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May 07, 2006

Great Article On Barbary Pirates' "Jihad At Sea"

And as a bonus, contains quotes of stuff Jefferson actually said, as opposed to the fake Jefferson quotes John Kerry continues to use after they've long since been debunked as completely specious.

Hey, the man paid $18.59 for Stuff Jefferson Said, 3rd Ed., Rev., on eBay, and damnit, he's going to get his money's worth.

Anyway, this article is a must-read. It details America's first serious confrontation with the jihadists-- and it's shocking how much hasn't changed. Both in terms of the jihadists' claims of a God-granted right to slaughter, enslave, rape, and murder, and the limp-wristed response by many in the West to this Religion of Perpetual Mayhem and Barbarism.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain, respectively, met in 1786 in London with the Tripolitan Ambassador to Britain, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. These future American presidents were attempting to negotiate a peace treaty which would spare the United States the ravages of jihad piracy—murder, enslavement (with ransoming for redemption), and expropriation of valuable commercial assets—emanating from the Barbary states (modern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, known collectively in Arabic as the Maghrib). During their discussions, they questioned Ambassador Adja as to the source of the unprovoked animus directed at the nascent United States republic. Jefferson and Adams, in their subsequent report to the Continental Congress, recorded the Tripolitan Ambassador’s justification:
… that it 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.

Thus as Joshua London’s Victory in Tripoli elaborates in lucid prose, an aggressive jihad was already being waged against the United States almost 200 years prior to America becoming a dominant international power in the Middle East. Moreover, these jihad depredations targeting America antedated the earliest vestiges of the Zionist movement by a century, and the formal creation of Israel by 162 years—exploding the ahistorical canard that American support for the modern Jewish state is a prerequisite for jihadist attacks on the United States.


The Barbary jihad piracy which confronted America soon after our nation was established (i.e., between 1786-1815), was an enduring, formidable enterprise. During the 16th and 17th centuries, as many Europeans were captured, sold, and enslaved by the Barbary corsairs as were West Africans made captive and shipped for plantation labor in the Americas by European slave traders. Robert Davis’ methodical enumeration indicates that between one, and one and one-quarter million white European Christians were enslaved by the Barbary Muslims from 1530 through 1780.


Joshua London's compelling narrative of America's political and military efforts during the Barbary wars highlights—appositely—the experiences of William Eaton. Eaton's triumphs and travails during his tenure as consul to Tunis (1799-1803), and later U.S. naval agent to the Barbary states, mirrored those of the young American nation he served.


Eaton agonized over the gulf between the enormous potential and depressing reality of the Barbary states. ...Eaton concluded that Islam itself, certainly as practiced in Barbary, was the source of this backwardness:

Considered as a nation, they are deplorably wretched, because they have no property in the soil to inspire an ambition to cultivate it. They are abject slaves to the despotism of their government, and they are humiliated by tyranny, the worst of all tyrannies, the despotism of priestcraft. They live in more solemn fear of the frowns of a bigot who has been dead and rotten above a thousand years, than of the living despot whose frown would cost them their lives…The ignorance, superstitious tradition and civil and religious tyranny, which depress the human mind here, exclude improvement of every kind…


Joshua London concludes his engrossing, carefully researched, and intellectually honest account of the Barbary wars with this insightful analysis:

During the war with Tripoli, the United States began to test William Eaton’s hypothesis that fighting back and protecting the national honor and national interest with force was the best way to end Barbary piracy. Just at the moment of triumph, however, President Thomas Jefferson wavered and settled on the side of expediency. Jefferson’s lack of resolve left American interests unguarded, and once again American maritime trade felt the Barbary terror. By 1816, however, the United States finally provded that William Eaton was right. This success ignited the imagination of the Old World powers to rise up against the Barbary pirates.

Hugh Fitzgerald at Jihadwatch.org has a companion piece, with similar quotes but with some additional material. John Quincy Adams, it seems, was not given to "Religion of Peace" apologism:

….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…the faithful follower of the prophet may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.

Think John Kerry will be quoting those genuine quotes from Jefferson, Madison, and John Quincy Adams?

Of course not. But then, neither will George Bush, either.

Fitzgerald writes:

As one reads and ponders these remarks by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and John Quincy Adams, one is struck by the self-assurance that they represent civilization, and that Islam and its representatives did not, and it would have been ludicrous to pretend otherwise. Islam did not change between 1786 or 1805 or 1830 and today. The doctrine of Jihad did not change. The Qur’an was not a different Qur’an; the Hadith were not differently ranked from the way muhaddithin had ranked them, according to various levels of authenticity, nearly a thousand years before. If anything, the forces of Islam were far weaker then, and far less able, therefore, to conduct Jihad. The only instrument available was military, and in military matters the Muslims were hopelessly surpassed by the technology of a much more advanced civilization – more advanced in every possible way. So what happened? How is it that today no Western leader can bring himself to write about Islam as Jefferson, Adams, John Quincy Adams, or even in modern times, as Churchill did in The River War?

"Civilization" and "progress" happened, and that's not always a good thing.

If a civilization is to survive in the face of perpetual attacks and outrages, it must have some degree of confidence in itself. We generally mark it as "progress" when we doubt ourselves, when we question our own assumptions and dogmas and subjective views; but there is a time for questioning, and a time to put questions aside. Not put them aside forever; but put the "question yourself" imperative decidedly lower on our civilizational list of priorities.

The Muslim jihadists don't question themselves at all. They believe, without question, that they have the right to murder, rape, maim, and enslave anyone who is an infidel. That is barbarism.

But to do nothing but question one's own actions and motives in the face of such an implacable and merciless enemy isn't "progress," it's stupidity, moral cowardice, and suicide.

The definition of a liberal, in foreign policy, is someone who won't take his own side in a fight. I'm afraid we don't have that luxury any more.

Thanks to JackM. of Letters from Desolation Row for the first article. (BTW, JackM. is answering all and sundry questions you may have.)

Thanks to Craig for the second one.

Not To Undermine A Serious Point With a Non-Serious Quote, But...

"Barbarism is the natural state of mankind... Civilization is unnatural. It is the whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph."

Okay, that's a Conan quote, from my favorite Conan story, Beyond the Black River. It also appears, however, in Stuff Jefferson Said After Reading An Issue of Weird Tales, Vol. 1.

I guess it's pretty silly to quote Conan in this context. But there are advantages to barbarism -- energy, cultural confidence (even when that confidence far exceeds what a culture has, objectively, to be confident about), and a ruthlessness from which the forces of civilization naturally flinch.

Civilization is important.

But if a civilization is to survive, it must not grow so decadent, so vain in exulting its own sophistication, that it can view its own survival in "objective" terms that do not favor itself over the enemy.

At some point, a civilization needs to embrace some of the virtues of barbarism when it is faced with barbaric attacks. Otherwise, it will perish, no matter how much stronger or more advanced it may appear on paper, for a simple lack of willpower enough to actually bother saving itself.

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posted by Ace at 02:48 PM

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