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 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.
Jihad at Sea—An Overview
Barbary jihad piracy was merely a 16th through 19th century manifestation of the naval razzias characteristic of Islamic imperialism since its emergence (pp.41-43) in the 7th and 8th centuries. For example, although the Abbasid state (750-1250) “orientalized” the Caliphate, and lacked naval power of any importance, in the west, Muslim forces (i.e., decentralized, “organic formations”), continued the Islamic expansion by maritime warfare. Throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, Berbers and Arabs from Spain and North Africa launched raids along the coastal regions of France, Italy, Sicily, and in the Greek archipelago.
Francisco Gabrieli has described how these naval razzias were concordant with jihad, yet antithetical to the modern rule of law. He also emphasized their capacity for conquest, or, even when “disorganized”, triumphal rapine and destruction:
According to present-day concepts of international relations, such activities amounted to piracy, but they correspond perfectly to jihad, an Islamic religious duty. The conquest of Crete, in the east, and a good portion of the corsair warfare along the Provencal and Italian coasts, in the West, are among the most conspicuous instances of such “private initiative” which contributed to Arab domination in the Mediterranean.
…In the second half of the ninth century, a large number of Saracen (Muslim) raids occurred throughout Southern and Central Italy, but we do not get the impression of their ever having been part of a plan or organized conquest, as Musa’s, Tariq’s, and Asad’s campaigns had been in Spain and Sicily. Their only object seems to have been destruction and looting which was also the object of the armed groups faced by Charles on the Balat ash-Shuhada near Poitiers.
…The no less classical themes of Arabic war poetry, the hamasah sanctified by jihad, ring out in the recollections and boasts of Ibn Hamdis, the Sicilian Abu Firas, who exalts the military successes of Islam on Calabrian soil, the landing of Muslim troops at Reggio and their exploits against the patricians whom they cut to pieces or put to flight.
A proto-typical Muslim naval razzia occurred in 846 when a fleet of Arab jihadists arrived at the mouth of the Tiber, made their way to Rome (p. 421), sacked the city, and carried away from the basilica of St. Peter all of the gold and silver it contained. But perhaps the largest and most infamous of the naval jihad campaigns during this period was the sack and pillage of Thessaloniki in 904. During July, 904, under the command of the Muslim convert Leo of Tripoli, more than ten thousand Cretan Arabs, Syrians, and North Africans briefly sieged, and then captured Thessaloniki, slaughtering and enslaving its inhabitants (some 22,000 slaves were taken), and causing great physical destruction to the city. John Cameniates provided an eyewitness account of these events, recorded in his chronicle. Cameniates, his elderly father, and his brother, taken prisoner while they tried to escape by the ramparts, were spared their lives because they promised their captors a large amount of money. They were marched as prisoners through the city, and thus witnessed the terrible carnage of their fellow townspeople. Cameniates narrative reveals that (p. 604):
The Thessalonians tried to escape through the streets, pursued by the Saracens, who were unleashed like wild beasts. In their panic, men. women, the elderly, and children, fell into each other’s arms to give each other one last kiss. The enemy hit with no mercy. Parents were killed while trying to defend their children. No one was spared: women, children, the elderly, all were immediately pierced by the sword. The poor wretches ran through the town, or tried to hide inside the caves; some of them, believing they could find refuge inside a church, would seek shelter inside, while others tried to scale the walls of the ramparts, from where they jumped into the void and crashed to the ground. Nuns, petrified with fear, with their hair disheveled, tried to escape, and ended up by the thousands in the hands of the barbarians, who killed the older ones, and sent the younger and more attractive ones into captivity and dishonor… The Saracens also massacred the unfortunate people who had sought refuge inside churches.
Halil Inalcik has placed the 14th century Aegean sea naval razzias of the Turkish maritime emirates in the context of jihad, citing, for example, the chapter of the Dusturname of Enveri concerning the actions of the emirate of Aydin. Elizabeth Zachariadou describes the consternation of contemporary 14th century Latin and Byzantine chroniclers observing the “spectacle” of Turkish emirs, “…who were proud only because they were able to lead their ferocious soldiers” in such predatory attacks. These raids—designed to pillage property and abduct captives for sale in slave markets—although merely ignoble piracy or brigandage from the perspective of the Christian chroniclers, nevertheless, as Zachariadou notes, were,
…for the Muslim Turks, a Holy War (Jihad), a praiseworthy and legitimate occupation, leading directly to Paradise.
