Bryan Fischer
U.S. been fighting Islamic fundamentalism since colonial era
By Bryan Fischer
April 10, 2009

As we watch the Somali pirate incident unfold in the Middle East, it serves as a reminder that, besides 9/11, Islam has had one other shaping influence on the history of the United States: we have a navy, thanks to the sea-going Islamic thugs of Thomas Jefferson's day, the Barbary Pirates.

Even prior to our Declaration of Independence in 1776, Islamists under the control of an Ottoman warlord in Algiers were pirating American ships and enslaving their Christian crews. Thus our forefathers had early experience with state-sponsored terrorism, as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya all joined in the fun.

Prior to 1776, American ships had some measure of protection from the Royal Navy, which was replaced by French protection during the war for independence. But when that expired in 1783, U.S. ships came under attack again almost immediately, with the taking of the merchant ship Betsey by Moroccans in October of 1784.

Between 1785 and 1793, 13 American ships were captured along with 119 crewmen by Algiers alone. This was followed by the capture of the USS Philadelphia in 1804 with its crew of 307 sailors.

(As a side note, Lt. Stephen Decatur gained naval immortality by leading the USS Intrepid into the harbor of Tripoli, boarding the Philadelphia under cover of darkness and torching it, an act Admiral Horatio Nelson called "the most bold and daring act of the age." Said the pope, the Americans by this action "had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages.")

Congress had begun dishing out handsome ransom payments to rescue ships and free enslaved American sailors. In other words, the first thing our forefathers tried, in responding to Islamic terrorism, was appeasement.

Two future presidents, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, were dispatched in 1786 to London to negotiate a peace treaty with the Dey of Algiers. They reported the Dey's reason for his Islamically-inspired hostility towards America:

"[I]t was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise."

Does that have a familiar ring to anybody? This mindset is part of Islam, root and branch; always has been, always will.

This commitment to jihad, you will note, occurred long before American "imperialism," before any use for oil had been discovered, before there was a state of Israel, and before America had done anything to anybody. Militant jihad, then, as it does today, stems from a profoundly dangerous religious impulse that sees only the World of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the World of War (Dar al-Harb), with the world of Islam spiritually obligated to use force to subdue the infidels and bring them to belief in Allah and his prophet.

President George Washington warned Congress in 1793, speaking of the Barbary Pirates: "If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure must be known that we are at all times ready for war." This speech led directly to the creation of the U.S. Navy in 1794.

Washington clearly understood one thing: the only language state sponsors of Islamic terrorism understand is force. Diplomacy, bribery and appeasement, in the end, are a fruitless waste of time and resources.

For a time, politicians at that time were as split on national defense as they are today. Some, such as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, were pro-Navy and wanted to assert American strength abroad to secure international trade and respect. Others — including Jefferson for a time — wanted to spend money on domestic expansion rather than confronting America's enemies on distant shores.

By 1800, 20% of the annual federal budget was consumed with tribute and ransom payments to Islamists.

In total, between 1500 and 1800 over 1 million white Christians were captured by Muslims and subjected to imprisonment in fetid prisons or brutal slavery. To escape the brutality, some embraced Islam by "turning Turk."

After the Pasha of Tripoli declared war on the U.S. by cutting down the flagpole in front of the U.S. Consulate, Thomas Jefferson found his inner hawk and took us into our first war against Islamic fundamentalism.

Jefferson's instructions to his naval officers were direct: "subdue, seize and make prizes of all vessels, goods and effects belong to the Dey of Tripoli" and take whatever measures "the state of war will justify."

From May of 1801 to June of 1805, the Marines fought the battles immortalized in that familiar line from the Marine Hymn: "to the shores of Tripoli." The Mameluke sword that Marines wear on parade and at formal events today memorializes the covert land operation led by William Eaton that resulted in the capture of the second largest city in the Regency of Tripoli.

However, while Eaton engaged in his heroics, and before he could make his way to Tripoli, Jefferson negotiated a peace treaty that ended that particular war with another ransom payment and a promise from the Muslims to stop attacking U.S. ships. Jefferson declared his version of "peace in our time."

