The saga of which I sing today is a tale most remarkable: My song comes from Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain, where war-heroes go to their rest. All those who have fallen in the fight, and borne wounds yet toiled unto death, from the beginning of the world, are come to the company of the great god Odin.
Indeed, at a time of troublesome tumult on the earth, there is even greater news from Valhalla: Men should know that Odin has decided that it is now time to win the War of the Fourteen Centuries. That is, the War that began when the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, 1378 years ago. It is time, finally, for vengeance. These are the ways of Odin, Lord of Valhalla.
Yes, Valhalla is a wondrous place, sitting as it does amidst the snow-clad slopes of Asgard. It is, indeed, a suitable reward for brave berserkers who have tasted human blood and who shed their own scarlet life-wine on the blasted heaths of battle. And by the iron code of the warrior way, when the dead have fallen, they rise. Their bodies are chosen by the Goddess Freyja and carried by the lovely Valkyries to the ancient gate of Valgrind. Yes, the Ride of the Valkyries: perhaps you know it. Or perhaps you know the Vietnam War version—same idea.
From Valgrind, thence the heroes enter into the hallowed hall itself, where tall spear-shafts hold up the high vaulted roof, thatched with combat-shields. Under this sheltering canopy of steel, the Slain can spend their days gazing at the sun-glinted peaks of the ivory mounts, and then spend their nights drinking the clearest of mountain-brewed mead, recalling their fighting days—days of blood and heavy metal.
Yes, Valhalla is a marvelous abode, an inspiration to warriors in that lower realm, Earth. Indeed, as the Earthly warrior ventures forth into combat, fighting truly for what he believes, he strides into harm’s way in the full confidence that if he dies a hero’s quick death, he will enjoy a hero’s long afterlife.
But my tale today is not of the gory glory-days of the past: Instead, this is a tale of the urgency of right now: The fate of the West itself is at stake. As Odin, also known as the Allfather of the Gods, has said, our collective history is like Yggdrasill, the ancient tree of life. If that sacred timber is sundered, Odin has warned, all our world will come tumbling down, like wintry flurries of snaer in February.
So even by the timeless standards of heaven, where the gods count years the way that children count ants and beetles, the Fate of the West is an important concern. To be sure, most of the time, the gods amuse themselves at whimsy and lechery, preparing, in their way, for the ultimate struggle against the Frost Giants. But on rare occasions, such as now, they choose to reach down and intervene in the matters of men.
So it is Odin, also known as the Terrible, who hath convened this special emergency session of the Council for the Defense of the West, of which I sing.
How do I know of things such? Who am I to sing true about the noble ways of Valhalla? And how, in particular, have I come to relate the proceedings of the extraordinary special council convened by Odin?
I am Roland. Perhaps you’ve heard of me. Some 12 centuries ago, I served no less than Charlemagne himself, as his Prefect for the March of Brittany, the storm-lashed north country hard by the wilds of Frisia. Charlemagne, of course, was a brave champion of the West, and he came from noble stock: His grandfather, Charles Martel, had defeated the Muslim invaders—we called them Saracens in those days—at the Battle of Tours, 732 years after the birth of our Lord the Christ.
Yes, the Muslims had invaded Europe, overrun Spain, and reached deep into France; Tours is just 60 leagues south of Paris. Charles Martel—the Hammer, we called him—had forced the Muslims out of France, but they were still in Spain, just to the south, where they oppressed the Believers.
And so in 778, Charlemagne led his army across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain to finish the job of ejecting the Muslims from Europe. And I was proud to serve as one of his paladins. Although we liberated Barcelona, we were stopped by the Muslim defenders of the fortified city of Zaragoza. And so, when our supplies grew short, Charlemagne decided to return to France. I was the leader of the rear guard detachment of his army, which was overtaken by the Mohammedans as we crossed Ronceveaux Pass. I fought bravely; I killed Ferracutus, the Saracen giant descended from Goliath. But the Muslim numbers were too many: I died with my blade in my hand, true to my duty to the last. In the annals of medieval epic poetry, The Song of Roland is famous—have a look.
So yes, I have been among the heroes of Valhalla ever since—Christian warriors are included. But I have chosen to do more than just revel in my memories of past victories and perhaps play the langeleik or the panpipes. My purpose, here in the hereafter, is to be a skald, that is, an ongoing recorder of feats and deeds. So I will utter unto men a new saga, as Odin and his Immortals seek to save the West from a false leader.
Odin may have only one eye, but he sees all things. After all, he has help: Two magic ravens sit on his shoulders. There’s Hugin—thought—and Munin—memory. Each sunrise Odin sends this pair off in flight, to swoop through the world and report back to him.