Gregory Palamus, a Metropolitan of Thessalonica during the 14th century, wrote this commentary while living as a captive amongst the Turks in 1354, confirming (albeit with astonishment) that indeed the Turks attributed their victories over the Byzantines to their (the Muslims) love of God:
For these impious people, hated by God and infamous, boast of having got the better of the Romans by their love of God…they live by the bow, the sword and debauchery, finding pleasure in taking slaves, devoting themselves to murder, pillage, spoil…and not only do they commit these crimes, but even—what an aberration—they believe that God approves of them. This is what I think of them, now that I know precisely about their way of life.
More than 650 years later, and a continent (and oceans) away, C. Snouck Hurgronje reported (in 1906) that similar acts of jihad piracy were still being performed against non-Muslims (both indigenous populations, and Western traders) by the Muslim Acehnese of the Indonesian archipelago:
From Mohammedanism (which for centuries she [i.e., Aceh] is reputed to have accepted) she really only learnt a large number of dogmas relating to hatred of the infidel without any of their mitigating concomitants; so the Acehnese made a regular business of piracy and man-hunting at the expense of the neighboring non-Mohammedan countries and islands, and considered that they were justified in any act of treachery or violence to European (and latterly to American) traders who came in search of pepper, the staple product of the country. Complaints of robbery and murder on board ships trading in Acehnese parts thus grew to be chronic.
Jihad Piracy and the Barbary 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. White Gold, Giles Milton’s remarkable account of Cornish cabin boy Thomas Pellow, captured by Barbary corsairs in 1716, also documents how earlier 17th century jihad razzias had extended to England [p. 13, “By the end of the dreadful summer of 1625, the mayor of Plymouth reckoned that 1,000 skiffs had been destroyed, and a similar number of villagers carried off into slavery”], Wales, southern Ireland [p.16, “In 1631…200 Islamic soldiers…sailed to the village of Baltimore, storming ashore with swords drawn and catching the villagers totally by surprise. (They) carried off 237 men, women, and children and took them to Algiers…The French padre Pierre Dan was in the city (Algiers) at the time…He witnessed the sale of the captives in the slave auction. ‘It was a pitiful sight to see them exposed in the market…Women were separated from their husbands and the children from their fathers…on one side a husband was sold; on the other his wife; and her daughter was torn from her arms without the hope that they’d ever see each other again’.”], and even Reykjavik, Iceland!
Alberto Guglielmotti (vol. 3, La Guerra dei Pirati, 1500-1560) included this description of the severe commercial and social devastation wrought upon the Mediterranean littoral of southern Europe by these jihad razzias (English translation, p. 24):
Everyone…could see with their own eyes the desolation of the Spanish, French, and Italian coasts, thanks to the pertinacious infestation of these pirates: the wretched beaches, the abandoned islands, the shacks [reduced to] ashes, the fishermen in flight, and the vessels of the Barbarian rovers loitering about on the sea.
And the epigraph from Padre Biaggio di Turena which introduces Davis’ recent monograph (p. xxiv) on Barbary slavery, depicts the plight of the captives:
In twenty years of wearisome work as a missionary in Aleppo, Baghdad, Grand Cairo, and Suez on the Red Sea, I have seen the infinite miseries of the poor Christians oppressed by the barbarian cruelty of Mohammedans.
America and the Barbary Jihadists
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.
Born on February 23, 1764 in Woodstock, Connecticut, the highly intelligent and strong-willed Eaton, when 16 years old, ran away from home, subsequently lying about his age to join Washington's Continental Army. He rose to the rank of sergeant in the Continental Army, which he served until 1783. Eaton graduated Dartmouth in 1790, and in 1791 was chosen clerk of the Massachusetts House of Delegates, where he remained until 1797, while he also served (beginning in 1792) the U.S. Army as both a fighter and negotiator during the frontier campaigns against the American Indians. Later, Eaton assisted then Secretary of War Timothy Pickering's espionage/treason investigations. When Pickering became Secretary of State, he chose Eaton to serve as U.S. consul to Tunis, initially under President John Adams.
