One of our favorite series on a historical overview of Islamic aggression put together by Occidental Soapbox.Most on the Left say that Muslims hate us because of our “imperialistic” behavior in the Middle East. Many on the isolationist paleo-Right say that we provoked Islam’s wrath because we left our own borders and meddled in foreign entanglements against the warnings of our founding fathers.
I ask both camps, what did we do to deserve Jihad in 1783?
1) We were a rural backwater by global standards.
2) Our federal government had trouble exerting authority over the States, let alone such a far off domain as the Middle East.
3) Our federal government did not possess a Navy, and so could not carry out an aggressive foreign policy if it wanted to.
Why did they hate us in 1783?
Why do they hate us? was a universally asked question in the United States following the 9/11 attacks. A majority on the Left and a sizable minority on the Right believe it was blow-back from our imperialistic foreign policy in the Middle East. They consistently cite three primary offenses: US support for repressive Arab regimes, US support for Israel, and the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia.
If those are the root causes, why did the United States come under Jihadist assault only 7 years after the Declaration of Independence, when we had only just won the right to our own land, and had not the will nor the means to impose our alleged imperialist ambitions on the Middle East?
“Why do they hate us?” was a universally asked question in the United States following the 9/11 attacks. A majority on the Left and a sizable minority on the Right believe it was “blow-back” from our “imperialistic” foreign policy in the Middle East. They consistently cite three primary offenses: US support for repressive Arab regimes, US support for Israel, and the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia.
Let’s hear from the left in their own words:
VIDEO: Noam Chomsky:
“And as for their motivations I think we have a good understanding, they’ve been very clear about it. As for the Americans they turned against the United States when from their perspective the United States was occupying Muslim lands by putting permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia. The United States supports brutal and corrupt regimes which block democracy and modernization and development. They oppose particular policies like the decisive US support for the 35-year military occupation of Palestinian territory which has been harsh and brutal, and relies crucially on US military and diplomatic support.”
If those are the root causes Mr. Chomsky, why did the United States come under Jihadist assault only 7 years after the Declaration of Independence, when we had only just won the right to our own land, and had not the will or the means to impose our alleged imperialist ambitions on the Middle East? Why were Americans routinely killed, kidnapped, ransomed, and enslaved by Muslims 184 years before Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 165 years before there even existed a state of Israel for the United States to support?
VIDEO: Howard Zinn:
INTERVIEWER RIZ KHAN:
“Sir I want to quote an issue on terrorists that you mention in the book. When it comes to terrorists you say ‘Reagan bombed Libya, and Bush made war in Iraq, and Clinton bombed Afghanistan and also a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, to send a message to terrorists. And then came the horrors in New York, Washington, Madrid, London, Bali, Egypt, Iraq. Isn’t it clear by now that sending a message to terrorists through violence doesn’t work, that it only leads to more terrorism?’
“Terrorism comes out of very deep-felt grievances felt by millions of people, and of those millions of people who feel those grievances, a very small number of them will become fanatic enough and extreme enough to commit acts of terrorism.”
Mr. Zinn, if Muslim grievances stem from the US actions you enumerated, why did they see fit to punish us for these crimes a full two centuries before Reagan bombed Libya, or Bush invaded Iraq, or Clinton bombed Afghanistan and Sudan?
Prominent voices on the isolationist right use much the same language; let’s hear them in their own words:
VIDEO: Ron Paul:
“… intervention was a major contributing factor, have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there, we’ve been bombing Iraq for ten years, we’ve been in the Middle East… I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah, yes there was blowback. The reaction to that was the taking of our hostages, and that persists. And if we ignore that we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free, they come and they attack us because we’re over there.”
Ron Paul says they attack us because we’re over there. Why then did the Muslim Barbary Pirates attack us in the late 18th century, when the United States did not even possess an armed naval force? Why did they see fit to attack us preemptively, 170 years before we installed the Shah in Iran?
VIDEO: Patrick Buchanan:
“Well, listen, the reason the terrorists were over here is because we are over there… We were attacked because of what we do. It is the United States policy in the Middle East and in that part of the world that has enraged and antagonized these evil people. They’re coming over here because they want us out of that part of the world… When has America ever been attacked? Why do you think Bin Laden attacked us?”
