“To the Shores of Tripoli”
Calling the gravely-injured American serviceman John Morrison an “infidel and a dog,” his Muslim captor struck him several times and pronounced him a shirker. Three days later, the 27-year-old Morrison was dead.1 His fellow prisoners, colleagues in arms, were also beaten regularly, and several others would die, never again to see their homeland. Their last residence would be a “crumbling, verminous dungeon.”2 The year was 1803, the locale, North Africa, where Morrison and his comrades were shipmates from the U.S. frigate Philadelphia, run aground in America’s first war on terror—with the Barbary Pirates.
For years, these Islamic marauders had commissioned their corsairs (swift pirate ships) in the shipyards of Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli with the cry, “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is Great!”). Lamb’s blood was poured ritually upon the ships’ prows in “the fervent hope that the raiders soon would spill Christian blood.”3 Their bitterness was grounded in an historic reversal—Muslim expulsion from Spain in 1492, the year that Columbus sailed for America.4 The Moors had controlled the Iberian Peninsula since 711, when 7,000 Muslim invaders under Tarik stepped off boats at a rock which would later bear the commander’s name—Gebal-Tarik (Gibraltar).5 Forced to retreat to North Africa over seven centuries later, many of these exiles would dedicate themselves to tormenting the navies and merchant fleets of Christian Europe.
So successful was their piracy that by the time the United States was born in the late 18th century, European nations were paying annual financial tribute to Algiers to guarantee their safety—$100,000 from Spain, $24,000-30,000 from the Dutch, Danes, Swedes, and Venetians, and a whopping $280,000 from the British.6 America could scarcely hope to escape this “jihad protection racket,”7 and sure enough, in 1795, the nation signed a treaty with Algiers, one which would eventually cost “$500,000 or more in tribute, gifts, and military stores.”8
When America balked at escalating demands in 1800, a Barbary corsair from Tripoli seized and stripped the New York brigCatherine, which was bound for Italy.9 And adding insult to injury, Yusuf, the ruler of Tripoli, forced the U.S. warship George Washington to ferry presents and bribe money to the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople.10 That was the last straw, and soon the U.S. was at war with the Barbary state of Tripoli.
The war was won by an extraordinary military feat, one immortalized in the United States Marine Hymn, which begins, “From the halls of Montezuma, To the shores of Tripoli, We fight our country’s battles, In the air, on land, and sea.”11 William Eaton led a contingent of troops 520 miles overland from Egypt to defeat the Tripolitans.12 When he was wounded in the initial assault, Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon took charge and led the men to victory on April 27, 1805.13 Yusuf was forced to release the crew of the Philadelphia, and all was well. Almost.
Needing reinforcements to hold the captured ground and fearing slaughter of the prisoners, American consul Tobias Lear negotiated a settlement with Yusuf, one involving the payment of $60,000 for the men of the Philadelphia, the reciprocal release of 81 Barbary prisoners, and a pledge to withdraw from the Tripolitan town of Derna.14 Back in America, many were incensed at the compromise, and they were right to be indignant. By 1807, the Barbary states were up to their old ways, capturing American merchant ships,15 and it was not until 1816 that the U.S. was finally free from tribute. Thanks to an 18-ship Mediterranean squadron, including the Independence, America won a peace “dictated at ‘cannon’s mouth.’”16 The nation had learned that there was no substitute for the force of arms when dealing with terrorists, who took every act of accommodation as a sign of weakness. It is a lesson well remembered today.
Joseph Wheelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror 1801-1805 (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2003), 177.
Ibid. 345. The tribute included “$21,600 worth of military supplies each year, $17,000 in biennial gifts to the dey’s officers, and $20,000 each time a new consul arrived in Algiers.”
“Marines’ Hymn,” Marines Website, http://www.marines.com/page/usmc.jsp?pageId=/page/Detail-XML-Conversion.jsp?pageName=Marine-Hymn&flashRedirect=true (accessed June 22, 2006).
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Terrorists are Terrorists and only Understand One Language
Here's a forgotten piece of history that we would do well to remember. Muslim extremists understand one language and it has a very small vocabulary. The article below is from Kairos Journal.