Thus Odin, also known as the Raven God, became alarmed at what he learned from his spy-birds. The West was in peril—that was a fact. And so he convened his war-group: The Council of the West. As he sat at the head of a long, heavy oaken table, draped, as always, in chain-mail and wolfskins, he spake:
“Fellow warriors! For almost 1400 years, the West has had to battle the Muslims! And who started this war? The Muslims did! Mohammed’s army of zealots shot up from the Arabian desert like a poisoned geyser and then flowed north. Once it was the Christians who reigned over not only Jerusalem, but also Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia. But then the Mohammedans flooded forth and drowned many churches. Indeed, in one wave, in the 8th century, the Muslims reached the Iberian peninsula, and into France. Our brother-in-arms, Roland, died fighting them there.” (Even as a humble bard, I blush to mention this plaudit—when Odin spoke, my cheeks were as red as the belly of a salmon.)
Odin, also called the Wise One, continued: “In another wave, in the 9th century, the Muslims crossed the Mediterranean and conquered Sicily, and even invaded Italy itself. In another wave, in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, the Mohammedans moved into Eastern Europe and captured Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Budapest; twice they even besieged Vienna.”
Odin, also known as the Shrewd One, paused before he made his next point. “And now, the Muslims have developed a new kind of violent flood, and a new word for it—they call it ‘immigration’!”
The Councilmen laughed a hearty but rueful laugh; they rapped their heavy mead-steins on the oaken table in acclamation.
Odin, also called the Mindful, added, “I don’t have to rely on Mimir to explain to me that too often, immigration and ‘terrorism,’ are just two sides of the same coin to them—the coin of invasion! And this, we must stop.”
“You speak well, Odin One-Eye!” That was a voice from the table. Hearing those kind words, Odin glanced down affectionately at the severed head of Mimir as it rested on a golden platter. Mimir, god of knowledge, smiled back; the head-without-a-body—he had been beheaded in the war between the Aesir and the Vanir—was perfectly capable of listening, thinking, and speaking.
Odin, also known as the Watcher, continued: “So let us take a close look at the activities of the so-called leader of the West today, this man, Barack Hussein Obama, so that we may fully judge his works.”
Odin, also known as the Father of Runes, and always an avid reader, reached for a news item; on earth, people now use computers, but here in Valhalla, we use palantiri—the seeing stones. Quoth Odin: “Here is this thing called The Washington Post; its headline, as they call it, reads, ‘CIA scales back presence and operations in Yemen, home of potent al-Qaeda affiliate.’ And here’s another report that US Marines, evacuating the country, were told to surrender their weapons and they complied. Now I ask you: When, in the history of this proud military legion, is the last time that happened?”
The Council, fully schooled in all things military, nodded in assent; the vaunted warriors of the USMC would not surrender their weapons unless ordered to do so by their command hierarchy. And what sort of commander would tell the Marines to surrender their weapons?
Odin, also known as the Knower of Men, applied still more wisdom as he kept talking: “Indeed, we must ask ourselves searching questions about this man, Barack Hussein Obama. Consider: Another publication, The Fiscal Times, puts the President’s actions in useful context. Here I quote: ‘Obama has given ISIS a propaganda clip of incalculable value . . . As he stood at the Prayer Breakfast last week and likened the barbarity of current-day Islamic extremists to atrocities committed during the Crusades and the Inquisition, Obama seemingly validated the terrorists’ centuries-old calls for vengeance.’”
Obama’s sneering reference to the Crusades outraged one of Odin’s Councilmen, Richard the Lion-Hearted. “That’s absurd!” he shouted. “How could this be?”
Richard, who led the Third Crusade to recapture—yes, that’s right, recapture, as it was Christian before it was Muslim—the Holy Land in the 12th century, spoke with a warrior’s coiled passion, his long reddish-blond locks waving like snakes as he vented his fury. “How could the West have come to this pathetic point, in which its leader loathes his civilization’s accomplishments?”
These were good questions. More excited mead-stein rapping from the Council.
Odin, also known as the Philosopher of War, carried on: “Meanwhile, as the Muslims are advancing, Obama is playing—he is happy to play another round of golf. In fact, Obama seems actually to be fond of terrorists he knew from his past, and by now, he doesn’t much care who knows it.”
Now it was the turn of another Councilman, Don Juan of Austria—who led Pope Pius V’s fleet to an epic victory over the Ottoman Empire galleys at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571—to speak: “I fear that Obama is secretly on the side of the Turk. But it seems that many of my fellow Europeans would rather savor his honeyed false words than taste the bitter salt of truth.”
