President Obama has the right to kill with drones; The Barbary Wars, a historical perspective

A fiery debate of social critics has engaged on the subject of drone warfare. Privacy and civil rights advocates say President Obama unilaterally killing citizens of foreign countries is a violation of the president’s power.

Those who make this argument would do well to ponder the ancient pages of history and the early years of America when one of the first presidents launched a unilateral war without the consent of congress, or the American people.

This oft forgotten segment of history is known as The Barbary Wars.                                                                                    Tripoli

From the years of 1500 - 1800 it has been estimated by the great historian Robert Davis that over 1,250,000 Europeans were kidnapped at sea and forced into enslavement of Muslim warlords in the countries of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli along the northern coast of Africa, otherwise known as The Barbary Coast. However the Barbary pirates were not exclusive in taking slaves only from those they plundered near their homeland.  In 1631, for example, the entire population of an Irish village named Baltimore was taken prisoner.

The pirates are an example of the world’s first terrorists.

During this 300 year span, over a million faceless individuals were subject to torture, rape, and mutilation. Women were often sexually humiliated, sodomized, and murdered. Women who are virgins cannot be killed under Islamic law. It was customary for warlords to take each captured female into their bed, and to violently rape them. After they were therefore no longer virgins, and could be killed without fear of divine retribution.  For slaves to feel pain meant nothing to the Barbary warlords, who believed they were righteously punishing religious heretics.

In 1784 an American ship named Betsey and its crew of ten were taken prisoner. Then in succession, two more ships in as many years. The Maria and the Dauphin.

Thomas Jefferson aptly dubbed “The Author of America“ in both name and title by renowned journalist Christopher Hitchens, was the author of the Declaration of Independence.

There would be no disagreement among the founding fathers, who were intellectual giants in their own right, that Jefferson had no peers. It is fair to note that this consensus was drawn from men who were not in short supply of affection for their own mental prowesses.

After the revolution Jefferson held many titles prior to becoming president that included Ambassador to France from 1785 - 1789 and Secretary of State from 1790 - 1793.

In 1786 Jefferson was dispatched to attempt to negotiate the surrender of American hostages from their Barbary captives. Large sums of money were acquired by credit in the name of the United States. After receiving the bill for this ransom the continental congress inquired to Jefferson the reasoning of the pirates. He answered their query in a letter dated March 28, 1786:

It was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners.

John Adams, soon to be president while fantasizing about becoming king of America, famously quipped:

conclude it to be wisest for us to negotiate and pay the necessary sum without loss of time. We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever.

JeffersonJefferson shirked at the idea of white men being taken captive and held as slaves for the entirety of their lives. He demanded a navy be risen (America had none at the time) and ten frigates used to bombard the coastline, but his request was declined by then General George Washington. Fighting the Barbary pirates on the shores of Tripoli was also nixed from the agenda by President Adams as well, who is said to have fallen out of favor with Jefferson because of his timid approach. Adams agreed with Jefferson partly in that a Navy was required, and by the time Adams left office America was in possession of a fair nautical fighting force, at least large enough to make Britain or Spain aware.

For many long years Thomas Jefferson gritted his teeth and nearly quit political life in exasperation. There was not an appetite for ridding the world of pirates thousands of miles away from American shores.  Nothing was being done about the North African pirates who operated with impunity, and who were paid tributes by every other modern European nation that traveled the nearby waters with purposes of commerce.

Late in the winter of 1800 the ruler of one of the barbarous nations demanded the United States pay a large gold tribute, and if payment was not made that meant the two nations were at war. At the time President Adams’ administration, which was leaving office in mere months, took this declaration to mean nothing.

After becoming the third president in 1801 Jefferson enacted a cool and calculated plan of revenge on the Barbarous warlords. His ruthlessness in this matter has been well documented. He proposed taking the pirates as slaves and selling them to the highest bidders in Europe, but this provision was not to be ever implemented.Barbary

The president rationalized that the nation was involved in a war declared by the enemy, and he was the Commander-in-Chief. He waited until Congress was in its Spring recess and far from the capital (most had crops to plant.) With the Congress unreachable, Jefferson gave the order for a squadron of ships to sail for North Africa and to eradicate their shorelines. Jefferson notified congress days after the order was given and when there would be no hope of recalling the fleet.

In just over four years the Barbary coast was quelled, and the white slave trade was broken. In April 1805 the United States invaded what is now modern Libya. After the battle, a flag was placed to commemorate the event. This would be the first time an American flag had been placed in
victory on foreign soil.

Readjusting our perspective to modern times, the enemies of Thomas Jefferson’s America still exist. Modern Americans face an enemy of unrelenting religious zealotry. Islamic extremists believe killing themselves and non-believers will win them the ultimate prize in the after life of
paradise. They mutilate the genitalia of their women, either by sawing off the clitoris during teenage years, or sewing the vagina closed so that only a small opening remains for the passage of urine and blood. Women are routinely disfigured or murdered for disobedience.

President Barack Obama is waging a one-man war around the globe using unmanned drones to hunt down and kill alleged enemies of America. This is happening without any trial or legal judgment as we know it in the American court system. He is doing so without the approval of the American people, or without a vote from congress just like President Thomas Jefferson did over 200 years ago. The Author of America would have approved.