Another Tack: To the shores of Tripoli
Powwowing won’t lead to a change of heart among Islam’s supremacists. The showdown is inevitable. The Barbary War’s rallying call was: “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”
Tripoli monument Photo: Sarah Honig
It is written in the Koran that all nations which had not acknowledged the
Prophet are sinners, whom it is the right and duty of the faithful to plunder
and enslave; and that every Muslim who is slain in this warfare is sure to go to
Paradise. – Tripoli’s envoy, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja
Difficult as it may be
for some New York Times devotees to believe, the above wasn’t enunciated in
response to an esoteric 14-minute YouTube clip which was uploaded months ago by
a California-resident Egyptian Copt, which few actually viewed but which
invisible Islamic puppet-masters belatedly decried as too offensive to
The above quote dates back to 1785 but it undeniably bloviates
in precisely the same spirit as latter-day Muslim rabble-rousers.
has changed since these supremacist sentiments were sounded to American
emissaries Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were dispatched to London in an
attempt to reason with the proto-al-Qaida leaders of their day.
it to say that the negotiations led nowhere. What the two future American
presidents – both Founding Fathers with the impeccable credentials of
enlightened political philosophers – would hear was that Muslims are above
accommodating themselves to lowly infidels and that the infidels had better
admit their inferiority and pay the obligatory penalty for being
In time, this standoff would escalate to what became known as
the First Barbary War. It marked the first occasion ever that America employed
military force overseas as an independent republic. The military reputation of
the newly autonomous upstart from across the Atlantic was beginning to be
established. America’s ability to strike far from home was tested for the first
time. It was also the first time a united American force was deployed as
distinct from a collection of local militias.
This chapter in American
annals was seminal enough to be immortalized in the official hymn of the
American Marine Corps via the phrase “to the shores of Tripoli.”
Americans today have an iota of non-romanticized inkling about their own
country’s beginnings, never mind the realization that the first foreign war the
US fought was with Muslims. Such ignorance is a great shame for the country
which still purports to lead the Free World. But worse yet is the suspicion that
America’s current commander-in- chief, Barack Obama – the latest to don the
mantle of both Adams and Jefferson – has no idea.
Another option is that
he does have an idea but pretends not to. It’s hard to decide which is worse – a
president who is uninformed or disingenuous. Perhaps Obama just doesn’t care.
Graver yet, he might care in an alarming way – he may be willfully hostile to
the legacy of American history. Any way you look at it, none of this can instill
cheer in the hearts of Americans or of those who continue to count on
From this history-deficient worldview springs the politically
correct rationalization about why assorted Muslim fanatics have taken to the
streets of far-flung cities to vent hate. Like an imperious choirmaster, the
Obama administration inculcates into the public’s mind the convenient pretext
that an inane YouTube clip could automatically trigger the uncontrollable fury
of the mobs.
To hear Obama’s mouthpieces, the to-be-expected reaction of
the faithful is to riot against diplomatic sanctuaries (of different nations),
despoil foreign-franchised eateries and obviously – it goes without saying –
hoarsely recommend the slaughter of all Jews everywhere.
willy-nilly imparted by this neat explanation is that there was a specific match
which ignited the flame, that the consequences might have been avoided had the
match not been struck and had we Westerners been a tad more considerate of the
noble sensitivities of our Muslim brethren.
The implication is
unfailingly that only Muslims possess the prerogative to be sensitive and to
express their sensitivities brutally. Say it how you will, the unspoken
axiom is that even a perceived affront against Islam sets loose the wrath of
On the other hand, Muslims may call Jews descendents of apes and
pigs but Jews are never expected to respond ferociously because, as Muhammadan
believers aver, the lowly Jews are indeed swine and hence fully deserve all the
scorn heaped upon them. Jews have no right to rage right back (not that
they ever do).
The justifiably proud Muslims are in contrast perfect
(which is what the appellation Muslim means in Arabic) and thus are worthy of
veneration. Anything less is a severe insult that must be avenged. The very
notion of coexistence is nonexistent for those who see any hint of a hint of a
non-adulatory appraisal as extreme sacrilege mandating the death sentence. Simply
put, the Muslim view is “we are the best, you are the worst.”