Odin, also known as the Swinger of Gungnir—Gungnir being his broadsword—smiled a sad smile: “In one of the Eddur, the craven condition is described: ‘A coward believes he will ever live/ If he keeps himself safe from strife/ But old age leaves him not long in peace/ Though spears may spare his life.’”
And so was heard yet yet another appreciative rumbling of the mead-steins.
Richard the Lion-Hearted spoke again: “I died in battle when I was just 41. Death comes faster
than you think, no one can flee it. Yet I have become a name—a name for valor.”
“Yes,” added Don Juan of Austria, “courage is better than the keenest steel.” Then the hero of Lepanto looked down at the palantiri on the heavy table and asked. “Can these things, these newspapers, really be relied upon? Did Vice President Biden really say to a group of young people in America, ‘Global warming is the greatest threat to your generation of anything at all, across the board’? Is it really possible that an important American leader could be so stupid? Do they think that they are somehow being courageous by ‘fighting’ against coal? By opposing economic growth? How will the West get its arms if it has no money?”
“Yes,” Odin answered with the heavy sigh of someone who had once had to fight and kill the giant Ymir, whose body he then used to make the earth. “The Obama administration openly declares that it really wants to fight ‘climate change,’ not Islamic radicalism.”
“And yet,” Don Juan of Austria added, “I see here that a recent Pew Center poll found that terrorism is at the top of Americans’ list of concerns, while climate change is near the bottom, 22nd out of 23 items. So what, pray tell, is going on? Isn’t America supposed to be a democracy—where the people rule?”
Odin, also known as the Sage One, answered: “Today, in Obama, the West has a leader who will not give a name to the true enemy. Highly worrisome, I know. Look here: His new National Security Strategy document makes no mention of Islamic radicalism, and yet it finds room for 13 references to the alleged danger of ‘climate change.’”
Mimir, the god-head on the golden platter, spoke loudly: “Obama reminds me of Loki, the Trickster. His manner is smooth, clever, and pleasing, but his nature is undependable, slippery—even treacherous.”
Now it was the turn of another Valhallic hero to speak. That would be John III Sobieski, the Polish warrior-king who led his winged hussar cavalry to save Vienna from the Turks in 1683: “Many a fine skin hides a foul mind.”
Odin, also known as the Reader of Men, nodded. Then he looked down at his seeing stones and said, “I also see a piece from James Taranto, writing a piece in The Wall Street Journal headlined, ‘War on Whatever: Obama’s random national security strategy.’”
“Speaking of ‘random,’ John III Sobieski piped in, “Did you see that Obama said that the killings at that kosher grocery store in Paris were ‘random’? If I came to a field of battle with those Jihadis, there would be nothing random as I sliced them into pieces with my szabla!”
The Councilmen laughed raucously.
The wise Odin spoke more: “Even the liberal-leaning New York magazine, which worships Obama, labeled that word, ‘random,’ as an ‘epic blunder.’”
“And yet still,” Mimir added, “Even as ‘progressives’ in the West are starting to see that they have a false-saying idol, they continue to worship him.”
Odin, also known as the King of the Gods, smiled down at Mimir: “You speak well, my friend.”
Now it was Winston Churchill’s turn to speak up. Educated at the British military academy of Sandhurst, Churchill had directly participated in three conflicts—the River War in Sudan, the Boer War in South Africa, and World War One in France—before leading Britain to victory in World War Two.
“When I was Prime Minister, I never hesitated to give the true name of the enemy. Why, in 1940, in my very first speech to the House of Commons upon becoming PM, I made numerous references to the Germans, the Nazis, even ‘Herr Hitler.’”
“Hip, hip, hooray!” Richard the Lion-Hearted exclaimed, “and Sir Winston, my countrymen loved you for it. A great leader can lead. Although today, it seems that Obama is going out of his way to thwart public opinion. The American people want to fight terrorists in the Middle East, and yet Obama wants to invite them to tea in Washington.”
Odin, also known as the Patient, smiled his sly, slow smile. “Exactly. Even as Obama says the war is coming to an end, meanwhile, the administration is inviting the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Jihadists, into the citadels of American government, to the State Department, and even to the White House. Moreover, every day we learn that the American Heartland is honeycombed with Muslim ISIS sympathizers, including six Bosnian-Americans in the St. Louis area.”
