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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-02-2007, 06:08 PM Thread Starter
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Hitchen Jefferson to Barbary

Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates
Christopher Hitchens

America’s first confrontation with the Islamic world helped forge a new nation’s character.

When I first began to plan my short biography of Thomas Jefferson, I found it difficult to research the chapter concerning the so-called Barbary Wars: an event or series of events that had seemingly receded over the lost horizon of American history. Henry Adams, in his discussion of our third president, had some boyhood reminiscences of the widespread hero-worship of naval officer Stephen Decatur, and other fragments and shards showed up in other quarries, but a sound general history of the subject was hard to come by. When I asked a professional military historian—a man with direct access to Defense Department archives—if there was any book that he could recommend, he came back with a slight shrug.

But now the curious reader may choose from a freshet of writing on the subject. Added to my own shelf in the recent past have been The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World, by Frank Lambert (2005); Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror 1801–1805, by Joseph Wheelan (2003); To the Shores of Tripoli: The Birth of the U.S. Navy and Marines, by A. B. C. Whipple (1991, republished 2001); and Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation, by Joshua E. London (2005). Most recently, in his new general history, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, the Israeli scholar Michael Oren opens with a long chapter on the Barbary conflict. As some of the subtitles—and some of the dates of publication—make plain, this new interest is largely occasioned by America’s latest round of confrontation in the Middle East, or the Arab sphere or Muslim world, if you prefer those expressions.

In a way, I am glad that I did not have the initial benefit of all this research. My quest sent me to some less obvious secondary sources, in particular to Linda Colley’s excellent book Captives, which shows the reaction of the English and American publics to a slave trade of which they were victims rather than perpetrators. How many know that perhaps 1.5 million Europeans and Americans were enslaved in Islamic North Africa between 1530 and 1780? We dimly recall that Miguel de Cervantes was briefly in the galleys. But what of the people of the town of Baltimore in Ireland, all carried off by “corsair” raiders in a single night?

Some of this activity was hostage trading and ransom farming rather than the more labor-intensive horror of the Atlantic trade and the Middle Passage, but it exerted a huge effect on the imagination of the time—and probably on no one more than on Thomas Jefferson. Peering at the paragraph denouncing the American slave trade in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, later excised, I noticed for the first time that it sarcastically condemned “the Christian King of Great Britain” for engaging in “this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers.” The allusion to Barbary practice seemed inescapable.

One immediate effect of the American Revolution, however, was to strengthen the hand of those very same North African potentates: roughly speaking, the Maghrebian provinces of the Ottoman Empire that conform to today’s Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. Deprived of Royal Navy protection, American shipping became even more subject than before to the depredations of those who controlled the Strait of Gibraltar. The infant United States had therefore to decide not just upon a question of national honor but upon whether it would stand or fall by free navigation of the seas.

One of the historians of the Barbary conflict, Frank Lambert, argues that the imperative of free trade drove America much more than did any quarrel with Islam or “tyranny,” let alone “terrorism.” He resists any comparison with today’s tormenting confrontations. “The Barbary Wars were primarily about trade, not theology,” he writes. “Rather than being holy wars, they were an extension of America’s War of Independence.”

Let us not call this view reductionist. Jefferson would perhaps have been just as eager to send a squadron to put down any Christian piracy that was restraining commerce. But one cannot get around what Jefferson heard when he went with John Adams to wait upon Tripoli’s ambassador to London in March 1785. When they inquired by what right the Barbary states preyed upon American shipping, enslaving both crews and passengers, America’s two foremost envoys were informed that “it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (It is worth noting that the United States played no part in the Crusades, or in the Catholic reconquista of Andalusia.)

Ambassador Abd Al-Rahman did not fail to mention the size of his own commission, if America chose to pay the protection money demanded as an alternative to piracy. So here was an early instance of the “heads I win, tails you lose” dilemma, in which the United States is faced with corrupt regimes, on the one hand, and Islamic militants, on the other—or indeed a collusion between them.

