Tenth Crusade (CounterPunch)

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The Tenth Crusade is a rhetorical device used by Alexander Cockburn in 2002 that built an analogy between the US-led Global War on Terrorism and the medieval Crusades.


The word "crusade" was used by U.S. President George W. Bush first on the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks, quoted below, and on the national day of mourning which honored the death of the more than 3,000 victims of the attacks. He said that "this crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while."[1] The use of this figure of speech was criticized in Europe, and Arabic-speaking countries. Supporters of the President's usage of "crusade" argue that from context Bush had used the word in a military, non-religious sense, such as "The Great Crusade" which was the phrase used by General Dwight D. Eisenhower to describe the D-Day invasion of Europe to the Allied troops in his order of the day broadcast.[2]

They point to many modern dictionaries which define crusade (not capitalized) to include any vigorous action aimed at achieving a particular noble goal.[3][4] However, particularly in predominantly Muslim parts of the world, the term crusade produces the same sort of negative reaction as the term jihad does in much of the West.[citation needed]

Tenth Crusade[edit]

In the September 7, 2002 issue of CounterPunch,[5] columnist Alexander Cockburn authored an opinion column titled "The Tenth Crusade"[6] in which he numbered the War on Terrorism to follow nine medieval Crusades between 1095 and 1272, omitting from his count the Alexandrian Crusade of 1365 and the Crusade of Nicopolis of 1396. Cockburn is thus usually credited with coining the term, which is almost exclusively used by critics of the US-led operations.

In a Newsday article issued December 3, 2003, political commentator James Pinkerton offered a more positive interpretation of the crusading analogy. Counting eight crusading expeditions between 1096 and 1270, and characterizing these as "defensive wars", he also likened three intermediate "Christian invasions" of the Middle East to "latter-day Crusades", nominating Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798 as a "Ninth Crusade", the British occupation of Egypt in 1882 as a "Tenth Crusade", and the British and French mandates after World War I as an "Eleventh Crusade".[7] However, Pinkerton's renumbering of the War on Terrorism as the "Twelfth Crusade" has been overshadowed by references to the title of the Cockburn column.

Max Fisher in 2014 argued that Pope Francis comments supporting possible military action against ISIS constituted a call for a tenth crusade.[8]


U.S. President George W. Bush, from a press conference upon arrival at the South Lawn of the White House, September 16, 2001:

We need to go back to work tomorrow and we will. But we need to be alert to the fact that these evil-doers still exist. We haven't seen this kind of barbarism in a long period of time. No one could have conceivably imagined suicide bombers burrowing into our society and then emerging all in the same day to fly their aircraft — fly U.S. aircraft into buildings full of innocent people — and show no remorse. This is a new kind of — a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I'm going to be patient. But I can assure the American people I am determined, I'm not going to be distracted, I will keep my focus to make sure that not only are these brought to justice, but anybody who's been associated will be brought to justice. Those who harbor terrorists will be brought to justice. It is time for us to win the first war of the 21st century decisively, so that our children and our grandchildren can live peacefully into the 21st century.[1]

US President George W. Bush, from a rally for the troops in Alaska, February 16, 2002:

I want to tell you something, we've got no better friends than Canada. (Applause.) They stand with us in this incredibly important crusade to defend freedom, this campaign to do what is right for our children and our grandchildren.[9]

Alexander Cockburn, "The Tenth Crusade," Counterpunch, September 7, 2002:

Islamic fanatics flew those planes a year ago and here we are with a terrifying alliance of Judaeo-Christian fanatics, conjoined in their dreams of the recovery of the Holy Lands of the West Bank, Judaea and Samaria. War on Terror? It's back to the late thirteenth century, picking up where Prince Edward left off with his ninth crusade after St Louis had died in Tunis with the word Jerusalem on his lips.[5][6]

James Pinkerton, "Century In, Century Out - It's Crusade Time," Newsday, December 4, 2003:

And now, in 2003, the Americans, the Twelfth Crusaders. The West is no longer 'Christendom,' but we, as first cousins to the Europeans, retain the old faith and bring new kinds of idealism, such as democracy and human rights. But the Crusader spirit is still there; it's still about bringing civilization and salvation of a backward people. As the born-again George W. Bush says, 'This is about good vs. evil.'[7]

In August 2001 The Philadelphia Trumpet, a Protestant magazine, published article The Last Crusade with opening lines "Most people think the crusades for Jerusalem are a thing of the past—over forever. They are wrong. Preparations are being made for a final crusade, and it will be the bloodiest of all!"[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "President: Today We Mourned, Tomorrow We Work". Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. 2001-09-17. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  2. ^ [1] Archived January 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Crusade - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". M-w.com. 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  4. ^ "Crusade | Define Crusade at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  5. ^ a b "Tells the Facts, Names the Names". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  6. ^ a b "Alexander Cockburn: The Tenth Crusade". Counterpunch.org. 2001-09-11. Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  7. ^ a b Pinkerton, James (2003-12-03). "Century In, Century Out - It's Crusade Time". Newsday.com. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  8. ^ "On ISIS, Pope Francis Is No Crusader".
  9. ^ "President Rallies the Troops in Alaska". Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. 2002-02-16. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  10. ^ "World News, Economics and Analysis Based on Bible Prophecy". theTrumpet.com.