Eaton’s consular journal (reproduced by London, on p. 63) recorded these brutally honest and comical impressions of his first diplomatic encounter (on February 22, 1799) with Dey Bobba Mustafa of Algiers, which would make the craven State Department mandarins of today, wince:
…we took off our shoes and entering the cave (for so it seemed), with small apertures of light with iron gates, we were shown to a huge, shaggy beast, sitting on his rump upon a low bench covered with a cushion of embroidered velvet, with his hind legs gathered up like a tailor, or a bear. On our approach to him, he reached out his forepaw as if to receive something to eat. Our guide exclaimed, “Kiss the Dey’s hand!” The consul general bowed very elegantly, and kissed it, and we followed his example in succession. The animal seemed at that moment to be in a harmless mode; he grinned several times, but made very little noise. Having performed this ceremony, and standing a few moments in silent agony, we had leave to take our shoes and other property, and leave the den without any other injury than the humility of being obliged in this involuntary manner, to violate the second commandment of God and offend common decency. Can any man believe that this elevated brute has seven kings of Europe, two republics, and a continent tributary to him when his whole naval force is not equal to two line-of-battle ships? It is so.
Despite such inauspicious beginnings, and the institutionalized Barbary corruption Eaton found so repugnant to his person, and nation, his negotiations eventually secured U.S. commercial interests (at least a temporary) immunity from the attacks of Tunisian corsairs.
Eaton agonized over the gulf between the enormous potential and depressing reality of the Barbary states. He admired the Mediterranean coast of Tunis, “…naturally luxuriant and beautiful beyond description…I know not why it might not vie with the opposite continent in every thing useful, rich, and elegant”, yet despaired of the stultifying religio-political institutions which arrested the regions progress. Ultimately, 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…
[A century later (1899), based upon his experiences as a young officer in the Sudan, Winston Churchill* would draw remarkably similar conclusions about the impact of Islam in “The River War”]
But Eaton also possessed the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that the cruelty of the Barbary slavery he witnessed was “…but a copy of the very barbarity which my eyes have seen in my own country. And yet we boast of liberty and national justice.”
Appointed Naval Agent for the Barbary Regencies in 1804, Eaton then organized and led an expedition to unseat the predatory Barbary ruler Yusuf Qaramanli. Eaton’s army arrived outside Derna. on April 25, 1805. When the bey of Derna refused his generous ultimatum, at 2 p.m. April 28, Eaton led a successful attack on the city, supported by U.S. naval gunfire. During the fighting Eaton—who had led his outnumbered force in a gallant bayonet charge—was wounded in the left wrist. As London recounts:
He simply wrapped his arm in a makeshift bandage and sling, grabbed a pistol with his right hand, and continued to charge ahead. With the American Marines in the lead, Eaton’s forces stormed the ramparts and advanced straight to the harbor.
Subsequent diplomatic efforts stalled the expedition. Tobias Lear, the Consul General, reached an accomodation with Yusuf Qaramanli, which included ransom money for all American prisoners, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Derna, and the betrayal of Eaton’s key Arab ally, Ahmad Qaramanli. Eaton commented upon this treaty with predictable bitterness in a letter to Commodore John Rodgers:
Could I have apprehended this result of my exertions, certainly no consideration would have prevailed on me to have taken an agency in a tragedy so manifestly fraught with intrigue, so wounding to human feelings, and, as I must view it, so degrading to our national honor.
Although the Senate ratified the Tripoli treaty in April 1806 by a vote of 21 to 8, as London notes,
Jefferson declared ‘victory,’ but the ‘peace’ proved rather political…The Federalists did not manage to derail the treaty, but they did embarrass and, at junctures, discredit President Thomas Jefferson and forever tarnish the career of Tobias Lear.
Just over five years later, in Brimfield, Massachusetts, June 1, 1811, an alcoholic forty-seven year old William Eaton died in near anonymity.
The signing of the Treaty of Ghent (Christmas eve, 1814)—subsequently ratified in the U.S. (February, 1815)—ended the so-called War of 1812 with Great Britain, and allowed President James Madison to address the problem of renewed Barbary jihad terrorism. On February 23, 1815, Madison provided this written assessment of the matter to a closed session of Congress:
Congress will have seen, by the communication from the Consul General of the United States, at Algiers, …the hostile proceedings of the Dey against that functionary. These have been followed by acts of more overt and direct warfare against the citizens of the United States trading in the Mediterranean, some of whom are still detained in captivity, notwithstanding the attempts which have been made to ransom them, and they are treated with the rigor usual on the coast of Barbary…The considerations which rendered it unnecessary and unimportant to commerce hostile operations on the part of the United States, being now terminated by the peace with Great Britain, which opens the prospect of an active and valuable trade of their citizens within the range of the Algerine cruisers; I recommend to Congress the expediency of an act declaring the existence of a state of war between the United States and the Dey and Regency of Algiers; and of such provisions as may be requisite for a vigorous prosecution of it to a successful issue.
