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May 8, 2007

Fred Thompson On the Barbary Pirates

Topics: Political News and commentaries

Thompson_0031.jpgFred Thompson reminds us in The Fred Thompson Report that America's problem with Islamic terrorism didn't begin with the Iranian hostage crisis or 9/11; it dates back to 1786 (hat tip - Jawa Report):

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.
We fight our country's battles in the air, on land and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.
The very first line written for the Marine Corps Hymn, about the shores of Tripoli, refers to America's first foreign war. After the Revolution, U.S. ships were sailing the world in search of trade without British protection. With no real navy to protect our merchants and travelers, American vessels and citizens were being targeted for looting, enslavement and ransom. The enemy was the so-called Barbary pirates -- agents of the North African provinces of the Ottoman Caliphate...

Ransom and protection money were demanded and paid. Stories of terrible treatment of American men and women in the dungeons of North Africa were well known. Behind it all, the country was having a pro- and anti-war debate.

On the one hand were those who took the "no blood for trade" approach. They had legitimate concerns about the cost and political impact of maintaining a standing military. They favored negotiations and payments rather than fighting. For a long time, their side was winning the argument. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams even went to London to negotiate directly with the envoy from Tripoli.

Several historians and writers have reminded us recently of the ambassador's nearly forgotten answer. Fortunately, Jefferson prepared a written report for the government and left other records of the incident. Here's a description from The Atlantic Monthly in 1872:

"Disguising their feelings as best they could, they 'took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury.' The ambassador replied that it was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave." He claimed every one of their guys who was "slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise."...

Listening to the messages of al Qaida's leaders, you understand that they see their old defeats in very personal and contemporary terms. They are in a "long war" against us, even if we don't know it. And they're committed to winning it.

Read his entire piece here ....

In a previous post we posted on Christopher Hitchens piece at Townhall addressing the same topic, and noted that we are reminded that not much has changed since Jefferson went to war against Muslim pirates:

... America is still having problems with a global population of Muslims (the Islamists) with radically different views than our own of peace, tolerance, norms of a civilized society, and how nations should interact with one another fairly (although there are those who argue that the conflict between Americans and the Barbary pirates was not a holy war between Islam and Christianity, rather the wars concerned trade and were in actuality an extension of America's War of Independence; this view ignores facts that point to it involving religious and trade issues).
In "Jefferson's War - America's First War on Terror 1801-1805," Joseph Wheelan and Patrick Cullen wrote:
Two centuries ago, without congressional or public debate, a president whom we think of today as peaceable, Thomas Jefferson, launched America's first war on foreign soil, a war against terror. The enemy was Muslim; the war was waged unconventionally, with commandos, native troops, and encrypted intelligence, and launched from foreign bases under short-term alliances.

For nearly two hundred years, the Barbary pirates had haunted the Mediterranean, enslaving tens of thousands of Europeans and extorting millions of dollars from their countries in a mercenary holy war against Christendom.

Somewhere here there's a take-home message!

Posted by Richard at May 8, 2007 9:09 PM



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