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 overlook.
The above quote dates back to 1785 but it undeniably bloviates in precisely the same spirit as latter-day Muslim rabble-rousers. Nothing 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.
Suffice 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 inferior.
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.”
Few 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 America.
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.
The impression 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 hell.
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.”
All our 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.
This is 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 ago.
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.
The 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 vessels.
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 Admiral 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 payments.
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 tribute.”
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.
In 1918, 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 the name.