Tag Archives: Islam

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

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I recently returned to my first love in reading topics: history and biography. While fiction can be extremely enjoyable, especially when done well, I have always found the true, non-fiction stories of real people and events much more interesting.

That return to true history results here in my latest book review. For the first time in nearly four years, it does not involve the topic of baseball.
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates” was published in 2015 by Penguin Random House’s ‘Sentinel’ imprint.
This joint effort of Fox News host Brian Kilmeade and author Don Yeager tells the story of “the forgotten war that changed American history.
That war is what many students of U.S. history know as the ‘First Barbary War‘, which, as the book jacket explains, “is the little known story of how a newly independent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America’s third president decided to stand up to intimidation.
America’s first four Presidents played key roles in the events leading up to and during the conflict. But George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are largely secondary figures to the real military and diplomatic heroes and villains who took part in the action.
Following the War for Independence, the newly formed United States of America was saddled with enormous debt and had largely disbanded its military. This was particularly true in the area of naval force.
America was protected from more established world powers of that time primarily by distance and trade agreements. It had little or no influence on the high seas.
In trying to further those trade efforts, American merchant ships would frequently come under attack in the Mediterranean Sea by the Muslim powers of North Africa. These ‘Barbary States’ nations practiced state-supported piracy in order to exact tribute from weaker Atlantic powers.
American ships would be raided, and their goods stolen by Muslim crews. At times, the ships and their crews would be taken and held hostage for large ransoms.
The fledgling United States had no response other than to pay those ransoms. But this only further added to the national debt. Also, the problem wasn’t being dealt with in any meaningful way. It just kept happening, with no end in sight.
The United States wasn’t the only nation facing these issues. Wealthier countries with an actual naval presence in the region simply paid tribute to the Muslim leaders in order to ensure free passage of their ships.
Adams, a Federalist, and Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, were political adversaries. Those differences extended to their views on dealing with the Barbary powers.
The second President of the United States, Adams thought it possible to continue to buy peace, as was done by other nations. Jefferson, America’s third President, wanted to end that system permanently. He preferred a strong military response.
As Kilmeade and Yeager write:
In response to events on the Barbary Coast, Jefferson, in 1801, had dispatched a small U.S. Navy squadron to the Mediterranean. For the next four years, he responded to circumstances, expanding the fleet to a much larger naval presence. In the end, thanks to the bold leadership of men like Edward Preble, James and Stephen Decatur, and William Eaton, and Presley Neville O’Bannon, military force had helped regain national honor. Even the Federalists, who liked little that Jefferson did, came to accept that the United States needed to play a military role in overseas affairs.
The book is the story of those men: Preble, the Decatur’s, Eaton, and O’Bannon and many more as they battled on land and sea to help a new nation stand up for itself on the world stage.
The United States Marine Corps played a key role in the ultimate victory. This was the war from which came the USMC hymn line “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.
As the authors state, this war against radical Muslim powers was one which we still, in many ways, are fighting today. It is a pivotal story of the immediate post-Revolutionary War, post-U.S. Constitution period. It is a story that all Americans should know.
Kilmeade and Yeager tell that story in just over 200 easy to read pages chock full of historic drama. Their book includes maps, notes, and a complete rundown of the cast of characters involved in that drama. It will make an enjoyable and educational read for any fan of history, especially of American history.
 

Why remembering Pearl Harbor remains important today

On December 7, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service delivered a devastating blow to the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

This was a preemptive surprise attack by the Japanese, with the hope that they could decimate the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Japanese believed that the United States was the greatest potential threat to their planned expansion of power in the Pacific region.

The early morning attack would launch in two waves from a half-dozen Japanese air craft carriers. Some 350 aircraft fighters and bombers would sink four American battleships and damage four more, sink eight other vessels, destroy 188 aircraft, and damage 159 more.

Over 2,400 Americans were killed with more than 1,100 injured. Japanese losses of life and equipment were minimal in comparison.

In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered one of the most famous and impassioned speeches in U.S. history to a joint session of the U.S. Congress the following day. It began as follows:

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. 

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.”

