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Terrorism has been around a long time

April 15, 2006|By Donald Currie

There are some Americans who date Islamist terrorism against U.S. interests from Sept. 11, 2001. Others point to the bombing of the U.S Embassy in Lebanon in 1983 when 243 American Marines were killed. A few will go back 25 years earlier to several airplane bombings, ship hijackings and the targeted killings of American citizens. The fact is that Islamic fundamentalists have been attacking, killing and kidnapping Americans for well over two centuries. Let me recall a little history for you.

The Revolutionary War basically ended with the defeat of the British at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. But in conflicts among nation-states, the end of a war occurs after the signing of a peace treaty. This didn't happen until 1783 with the Treaty of Paris.

In those early days of our independence, France was one of the very few countries that recognized us as a sovereign nation. In order to represent the interests of our citizens on issues involving foreign nations, we set up an "interest section" in Paris and manned it with three of our patriot "heavy hitters," Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

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One issue confronting them was the Barbary pirates. In several North African countries, Muslim extremists had developed the practice of seizing ships of European and American ownership, confiscating their cargos and holding the crews for ransom from their countries of origin.

American merchants were particularly hard hit.

Jefferson and Adams confronted the ambassador from Tripoli and asked him on what grounds these outrageous acts could be justified. According to them, the ambassador answered that it was "founded on the Laws of the 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 on them wherever they could be found and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners."

Jefferson was appalled at the ambassador's statement. He wanted to immediately write to Congress and urge them to dispatch a naval squadron to the North African ports and destroy them completely, whatever it took. Adams predicted that it would cost 100,000 pounds a year to maintain such a force in the Mediterranean and, furthermore, the United States had no Navy to use.

Jefferson then suggested that the nations of Europe join with the United States to form a coalition of nations to attack the pirates. Adams pointed out that the Congress would never agree to this. At this time in our country, we were organized under the Articles of Confederation - a loose arrangement among the former colonies without a central authority and no organized armed forces except militias responsible to their states authority. The Constitution was not ratified until 1787.

In the end, after much soul searching, Adams and Jefferson agreed that the United States had no other option than to continue to pay the ransoms. As Adams put it, "We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever." This was the message they jointly sent back to Congress. It was a humiliating position for the United States and it was not resolved for several years when we finally went in and cleaned out the Islamists.

Let me point out a few things we should be keeping in mind as we currently battle the Islamist extremists in various places around the world. First, there will be no peace between us and the extremists until we either kill them all or weaken them to the point of impotence. Surrender is not an option, unless slavery under the Koran is an option we can endure.

Second, the one unifying force for the extremists is the Koran. It has perpetuated its undying enmity towards the United States and other non-Muslim states for more than 225 years. We in the non-Muslim world do not have such a unifying doctrine.

Thirdly, barring the decision to destroy them all, we non-Muslims should seek out some moderate Islamists (if they exist) and urge those to revise any Koran passages subject to extremist interpretations. The Bible has been rewritten and revised many times over the years to remove offensive passages, but the Koran not once.

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