Under the Protection of Our Flag
President Reagan was fond of telling the story of Captain Duncan Ingraham, U.S. Navy, and did so in remarks to the crew on board the USS Constellation on August 20, 1981.
After a failed attempt in 1848-1849 to free Hungary from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the Hungarian leaders, named Martin Koszta, emigrated to the United States. In doing so, Koszta made a sworn declaration of his intent to become an American citizen, and renounced any allegiance to any foreign power. He started an import business, and nearly two years after taking that oath, while in Turkey on private business, he was recognized and seized by agents of the Empire and imprisoned in chains on an Austrian brig-of-war in Smyrna Harbor. Koszta faced a sentence of death by hanging. The American consul, under whose protection Koszta operated in Turkey, protested to the Turkish government and the Austrian naval officers, to no avail.
Captain Duncan Ingraham, in command of the sloop-of-war Saint Louis, determined that Koszta was under the protection of the U.S. flag by virtue of his sworn intent to become a citizen. On July 2, 1853, Ingraham threatened to open fire on the much larger Austrian warship if Koszta was not released by four o’clock. It must be noted that this was before the telegraph or other means of communication by which Ingraham could verify his decision with higher authority. The U.S. naval officer was challenging a mighty European power and a more powerful ship on the basis of his judgment of what it meant for a person, even if not yet a citizen of the United States, was entitled to, under the protection of the U.S. flag.
The Austrians released Kozsta by four ‘o’clock, turning him over to the neutral French until diplomatic necessities ran their course, and he was released to return to the United States in short order. When Captain Ingraham returned to the U.S., he conditionally tendered his resignation to Congress, if by his actions he had overstepped his authority, embarrassed his country, or otherwise failed in his duty. Instead, the United States Congress awarded Captain Ingraham with a Congressional Gold Medal, with the following citation:
Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, requested to cause to be made a medal, with suitable devices, and presented to Commander Duncan N. Ingraham, of the navy of the United States, as a testimonial of the high sense entertained by Congress of his gallant and judicious conduct on the second of July, eighteen hundred and fifty-three, in extending protection to Martin Koszta, by rescuing him from illegal seizure and imprisonment on board the Austrian war-brig Hussar.
There have been four U.S. Navy warships named USS Ingraham, after Captain Duncan Ingraham. Currently in service is the USS Ingraham (FFG-61), the last Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate to be built, launched on June 25, 1988 in the final days of the Reagan administration.
Doctor Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag is the 27-year-old woman, pregnant until recently, currently sentenced to death in Sudan for the crimes of apostasy and adultery. She is to receive 100 lashes and then be hanged – a sentence to be carried out after her newborn child is weaned. She is imprisoned in shackles, and her twenty-month-old child Martin is imprisoned with her. She was born in Sudan to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, but the father left the family, and she was raised Christian. That leads to the apostasy charge: under sharia law, she deserves death, because she has been convicted of leaving Islam for Christianity and has refused to renounce her faith and accept Islam. The adultery charge is based on her not being allowed to marry a Christian under sharia, and therefore sexual relations with her Christian husband make for adultery. Her husband, and the father of the toddler and the newborn child, Daniel Wani, is an American citizen who lives in Manchester, NH.
As this story has spread, so too has knowledge of how the Obama-Kerry State Department is addressing the issue. In an interview on FOX News with Greta Van Susteren, Mr. Wani was asked if the U.S. government and State Department were helping in any way. Mr. Wani replied:
No. I don't know. But when the case starts on September I went to the embassy and tried to report the case. But their councilor she said she don't have time. Even she don't want to listen to us. And two time I tried to talk to her but she won't listen. And she say, you know, go to the U.N. your wife is not a -- she's not American. I say I'm American. And she said, Daniel, you have to have the problem, she appeals to do anything. Even my son. She put process for watching the birth, put the process on hold.
The Daily Mail reported that Mr. Wani said that he was asked to provide DNA evidence that the imprisoned toddler was his son. The administration has been loath to address the issue of the imprisoned child’s status, and when State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about the child, she replied that she didn’t have any more details to share. The Boston Globe reports:
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the State Department said the United States is “fully engaged diplomatically in the case,” and had communicated “strong concern at high levels of the Sudanese government.” The statement reiterated an earlier US call for Sudan to respect international and Sudanese laws protecting freedom of religion.
However, Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Roy Blunt of Missouri have noted that none of the statements from the State Department or from Homeland Security about the case even mentioned that Daniel Wani is a U.S. citizen, nor have they addressed citizenship issues regarding the toddler and Miriam’s unborn child!
By all appearances, the Obama-Kerry team is looking at this issue, if at all, on the basis of lofty and ill-defined concepts of proper 21st-century behavior, of universal rights and great mushy get-alongism, and avoiding at all costs giving offense. To Obama and Kerry, world citizenship is what matters, and to bring in the concepts of U.S. citizenship and being under the protection of the U.S. flag would be so very nineteenth century!
If this administration took seriously the words of the Declaration of Independence, that "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men," and understand the true purpose of their offices, the USS Ingraham would be headed for Port Sudan on the Red Sea, accompanied by a carrier group, there to take Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag and her children under the protection of the flag of the United States.