Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Dear GI, Please don't wear your 'crusader' patch on patrol in a Muslim country"

Got this from @dangerroom's Twitter feed, linking to this image:

Oooooooh, dear.  See the patch?  "Militum Christi."

Somebody, please go read this, or this, or this, or this, or this.  It seems to be a theme, doesn't it, almost as if there were people out there with an agenda, determined to spread hate and ignorance.


Steve Muhlberger said...

I wonder if soldiers are allowed to put unofficial patches on their uniforms; and if not, how did it get there?

How *did* it get there?

Anonymous said...

This must be that separation of Church and State they keep telling us about, right?

Also, militum, that's genitive plural isn't it? 'Of the soldiers of Christ'. So it's not just an endorsement but a statement of membership... maybe? It could just be illiterate, of course. But I certainly agree that it's worrying.

Liam said...

Do we know if this is actually worn in Afghanistan or Iraq? Isn't there someone telling at least the commanding officers that this is REALLY REALLY STUPID?

Bavardess said...

Oh good grief. I'm appalled, but sadly, not surprised. And like Steve above, I'm also wondering how, exactly, the soldier came to attach this particular badge to his/her uniform.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what disturbs me more, that someone would think that a patch like that was cool, or that they could be ignorant that proclaiming yourself a member of the Milites Christi would seem to confirm absolutely everything bad that the extremist pundits have been claiming about the Iraq war. That is why it annoys me when people apppropriate a symbol or phrase without considering the full force of ideas that come rushing in in it's train.

Anonymous said...

Its funny that a patch that refers to the Knights of Christ is so offensive to everyone. Maybe you all should do a little more research. Oh yeah, its no big deal they cut the heads and torture our soldiers and murder in the name of their God, lets not offend them with our patch. I wear mine,...I say come and take it..

Matthew Gabriele said...

Anonymous, thanks for coming by.

If you want, I can tell you the whole history of the phrase milites (or militia) Christi, beginning with early monasticism (if not before) and continuing through to today. I don't think you're interested in that though.

I think you're more interested in making an argument that we (Americans) can do as bad as is done to us. True, but the more important question is: should we? I thought the whole point of fighting was that we don't stoop to their level.

Stroke King said...

I admit i don't read bible. so i don't get why there is a war between Christian's and Muslim's. but thanks for the post. I grow up on a country that 70% is a catholic and their is a 20% Muslim, they keep fighting for some reason i don't understand.

gerry said...

Oh goodness. Does this mean Christians are starting to respond to the anti-Christian violence of the juhadis. I know the Christians sort of kept quiet while sudanese Muslims slaughtered about a million or so of them. And they have been allowing pakistani Muslims and Indian Hindus to kill them. Nigeria is starting to push the issue with their attempts at genocide of Christians. Gee, I hope those pesky Christians will just allow themselves to be martyred. Or maybe we need crusaders to oppose jihadis. Remember before the Crusades those naughty Christians in the Middle East were often forced to convert. Maybe turnabout is fair play. Oh well as soon as they all have nuclear weapons, it will all be solved. Question is will it be the third Mahdi or the return of Christ.

Matthew Gabriele said...

@gerry, thanks for stopping by. 2 problems. Unfortunately, you're simply wrong in a few cases. Christians weren't forced to convert during the initial Arab invasions. There was persecution, at times, but never forced conversion. In Nigeria, Christians are killing plenty of Muslims too. Radical nationalist Hindus in India are killing Muslims. And so on.

Second, more basically, I don't understand this line of reasoning -- they're doing it, so why shouldn't we. I learned that was not alright when I was 5 or 6. I thought the whole point was that we, as a society, were better than our most radical elements, that we cherish the rule of law, that we offer respect towards those that disagree. If we don't, if we're just like "them," then aren't we terrorists too? Or, to put it another way @gerry, if everyone were jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do that too?

Blue Mountain Ranger said...

My god Matthew, are you serious?!!
do you really compare gerry to the jihadees with that brooklyn bridge comparison?
Is it the same to wear an offensive shoulderpatch and to cut off a persons head? If you think so I guess you will be saddened to hear that I find your remarks pretty offensive. Hope you wont cut your own head off for that. It has come out on wikileaks that both american and british soldiers have been torturing prisoners in iraq. Building our armies on a code with an explicit ideal of christ is probably the best we can do to avoid such crimes in the future. Not based on the bible/old testament, but on what christ taught.

And then, -no forced conversions and only little persecution of christians before the crusades? are you shitting me???!!
I guess killing pilgrims, priest and nuns, and waging wars of conquer doesn´t come under you definition of persecution then...

Matthew Gabriele said...

Kristian, thanks for visiting. I appreciate your incoherent rant.

First, I think you should read my comment again. In no way was I comparing one of the commenters here with a jihadist. I was simply saying that justifying an action based upon the actions of another was something that I learned to be wrong at a young age. This doesn't seem to be something you've internalized yet as you criticize jihadists beheading people, then cowardly wish the same to me.

