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The Premiere Christian Magazine for Southern Arizona

Here We Go Again!

Before 1776, American merchant vessels enjoyed the protection of the British Royal Navy.  One of the biggest problems was the North African states of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli.  These largely independent Muslim states made up the Barbary Coast and supported piracy and the enslaving of captured ship’s crew.  Just after the Revolutionary War in 1783, America was now solely responsible for the safety of her own commerce and citizens. One of the first challenges for our new nation was how to deal with the Barbary pirates.  Under the Articles of Confederation and after a costly revolution, America did not have the means or the authority to field a naval force necessary to protect her ships in the Mediterranean.

England and France had come to a tenuous agreement with the pirates through a combination of military might, diplomacy, and extortion payments that kept ships flying the Union Flag or the French tricolor more-or-less safe from attack.

As American ships came under attack, the new U.S. government scrambled and decided on a pragmatic, but ultimately self-destructive solution.  In 1784, the United States Congress allocated money for payment of tribute to the Barbary pirates.  Unfortunately, the price demanded for these treaties far exceeded the amount that Congress had budgeted.  The U.S. paid Algiers the ransom, and continued to pay up to $1 million per year over the next 15 years for the safe passage of American ships and for the return of American sailors taken hostage.  Payments in ransom and tribute to the pirateering states amounted to 20 percent of United States’ government annual revenues by 1800.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to London to negotiate peace treaties with the Barbary nations.  Jefferson asked Tripoli’s Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman (or Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja) “the grounds on which the North African states made war upon nations who had done them no injury.” Jefferson reported his conversation to Secretary of State John Jay.  The Tripoli ambassodor made it clear 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; and that every Muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said also, that the pirate who was the first to board a vessel received one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.

Back home, Jefferson argued that paying tribute would only encourage more attacks. Although John Adams agreed with Jefferson, he believed that circumstances forced the U.S. to pay tribute until an adequate navy could be built. The Revolutionary War put our nation deep in debt. Federalists and anti-federalists argued over the needs of the country and the burden of taxation on the people. Even as the U.S Navy increased its power on the sea, it also became increasingly difficult to refuse to pay the long-standing habit of paying tribute.

On Jefferson’s inauguration as president in 1801, Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha (or Bashaw) of Tripoli, demanded $225,000 from the new administration. In 1800, Federal revenues totaled a little over $10 million. Putting his long-held beliefs into practice, Jefferson refused the demand. Consequently, in May 1801 the Pasha declared war on the United States, not through any formal written documents but by cutting down the flagstaff in front of the U.S. Consulate. Algiers and Tunis soon followed their ally in Tripoli.

In response, Jefferson sent a group of frigates to defend American interests in the Mediterranean and informed Congress. Although Congress never voted on a formal declaration of war, they did authorize the President to instruct the commanders of the armed vessels of the United States to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli “and also to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify.”
Edmund Burke said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Today we have Somali pirates of east Africa taking ocean vessels and hostages and holding them for ransom.  In the Middle East, Americans have a radical Muslim foe who has perpetrated the over 13,000 jihad attacks worldwide since 9/11 and repeatedly point to the Koran as their inspiration and authority.

Teachings from the Koran like, “Fight those who believe neither in God nor the Last Day, nor what has been forbidden by God and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are People of the Book, until they pay the tribute and have been humbled.” Surah 9:29, cause the strictest followers of the Koran to believe it is the duty of the faithful to plunder, enslave or kill those who will not submit to the teachings of the Koran.

The Koran also instructs not to take certain friends. “O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friend is one of them. God does not guide an unjust people.” Surah 5:54

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)

It seems Jefferson was right in 1801 and he would be right today.  Any nation who pays tribute to those who believe they are commanded by God to plunder, enslave or even kill other human beings only encourages more attacks. Our Founding Fathers placed the Second Amendment in the Constitution so her citizens could protect themselves from those who would intentionally do them harm or attempt to take away their individual liberty. Our Federal Government is charged to protect her citizens from the threat of those who would do our nation harm.  The US Navy was created to defend US citizens and their goods from Muslim pirates. The famous Marine Corps hymn serves a reminder of why a Christian nation would engage in war with those who attempt to take away our freedom:

From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We will 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.

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February 22, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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