To that point, the United States had been able to stay out of active involvement in World War II. Meanwhile, the Japanese had become involved in an “Axis” powers agreement with Germany under Adolf Hitler and Italy under Benito Mussolini. Their aim was nothing less than global domination.

Roosevelt’s speech called on the Congress to declare war against Japan, which it did within the hour. Germany and Italy would then declare war on the United States. Thus began U.S. involvement in World War II, the deadliest war in human history.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Marshall Admiral of the Navy and leader of their combined fleet during the war, did not believe that Japan could win a lengthy war with America. 

Following the attack, Yamamoto is alleged to have written in his diary “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

American had been trying to stay out of World War II to that point. Formally declaring neutrality in the opening years of conflict, the U.S. gradually began to provide aid to Great Britain and others, and imposed economic sanctions on Japan.

The Japanese attack did indeed awaken America from its slumber. It forced us to realize that we could no longer ignore the expansionist aims of Hitler, Mussolini, and Japanese Emperor Hirohito. 

We were now forced to either allow these ideologies to overrun Europe and Asia, eventually becoming a major threat to our own security, or go to war to try and defeat them.

In the end, American military might and civilian industry proved the difference in winning the war. However, it would not be the last time that our nation was attacked on our own shores, or threatened by an ideology bent on world domination.

Flash forward nearly 60 years to September 11, 2001. Most Americans reading this require no reminder of what happened on that equally beautiful morning. Another sneak attack from the skies, this time from radical extremists bent on spreading the dominance of an Islamic worldwide caliphate.

That extremist ideology did not begin on 9/11, and it has not gone away today. The Islamists continue to spread their hope for a renewed global caliphate ruling under Sharia law in both aggressive and passive ways. 


Attacks and bombings by ISIL, ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda and others gain headlines in Europe and elsewhere. But the ultimate growth of the caliphate is also furthered by overrunning traditional populations of western nations through waves of unfettered immigration, followed by non-assimilation with that traditional culture. 

So-called “No-Go Zones” have formed in nations around the world. In recent years, they have begun to form right here in the United States of America. These areas have been largely closed off to legitimate authorities, and are being governed by principles of Sharia law rather than the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, the goal is to build more of these zones, and to grow and expand them.



The lessons of Pearl Harbor need to be remembered by Americans today, because there remain very real parallels. The ultimate goals of the Axis powers in World War II are similar to those of the radical Islamists today. 

The lesson of history is that you must be smart enough to recognize a threat when one emerges, and you must be prepared to face down that threat. To repeat an old but always relevant phrase, if we fail to remember the lessons of history we are destined to repeat them.

The Most Dangerous Woman in the World

However you may personally think that the most dangerous woman in the world is supposed to look, it probably is nothing like this 29-year old Northern Irish white mother of three.

Samantha Lewthwaite, also notoriously known as the “White Widow”, is arguably the holder of that ‘Most Dangerous Woman in the World‘ title. The current internationally wanted fugitive has certainly earned a nomination for the title.

She was born in Banbridge, County Down, on December 5th, 1983 to parents who met when her father, a British Army soldier, was stationed in her mother’s native Northern Ireland during the 1970’s.

The family moved to Aylesbury, a town about 45 miles northwest of London, when she was a small girl, and it was there that she attended school. But it was not to remain a happy family life. At age 10, her parents separated. Friends say that she was greatly affected and disillusioned by the split, and gradually sought comfort in relationships with her Muslim neighbors, whom she felt had a stronger family ethic.

During her teenage years she seriously began to turn to Islam herself, and at about age 17 she officially converted, taking on the name ‘Sherafiyah’ in her new faith. She enrolled at the School of Oriental and African Studies near the British Museum, and began work towards a degree in Religion and Politics.

Sometime in 2001, she ‘met’ a man named Germaine Lindsay online in an Islamic internet chatroom. They soon met in person, and by October of 2002 the couple married using Islamic names, ‘Asmantara’ for her, and ‘Jamal’ for him. Though using an official Islamic ceremony, the wedding did not take place in a mosque or other licensed location, and so was never officially registered. Her parents, who never approved of her conversion, did not attend.