Second, "building our armies on a code with an explicit ideal of Christ," is something that's already been done. You're Danish, I'm guessing, so perhaps you're unaware of the vast literature on the Christianization of the modern American military beginning in the 1980s (If so, visit any of the links I give above). The actions you point to that are detailed at Wikileaks (which, actually, don't say that British and American troops tortured but rather that they didn't intervene to stop Iraqis torturing other Iraqis) actually follow from this christianization. Cause --> effect.

Finally, you're just simply wrong about "killing pilgrims, priests and nuns," etc. preceding the 1st Crusade. If you don't believe me, or don't like to read any American, English, German, French, Italian, or Finnish scholars, there are some good Danish ones as well who will disabuse you of your false understanding of the preconditions of the First Crusade.

Anonymous said...

Really? AMERICANS are this offended by a soldier wearing s Militum Christi patch? What's sad is people actually care that we may offend the Taliban and their supporters. 2. Any Afghanis he would see while on patrol can't even read their own language let alone English. 3. The Christians lost the crusades so there's no reason for Muslims to be offended by anything related to the Crusades in the first place. Grow up.

Matthew Gabriele said...

Mike, thanks for stopping by. Perhaps you'll like this post (http://bit.ly/RKZme), which talks about Islamic understandings of the Crusades since the 19th century. Also, you're naive if you think they "can't read." Read anything written about modern terrorism and you'll see that they're incredibly techologically savvy.

Anonymous said...

Matthew, have you ever been to Afghanistan? If not why are you contending a statement I made based on what I've seen in this country since the war started. Christians were prosecuted just as much as Muslims were in the Crusades so even if it would offend Muslims, why should we care? Also, I didn't say they can't read because I'm naive. I said it because they really can't read. Unless they were educated in Kabul (about 1% of the country's population) they can't read anything. They don't even know what year it is or their own age most of the time. I'm not naive at all, I know for a fact 95% of them can't read because I'm in Afghan villages 2-3 times per week. Besides that, I work alongside Afghan Commandos mainly, but also ANA and ANCOP and ANSF. They are not offended by patches such as the one in the picture. Most of them don't even know what it means and don't know who the Templar Knights even were.

You are right, the Taliban and similar terrorist organizations are very tech savvy. But only because the stuff is given to them by bigger players and they are taught how to use it. Terrorist training camps don't teach about how to read and the Crusades, they teach how to kill people.

I didn't chime in here to have a big internet argument, I just think all these negative comments about the soldier wearing the patch are completely irrelevant. I'm sure most of you have never been to any Muslim 3rd world country, let alone Afghanistan. Yet you make these statements like you can read people's minds and know how they would react to some things. You have no understanding whatsoever of how these people think and live their daily lives. If you base your statements on the news or anything you read on the internet you're wrong. Unless you have firsthand experience in this country, and I don't mean never leaving the FOB, there's no point in arguing.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, as I see you have a PhD in history. Obviously you have a much greater scope of knowledge of the Crusades than probably anybody else that posts here. I'm also sure you've been taught a great deal about religious wars and the history of Islam and Islamic nations. However, when people such as yourself refer to 'Islamic understandings of the Crusades since the 19th century' Afghanistan doesn't really fit into that. Almost every generic reference to Islamic nations in more recent history is based on developed locations that actually have an education system in place and have contact with the rest of the world. Afghanistan doesn't quite fit into there. I can't speak for Iraq as I have much less experience in that country. But these people really don't know much of anything in Afghanistan besides farming. Sure they have some technologies from the bigger cities like Kabul and some from Khandahar, but nothing you could even remotely call advanced. Their technology doesn't go beyond old crappy cars and tracfones. They don't have electricity in their homes. Their homes are made of mud and feces. They poop in their home right on the floor and it just stays there until flies eat it. These people have bigger problems and concerns than what our patches say. They really couldn't care less. The patch that soldier is wearing is not a big deal, no reason to make it a big deal.

On a side note: Some Air Force actual unit patches refer to the Crusades or Templar Knights.

Matthew Gabriele said...

Mike, thanks again for coming back and thanks for these thoughtful comments. I don't (totally) disagree with what you're saying. Personally, and given my own research interests, I'm more interested in what this says about some (not universal) American attitudes towards wars against radical Islamic groups.

Framing the conflict - in any way - as "Christian" against "Muslim" moves the level to a different, troubling level. For example, how does a war between "Christian" and "Muslim" end? With the elimination of the other, either by death, conversion, or subjugation? How does a "war against terror" end? It can't -- at least not in this lifetime -- because there will always be those who seek political/ social power through violence against innocents. The only way to "square this circle" is through an apocalyptic, zero-sum war in which there's only 1 winner and 1 loser. That means that all Muslims, everywhere, are on 1 side and all Christians, everywhere, are on the other. But that's not useful. We're fighting the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, etc. -- just like the many peaceful inhabitants of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, etc. are as well. Ultimately, you're certainly right on your last point (that Afghanis have bigger problems than American arm patches) but I'm wondering about us. Do some of us have bigger problems too or is this THE problem we have?

