“Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!”

Report by Douglas J. Hagmann, Director


The Barbary Wars redux: Muslim terrorists at sea

13 April 2009: The mainstream media will not tell you that the recent attack against the U.S. merchant ship off the coast of Somalia was an act of Islamic terrorism, but it was, and it’s not new. Quite simply, the majority of Americans have forgotten U.S. history despite the presence of a large monument in front of the U.S. Naval Academy to remind us. That is the Tripoli Monument, the oldest military monument in the U.S., honoring the heroes of the First Barbary War.

Following the Revolutionary War, American commerce ships sailing in the open waters of the Mediterranean were being attacked and destroyed by Muslim pirates, led by the “Dey of Algiers,” the Islamic warlord ruler of Algiers. The Muslim pirates were vicious, taking the mostly Christian crews as hostages. At that time, America had no navy to protect the ships and was virtually powerless to fight against the savage attacks. In 1784, the Continental Congress negotiated with the four Barbary States of North Africa (Morocco, Tripoli, Algiers and Tunis) in an effort to stop the piracy. At first, America paid protection money - $18,000 a year - to allow our ships to proceed unmolested by the pirates of Barbary.

As demonstrated in this case, succumbing to the demands of extortion never works out very well. Those who extort always want more, and payment of protection money is always a sign of weakness.  Like today, the leaders of America in the late 1700’s tried to settle the piracy issue through diplomacy. As such, two American diplomats, Thomas Jefferson, then the American ambassador to France, and John Adams, the American ambassador to Britain, were dispatched to London in 1786 in an attempt to resolve the piracy issue. They met with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the “Dey of Algiers” ambassador to Britain. It was during that meeting in London when Jefferson asked the Muslim ambassador why Muslims held so much hostility towards America, a nation they had virtually no contact with at that time.

The answer is as relevant today as it was in 1786 - perhaps even more so. Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja stated :

“Islam was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Qur’an, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Sound familiar? In 1786, diplomacy could not resolve piracy on the high seas due to the religious motivation of the pirates. America paid the leaders of the Muslim pirates millions of dollars as protection money through 1801, until America, with Thomas Jefferson as President said “enough.” Not long after he was elected, he sent a group of American frigates to defeat the pirates. under the motto “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!” Our navy did so, and after winning numerous battles in North Africa through the heroic efforts of our men in uniform, the piracy against our ships stopped.

The tribute to the bravery of the men who fought in the battle of the first Barbary War standing in front of the U.S. Naval Academy should serve as a reminder to all Americans how to deal with Islamic piracy against U.S. ships.  Do our leaders have the same resolve, the same fortitude to deal with this problem as our forefathers did? They certainly showed us how, now all we have to do is follow their lead. The rest can be, as they say, history.