Historical Parallels between the April 2009 threat from Somali pirates and two wars the United States fought two centuries ago against the Barbary Pirates, from 1801-05 and again in 1815.
In both cases, pirates were/are operating out of ports of Muslim African countries and holding Western ships and crews hostage. The United States had been ignominiously paying enormous sums to bribe the Barbary Pirates before and after The U.S. Navy was reinstituted 1794. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson, who had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the pirates 15 years earlier when he was the U.S. Ambassador to France, decided enough was enough and sent a flotilla to the Barbary Coast of North Africa to kick some ass.
The U.S. Frigate Philadelphia on the Rocks off Tripoli
Among the more intriguing stories, the USS Philadelphia, a 44-gun Navy frigate, ran aground off Tripoli in October 1803. The Tripolitans forced the captain and crew to surrender, and they used the Philadelphia for harbor defense against the Americans. On Feb. 16, 1804, Lt. Stephen Decatur, using a captured Tripolitan boat, led a contingent of Marines to seize the Philadelphia and burn it. They also briefly captured Tripoli, but they didn't recover the captain or crew. Decatur became the first military hero since the Revolution and became a commodore, who kicked more ass in the Second Barbary War in 1815. Tripoli was again captured, and the pirates surrendered in 1805. This is why the Marine Hymn has the phrase, ". . .to the shores of Tripoli." There is a movie "To the Shores of Tripoli".

The Senate ratified the peace treaty a year later. Under the terms of the treaty, the pirates repatriated 300 American prisoners, including the captain and crew of the Philadelphia, the U.S. repatriated 100 prisoners, and Jefferson agreed to pay $60,000 for the difference. Some called it a ransom; Jefferson called it a tribute. But that was a lot of money in those days.

Ready for the irony? The freed captain of the USS Philadelphia also became a commodore, and was a naval hero of the War of 1812. His name: William Bainbridge, for whom the destroyer used in the rescue of Capt. Phillips here in 2009 is named. As Paul Harvey would have said, now you know the rest of the story.

There's more. In alluding to Jefferson trying to negotiate with the pirates in 1786, which was during the Articles of Confederation. He and John Adams, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, met in London with Tripoli's envoy to Britain, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. The two future presidents asked the Tripolitan why they were picking on U.S. ships, when the United States had done nothing to provoke Tripoli. According to two accounts I read, he replied: "It was written in the 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."

NOW you know the rest of the story, which is that history, once again, is repeating itself. One of the lessons is we'll have to go ashore to defeat these guys. I have my doubts, though, that "paradise" was where our SEALs sent those three pirates.

From an email to Vern on April 22, 2009, said to be written by: LTC Robert Buckman, USAR.  Colonel Buckman is with the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I, or "Minasticky").

In 1800, Bainbridge was sent to carry the tribute which the United States still paid to the dey of Algiers to secure exemption from capture for its merchant ships in the Mediterranean. Upon arrival in the 24-gun USS George Washington, he made the tactical mistake of anchoring in the harbor of Algiers--directly under the guns of the fort. The dey demanded that he ferry the Algerian ambassador and retinue to Constantinople or be blown to bits on the spot. With great disgust, Bainbridge raised the Algerian flag on his masthead and submitted to the embarrassment of serving as the dey's messenger service. Read more at:

First Barbary War (Tripolitan War
War between the USA and Tripolitanian, 1801-05. Tripolitania corresponded to modern northwestern Libya. the background for the war was the continued attacks from Batbary pirates on U.S. vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, and disagreements as to the level of tribute to be paid to the pirates. The pasha of Tripoli had demanded greater tribute paid, which was refused by the  USA.

For some time, the US navy had been reduced, now special funds were allocated to it. It took some time to build, which is the main explanation to why the First Barbary War would continue for 4 years. The outcome of the war would not be lasting, causing the need for the USA to fight a second war in order to secure their vessels from the attacks of pirates.

1801: Yussuf Karamanli, Pasha of Tripolitania, demands $225,000 from the USA to abstain from attacking their ships. USA refused.
.....May 14: Tripolitania effectively declares war on the USA through insulting US interests in Tripoli.
.......... — Morocco, Algiers and Tunis would declare joint interest with Tripoli.
.......... — USA sends a navy towards Tripolitania, whereupon Algiers and Tunis withdraws from the conflict.
1803: USA starts winning more battles in the ongoing war against Tripolitania.
.......... — October: USS Philadelphia runs aground outside Tripoli, and the ship is taken over and its crew hostaged.
1804 February 16: The USA attacks Tripoli, putting the USS Philadelphia on fire and freeing the US hostages.
.......... — July 14: US launches a series of attacks on Tripoli.
1805 April-May: Battle of Derna shifts the luck of the war. USA begins a blockade of the harbour and an expedition is sent from Egypt.
.......... — June 4: A peace treaty is signed, USA paying a symbolic ransom of $60,000 and Tripolitania freeing its about 300 US captives and abandoning all claims on US property. USA also freed its about 100 captives.

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