The pair would have two children together (she is now believed to have 3-4 kids altogether), but much as her childhood, her own family was not destined for a life of happy togetherness.
On July 7th, 2005, Islamic terrorists carried out a series of attacks targeting civilian passengers on London’s public transportation system. There were more than 700 casualties in what became known as the “7/7 Attacks”, with 56 people killed, including the 4 suicide bombers. Germaine Lindsay was one of those radical jihadists.

In the aftermath, Lewthwaite at first became a sort-of cause celeb in the Brit tabloids. She reported him missing six days after the bombings, and when it was learned that he was one of the attackers, she denied any knowledge of his activities, and in fact publicly condemned them. She defended her husband as having been a recent convert who was tricked into complicity by extremists. The white local woman who had married a black Muslim was treated sympathetically in front page stories for a time.

However, interviews with her family members, and the continuing investigation began to reveal cracks in her story. Her own early life conversion became known, and a pre-7/7 association with Mohammad Sidique Khan, ringleader of the attack, came to light. At some point in the next couple of years, she met and married suspected Islamic terrorist Habib Saleh Ghani. In 2009, she had another child which was likely Ghani’s, though no father was ever named officially.

Around that time, Lewthwaite and her children simply disappeared. Reports had her in the north of England, and then somewhere in the Middle East or Africa, possibly in Tanzania or Somalia. In February of 2012, she re-emerged, or at least her identity did. Anti-terrorist police in Kenya issued a warrant for her arrest under the name Natalie Faye Webb, and it came to light that she was an integral player in the Al-Shabaab cell of al-Qaeda.

Investigators uncovered her diary, which among other things related that she was the “devoted wife of a mujihadeen” (holy warrior), and that as such she must be discreet, obedient, and must understand that “both he and his wife would be cut off from their families” while pursuing jihad (holy war.)

Subsequent investigations have revealed that she is a leader and organizer in the cell, not usually carrying out attacks herself directly, but a key cog in the important areas of fund-raising, weapons acquisition, concealing and transporting of individuals, and more. In March of 2012, the CIA joined the hunt for Lewthwaite, who would begin stepping up her activities.

In June 2012, patrons were crowded into a bar in Mombasa, Kenya to watch a Euro 2012 match between Italy and England. The bar was attacked by Islamists who tossed grenades, and a number of people were killed and wounded. She is now wanted as having orchestrated that attack.

Today, Interpol has issued what is known as a ‘Red Alert’ on the woman born as Samantha Lewthwaite. This amounts to an international warrant for her arrest. This month, the Westgate Mall in Nairobi was attacked by Al-Shabaab. Information has surfaced that 2-3 American natives were involved, as well as a Brit female who accompanied them. This is believed now to have been Lewthwaite.

Despite some reports that a white woman was found among the dead bodies at Westgate, believed to have been one of the terrorists, early speculation that this was perhaps Lewthwaite appear to run contrary to today’s Red Alert issuance. Was the ‘White Widow’ finally brought down in Kenya, or is ‘The Most Dangerous Woman in the World’ still out there, waiting to strike yet again? Time will tell.

The tale of Samantha Lewthwaite, the young girl born into a typical Northern Irish family, is the story of a criminal and a terrorist. But it is also a cautionary tale, representative of a growing problem: the changing face of radical Islam.

Young, middle-class, white natives of European countries, especially Great Britain, as well as Canada and the United States, being seduced into the Muslim ‘faith’, indoctrinated into radicalism, and growing into less conspicuous, and thus in many concrete ways more dangerous, allies in the Islamic Jihad against the west that continues today.

Syrian Cesspool

I put up this map of Syria as the primary graphic accompaniment to this story in order to show people just where the country is located in relation to the rest of the cesspool that is the Middle East.

Syria lies just to the northeast of Israel, our lone reliable ally in the region, and the single nation that we need to be concerned with helping there. It lies up against the western border of Iraq, still a dangerous place in itself, despite our efforts of the past decade.

Now, like every nation, Syria has a long, deep, rich history that cannot be perfectly encapsulated in any short blurb of a story. But perhaps most importantly, today it is the site of major internal conflict between the Islamic Sunni and Shia factions and their allies.

For nearly five decades, from 1963-2011, Syria was under Emergency Law, ostensibly due to the ongoing tensions and at times war with Israel over the Golan Heights. This effectively suspended most constitutional protections for its citizens.

