Today marks the 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?
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. You can read the story behind today’s events in that post, by the way. But this is an important step in what is probably the most absurd of that long series of very absurd events known as the Crusades, so let’s commemorate it.
Also today, in 1968, the Baʿath Party participated in the 17 July Revolution, a bloodless coup that overthrew Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Arif and replaced him with party boss Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. It’s not entirely clear why Arif was overthrown except that he was fairly ineffectual and has been embarrassed by the Israeli victory in the Six Day War in 1967, in which Iraq had played a small but not insignificant role. Also his prime minister at the time, Tahir Yahya, was unpopular and there were rumors that he was trying to usurp Arif’s authority. 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.”
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