Ransom Not
11 March 2010
In a previous article (see What Every American Needs To Know), I quoted from that book regarding the trouble that the newborn United States had with the Muslim Barbary Pirates. Now I would like to share a bit more from the book, this time giving the bigger picture of that pirate problem:
For centuries, Muslim pirates of Morocco, Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers — countries along North Africa's Barbary Coast — captured thousands of Europeans at sea. Catholic Orders, such as the Trinitarians (Mathurins), had as their sole mission the collecting of alms from across Europe to ransom captives from Muslim dungeons. European countries, such as England and France, arranged to pay the Muslim Barbary Pirates an annual tribute, equivalent to millions of dollars, to bribe Muslims to leave their countries' ships alone.
After years of paying ransom and tribute money to the Muslims, the United States finally got fed up and took military action against them. The First Barbary War which the United States fought against the pirates brought a temporary cessation to their activities. But after a couple of years, the Muslim pirates were at it again. Because of other circumstances, including the War of 1812, the United States was not able to respond until the Second Barbary War in 1815.
Commodore Stephen Decatur, hero of the War of 1812, and Commodore William Bainbridge, led ten warships to the Mediterranean. Under Decatur's guns, the Dey (ruler) of Algiers was forced to stop demanding tribute from other countries, to pay reparations for damages and forced to release American prisoners. Similar promises were forced from Tunis and Tripoli. Decatur and Bainbridge both recognized that the peace could only be kept by force or the threat of force.
Muslims again broke their treaty, resulting in the Dutch and British bombarding Algiers in 1816, forcing them to release 3,000 European prisoners. Algiers again renewed its piracy and slave-taking, causing the British to bombard them again in 1824. It was not until 1830, when the French conquered Algiers, that Muslim Barbary Piracy came to cease.
So, after about 1,000 years of Muslim piracy in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, after futilely paying millions of dollars in ransoms (which would be billions of dollars in today's money!), it was finally suppressed once some countries decided to take action and FORCE it to stop. Does history have any lessons for us today?
The first lesson that should be OBVIOUS is that is does not pay to pay ransoms. It only encourages more hijackings and more kidnappings. The quickest, surest way to stop these pirates in their tracks is to NEVER pay a ransom to them, NO MATTER WHAT!
Muslim piracy is alive and well in the 21st century. But instead of being based around the Barbary Coast in northern Africa, this time it is based around Somalia in eastern Africa. It is a major problem for international shipping. For example, in 2008, 111 ships were attacked by Somali pirates, resulting in 42 successful hijackings.
In November of 2008, Muslim pirates hijacked the 1,090-foot supertanker Sirius Star, the largest ship they had ever captured. On 9 January 2009, the BBC reported that the ship had been freed after a ransom of $3 million had been paid. Wrong! Wrong! WRONG!
We in the West just don't get it, but the Muslims do. They realize that we are in a WAR, and that there is NO SUCH THING AS CIVILIANS. EVERYONE is a soldier! EVERYONE is in the war! That is a very inconvenient truth which the West refuses to accept. But it IS a truth nonetheless. And the West will not even begin to win the War on Terror until it accepts, and starts to live by, this fundamental reality.
Here's what I think the West should do. The next time the Muslim pirates capture a boat, the Western governments should send out some military aircraft to bomb and totally destroy the ship — which would, unfortunately, result in the death of anyone on board: pirates, crew and passengers alike.
This is a WAR. There will be losses of life and equipment. Anything captured by the enemy should be written off as a loss. The resulting deaths are casualties of war. Once the Muslim pirates realize that the only result of a hijacking is that the ship will immediately be totally destroyed, the hijacking will stop. It's that simple.
Then there are the cases of kidnappings, like the high-profile case of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The Israelis have been ready to release 1,000 Palestinian terrorist in exchange for this one person. Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan has called the possible swap deal "the greatest significant victory for terrorism that Israel has made possible." Such an exchange would be SHEER MADNESS!
The principle here is the same as with the hijackings. We are in a war. Shalit is even an actual soldier. He is a casualty of war. Consider him dead, and move on. Lots of soldiers die in war. He "died", and that is that. If he can be rescued, awesome! Hopefully a lot of his kidnappers would be taken out in the process. But don't EVER trade even ONE of the enemy for him. Don't pay ANY kind of ransom. It only encourages more kidnapping. Once the enemy realizes that their kidnappings will gain them nothing, that the person they kidnapped is already written off as dead, then the kidnappings will stop. It's that simple.
We in the West do NOT have the guts to fight such a war in the way that we need to so that we win the victory! We are too soft and flabby and weak-willed. We want our ships back, and our loved-ones back, more than we want to defeat the terrorists and win the war. So we are willing to compromise and pay the ransoms, rather than solve the problem once and for all by defeating the hijackers and kidnappers. This short-sighted strategy will, in the end, result in MORE death and destruction: not just ships and kidnapping victims, but our entire Western civilization. The stakes are THAT high!
When Palestinian terrorists hijacked an airliner in 1976, and held 105 Jewish hostages at the Entebbe airport in Uganda, the Israelis displayed incredible courage and wisdom. Six Israeli military aircraft flew, often a low altitudes to escape radar detection, over 2,700 miles (one way!) to rescue the hostages at Entebbe. One Israeli soldier and 4 hostages were killed, but all 7 hijackers were killed, as well as 45 Ugandan soldiers who were firing at the Israelis. To this day, Operation Entebbe remains a shining example of how to properly deal with hijackers, kidnappers and terrorists (read the entire exciting story in the book Entebbe Rescue). If only Israel had the courage today to live up to the past!
Not long after the rescue, Israelis ambassador to the United Nations, Chaim Herzog, addressed the Security Council, where some member countries were criticizing Israel for its actions (as usual!). He said:
"We come with a simple message to the Council: we are proud of what we have done because we have demonstrated to the world that a small country, in Israel's circumstances, with which the members of this Council are by now all too familiar, the dignity of man, human life and human freedom constitute the highest values. We are proud not only because we have saved the lives of over a hundred innocent people — men, women and children — but because of the significance of our act for the cause of human freedom."
Hurray for Israel! Life at ANY price is perhaps NOT worth living. At least a famous American, Patrick Henry, thought so:
"It is in vain, sir, to extenuate [minimize] the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"