Western notions of live-and-let-live might as well come from an alternative
universe. They are irrelevant, which is why Obama erred so fundamentally
when apologizing to Islam and bowing down to its potentates.
where memory blanks come in handy. They help cover up the fact that the video
clip is a trite excuse – that we have heard it all before – with the Danish
political caricature six years ago, with Salman Rushdie’s novel over 20 years
ago, with Jerusalem mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini’s pogrom-instigating calumnies
from the 1920s onward or the license which North African Muslims issued
themselves to abduct foreign mariners and hold them for ransom hundreds of years
All these are links in one long chain.
The Barbary Coast – as
it was known in the 18th century – was straddled by the independent Sultanate of
Morocco and the quasi-independent states surrounding Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers,
under the minimally nominal hegemony of the Ottoman Empire. All were in the
business of piracy. They hijacked merchant ships throughout the
Mediterranean and in parts of the Atlantic and held their crews in abject
misery, in conditions of hard labor and privation, until ransomed.
Muslim leaders of these provinces amassed great wealth and power
thereby. Before independence, American shipping came under British
protection and during the Revolutionary War under that of the French.
Thereafter, however, beginning in 1784, the Barbary rulers focused on American
Attempts to negotiate the price of safe passage succeeded only
partially and temporarily. The ante kept going up to the point that each
honcho demanded hefty chunks of the entire American budget.
By the time
Jefferson became America’s third president, things had deteriorated into bloody
skirmishes and spawned an American naval blockade.
Then Tripoli captured
the USS Philadelphia. On the night of February 16, 1804, Lt. Stephen
Decatur commanded an undersized contingent of American Marines who stormed the
captive Philadelphia and set it ablaze. British Adm. Horatio Nelson lauded this
as “the most bold and daring act of the age.”
But there was more to come.
Tripoli itself was attacked a few months later and more months down the line the
city of Derna, in Tripoli’s sphere, fell to a force of Marines and a ragtag
hodgepodge of mercenaries. An American flag was hoisted victoriously abroad for
the first time in what we now dub Libya.
It all concluded in a compromise
which the Muslim princes violated in no time, especially once America became
embroiled in its existential War of 1812. Not until the 1815 Second Barbary War
did the US successfully halt the extortions and end all tribute
There must be a lesson here for today’s pampered, more powerful
and less imperiled America. No good will come of sucking up to those who believe
they have the only direct line to the Almighty, and were ordained by Allah to
lord it over the rest of us underlings, menacingly extract submission but dish
out contempt with impunity.
Powwowing won’t lead to a change of heart
among Islam’s supremacists. The showdown is inevitable. The Barbary War’s
rallying call was: “Millions for defense, but not one cent for
Two footnotes offer further insights.
The first goes to
underscore the difference of mindsets between the enlightened West and Islam
already 227 years ago. While Adams’s and Jefferson’s interlocutor justified
murder and pillage as the inherent right of the superior Muslim, Jefferson was
the principal author of the trailblazing American Declaration of Independence
and in his later life composed an alternative Bible called The Life and Morals
of Jesus of Nazareth.
Jefferson transposed and deleted portions of the
New Testament (mainly those with supernatural content which he argued were the
personal conjectures and/or embellishments of the Four Evangelists) in order to
reconstruct what he presented as a rational and more reliable account of the
life of Jesus.
Religious as America was, no violent vendettas were
mounted against Jefferson by offended Christians. Unlike the rampaging Muslims,
they made do with disagreeing.
The second footnote is about Joseph
Israel. This Jewish midshipman was killed on September 4, 1804, in
Tripoli Harbor. An ornate monument was erected in his memory and that of the
five other fallen of that battle. One of America’s oldest military
monuments, it stands today at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.
the American Navy launched a destroyer that honored his heroism. It sailed the
seas as the USS Israel. It was the only instance in which a US naval vessel bore