Shortly afterward, President Madison commissioned two naval squadrons led by Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur, and dispatched them to the Barbary States in May, 1815. By June/July 1815 the ably commanded U.S. naval forces had dealt their Barbary jihadist adversaries a quick series of crushing defeats. These U.S. victories were solidified by what London terms “unprecedented” treaty agreements forced upon the Barbary states, which “..made practically no concessions and stood very firm on every point”—the abolition of all tribute; release of all American prisoners currently held, and acknowledgement that no future American prisoners of war could be enslaved; the payment of indemnities; and the restoration of American properties held by the dey.
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.
Where is Our William Eaton (or John Quincy Adams)?
Shortly after the cataclysmic jihad terror attacks of 9/11/01, President George W. Bush made his now infamous utterance that Islam is a “religion of peace”. Ironically, the renowned 20th century Muslim ideologue Sayyid Qutb, perhaps the most brilliant Muslim scholar of the 20th century, who is demonized as a fomenter of “radical” Islam, has also referred to Islam as a “religion of peace”. But Qutb’s context is unapologetic and clear—he is referring to the Pax Islamica that would prevail when the entire world was submitted to Islamic domination, and the rule of Islamic law (i.e., the Shari’a), by jihad war.
President Bush further insisted in a more recent speech that the “ideology” of the most notable Muslim terrorists, who he maintained “distort the idea of jihad”, is “very different from the religion of Islam”, and indeed “exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision.” The President’s specific and assertive comments regarding jihad were a profound disappointment. Indeed, such words could have been written and spoken by the most uninformed, or deliberately disingenuous apologists for this devastating, and uniquely Islamic institution, well over a millennium old, and still wreaking havoc today.
In stark contrast, John Quincy Adams, who made seminal contributions to the formulation of U.S. foreign policy, possessed a remarkably clear, uncompromised understanding of the permanent Islamic institution of jihad war, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude. Regarding jihad, Adams, in his essay series dealing with the Russo-Turkish War, and on Greece, (written while JQA was in retirement, before his election to Congress in 1830, Chapters X-XIV [pp. 267-402] in The American Annual Register for 1827-28-29. New York, 1830), states,
…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.
And Adams captured the essential condition imposed upon the non-Muslim dhimmi “tributaries” subjugated by jihad, with this laconic statement,
The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute.
Joshua London’s elegant analysis of America’s first war against jihad terrorism illustrates the pitfalls of ignoring basic Islamic precepts—rooted in jihad—such as Dar al Harb, as stated ad nauseum by our Muslim adversaries, past and present. It is critical that current U.S. political leadership rediscover and imbibe the uncompromised knowledge of Islam possessed by John Quincy Adams, and the outspoken, tragic hero of the Barbary jihad wars, William Eaton.
During Eaton’s 1798 voyage to North Africa to serve as the consul to Tunis, he lamented in his journal,
It is sad to reflect that our beloved nation could sink so low in her self-esteem [as to pay such lavish tribute to pirates]. I pray that I will have an opportunity to cause the rulers of Barbary to think more highly of us in years to come
Eaton subsequently warned the political elites and ordinary countrymen of his time that,
Our language to them [the Barbary jihadist states] should be the language of the gospel:
‘I have set this day before you life and death, choose which you will’. Without a language like this, and an attitude to support it, to think of reciprocity is idle…
The epigraph to Victory in Tripoli was also written by William Eaton. Two centuries later, these words are a fitting epilogue to the Barbary wars, as America struggles against contemporary jihad terrorism, triumphally resurgent:
To the United States, they believe they can dictate terms. Why should they not? Or why should they believe it will ever be otherwise? They have seen nothing in America to controvert the opinion. And all our talk of resistance and reprisal, they view as the swaggering of a braggadocio…But whatever stratagem may be used to aid our measures, it is certain, that there is not access to the permanent friendship of these states, without paving the way with gold or cannon balls; and the proper question is, which method is preferable.
Hope springs eternal that politicians or diplomats possessed of William Eaton’s and John Quincy Adams’ learning, experiential wisdom, and moral clarity will step forward and admonish Americans so forthrightly today.
[*Sir Winston Churchill, The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899]
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.…A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities …but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
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