Bashar al-Assad, currently accused by the Obama administration of using chemical weapons on his own citizens, has been President since 2000, when he took over the reigns from his father who had served for 30 years.

In December of 2010, what has become known as the ‘Arab Spring’ began, a series of both violent and non-violent uprisings, demonstrations, protests, riots, and civil wars across the Arab world.

The aims were to overthrow and end the rule of authoritarian regimes that were politically corrupt and that in many cases stood accused of committing human rights violations. The movement has resulted thus far in the overthrowing of regimes in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.

In March 2011, the Arab Spring came to Syria in the beginning of the current civil war between Assad’s loyalists and members of the opposition group known as the ‘Syrian National Coalition’. In 2012, a new constitution was adopted that made Syria a semi-presidential republic.

However, for many reasons, including the history of the Assad regime, the SNC has been recognized by a number of nations, including the US, as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian peoples.

There is always an undercurrent of Islam in the Middle East, and this conflict is no different. The majority of the rebels are Sunni Muslims, while the government and its supporters are mostly ‘Alawites’, a branch of Islam closely related to the Shia school.

Explaining the differences of all these groups to non-followers is another article altogether. Look it up if you’re interested. But know this – they don’t like one another, and it goes back hundreds of years.

Despite the alleged new constitutional protections, most human rights groups rate Syria as “not free”, with torture, rape, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, censorship and other human rights violations considered the norm by the government. The government now stands accused of using chemical weapons last month against those sympathetic to the rebel cause.

Some 60% of the Syrian population identifies as Sunni, while just 13% are Shia, including President al-Assad’s family, which is of the Alawite faction of Shia Islam. Despite their national minority, Alawites dominate the government.

While the civil war has largely been between the Shia and Sunni factions, there has been a ‘shadow war’ against Christianity, with a number of Christian churches destroyed, and with the formerly 10% Christian population largely fleeing the country.

The bottom line in the civil war in Syria is power. The regime led by al-Assad is trying to retain it, and is apparently willing to use whatever means is necessary to do so. The SNC is trying to take it away, possibly to bring democratic freedom to the region, possibly to become dominated by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, who have tried and failed to take over in Syria previously.

Do you hear much talk about the radical Islamists who run rampant on the rebel side, including al Qaeda? Didn’t think so, but that is a major factor that needs more discussion and consideration.

Right now, President Obama is backing the SNC. He has his publicly announced human rights reasons, and my belief is that he likely has some personal and/or religious reasons as well. But in any event, the wisdom of getting involved in any way in Middle East conflicts has to be questioned. If there is one thing that the world should have learned over the last thousand years or more is that peace is not coming to that region. We cannot pick winners and losers – they’re all losers, except for Israel.

The only position the United States should be taking, the only “red line in the sand” that we should be drawing, should be involving attacks and provocations involving the Israelis (or ourselves being attacked directly, of course.)

We are too dependent on Arab oil, that much is well-established, and we need to immediately begin addressing that dependency and drawing on alternatives, including those right here in our own region, in our own nation.

Entering the Syrian cesspool is, frankly, stupid and comes with little to no positive effect. Obama’s claim that they need to know “that we mean what we say” is nothing more than a call to allow him to flex his muscles. It comes with no lasting change, will allow al-Assad to laugh at us once it’s over and resume his activities further strengthened, and may encourage a wider conflagration of hostilities that ultimately draws in the Israelis, increasing the odds that we go in with ground forces.

Mr. Obama is naive to think that he can simply lob a few missiles at strategic sites and get the leader of a Middle East regime to cower to his wishes. There is only one way to eliminate those types of folks – go in and get them, as we did with Saddam Hussein. No one in the Obama administration has the stomach to do that here.

The United States policy should be to remain internally strong, maintain and increase our technological and military superiority over every other nation, bring home the vast majority of our war-weary troops and give them a much deserved and needed break from combat/policing situations, and remain engaged through a diplomacy that leaves no doubt of the true ‘red line in the sand’ around the Israeli borders.