I have much more to say and I realize that this brief comment doesn't do justice to your longer one above. Hopefully, this dialogue will continue.

Anonymous said...

This will be my last comment as I won't be near a computer for a few days and I may just forget entirely to check back here, as I just stumbled across this while actually searching for a picture of a Templar shield. However, as you mentioned it's not supposed to be a religious war, as in Christians vs Muslims. However, to the Muslim community, it is a religious war. There may be peaceful Muslims, but there is no peaceful Islam. (I can't remember who said that). Although a lot of the villagers may seem peaceful, the only reason they do not attack us and help terrorist organizations is because they fear us more than they fear them. You are correct in saying that we'll never win the war against terrorism, and I truly believe that Afghanistan is a lost cause. Iraq on the other hand was a great success. We now have a strong ally in the Middle East. The people of Afghanistan, however, are greedy, selfish and two-faced. This country will never see peace. Don't get me wrong I love my job in the military (18D) as I get to kill bad guys and their supporters quite often. Maybe People would see that as having a messed up attitude but anybody who knows me knows I'm a very down-to-earth guy. I've just accepted that war happens. Sometimes the ugliest parts of life are necessary. I'm a Christian. Since almost all the Muslim community views this as a holy war, it's easier to understand their actions and mindset for us to see things the same way. Of course there is no way for Christians to ultimately win a holy war against Muslims because the Muslims won't quit until every last Christian is converted or dead. As Christians it would be wrong for us to just destroy all the Muslims or force them to convert, even though that would be easy. So it's lose/lose for Christians unless God Himself calls for the destruction of everything non-Christian. Anyway, I have to run. I enjoyed this little debate, even though my first comments were a bit heated. I'll bookmark this and send you an e-mail actually. I know your PhD goes far beyond my Penn State education, but if you have any questions or want to know some things about what's really going on in Afghanistan, I'm beyond the front line and I'd be more than happy to answer anything I can.

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Unknown said...

In my opinion, the brilliantly-colored patch in that photo is very likely NOT being worn on patrol. Anything that catches the light, is vibrantly-colored, makes undue noise or otherwise stands out is highly frowned upon by today's military personnel. Even insignia denoting rank is difficult to see from any distance and can be removed altogether as it is attached with Velcro for the purpose of preventing targeting of higher-ranking personnel.

Unknown said...

In my opinion, the brilliantly-colored patch in that photo is very likely NOT being worn on patrol. Anything that catches the light, is vibrantly-colored, makes undue noise or otherwise stands out is highly frowned upon by today's military personnel. Even insignia denoting rank is difficult to see from any distance and can be removed altogether as it is attached with Velcro for the purpose of preventing targeting of higher-ranking personnel.

Unknown said...

Our boot platoon was Crusaders. It was a knight with a Red Cross on a white field.

Vicki J said...

Hi Matthew,

I've enjoyed reading your insightful and balanced comments. From what I've read so far I agree with many of your viewpoints. Especially this comment; " I thought the whole point was that we, as a society, were better than our most radical elements, that we cherish the rule of law, that we offer respect towards those that disagree. If we don't, if we're just like ‘them,’ then aren't we terrorists too? "

I too have been extremely concerned about the growing radicalized response of "Christian" America ever since 9/11/01 NY, as recently illustrated by the popularity of the movie "American Sniper" which depicts a vicious killer who basically said he loves to kill Arabic people indiscriminately.

By the way, I am a Christian - so I am not knocking anyone for being Christian, but I don't believe that acting like terrorists in the name of Christ really qualifies as being followers of the man who said "love your enemies... do good to those who persecute you."

From my study of Bible prophecy, the heated battle between Islam and radicalized Christianity (under Roman influence historically, and possibly in the future too) is actually highly significant and was pointed out in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. It represents how the fallen angel Lucifer is mastermind of radicalizing religions into his likeness and stirring them into warring elements against each other.

They say that “history repeats,” but in regard to the conflict between Christianity and Islam the 7 Trumpets prophecy, starting with the 5th trumpet, shows us that the history of this conflict in ancient Rome is repeat in uncannily exact likeness from Islamic terrorism to the rise of the Caliphate.

I have included a link of my studies on this subject here. I haven’t completed studies or a blog on the 6th trumpet yet, but it is obviously about the rise of the Caliphate both in time of ancient Rome and now;


Here is a blog about a pastor’s prophecy research regarding prophecies of Daniel and Revelation in regard to the battle between Christianity and Islam historically and in the future. My conclusions to not match his exactly but there are many similarities.


Take care,


Unknown said...

Dear writer, stop thinking you can tell a GI what to do. On your other point, athough true there are people who enlist to go over just to go "kill some muslims" as they would say it, the sad thing is though if you were to remove all people who joined for similar reasons you would be surprised how the size of the military would decrease. We are fighting people who want to kill us and our families, so of course that will attract people who want to inflict the same on those people who wish that upon us. The problem you have is you apply rational thinking about irrational people.