Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Conflict with Islamic Terrorist Nothing New to the US
By Nelson Price
The first terrorist raid on the U.S. was not the one on Sept. 11, 2001.
In 1776, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met with Arab diplomats from Tunis. These were radical extremist Islamists, the Barbary Pirates, from the Barbary Coast of North Africa. They had been raiding American and ships of other countries. A major battle with them is referenced in the line "to the shores of Tripoli," from the Marine Corps Hymn.
Launched in 1799, the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") and the USS Constellation were designed to battle these pirates. Our Marines eventually destroyed the pirate headquarters at Derna. There were so many acts of heroism that it established the U.S. Navy as a significant power. It freed the Mediterranean area from Wahhabi-type terrorists and resulted in a peace treaty between the United States and the Islamic bloc that lasted nearly 200 years, until 9/11.
Before going further I am pleased to acknowledge not all Islamists are extremists. I have many friends among them who are not. However, it must be conceded there are some who are.
President Thomas Jefferson had no CIA to investigate foreign involvement, so he studied the Koran to better understand the Islamic mentality regarding conflict.
On March 28, 1786, Jefferson and Adams summarized for the Continental Congress their dialogue with Arab Ambassador Adja:
"We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the grounds of their presentations to make war upon a nation who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.
"The ambassador answered us 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."
U.S. Consul William Eaton wrote the Secretary of State in 1799, "Too many concessions have been made to Algiers. There is but one language which can be held to these people, and this is terror."
At a time when our national revenue totaled only $7 million a year, America paid $990,000 in blackmail in an effort to appease these Algerian Islamists. European states whose ships had been attacked and citizens taken as slaves had been trying to buy them off for years. Jefferson referred to such perpetrators as terrorists. He proposed addressing the issue with military force.
These blackmailing terrorists justified their ruthless actions by hiding behind a self-serving interpretation of select passages in the Koran while ignoring others.
Is the picture becoming clearer? Is there a modern-day parallel? Our problems with extremist Islamists are not unprecedented nor their threats atypical.
Westerners have a tendency to engage in self-flagellation regarding the flawed crusades. They like all wars had excesses on both sides. Many actions by Christians (noun) were not Christian (adjective). We forget or never knew they were a reaction to Islamic incursion into Eastern Europe, Spain and France.
Our government and those of Europe have a challenge in trying to deal peacefully and constructively with Islamists desiring to coexist peacefully while confronting radical Islamists. As individuals we to must be discerning regarding the difference in relating personally to individual Muslims.
There have been periods in the history of Islam when the peace loving members were successful in controlling extremists.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson L. Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church. His Web address is www.nelsonprice.com.