Mr. Buchanan, can you explain how the presence of peaceful American trading vessels in the Mediterranean so “enraged” and “antagonized” Muslims that they felt the need to take Americans as slaves? You asked, “when has America ever been attacked?” We were attacked in 1783:
The so-called Barbary States were a collection of Islamic sultanates along the coast of North Africa, which today comprise the nations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. For centuries they raided coastal cities in Europe in search of booty and slaves. They enslaved over 1 million Europeans, most of whom were young women who were taken as 2nd, 3rd or 4th wives, and young boys who were castrated because they were valuable as eunuchs. The pirates also plundered merchant vessels throughout the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic.
This Jihadist piracy evolved into a nice money-making scheme. European powers would pay bribes to the Barbary rulers to avoid having their ships raided and crews enslaved. The British participated in this protection racket, so vessels from America did not have to worry about Muslim pirates – that is, until the United States declared its independence.
And then, in 1783, the attacks on American shipping began. The US had a weak federal government and meager tax revenues, and so did not possess a navy. In 1784, the Moroccans captured a ship called “Betsey” and enslaved its crew. Soon afterwards, the ruler of Algiers declared war on the US. Spanish diplomacy helped free the crew of the “Betsey”, but other American vessels were plundered by Algiers in the coming months.
The situation worsened with each coming year, but for the life of them, the Americans could not figure out what they did to bring this violence upon them. They must have asked themselves, “Why do they hate us?”
In May 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain respectively, met with Tripoli’s ambassador to London, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. During their discussions, they questioned Ambassador Adja as to the source of the unprovoked animus directed at the infant US republic. As Adams and Jefferson later reported to the Continental Congress, the ambassador said the raids were a jihad against infidels. Adja was reported to have said:
“ … 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 (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise. ”
To quote the scholar Andrew Bostom, “an aggressive jihad was already being waged against the United States almost 200 years prior to America becoming a dominant international power in the Middle East. Moreover, these jihad depredations targeting America antedated the earliest vestiges of the Zionist movement by a century, and the formal creation of Israel by 162 years- exploding the ahistorical canard that American support for the modern Jewish state is a prerequisite for jihadist attacks on the United States.”
The ambassador’s justifications in 1786 were well grounded in Islamic law, and were practiced by Mohammed himself:
At the Battle of Badr, Muhammed commanded a force of 300 Muslims against 1000 warriors from the pagan tribe Quraysh. The outnumbered Muslims won the battle handily, and this was a major turning point in Islam. It is still referenced today to encourage outnumbered and outgunned Jihadists from Iraq to Thailand. As the Quraysh approached, Muhammed encouraged his men.
“This is the caravan of Quraysh carrying their property, so march forth to intercept it. Allah might make it as war spoils for you. By God in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, no man will be slain this day fighting against them with steadfast courage, advancing not retreating, but God will cause him to enter Paradise.”
This rationalization for war and piracy was operative in Muhammad’s time, in the time of the Barbary Pirates, and it is still framed in the same terms today:
VIDEO: Abu Hamza al-Masri:
“What makes Allah happy? Allah is happy when the kafirs (non-Muslims) get killed… You see the Islamic rule. If a Kafir (non-Muslim) goes into a Muslim country and he’s walking by, he’s like a cow, boy, anybody could take him. That is the Islamic rule, and this is the opinion of Islam, it’s not my opinion, if you read the books of Jihad, you’ll see… A kafir (non-muslim) is walking by, he went inside- you catch him, ‘what are you doing here?’ Then he’s a booty, you can sell him in the market… If Muslims cannot take him, you know, and sell him in the market then you just kill him. It’s ok.”
Ron Paul likes to talk about the intentions of the founders, how they warned us to stay out of foreign entanglements. He speaks of the halcyon days when the US was an agrarian republic that kept to itself and refrained from international conflicts. Ever since the founders died, politicians of all stripes have co-opted their writings and statements to bolster their own contemporary political positions. But when the Barbary Pirates attacked, the founding fathers were still alive; they were still running our government. They were told in no uncertain terms that they were being attacked in the name of Jihad, and they digested this lesson.
When searching for the root causes of Jihad, it would be best to ignore the proclamations of pseudo-intellectuals on both the left and the right. It would be best to consult the facts history, and take seriously the explanations that Muslims themselves employ.
“America’s First Jihad” by Andrew Bostom:
The Battle of Badr:
“Booty” verses in the Koran:
By popular request here’s a direct link to Quran Sura 8: