- NOTE: First published on Oct. 21, 2011.
This morning I had a very interesting and informative discussion with my Facebook friends about the US-Islamic Barbary Wars that took place two hundred years ago. Only a few years after gaining its independence, the United States of America, the first free nation on earth that was founded on individualism and free market principles, declared its first overseas war. America was engaged in two wars (1801-15 and 1815) against the North African Berber Muslim states known collectively as the Barbary States.
America became a nation at a time when the Barbary states, composed of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, were engaged in a piracy business they had been running for over three hundred years. The piracy was, in fact, a state-sponsored terrorism sanctioned by the Barbary states, which profited from ransoms and tributes paid by European nations. No European country was brave and courageous enough to stand up and fight these pirates and punish their sponsor states. In fact, the European nations even encouraged them by paying tributes.
When he was still the U.S. Minister to France, Jefferson expressed his strong opposition to the European tradition of paying tributes to the Barbary pirates in order to appease them. He believed that America had to declare war on the Barbary pirates in order to compel them “to perpetual peace”. He then proposed the formation of a European convention and to declare war against the paratical states. In his letter, Jefferson made the following proposals:
Our commerce in the Mediterranean was placed under early alarm by the capture of two of our vessels and crews by the Barbary cruisers. I was very unwilling that we should acquiesce in the European humiliation of paying a tribute to those lawless pirates, and endeavored to form an association of the powers subject to habitual depredations from them. I accordingly prepared and proposed to their ministers at Paris, for consultation with their governments, articles of a special confederation in the following form.
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“Proposals for concerted operation among the powers at war with the Piratical States of Barbary.
1. It is proposed that the several powers at war with the Piratical States of Barbary, or any two or more of them who shall be willing, shall enter into a convention to carry on their operations against those states, in concert, beginning with the Algerines.
2. This convention shall remain open to any other power who shall at any future time wish to accede to it; the parties reserving a right to prescribe the conditions of such accession, according to the circumstances existing at the time it shall be proposed.
3. The object of the convention shall be to compel the piratical states to perpetual peace, without price, & to guarantee that peace to each other.
4. The operations for obtaining this peace shall be constant cruises on their coast with a naval force now to be agreed on. It is not proposed that this force shall be so considerable as to be inconvenient to any party. It is believed that half a dozen frigates, with as many Tenders or Xebecs, one half of which shall be in cruise, while the other half is at rest, will suffice.
5. The force agreed to be necessary shall be furnished by the parties in certain quotas now to be fixed; it being expected that each will be willing to contribute in such proportion as circumstance may render reasonable.
6. As miscarriages often proceed from the want of harmony among officers of different nations, the parties shall now consider & decide whether it will not be better to contribute their quotas in money to be employed in fitting out, and keeping on duty, a single fleet of the force agreed on.
7. The difficulties and delays too which will attend the management of these operations, if conducted by the parties themselves separately, distant as their courts may be from one another, and incapable of meeting in consultation, suggest a question whether it will not be better for them to give full powers for that purpose to their Ambassadors or other ministers resident at some one court of Europe, who shall form a Committee or Council for carrying this convention into effect; wherein the vote of each member shall be computed in proportion to the quota of his sovereign, and the majority so computed shall prevail in all questions within the view of this convention. The court of Versailles is proposed, on account of it’s neighborhood to the Mediterranean, and because all those powers are represented there, who are likely to become parties to this convention.
8. To save to that council the embarrassment of personal solicitations for office, and to assure the parties that their contributions will be applied solely to the object for which they are destined, there shall be no establishment of officers for the said Council, such as Commis, Secretaries, or any other kind, with either salaries or perquisites, nor any other lucrative appointments but such whose functions are to be exercised on board the sd vessels.
9. Should war arise between any two of the parties to this convention it shall not extend to this enterprise, nor interrupt it; but as to this they shall be reputed at peace.
10. When Algiers shall be reduced to peace, the other pyratical states, if they refuse to discontinue their pyracies shall become the objects of this convention, either successively or together as shall seem best.
11. Where this convention would interfere with treaties actually existing between any of the parties and the sd states of Barbary, the treaty shall prevail, and such party shall be allowed to withdraw from the operations against that state.”
Only one leader stood up and opposed the barbaric piracy trade in the Mediterranean. This leader was Thomas Jefferson who believed that paying tributes to the pirates would even encourage them to commit crimes and conduct more attacks. Before he became President, Jefferson, along with John Adams, had the opportunity to know what motivated these Barbary states and their commissioned pirates. Upon inquiring “concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury”, the ambassador replied:
It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.
Jefferson reported this conversation to the U.S. Congress. When Jefferson was inaugurated as president in 1801, he refused to pay to Tripoli a $225,000 tribute. As a result, Tripoli declared war on the United States. Determined to protect its private citizens and vessels in theMediterranean, the U.S. fought and won its first two wars, thus ending the three-century piracy business of the Barbary States.
I believe the Philippines and its appeasing politicians could learn some valuable lesson from America’s Barbary Wars. The most important lesson here is that appeasement would only embolden and strengthen your enemy. Now we all know that President Noynoy Aquino is determined to continue the government’s policy of appeasement that has been compromising our soldiers’ and civilians’ safety for years. In fact, he admitted giving the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a terrorist group that has been recently conducting a series of attacks on our soldiers and civilian communities, P5-million aid. Also, the President, who apparently relied on his advisers who called the ambush incident an “isolated case”, declared his intention to continue holding peace talks with the treacherous Islamic group. For aiding and doling out taxpayers’ money to the enemy, the President should be held for high treason.
There should be no peace negotiations with the MILF and other rebel-separatist groups. It’s now high time to end the government’s policy of appeasement that’s undeniably putting our own soldiers’ lives in danger. History has it that peace talks with the religious fundamentalists never worked – and will never work. It didn’t work in the Middle East wherein the Palestinian Authority was at many times in breach of its peace agreements with Israel. Treachery is one of their best weapons. This is what our current government does not and cannot understand. The President of this third world nation has no balls. At this point in time, the President is the greatest threat to the security and safety of this nation and its people.