Terrorism and the New American Republic
In 1786, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met with Arab diplomats from Tunis, who were conducting terror raids and piracy against American ships.
History records them as the Barbary Pirates. In fact, they were blackmailing terrorists, hiding behind a self-serving interpretation of their Islamic faith by embracing select tracts and ignoring others. Borrowing from the Christian Crusades of centuries past, they used history as a mandate for doing the western world one better. The quisling European powers had been buying them off for years.
On March 28, 1786 Jefferson and Adams detailed what they saw as the main issue:
“We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the Grounds of their pretensions to make war upon a Nation who had done them no Injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our Friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, 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 Musselman who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
Thomas Jefferson wanted a military solution, but decades of blackmailing the American Republic and enslaving its citizens would continue until the new American nation realized that the only answer to terrorism was force.
Jefferson argued to Congress that paying tribute would encourage even more attacks. John Adams agreed with Jefferson, but he believed that circumstances forced the United States to continue to pay tribute until a fully equipped navy could be built. At the same time, the nation was deep in debt and there was little or no money to pay for tributes to the Muslim pirates or to build enough ships to fight them.
“There’s a temptation to view all of our problems as unprecedented and all of our threats as new and novel,” says George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. Shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, Turley advised some members of Congress who were considering a formal declaration of war against the suspected perpetrators. He invoked the precedent of the Barbary pirates, saying America had every right to attack and destroy the terrorist leadership without declaring war.
“Congress did not actually declare war on the pirates,” Turley wrote in a memo, “but ‘authorized’ the use of force against the regencies after our bribes and ransoms were having no effect. This may have been due to an appreciation that a declaration of war on such petty tyrants would have elevated their status. Accordingly, they were treated as pirates and, after a disgraceful period of accommodation, we hunted them down as pirates.”
Finally in 1801, newly elected President Thomas Jefferson sent a group of frigates to defend American interests in the Mediterranean. Congress never voted on a formal declaration of war, but they did authorize the President to instruct the commanders of the armed vessels of the United States to seize all ships 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.”
Because of their outlaw conduct, pirates — and modern-day terrorists — put themselves outside protection of the law, according to military strategy expert Dave McIntyre, a former dean at the National War College. “On the high seas if you saw a pirate, you sank the bastard,” he says. “You assault pirates, you don’t arrest pirates.”
Shoot first, ask questions later. Wanted: Dead or alive. Such is our official policy regarding Osama bin Laden, the most infamous outlaw of the era.
In October 1803, Tripoli’s pirates were able to capture USS Philadelphia intact within Tripoli harbor. The ship, its captain, William Bainbridge, and all officers and crew were taken ashore and held as hostages. The pirates turned the Philadelphia against the Americans and anchored it in the harbor to be used as a gun battery.
The Tripoli Monument, the oldest military monument in the U.S. located at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, honors the heroes of the First Barbary War.
One of the enduring lessons of the Barbary campaigns was to never give in to outlaws, whether you call them pirates or terrorists. In the late 1700s, America paid significant blackmail for peace — shelling out $990,000 to the Algerians alone at a time when national revenues totaled just $7 million.
“Too many concessions have been made to Algiers,” U.S. consul William Eaton wrote to the Secretary of State in 1799. “There is but one language which can be held to these people, and this is terror.”
The image of the letter above from Adams and Jefferson to John Jay can be found in Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827, pp. 430-432. I can’t link it directly, but you can go tohttp://memory.loc.gov/ammem/mtjhtml/mtjser1.html and then click on “From January 2, 1786” and then go to page 431.
These photos of the original letters are about as follows: In 1786, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met with Arab diplomats from Tunisia, who were conducting terror raids and piracy against American ships (Barbary Pirates). Writing to John Jay, Thomas Jefferson described what he saw as the main issue and the reason why they were attacking Americans who had done them no harm. The following quote is from Thomas Jefferson….
“We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the Grounds of their pretensions to make war upon a Nation who had done them no Injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our Friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. THE AMBASSADOR ANSWERED US THAT IT WAS FOUNDED ON THE LAWS OF THEIR PROPHET, THAT IT WAS WRITTEN IN THEIR KORAN, 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 MUSSELMAN (MUSLIM) WHO SHOULD BE SLAIN IN BATTLE WAS SURE TO GO TO PARADISE”