Those Who Ignore History Are Condemned – Somali Piracy in Context
by D.L. Adams
On April 6 in an address to the parliament of Turkey, US President Obama said that the relationship between the United States and the “Muslim world” is an important one. “In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical,” the president said. During the same address the President stated, “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better, including my own country.” Mr. Obama neglected to explain in what way(s) Islam has the shaped and improved the United States. The founding fathers of the United States did not share Mr. Obama’s appreciation for the “Islamic faith”. In fact Jefferson, Adams, JQ Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were all were deeply concerned about the dangers that Islam represented to the new nation. Our ongoing experiences with the 21st century version of the Barbary pirates off the coast of Somalia, most recently today when an American freighter captain was freed from pirate captivity by the US Navy, illustrates a great deal about our prior relations with the “religion of peace” and how our previous leaders reacted. There is little discussion in the mainstream press about the link between Somali Islamism, piracy, and jihad, but the linkage is there nonetheless.
In spite of the news media distancing the recent attack on a cruise ship off the coast of Somalia from global terrorism, intelligence experts believe this is just the latest operation initiated against the United States and the West by Al-Qaeda. (source)
The irony perhaps is that Islam did in fact play a very important role in the early stages of the development of the United States – Islam was directly responsible for the development of the United States Navy and for the concepts that allowed for its deployment far from our coasts. The American Navy is not a river navy or coastal defense force; it is a global tool of American power whose origins can be traced directly back to an earlier American-Islam confrontation. After the American Revolution, pirates from the Barbary states (Algiers, Morcoco) attacked American shipping off the coast of North Africa in the Mediterranean and took the crews. This piracy against American shipping started in 1784 and finally ended in 1815. The Islamic rulers of these Barbary States demanded payment of tribute from the new country and it was paid, and paid. President Jefferson sent a naval force against the pirates in 1803-05. The Marine Corps were also sent in and after a long overland march, took the city of Tripoli in 1805 (thus “to the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps hymn). Is the Somali piracy of today related to the Barbary pirates of the early 19th century? When then Ambassadors Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with the Ambassador from Tripoli in 1785, to reach a solution to the attacks against American shipping and crews they were dragged into a dark world in which we are still today.
“When they inquired by what right the Barbary states preyed upon American shipping, enslaving both crews and passengers, America’s two foremost envoys were informed that “it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (Source)
The Barbary piracy was based upon the doctrine of Islam, calling for endless war against the unbeliever everywhere, including at sea.
To Muslims in the heyday of Barbary piracy, there were, at least in principle, only two forces at play in the world: the Dar al-Islam, or House of Islam, and the Dar al-Harb, or House of War. The House of Islam meant Muslim governance and the unrivaled authority of the sharia, Islam’s complex system of holy law. The House of War was simply everything that fell outside of the House of Islam — that area of the globe not under Muslim authority, where the infidel ruled. For Muslims, these two houses were perpetually at war — at least until mankind should finally embrace Allah and his teachings as revealed through his prophet, Mohammed.
Today, we are dealing with the same Islam. Islam is considered perfect, unchangable, unchallengable, by adherents. It is the perfect word of the perfect Allah, and carried to the world by the perfect example of humanity for all Muslims to emulate, Mohammed. History has returned, again.
“The Barbary pirates were not a “radical” or “fundamentalist” sect that had twisted religious doctrine for power and politics, or that came to recast aspects of their faith out of some form of insanity. They were simply a North African warrior caste involved in an armed jihad — a mainstream Muslim doctrine. This is how the Muslims understood Barbary piracy and armed jihad at the time, and, indeed, how the physical jihad has been understood since Mohammed revealed it as the prophecy of Allah.”
If the United States was unable to fight the pirates, they would be forced to continue to pay extortion to the Barbary States, a kind of high seas jizya. Jefferson immediately determined to fight. When he became president he was able to implement the plans that he had formulated after diplomacy to resolve Barbary piracy had failed. And are we not in the same position now? During a phone conversation with a journalist prior to the attack against them by US Navy SEALs to free the captured American sailor, one of the Somali jihadist/pirates said, “We never kill people. We are Muslims. We are marines, coastguards — not pirates,” one said. Not quite marines, not quite coastguard, at least not in the American sense of the terms.
