In light of the recent pirate attack against a US flagged oil transport ship off the coast of Nigeria where two Americans have been taken hostage, I’d like to take a moment to revisit history, rather than revisionist history.
There is nothing new about pirates attacking American ships. In fact the First Barbary War occurred from 1801 to 1805 when the US fought the Northwest African Berber Muslim states. Much like their standard operating procedures today, barbary pirates attacked American merchant shipping vessels to capture sailors and then demand ransom for their return.
Before the formal independence of the United States, our shipping was protected by France. Our US Minister to France at the time, Thomas Jefferson, sent envoys to Morocco and Algeria to seek a diplomatic solution to the piracy. Sound familiar? While diplomacy was successful with Morocco, it was not so with Algeria.
In July of 1785, Algeria captured two American schooners and all four Barbary Coast states demanded $660,000 each in ransom to prevent further piracy. To put that into perspective, this amount equaled about one-sixth of the entire US budget – about the same percentage as our current healthcare budget. In fact, the continuing demands for ransom eventually led to the formation of the US Navy. And eventually we sent the Marines to crush the Barbary States in Tripoli.
Sadly today, we are reading captured pirates Miranda rights and giving them a day in US court. I prefer the negotiating tactic of US Navy SEAL Snipers displayed during the rescue of the Maersk Alabama’s Captain Phillips.Unfortunately we are currently in the process of degrading our maritime force, especially the Marines — but at least they’ll have cute new unisex hats. I’m certain that is scaring the Muslim pirates of today. Then as now, the best way to deal with Muslim pirates is to find their base of operations and kill them. They’ll get the message.