadings and the mass executions of men, the kidnapping of women to be sold as wife-slaves to so-called holy warriors, the destruction of ancient civilizations and cultures, from Assyrian statues to Yazidi villages, and the systematic intimidation, extortion, and murder of Christians–all have a purpose that can no longer be ignored:

Caliph Ibrahim, as he calls himself, wants to provoke a 21st century crusade against his Islamic State. He wants to force his enemies into a religious war arousing atavistic instincts rooted in the Middle Ages–the great glory days of Islam–that linger in the hearts of many Muslims around the world. And by every indication he is succeeding.

With each American bomb that falls and each drone that flies over the territories the caliph has conquered, he comes a little closer to that goal. Perhaps there really is no choice. As Hilaire Belloc, a poet, satirist, Catholic historian, and author of a book on the Crusades once wrote in his couplet “The Pacifist”: “Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight, / But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.”

Read the full story on The Daily Beast.