Today marks the 812th anniversary of the day that the Fourth Crusade, fourth of a series of pan-Christian military expeditions meant to drive Muslims out of the eastern Mediterranean and bring its holy sites under Christian control while also providing breathing room for the hard pressed Byzantine Empire, captured Constantinople and sent the Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos into exile. Now that’s how you do irony, am I right?
There are more momentous dates for the Fourth Crusade (it was almost another year before the Crusaders ran the Byzantine royals out of the city altogether and created the Latin Empire of Constantinople, which is the real money shot in this particular tale), and maybe I’ll write more about what is probably the most absurd of that long series of very absurd events known as the Crusades on one of those anniversaries. But today’s anniversary should be commemorated as an important intermediate step on the road to Peak Crusades, as it were.
Also today, in 1968, the Baʿath Party led a bloodless coup that overthrew Iraqi President Abdul Rahman ʿArif and replaced him with Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. Bakr would serve as Iraqi President until 1979, when he resigned for health reasons; specifically, he was suffering from a rare condition known as “my vice president is Saddam Hussein and he’s probably going to have me gutted like a fish if I don’t step aside and let him have my job.”
Finally, in Nice This Day in History, in 1989 the Vatican restored relations with Poland, which had been broken off essentially since the Nazi conquest of Poland in World War II (the Soviets, as you might expect, didn’t bother letting Poland restore diplomatic ties with the home of Catholic Church). This was Nice because for one thing it signaled that Soviet control over Eastern Europe was collapsing, but also because the Pope at the time, John Paul II, was Polish, as you likely know. I’m not a much of a JPII fan, but it must have felt pretty good for a Polish Pope to be the one to restore the Papacy’s diplomatic ties to his home country, right?
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