Saturday, October 2, 2010

Kidnapping, Slavery, and Islamic Terror: To the Shores of Tripoli

Earlier today I had a discussion with a military guy, in this case a defense contractor highly-paid consultant type, I think.

Soon I was saying, "The U.S. military has always been used for aggression. It has never been used for self defense. First it was used to steal native American tribal land. No, first it was used to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion and establish the Federal Government's authority to collect taxes under the new Constitution. Then we did our first attacks on the Islamic nations, under President Thomas Jefferson. You know, the raids on the Barbary 'Pirate' states."

That was in 1801, I now know because I looked it up in my Bailey's The American Pageant, A History of the Republic. Tripoli is a city in present-day Libya.

"That was self-defense," my new friend said. "They were capturing American ships and citizens and holding them for ransom!"

"So," I said, having a thought I never had before, "if you kidnap people, that is a pretext for a just war?"

"Of course it is," he said. "All U.S. wars have been just wars."

"Let's stick to the war against the Pasha of Tripoli for a moment. At that time, was slavery legal in the United States of America."

"Slavery is a different issue. I am not for slavery, and I am not a racist."

"Fine, but slavery was legal, right?"


"And importing slaves was legal, right?"

"But at some point we made importing new slaves illegal."

"But not at that point. I could be wrong, but I think that was later. [it was 1808] So where did these slaves come from?"


"And Tripoli was in?"


"So the United States of America was kidnapping Africans, by proxy anyway, and keeping them as permanent slaves. Whereas the Islamic states just were taxing the passing of ships in their waters, and when Jefferson decided he would not pay the tax, they confiscated our ships, and in effect kidnapped some of our citizens."

"We weren't taking slaves from Tripoli," he countered. "The slaves we were taking had a right to fight back, and probably a lot of them did. And we had a right to send in the Marines at Tripoli."

"Nice parting of the waters, there," I admitted. "But that just leaves Jefferson and the U.S. military as hypocrites. We could have used military force to shut down the slave trade in Africa, and we could have gone ahead and had a civil war in the U.S. to end slavery here. Instead we attacked an Islamic state because we did not want our merchants to have to pay taxes to sale ships through their waters."

"And we kicked their butts. Right or wrong, we always kick their butts."

And we are always the defenders of all that is good and just. A few white people landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts and Jamestown, Virginia in the early 1600's, and using only-self defense and hard work ended up with an empire that includes not just 50 states and a bunch of territories, but military bases and political puppets all around the world. Semper Fidelis.

[quotes are to the best of my memory. The other guy probably remembers how he won the argument.]

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