It's time Obama apologizes to the Barbary Pirates

Kyle-Anne Shiver & Lee Cary
It’s about time President Obama apologizes for a former president’s meddling in the affairs of Morocco.

From the 11th - 19th Centuries, the Barbary Pirates operated out of Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Sale and other ports in Morocco raiding mostly western European ships along that portion of the shores of North Africa called the Barbary Coast. From the 16th - 19th Centuries they also took hundreds of thousands of Europeans as slaves. The Barbary Pirates demanded tribute, and the European powers paid it.

Back in 1785, John Adams, then America’s Ambassador to England, and Thomas Jefferson, Ambassador to France, met with the envoy from Tripoli, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, and inquired as to why American ships were targets of hostility. The answer they received was this:

“It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every Muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.”  (Source)

Until its independence was secured, American ships were generally protected by first the British, and then the French.  Once the former colonies were an independent nation, America was on its own.

In 1801, President Jefferson received a message from Tripoli demanding an immediate tribute payment of $225,000, along with annual payments of $25,000. The First Barbary War (1801-1805) was eventually followed by the Second Barbary War (1815).

During the First Barbary War, Commodore John Rodgers led an American fleet that threatened to capture Tripoli.  Rodgers warned that he would remove the current Tripoli pasha from his throne and replace him with his brother. The threat worked.
 
In order to facilitate a long overdue apology to Morocco, here’s a statement that David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel should pass on to Obama for his immediate reading to the world.  (Before reading, cue background music here.)

“In the early 19th Century one of my predecessors, Thomas Jefferson, ill-advisedly meddled in the affairs of the duly designated government of the sovereign nation of Morocco, specifically its city of Tripoli, by threatening to remove its leadership if he, the pasha of Tripoli, did not comply with demands issued by the U.S. Navy.  I sincerely regret this event, particularly in light of it coming in the wake of the West’s unjustified and hegemonistic intrusion into the Middle East in the form of the Christian Crusades from 1095-1291. It should never too late for a great power to say ‘I’m sorry.’ So today, on behalf of the American people, I, Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States of America, say to all the descendents of the pasha of Tripoli and to the descendents of the Barbary Pirates, ‘I apologize for our meddling in Morocco’s affairs and our intrusion onto the shores of Tripoli.’”

Of course, the United States Marine Corps might have a slightly different view on this.

It’s about time President Obama apologizes for a former president’s meddling in the affairs of Morocco.

From the 11th - 19th Centuries, the Barbary Pirates operated out of Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Sale and other ports in Morocco raiding mostly western European ships along that portion of the shores of North Africa called the Barbary Coast. From the 16th - 19th Centuries they also took hundreds of thousands of Europeans as slaves. The Barbary Pirates demanded tribute, and the European powers paid it.

Back in 1785, John Adams, then America’s Ambassador to England, and Thomas Jefferson, Ambassador to France, met with the envoy from Tripoli, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, and inquired as to why American ships were targets of hostility. The answer they received was this:

“It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every Muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.”  (Source)

Until its independence was secured, American ships were generally protected by first the British, and then the French.  Once the former colonies were an independent nation, America was on its own.

In 1801, President Jefferson received a message from Tripoli demanding an immediate tribute payment of $225,000, along with annual payments of $25,000. The First Barbary War (1801-1805) was eventually followed by the Second Barbary War (1815).

During the First Barbary War, Commodore John Rodgers led an American fleet that threatened to capture Tripoli.  Rodgers warned that he would remove the current Tripoli pasha from his throne and replace him with his brother. The threat worked.
 
In order to facilitate a long overdue apology to Morocco, here’s a statement that David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel should pass on to Obama for his immediate reading to the world.  (Before reading, cue background music here.)

“In the early 19th Century one of my predecessors, Thomas Jefferson, ill-advisedly meddled in the affairs of the duly designated government of the sovereign nation of Morocco, specifically its city of Tripoli, by threatening to remove its leadership if he, the pasha of Tripoli, did not comply with demands issued by the U.S. Navy.  I sincerely regret this event, particularly in light of it coming in the wake of the West’s unjustified and hegemonistic intrusion into the Middle East in the form of the Christian Crusades from 1095-1291. It should never too late for a great power to say ‘I’m sorry.’ So today, on behalf of the American people, I, Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States of America, say to all the descendents of the pasha of Tripoli and to the descendents of the Barbary Pirates, ‘I apologize for our meddling in Morocco’s affairs and our intrusion onto the shores of Tripoli.’”

Of course, the United States Marine Corps might have a slightly different view on this.