With apologies, the Captain doesn’t normally publish two blog posts on the same day.
In fact, it sometimes takes several days for a post to come together the way I want it.
You can decide which ones those are.
But something a friend posted on Facebook ticked me off last night and I decided I needed to
The focus of the Captain’s ire is an article written for “Conservative Tribune”, a self-proclaimed defender of Western Civilization and the internet voice for “everything conservatives need to know about what’s happening in the world”.
The website provides no information about the sponsoring organization – if there is one – or who the writers are. From what I could see in scanning the website, it is mostly about finding things to complain about against “our current Islamist-sympathizing president, Barack Obama”.
And most of the time, that would be enough to make me click out of the site.
The article my friend shared is titled “How Thomas Jefferson Responded to Islam in 1801 Puts Barack H. Obama to Shame”. And in the spirit of psedo-historian David Barton, the article is a blatant attempt to rewrite history.
After opening with inflammatory remarks about “radical Islamic jihadists”, the unknown author of the article suggests that
“Obama should really pick up a history book sometime and read about how one of his predecessors, and one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, handled the threat posed by radical Islamic jihadists, way back in 1801.”
In short, the article suggests that when American merchant ships were being harassed by pirates off the Barbary Coast, Thomas Jefferson refused to pay either ransom or tribute to the Pasha of Tripoli, instead sending the U.S. Marine Corps to route the lot of them.
This reference to the Barbary Pirates is what naturally caught the Captain’s attention. Captain Dave knows about pirates!
If the writer of this article had picked up a history book himself – or even checked it out on Wikipedia – he would have discovered that many of the so-called Barbary Pirates were Dutch opportunists, as well as some Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Spaniards.
Captain’s Note: For what it’s worth, these pirates were considered “Christians”.
For the most part, the Barbary Pirates would capture merchant vessels, loot the hold, and sell the crew and passengers to the Muslims who held them for ransom or sold them into slavery.
The captured sailors were not, as the article purports, forced by threat of death to convert to the Islam faith.
Yes, as an ambassador, Thomas Jefferson was opposed to paying tribute to the Islamic leaders. Beginning in 1785, the U.S. government was paying as much as $1 million per year in tribute payments to the Pasha of Algiers – approximately 1/10th of the U.S. government annual revenues.
And yes, when Thomas Jefferson became President Jefferson, he established the first U.S. Naval force (in 1797) to engage the pirates. But despite the Conservative Tribune’s glowing proclamation about this being the origins of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Marine Corps had been in existence since 1775.
And while we are lifting up the heralded beginnings of the Marine Corps (no offense to any Marines living or dead) the first Barbary War was engaged in 1801 and lasted until 1805 when Tripoli fell – to a force composed of only eight U.S. Marines and 500 mercenaries from surrounding nations.
President Jefferson then ratified a peace treaty with Yusuf Karamanli that guaranteed that Yusuf’s deposed brother would be returned to power in Tripoli.
Also as part of that treaty, President Jefferson agreed to pay $60,000 in “ransom” for the American prisoners held in Tripoli – a tidy sum in 1805.
And piracy resumed two years later. But because the U.S. was involved in the lead-up to the War of 1812, Jefferson “kicked the can” down the road to President James Madison, who finally ended all tribute payments.
So much for President Jefferson being tough on those “radical Islamist jihadists”!
Here’s one more thing that needs to be clarified, because the Captain knows a little bit about religions too.
The word “Berber” is a reference to a geographical area of origin. As such, in Thomas Jefferson’s day there were Jewish Berbers and Christian Berbers as well as Muslim Berbers.
Probably the most famous of the Christian Berbers is Augustine of Hippo, one of Roman Catholicism’s greatest bishops!
And finally, the Captain would suggest that what Muslims were doing in the 18th century was really no different from what European Christians – and even Americans – were doing in the 18th century: attempting to establish a homeland.
On this continent, in pursuit of our "manifest destiny", we were murdering the indigenous people and stealing their homelands, as well as kidnapping and enslaving Africans to build our fledgling nation.
I wonder: do you think the indigenous people of America ever spoke of the “radical Christian jihadists”?
To the “Conservative Tribune” I would simply say, instead of defending your shallow understanding of Western Civilization, you might try cracking open a [real] history book yourself.
You never know what you might learn.