It seems likely that Jefferson decided from that moment on that he would make war upon the Barbary kingdoms as soon as he commanded American forces. His two least favorite institutions—enthroned monarchy and state-sponsored religion—were embodied in one target, and it may even be that his famous ambivalences about slavery were resolved somewhat when he saw it practiced by the Muslims.

More at: http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_...jefferson.html
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-02-2007, 06:18 PM
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Ah yeah and the French finished it.
By the way only one person from Baltimore managed to come back. I think it's high time for revenge n'est ce pas Bot?
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-02-2007, 07:45 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by drewprof
Ah yeah and the French finished it.
By the way only one person from Baltimore managed to come back. I think it's high time for revenge n'est ce pas Bot?
Try these:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Barbary_War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Barbary_War

Revenge is unnecessary, having been sufficiently achieved by Marines on the shores of Tripoli.

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-02-2007, 08:51 PM
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Try taking up for the left for a change. Do something different.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2007, 05:26 AM Thread Starter
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Try taking up for the left for a change. Do something different.
Huh?

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2007, 06:30 AM
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My heart is warmed by these accolades to the founder of the Democratic Party. Unlike our current leader, His Fraudulency George Bush, Buffoon In Chief, Mr. Jefferson responded to actual attacks instead of making up stories. And one must also note that Jefferson did not respond to the attacks of the Berbers by invading Paraguay. How very different.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2007, 06:38 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by FeelTheLove
My heart is warmed by these accolades to the founder of the Democratic Party. Unlike our current leader, His Fraudulency George Bush, Buffoon In Chief, Mr. Jefferson responded to actual attacks instead of making up stories. And one must also note that Jefferson did not respond to the attacks of the Berbers by invading Paraguay. How very different.
I'm confused: I thought we hated Hitchens, now we like him?

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2007, 06:48 AM
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Well, I've never "hated" the man, I just think he is an old drunk trying to find an audience. Having failed as a left wing writer, he decided to follow the leftist-who-hates-leftists career path, and has attracted people like yourself to his following. In the end, he like most of the neo-con establishment, are people who have been very,very wrong about a lot, and now, like Rumsfled and Wolfowitz, spend time on the lecture circuit acting as if they were right. How very boring these people are. What are we to make of this aritcle here? Is it a justification on a general war with Islam? Is it some attempt to compare Jefferson's floating of a few wooden ships for raids along the Barbary Coast with the War in Iraq? I mean, what is his point with this?
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2007, 07:54 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by FeelTheLove
Well, I've never "hated" the man, I just think he is an old drunk trying to find an audience. Having failed as a left wing writer, he decided to follow the leftist-who-hates-leftists career path, and has attracted people like yourself to his following. In the end, he like most of the neo-con establishment, are people who have been very,very wrong about a lot, and now, like Rumsfled and Wolfowitz, spend time on the lecture circuit acting as if they were right. How very boring these people are. What are we to make of this aritcle here? Is it a justification on a general war with Islam? Is it some attempt to compare Jefferson's floating of a few wooden ships for raids along the Barbary Coast with the War in Iraq? I mean, what is his point with this?
As to whether he'sa drunk, I don't know. His detractors say he is and he says he drinks but is not a drunk. I don't give a damn: I like his writing and public speaking style. He is extremely sharp and his rhetorical skills are unquestionably powerful. I think that is why his former comrades are so venomous toward him: they see his beliefs as a betrayal and they fear his skill at argument. Just look at the exchange between Hitchens & Colmsky--he ate Cholmsky's lunch.

I don't think he failed as a leftwing writer, if failure is counted by income & audience. His books and periodical pubs sell quite well and always have. He's still very much a leftwinger on nearly every issue except for the particular one that you find so egregious: Iraq. He still hates the rightwingers' fundamental philosophy and has much more in common with Chomsky than say, William F. Buckley. Chomsky and Hitchens rail at each other over Iraq and terrorism. But on every other issue they'd be happily pleasuring each other. I doubt that Hitchens & Buckley could be civil to each other under any circumstance.

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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-03-2007, 09:43 AM
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His skills at argument? I watched Bill Maher destroy his ass a few weeks ago. Anyone who is unable to admit the war was the wrong thing to do as a response to 9-11 is a fool. He's a fool.
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