This all sounds vaguely familiar.
A western country sends an army to the Middle East to overthrow Muslim overlords. They claim to be fighting for political reasons, but the whole thing smells like a holy war. “No-bid” contracts are awarded to those with high political connections. Huge fortunes are created for suppliers, but the war goes badly. The army is poorly outfitted, and they suffer enormous losses. There are charges of mismanagement, pilfering of artifacts, and torture of prisoners. Back home, criticism starts to mount, and the government goes looking for scapegoats. Hearings are held, politicians are called to account, military men are brought forward to testify. Someone’s got to pay…
No, it’s not Iraq 2007, it’s Jerusalem 1307. In that year, Pope Clement V was being criticized for the failure of the Crusades. He ordered the Knights Templar, the army responsible for capturing and holding Jerusalem, to report to Rome. He wanted to know what was going on in the Holy Land, why the war was going badly, and where all the money had gone. The Knights were tried for heresy and immorality; after five years they were found…not guilty! However, because the Knights owed a lot of money to King Philip VI of France, the most powerful man in Europe, the pope was forced to bury his report deep in the Vatican’s vaults. The Knights were hounded by Philip’s army, and their leader was burned at the stake. The entire order of the Knights Templar, Europe’s finest soldiers, was wiped out. The Crusades were over.
Yesterday, the Vatican said, “oops, my bad.” In a low-profile press conference, the Vatican brought forth a document that has been hidden for seven centuries. Clement’s verdict has finally been made public, absolving the Knights of heresy (and, by extension, making Rome guilty of conspiracy). Rome’s spin-doctor, prefect Sergio Pagano, preferred to look on the bright side, declaring, “”For us, the value is an artistic value — the colors, the calligraphy. This is art and it will be of great value to all lovers of culture who have a historical interest. Plus, they are visibly beautiful.”
800 leather-bound copies have been made available to the public. At $8,300 a pop, that will add $6,640,000 to the Vatican’s coffers.