But Muslims feel no obligation to keep their word to infidels, and attacks resumed in 1807, leading to a second war against terror in 1815, under James Madison. After diplomacy and bribery once again failed, Congress issued a declaration of war, and now-Commodore Stephen Decatur quickly defeated the enemy at sea and forged a tough new treaty, "dictated at the mouth of our cannon." The power of Islamic radicalism had finally been broken.

Europeans powers were emboldened by America's courage. The Anglo-Dutch shelling of Algiers in 1816 led eventually to the colonization of Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, and by 1923 most of the Islamic world was under Christian control, with the Islamic Caliphate of the Ottoman Empire the last to fall.

Though many Muslim leaders backed Hitler — the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood is famously pictured in a photograph chatting up the Nazi leader — the pattern of Muslim defeat only began to reverse after World War II as increasing numbers of Muslim countries became independent of Christian colonial rule from 1946 through 1971.

In 1972, having shaking off the Christian yoke, Muslim terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games and hijacked a German airliner. The rest, as they say, is history.

It's a fair historical assessment to say that the end of the colonial era ushered in the era of Islamic terrorism. Because of the fundamental, dark energy in mainstream Islam to subdue the infidel by force, Islamic nations are simply incapable of governing themselves in a way that does not in the end lead to violence against non-Islamic nations.

Colonial rule by the Christian nations of the West kept this demonic energy bottled up for 250 years, but the era of independence for Muslim nations has let the beast out of the cage. He can only be driven back into his cage by force.

All cultures and all religions are not morally equivalent. President Bush was wrong and naïve to believe that the hunger for political freedom is universal and burns in every human heart. Because Mr. Bush is a Christian, he has within him the Holy Spirit, and the Christian Scriptures are clear: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)."

For President Bush, the hunger for liberty seems natural and normal to him, as it was to the Founders. 2 Corinthians 3:17 echoed across the colonial landscape during the war to preserve our independence, and became part of the divine inspiration for our quest for independence. It became a slogan which animated and energized the willingness of our forebears to pledge their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause.

The hunger for freedom and liberty burns within the Christian breast, and within the breast of those who have been raised in a Christian milieu. It's almost impossible for us to believe that everyone in the world does not share that hunger.

But where the Spirit of the Lord is absent, as it is in Islam, there is no hunger for freedom. In its place is a thirst for domination, subjugation and control.

Mr. Bush's naïveté led him to believe it is possible to use American power to build democratic nations in countries historically dominated by Islam.

Mainstream Islam does not anywhere advocate freedom, for Muslims or for others; there is simply no parallel to 2 Corinthians 3:17 anywhere in the Muslim scriptures.

Instead, Islam advocates the involuntary imposition of sharia law everywhere in the world, and justifies the use of jihad until all the world is subject to an Islamic caliphate. They will not rest until the crescent and star waves over the White House.

President Obama is likewise wrong and naïve to believe that Islamic nations can be appeased through diplomacy and concessions. There is simply no way to "make nice" with nations who have a spiritually inspired zeal to subdue us or destroy us. His naïveté is placing American safety and security at grave risk.

While Christianity teaches that conversion must be the uncoerced choice of the free human will, Islam teaches that conversion or submission must be imposed if necessary on the unwilling. The only choices the Koran gives to us as infidels: conversion, submission, or war.

It's quite likely that today's Somali pirates see themselves in much the same way the Barbary Pirates did: holy warriors waging al-jihad fil-bahr, the holy war at sea. As did the Barbary Pirates, they likely see themselves simply as a warrior caste righteously engaged in the mainstream Muslim doctrine of armed jihad.

Here is how the Heritage Foundation concludes its report on the history of our war with the Barbary Pirates:

    "Obviously, and thankfully, not every Muslim is obligated, or even really inclined, to take up this jihad...But that does not mean they are all opposed to such a struggle any more than the choice of many Westerners not to join the police force or the armed services means they do not support those institutions.

    "It is very easy to chalk it all up to regional squabbles, economic depression, racism, or post-colonial nationalistic self-determinism...But as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams came to learn back in 1786, the situation becomes a lot clearer when you listen to the stated intentions and motivations of the terrorists and take them at face value."

Victory in Tripoli: Lessons for the War on Terrorism

FrontPage Magazine: The Colonial War Against Islam

© Bryan Fischer


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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