There are human rights atrocities committed constantly around the world, not only in Syria and other nations of the Middle East, but in Africa, South America, Asia, and other areas. You don’t see us running in there with our military, lobbing missiles at encampments in those areas, and drawing a ‘red line in the jungle’, or a ‘red line in the snow’, or whatever that environment.

America needs to stop drawing so many ‘red lines in the sand’, and stay out of the cesspool that is the Middle East, this time in Syria.

Birth Pains of the New Caliphate

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seriously broached this topic. The recent riotous uprising in Egypt, categorized by the usual American media suspects as attempts at “democracy”, bring the topic clearly back to relevancy.

In actuality, the topic has always been relevant, but it always takes something major to wake up the American public.

For the great unwashed, and for those media talking heads who nearly lost their own heads this past week at the hands of these alleged democracy-loving demonstrators, let’s do a quick refresher on just what exactly is the Islamic “caliphate”, and why we all should be concerned about it.

A very long story begins in the first half of the 7th century A.D. with the birth of Islam under it’s founder, Muhammad, a man believed by followers of that faith to be the greatest and final messenger of God. Muhammad first spread this new faith by peaceful preaching and teaching, but he and his followers eventually turned to violent and forcible means.

In the aftermath of Muhammad’s death in 632, physical and spiritual battles arose for control of Islam by two groups who we continue that struggle today, 1,500 years later –  the Sunni and the Shiites. The Sunni were larger and stronger, and overall Islamic power was centralized under a leader who was known as the ‘Caliph’, the successor to Muhammad. The lands and peoples over which the Caliph held control became known as the Islamic Caliphate.

For centuries this Caliphate spread by conquest known as ‘Jihad’ throughout the lands of the Middle East, across northern Africa, and into both Spain and eastern Europe. By the end of the 17th century, just before the emergence of America as a nation and culture, the Caliphate controlled an area as large as the old Roman Empire.

The end finally began to come for the Islamic Caliphate on the eve of the American birth when, in 1774, it surrendered large portions of control to the emerging Russian nation. Then the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the Caliphate over it’s final four centuries, went into World War I on the side of the Axis powers, the losing side.

In the aftermath of defeat in World War I, secular power took charge in Turkey, and the Caliphate was formally abolished. Ever since that time, various religious and military leaders have vowed to return the Caliphate to power, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. That has been and remains the goal of the worldwide movement known to many today as “radical Islam”, to take control first of the Middle East, and then begin to spread the Caliphate around the region, to neighboring nations, and eventually around the entire world.

The Muslim Brotherhood is at the very core of the troubles in the Middle East today. The Brotherhood has for decades been sparking, fomenting, and supporting uprisings through it’s creations such as al Qaeda and Hamas among dozens of others. Their stated goals are: the reestablishment of the Caliphate, the reunification of their nation (the Ummah), the institution of strict Islamic religious law (Shariah), and the spread of the Caliphate around the world.

They are behind the uprisings that have taken place recently or are currently taking place across the Arabic world from Egypt to Jordan, from Tunisia to Syria, from Libya to Lebanon. While these alleged “popular uprisings” for “democratic reforms” topple various types of secular institutional governments, make no mistake about what the new replacement governments will become. They will become Islamic theocracies, either outright or by proxy control.

As the Muslim Brotherhood exercises and expands it’s control by whipping up tens of thousands at the grass-roots level to violently demonstrate and forcibly coerce change, the results will not be anything like American or even European democracy. What we are seeing in Egypt and across the Middle East, and will continue to see there, in Africa, and will see at some point in every nation of the world during this century, are the birth pains of the new Caliphate.

Millions of Americans will be glued to their television sets for hours this weekend to watch a football game. They will gorge on tons of food and snack treats, scarf down alcoholic and carbonated beverages by the truck load, and gamble away hard-earned money on pools and bets. Meanwhile, a much bigger, deadlier, and far more important game will be playing out on the other side of the world.

Americans who continue to consider a few weeks, months, or even a couple years of largely quiet times in the struggle against radical Islam as anything other than a lull in the storm are kidding themselves. More than that, they are passively ignoring the struggle that will be one of the most vital across their world as they age. It is the struggle that will define the world in which their children and grandchildren live out this century. It is one that will be forced upon them by the Caliphate now in the struggles of it’s own rebirth.