Paying the ransom would only lead to further demands, Jefferson argued in letters to future presidents John Adams, then America’s minister to Great Britain, and James Monroe, then a member of Congress. As Jefferson wrote to Adams in a July 11, 1786, letter, “I acknolege [sic] I very early thought it would be best to effect a peace thro’ the medium of war.” Paying tribute will merely invite more demands, and even if a coalition proves workable, the only solution is a strong navy that can reach the pirates, Jefferson argued in an August 18, 1786, letter to James Monroe: “The states must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by some one of them. . . . Every national citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, and should fear to see it on any other element than the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties, nor occasion bloodshed; a land force would do both.” “From what I learn from the temper of my countrymen and their tenaciousness of their money,” Jefferson added in a December 26, 1786, letter to the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, “it will be more easy to raise ships and men to fight these pirates into reason, than money to bribe them.” (source)
When he became the 3rd President, Jefferson took action, and the United States Navy was sent to deal with the Barbary Coast pirates, which they did.
When Jefferson became president in 1801 he refused to accede to Tripoli’s demands for an immediate payment of $225,000 and an annual payment of $25,000. The pasha of Tripoli then declared war on the United States. Although as secretary of state and vice president he had opposed developing an American navy capable of anything more than coastal defense, President Jefferson dispatched a squadron of naval vessels to the Mediterranean. As he declared in his first annual message to Congress: “To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean. . . .”
We can trace the development of the US Navy directly to Thomas Jefferson’s interaction with jihadist pirates. President Obama was right about the “Islamic faith” having “done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country,” but probably not in the way that he had intended. The development of our national defense capabilities are fundamentally linked with an American conflict with Islam in 1805. John Quincy Adams didn’t have to deal with the Barbary States directly as president, but his father John Adams did. Considered one of the most brilliant men to sit in the White House, JQ Adams is particularly perceptive about Islam. His warnings on the matter ring as true today as they did more than 100 years ago. The Islam that Adams discusses is the same Islam we see today.
John Quincy Adams possessed a remarkably clear, uncompromised understanding of the permanent Islamic institutions of jihad war and dhimmitude. Regarding jihad, Adams states in his essay series,
“…he [Muhammad] declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind…The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God.”
Confirming Adams’ assessment, the late Muslim scholar, Professor Majid Khadduri, wrote the following in his authoritative 1955 treatise on jihad, War and Peace in the Law of Islam :
“Thus the jihad may be regarded as Islam’s instrument for carrying out its ultimate objective by turning all people into believers, if not in the prophethood of Muhammad (as in the case of the dhimmis), at least in the belief of God. …The universality of Islam, in its all embracing creed, is imposed on the believers as a continuous process of warfare, psychological and political if not strictly military.”3 source
There is a certain bizarre justice here that our Navy ships were on hand to effect the release of an American ship captain through military action against Somali pirates likely affiliated with Islamism because of events that occurred with other Islamist pirates more than 200 years ago. When you hear in the mainstream press pundits and commentators saying that the Somali piracy is “unprecedented”, don’t believe it because it is not so. And don’t believe that our current struggle with political Islam is also unprecedented. This is a conflict of 1400 years. Since 9/11 some of us have accepted this truth. Long before our generation, other Americans struggled with similar matters. Our founding fathers fought the jihadists of the Barbary States and came to know Islam through their jihad against innocent unbelievers. By 1830 John Quincy Adams had not forgotten the lesson. We must learn the same lesson again; then, never forget it. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. If we today choose to ignore the lessons of history we are simply condemned – we will have no opportunity to repeat.
“In the seventh century of the Christian era a wandering Arab, of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combing the powers of transcendent genius with the preternatural energy of a fanatic and the fraudulent spirit of an imposter, proclaimed himself as a messenger from heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth.
Adopting, from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God, he connected indissolubly with it the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war as part of his religion against all the rest of mankind. The essence of his doctrine was violence and lust; to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature.
Between these two religions, thus contrasted in the characters, a war of more than twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extincture of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute are encouraged to furnish motives to human action, there never can be peace on earth and good will toward men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.”John Adams, 1830
–John Quincy Adams, “Christianity—Islamism.” “Unsigned essays dealing with the Russo-Turkish War, and on Greece,” originally published in The American Annual Register for 1827—1829 (New York, 1830), Chs. X-XIV: 267—402. (source)
First published in the ACT West Nashville: http://actwestnashville.com/
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