With mainstream media consumed with COVID-19, the transition of a new president and the impeachment of a former president, I believe we are ignoring critical care issues of national security and American tranquility.
In 2020, during the midst of the COVID chaos, there were a total of 12 people charged with jihadi terrorism in the United States, according to Statista’s January report. Since 9/11, 503 people have been charged with terrorism in the United States, with 2015 seeing the largest spike – 72 people.
Of course, domestic extremism hasn’t been America’s only threat. Right now, dozens of American hostages (what enemies simply call “political prisoners”) are still being held captive abroad in countries like Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and even those with whom we trade and do business like China and Russia. Many of these “political prisoners” are suffering merely for their faith: e.g., in Iran, Christians faced a 1,000% increase of arrests in 2018.
In a June 2020 report titled, “Who are the Americans being held as ‘political prisoners’ abroad?” Fox News reported: “The number of exact political prisoners remains classified, although one former government officials closely connected to the matter told Fox News that the number is likely between 50 and 100 and spawning multiple countries. Not all cases are made public, for varying reasons in that often diplomats prefer to handle negotiations quietly, but many are brought into the limelight often by frustrated family members hoping to garner media attention.”
U.S. hostage crises are not new. They span the duration of our republic’s history. Some might be surprised to learn that even our Founding Fathers and early presidents dealt with Americans being held hostage abroad by terrorists. They not only demonstrated how we should actively and urgently rescue our citizens, but then instill the notion within terrorists and foreign powers that America will never appease or tolerate captors, and we will never pay their ransoms again.
Case in point: Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Powers Conflict, which was a confrontation between largely Muslim extremists or pirates from the five Barbary nations of North Africa (Tripoli, Turkey, Tunis, Algiers and Morocco) and what they considered the “Christian nations” (England, Denmark, France, Spain and the newly founded United States of America).
While the United States was mopping up from the Revolutionary War, it was also squaring off against these Jihadist pirates in the Mediterranean. These sea bandits cruised the coastlines stealing cargo, destroying villages, and enslaving millions of Africans and hundreds of thousands of Christian Europeans and Americans. Because America was a newborn nation, we had a relatively little naval defense. Our rebellion against Britain severed our protection by the Royal Navy. And while France helped during the War, the United States was on its own as of about 1783. And so, our merchant ships were exceptionally vulnerable to attack in and out of the Great (or Mediterranean) Sea. As a result, our cargo and seamen were captured, and our country’s leaders were forced to negotiate with the Barbary pirates.
In 1784 envoys were dispatched to secure peace and passage from the Barbary Powers. Treaties were made. Tributes and ransoms were paid. Our cargo and captives were freed. And our ships traveled safely. But over the next decade and a half, millions of dollars were given to these radicals – estimated at 20% of America’s federal budget in 1800! (Despite the fact that men like Thomas Jefferson argued vehemently against paying ransoms and tribute – he believed the only road to resolution would be “through the medium of war.”)
The U.S. Office of the Historian explained, “In 1785, Dey Muhammad of Algiers declared war on the United States and captured several American ships. The financially troubled Confederation Government of the United States was unable to raise a navy or the tribute that would protect U.S. ships.”
However, “The adoption of the Constitution in 1789 gave the U.S. Government the power to levy taxes and to raise and maintain armed forces, powers which had been lacking under the Articles of Confederation. In 1794, in response to Algerian seizures of American ships, Congress authorized construction of the first 6 ships of the U.S. Navy.”
America’s first four presidents (Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison) each dealt with this east-west conflict of powers to varying degrees. Though numerous negotiations and treaties were made, including the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796-1797, Tripoli (in present Libya) still declared war against the U.S. in 1801. It is sometimes called America’s first official war as a new nation. The founders primarily believed in a foreign policy of non-interventionism, but Jefferson realized that protecting America’s borders also meant protecting American lives and property overseas.
He confessed to Congress in 1801 that he was “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense,” but he still ordered a small fleet of warships to the Mediterranean to ward off attacks by the Barbary Powers. Marines and warships were deployed to the region, which eventually led to the surrender of Tripoli in 1805. It would take another decade, however, to completely defeat those pirates, or should I say cause them to temporarily retreat until a distant time when they would again attack our country. (For the record, Jefferson’s administration witnessed the reduction of the national deficit during his eight-year tenure in office (1801-1809), down from $83,038,050.80 to $57,023,192.09, despite America’s war with the Barbary States during the same period.)
Interesting to note, on Feb. 16 this week is the anniversary of what famed British Adm. Horatio Nelson calls the “most daring act of the age,” when, during the First Barbary War, U.S. Lt. Stephen Decatur led a heroic military mission.
History.com described the mission:
In October 1803, the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by Tripolitan gunboats. The Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be both a formidable addition to the Tripolitan navy and an innovative model for building future Tripolitan frigates. Hoping to prevent the Barbary pirates from gaining this military advantage, Lt. Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured American vessel on Feb. 16, 1804.
After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force of 74 men, which included nine U.S. Marines, sailed into Tripoli harbor on a small two-mast ship. The Americans approached the USS Philadelphia without drawing fire from the Tripoli shore guns, boarded the ship, and attacked its Tripolitan crew, capturing or killing all but two. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire.
Six months later, Decatur returned to Tripoli Harbor as part of a larger American offensive and emerged as a hero again during the so-called “Battle of the Gunboats,” a naval battle that saw hand-to-hand combat between the Americans and the Tripolitans.
America’s victory back then over those sea radicals is commemorated today in the Marine Hymn, with the words, “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.”
The voices of our forefathers cry out from the Barbary Powers Conflict in hope of imparting some wisdom to us. As the adage goes, we will either learn from history’s mistakes or be doomed to repeat them. There’s also the saying: If you don’t fight for something, you might fall for anything.
Most know that many of my 20-plus action films dealt with rescuing American hostages abroad. How I wish those fictional movies could become reality for Americans imprisoned at this very moment. Until they are released, let us pray for their strength, peace and deliverance, and for their loved ones back home as well. And let us patriots remain vigilant in petition to our government officials and representatives for their release until those precious souls set foot back on American soil.
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