November 10, 2004

America's First War on Terror

Via Dean Esmay, the story of our first war on terror:

The first time the American flag flew over foreign soil taken in battle came in a war against international terrorists. Unlike today’s brigands, they were not driven by ideology or religion, but by a baser and perhaps more honest lust: gold. But terrorists they were, and our war against them was fought long and hard, in somewhat unconventional but still very real ways. And it was long before all of us were born...

They were known as the Barbary pirates.

Their name came not from the native Berber people of North Africa but from Khair ad Din, known in the West as Barbarossa--or, in English, Redbeard. Coming from the ancient Mediterranean piratical tradition, Barbarossa seized Algiers in 1510, effectively making himself the first sovereign of a modern pirate state. His territorial grab should have been a direct threat to the sultan in Constantinople, but when he pledged his fealty to the throne in exchange for a large cut of the action, he was given regency of Maghrib. His descendants—both biological and methodical—maintained control over the shores of Northern Africa for the next two hundred years.

Forget all the swashbuckling Technicolor imagery of buried treasure and naval battles featuring galleons firing cannons at equally matched opponents conjured up by Hollywood and cheap rum ads. Those are great movies, and fun myths. But the Barbary pirates were murderers, rapists and slave traders. Ransoming hostages, and demanding tribute from merchant princes who wanted to avoid anything “unfortunate� happening to their cargos, were among their favorite tactics. They essentially ran protection rackets, and controlled every form of vice from Alexandria to Gibraltar. Just like modern mobsters, their services were often called upon by a prince-ling here and there who wanted to harass his enemies without showing his own flag.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Mitch at November 10, 2004 08:52 AM | TrackBack

For the record, please credit PAUL FALLON as the author of above cited piece.
Paul Fallon

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