In 2001, President Bush and his generals trusted and worked with Saudi and Pakistani leaders who repeatedly betrayed us and our allies and helped our enemies. They betrayed our true friends in the region including respected Pashtun leader Abdul Haq who was hunted down and murdered when he tried to help us after September 11. They let Osama Bin Ladin and his top Al Qaida leaders escape to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. They allowed the “Kunduz Airlift” or “Airlift of Evil” that let hundreds, if not thousands of top Al Qaida and Talaban leaders (including high-ranking officials from Pakistan) also escape to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Click here for Wikipedia article “Kunduz Airlift”. They stopped our TV networks from showing videos where Osama Bin Ladin explained how his war against us was required by the Koran & Hadith. Their “rules of engagement” caused the needless deaths and disfigurements of countless American and allied soldiers, and the needless loss of countless battles. They turned our “War On Terror” into our failed “War On Drugs”, so only our enemies made money from opium. They repeatedly betrayed India, our natural friend and ally. This losing strategy continued for the next thirteen years under Presidents Obama, Trump, and Biden. They made Americans look like fools in the eyes of the Islamic world. They put every Christian, Jew Buddhist and Hindu in danger in every country of the world.
America fought our first War on Terror in 1801. It was called the Barbary War. We fought it in a much different way and had a much different outcome. We know a lot about it because Somers Point native Richard Somers was a hero in that war. He and his entire crew of the Intrepid were killed in that war on September 4, 1804 in Tripoli, North Africa.
America went to war in North Africa in 1801 because Islamic “Barbary” kingdoms in North Africa had declared a holy war against us. They were attacking American ships at sea, seizing the ships and cargo, and capturing the passengers and crew. Then they sold them into slavery — unless they were lucky enough to have someone pay ransom for their release. President Thomas Jefferson understood our enemy. He negotiated with them when he was the American ambassador to France in 1785. Jefferson also bought and read the Koran. (That’s how it ended up in his library.) Thomas Jefferson knew that the only way to stop their attacks against us was to fight and defeat them with a strong navy. However, at that time, the United States did not have a navy. We did not yet have a Constitution, a President, or a Congress capable of imposing taxes to pay for one. For the next 15 years, America had no choice but pay bribes, ransom, and “tribute” to the Barbary kingdoms to keep our people safe.
In 1788 America ratified a new Constitution. That Constitution created a new Congress with the power to impose taxes for an army and a navy and and new President to be their Commander-in-Chief. In 1797, when the French navy also attacked American ships, Americans shouted “Millions for defense, not one cent for Tribute”. Congress built our first warships and created our new navy. In 1798, Richard Somers of Somers Point, and his friend Stephen Decatur of Maryland joined that new navy at age 18. When Thomas Jefferson became President in 1801, he stopped paying ransom, bribes, and tribute to the Barbary kingdoms. He instead sent our new navy overseas to fight them.
Richard Somers was only 23 years old when he commanded a warship of 103 men to fight the Barbary kingdoms. Most of our other ship commanders were the same age. Their mission was to engage and destroy the enemy wherever they could, and that is what they did. Their “rules of engagement” were the same as the rules of our enemy. When the enemy set up cannons in a mosque in Tripoli to shoot at our ships, our ships fired back with their cannons until they destroyed the mosque. During one battle, the captain and crew of a Tripoli gunboat pretended to surrender. However, when James Decatur, one of our navy officers boarded the enemy gunboat, they killed him. When his older brother Stephen Decatur learned of this, he chased and caught the enemy gunboat with the captain and crew that killed his brother. They then killed the captain and most of the crew.
After three years, all of the Barbary Kingdoms made peace with America except for Tripoli. On September 4, 1804, then 26 year old Richard Somers led a daring attack to destroy the enemy fleet at Tripoli and end the war. Somers failed. His ship exploded, killing Somers and his entire crew. The following year, the Americans hired about 500 Greek Christian mercenaries to land with our marines on the shores of Tripoli to seize the city. Before that happened, the leader of Tripoli made peace with us. America’s victories in the Barbary Wars won admiration and respect in Christian Europe.
Pope Pius VII remarked after one battle: ““The United States, though in their infancy, had done more for Christendom on the African coast in one night than all the European states had done for a long period of time.”
America also won admiration and respect throughout the Islamic world.
The song “Columbia, The Gem of The Ocean” was almost certainly inspired by these victories and became popular throughout America. Click here for a link to that song.
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Seth Grossman, Executive Director