John III Sobieski, hot-spurred warrior that he was, could barely keep still. “I knew it! Those guys are from my neck of the woods! Never trust them! Not so long ago, America was bombing the Christian Serbs to help Bosnia become an independent Muslim country. And as if it wasn’t good enough to kill Christians to strengthen Muslims in the Balkans, the Yanks then invited the Bosnians to come live in their country! And this is the thanks they get!”
Using his one eye, Odin took in the eyes of all those seated with him at the Council table. Then he continued: “Here’s another news item, from a Washington, DC, budget-watching organization, headlined, ‘President’s Budget Proposes to Completely Wind Down War Spending.’ Now I ask you, worthy comrades: How can a mere man know when a war will end?”
“Wars end when the enemy is defeated—or dead,” cried Richard the Lion-Hearted. “Or when you’re defeated or dead.”
“All we know now,” Don Juan of Austria sighed, “is that if an American betrays his country, as Bradley Manning did, Uncle Sam will pay for his sex-change operation. They have a budget for that!”
Odin, also known as the Thunderer, nodded without saying a word.
Another Councilman, Napoleon Bonaparte, opened up. “Speaking of new phrases, what do you make of Obama’s proposed ‘Authorization for the Use of Military Force’?”
Odin, also known as the Assayer of Men, answered: “Good question!” And then he continued, “As The New York Times has observed, ‘In seeking authorization for his six-month-old military campaign against the Islamic State terrorist group, President Obama . . . did something that few if any of his predecessors have done: He asked Congress to restrict the ability of the commander in chief to wage war against an overseas enemy.’”
A low whistle came from Napoleon’s lips, and then the illustrious general added, “Restrict the ability of a commander? That’s no way to win a war.”
This inspired Napoleon to speak up yet again: “I’ll tell you about the use of force!” And then, pushing back his chair, he stood up, drawing himself to his full 5’4” height. Yet even so, diminutive as he was, the man known as the “Little Corporal” to his soldiers, was a commanding presence: “In 1798, I sailed with my army to Egypt, and there, before the Pyramids, I defeated the Mamelukes. Indeed, I got as far as Lebanon before I had to return to France. I wanted to redeem the region for Christendom, but Lord Nelson and the English stopped me. And so all we got was the Rosetta Stone.” With that, Napoleon sat back down.
Odin, also known as the Wily One, had more to say: “Obama is clever: I see here a headline from Fox News: ‘Obama Builds Hamster Wheel for GOP on ISIS.’”
“What’s a hamster?” Richard the Lion-Hearted asked. “Some kind of pig?”
No, Odin answered: “A hamster is more like a ratatoskr.”
“Figures,” Richard grunted. “And so what’s the hamster doing in a wheel?”
Odin explained: “The point is that Obama wants to trap the Republicans in an endless cycle of flailing.”
Odin continued: “It’s apparent that Obama has no plan for victory—and no desire to win. So why are the Americans fighting in Araby? Even their bravest warriors are starting to wonder. Did you know, for example, that over the whole of the past 14 years, three-fourths of the American casualties in Afghanistan have occurred under President Obama?”
Napoleon again: “Why, it’s almost as if he wants the West to fritter away its resources in a futile no-win conflict.”
“Yes,” Odin answered. “Maybe more than almost.”
Napoleon frowned: “I’m beginning to see what you mean, sir.”
John III Sobieski snorted, “Should we call him then, not President Obama, but maybe, Ayatollah Obama?”
“I believe,” Odin answered, “that Mimir is correct: Obama is a follower of Loki—a trickster.”
Now the Council of the West was joined by a new arrival, Chris Kyle, known in Valhalla as the Marksman. “So we must fight!” he said.
Odin, also known as the Battle Wolf, answered: “Yes, Marksman, we must fight. We in Valhalla must find new ways to share our courageous ideals back to the weakened mannfolk below. I might add that your movie has done much to bolster the fighting spirit of the people.”
“Here! Here!” shouted Richard the Lion-Hearted, Don Juan of Austria, and John III Sobieski; the three sounded as if in unison.
Odin, also known as the Rune Player, spoke again: “But our challenge isn’t just sharing courage. It’s also sharing knowledge.”
“Yes, One-Eye!” That was Mimir, the shrewdest head in Valhalla. “We must explain to the folk what is happening, so they, too, can see the truth.”
Odin, also known as the Weathermaker, knew that he would need both his courage and his cunning to save the West. He knew he could do it; after all, if he could toss the Midgard Serpent into the ocean and swindle the blood of Kvasir away from the dwarves, then he could vanquish the trickster Obama.
Yes, it would take hard work, and it would take time. But there, in the company of great heroes, Odin had made up his masterful mind. He had resolved to save the West.