The Oasis Reporters
December 16, 2019
Without a shred of doubt, the killing of soldiers and civilians who are both Christians and Muslims that disagree with the ideology of the extremist groups that have somehow festered in the north east, remains a cause for concern to all people of good conscience. The waste of human lives, both on the side of the military, the civilians, either Christians or Muslims or indeed, the insurgents who are people’s children, is an unneccessary waste of human capital.
Painful as well, is the devastation of economic activities and the displacement of people.
Unfortunately, Nigeria has found itself in this sorry pass. But how can the country get out of it ?
A 232 Year history of America, shows that it was once in a similar situation, at the mercy of Islamist fundamentalists that used to extort punitive tributes from the United States.
When Thomas Jefferson became the US president, he saw that there was no use negotiating with extremists, therefore he formed what is now the Marines (sea going soldiers). These Marines were attached to U. S. Merchant vessels to prevent attacks against U.S. merchant vessels that were often repulsed by armed soldiers.
The Marines then followed the pirates and fundamentalist extremists back to their villages and obliterated their bases including their suspected sympathizers.
It didn’t take long for the extremists in the Mediterranean coasts who were mostly Muslim fundamentalists that would not even listen to the moderates, to leave U.S. Merchant vessels alone.
English and French merchant vessels started running up American flags when entering the Mediterranean to secure safe travel.
This is why the Marine Hymn contains the verse, “To the Shores of Tripoli “.
At the height of the 18th century, Muslim pirates (the “Barbary Pirates”) were the terror of the Mediterranean and a large area of the North Atlantic .
They attacked every ship in sight, and held the crews for exorbitant ransoms. Those taken hostage were subjected to barbaric treatment and wrote heart breaking letters home, begging their governments and families to pay whatever their Mohammedan captors demanded.
These extortionists of the high seas represented the North African Islamic nations of Tripoli, Tunis , Morocco , and Algiers – collectively referred to as the Barbary Coast – and presented a dangerous and unprovoked threat to the new American Republic .
Before the Revolutionary War, U.S. merchant ships had been under the protection of Great Britain . When the U.S. declared its independence and entered into war, the ships of the United States were protected by France.
However, once the war was won, America had to protect its own fleets.
Thus, the birth of the U.S. Navy. Beginning in 1784, 17 years before he would become president, Thomas Jefferson became America’s Minister to France. That same year, the U.S. Congress sought to appease its pirate adversaries by following in the footsteps of European nations who paid bribes to the Barbary States rather than engaging them in war.
In July of 1785, Algerian pirates captured American ships, and the Dye of Algiers demanded an unheard of ransom of $60,000. It was a plain and simple case of extortion, and Thomas Jefferson was vehemently opposed to any further payments.
Instead, he proposed to Congress the formation of a coalition of allied nations who together could force the North African rogue regimes into peace. A disinterested Congress decided to pay the ransom.
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with Tripoli’s ambassador to Great Britain to ask by what right his nation attacked American ships and enslaved American citizens, and why they held so much hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts.
The two future presidents reported that Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja had answered that “all nations who would not acknowledge 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.”
Exactly the kind of message that Boko Haram would preach, and mainstream Muslims would explain in proper context, then be hated by boko Haram, which has led to the killing of many clerics in their mosques, across Northern Nigeria. Even traditional rulers too, had been killed.
Many notable American leaders, including George Washington, who warned that caving in was both wrong and would only further embolden the enemy, for the following fifteen years, the American government paid the Muslim fundamentalist nations, millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages.
The payments in ransom and tribute amounted to over 20 percent of the United States government annual revenues in 1800.
Jefferson was disgusted. Shortly after his being sworn in as the third President of the United States in 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli sent him a note demanding the immediate payment of $225,000 plus $25,000 a year for every year forthcoming.
That changed everything.
Jefferson let the Pasha know, in no uncertain terms, what he could do with his demand. The Pasha responded by cutting down the flagpole at the American consulate and declared war on the United States.
Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers immediately followed suit.
Jefferson, until now, had been against America raising a naval force for anything beyond coastal defense, but, having watched his nation be cowed by such thuggery for long enough, decided that it was finally time to meet force with force.
He dispatched a squadron of frigates to the Mediterranean and taught the nations of the Barbary Coast a lesson he hoped they would never forget. Congress authorized Jefferson to empower U.S. ships to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli and to “cause to be done all other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war would justify”.
When Algiers and Tunis, who were both accustomed to American cowardice and acquiescence, saw the newly independent United States had both the will and the right to strike back, they quickly abandoned their allegiance to Tripoli.
The war with Tripoli lasted for four more years, and raged up again in 1815. The bravery of the U.S. Marine Corps in these wars led to the line “to the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Hymn, and they would forever be known as “leathernecks” for the leather collars of their uniforms, designed to prevent their heads from being cut off by the Muslim scimitars when boarding enemy ships.
America had a tradition of religious tolerance. In fact Jefferson, himself, had co-authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, but fundamentalist Islam was like no other religion the world had ever seen.
A religion based on supremacy, that not only condoned but mandated violence against unbelievers, was unacceptable to him.
His greatest fear was that someday this brand of Islam would return and pose an even greater threat to the United States .
The world has also heard about the brigandage at sea by Somali pirates, but President Barack Obama would not take it. His forceful army and navy, beat the pirates in ways they did not think possible. Today, there seem to be some peace on the Somali coast.
Nigeria needs to equip its military fighting machine in a modern war to stop this carnage in the North east. Appeasement has its value, only to a limited extent. Taking civilian hostages who are aid workers and killing them is horrendous and condemnable.