Monday, December 28, 2009

Our First American Conflict With Muslim Terrorists

Was it under George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush that we started fighting Muslim terrorists? Who was the first to use a preemtive war to go after them, George W. Bush, as we are told was the "Bush Doctrine" we all heard for the first time when Charlie Gibson asked Sarah Palin?

Actually it goes back a bit before any of the above were born. The first American conflict with Muslim terrorists were when several Muslim countries along the North African coast had estabilished the tradition of plundering ships of European and American merchants in the western Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, capturing the crews and then demanding ransom from the respective governments for their release.

In a joint message to their superiors in Congress, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson described the audacity of these terrorist attacks, pirates leaping onto defenseless ships with daggers clenched in their teeth. Adams and Jefferson had asked the ambassador from Tripoli to explain on what grounds these outrageous acts of unbridled savagery could be justified: "The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who shuold not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them whereever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners..."

Jefferson found such unmitgated blackmail beyond his comprehnsion and beyond any recognized principle of law or justice. He initially proposed that the United States refuse to pay ransoms and instead dispatch a naval force to the Mediterranian to teach these outlaws of the sea a lesson. Later he supplemented his proposal with a comphrehensive scheme whereby the United States would organize an international task force comprised of all European nations whose shipping was being victimized. "Justice and Honor favor this course," he exclaimed to Adams, and it would probably cost less in the long run to boot.

Adams agreed that it was impossible to negotiate with the Barbary pirates; as he put it, "Avarice and Fear are the only Agents at Algiers..." But Jefferson's accounting, Adams observed, grossly underestimated the cost. It would require at least 500,000 pounds annually to sustain a naval force in the region. The Congress would never authorize such a sum, and the United States had nothing in the way of a navy to send over anyway. "From these Premises," he apprised Jefferson, "I conclude it to be wisest for us to negotiate and pay the necessary Sum, without loss of Time." Adams insisted that Jefferson's solution, while bold and wholly honorable in its own terms, was an idea whose time had not come. "Congress will never, or at least not for years, take any such Resolution," he reminded Jefferson, "and in the mean time our Trade and Honour suffers beyond Calculation. We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever."

Jefferson remained unconvinced but agreed that Adams's opinion should be the basis for the official American position: "You make the result differently from what I do" he wrote to Adams in London, but "it is of no consequence; as I have nothing to say in the decision."

It is possible to detect in Jefferson an early undertone of resentment toward Adams's realism, which consistently undercut Jefferson's own grander visions. Jefferson tried to go over Adams's head by having his own proposal for an international naval force presented to Congress by a third party, a ploy that failed when Congress rejected the scheme outright, as Adams predicted they would.

Those who want to try to revise history by claiming that our founding fathers didn't create America through their own Christian beliefs always use this quote from John Adams from the U.S. Treaty with Tripoli 1796 and 1797 as their "proof".

"Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

However, when taken in context to what it was as part of a national bribe to terrorists claiming that America wasn't a nation formed as a Theocracy is a long way from how it is being used today.

After a few years of paying these bribes, Jefferson finally got his way. After the pasha of Tripoli chopped down the flagpole at the U.S. consulate there, it was a direct affront and an act of war. In 1801, Jefferson slowed down the mothballing of the naval fleet and sent ships to blockade the port.

Operating only under a set of joint resolutions, not a declaration of war, Jefferson nevertheless informed all the Barbary States that the United States was at war with them. He sought to get an interenational coalition to help, but no European states wanted to alter their status quo. So, in 1804, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur went ashore with eight U.S. Marines; set fire to a captured frigate, the Philadelphia' and through an expedition across the desert led by William Eaton and Greek mercenaries, organized locals who detested the pasha.

The American desert army also threatened the pirates' lucrative slave trade, and the presence of the powerful British fleet not far away put even more teeth into this threat. This stick combined with a carrot of a small ransom for the Philadelphia's crew, sufficed to force the pirates down and after releasing the crew, they recognized American freedom to sail the high seas uninterrupted.

By dispatching even such a small body of men so far to secure American national interests, Jefferson put the world on notice that the United States intended to be a force, if only a minor one, in world affairs. It was a remarkably brazen display of preemptive war by a president usually held up as a model of a limited government, and it achieved its results.

Thomas Jefferson, not George W. Bush was the first American president to do a preemptive attack. Both against Muslim Terrorist states. As you can clearly see, there is nothing new here. This conflict started with America and Muslim terrorists even before our Constitution was ratified.

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