Over the past couple of years, too many Americans, including officials in high places, have criticized the United States for actions resulting in terrorism. Blame has been placed at our own feet for heinous attacks visited upon our citizens and soil. Interpretation of American “transgression” has even been stated as coming from an enemy that lacks acceptance of, and is against our founding principles: liberty and freedom. An honest review of history argues against that theme.
Retired from teaching world history in Kentucky’s high school system, this writer’s take is based on the well-known phrase: “those who choose to ignore history are condemned to repeat it.” Contrary to those who vilify the actions of our country, there is another profound set of causes, much deeper and longer in duration that convey the reasons America is at war with terrorism.
Within textbooks on world history and on the Internet, it is easy to identify key roots of terrorism. Many date back to 711 AD (more than 1000 years before the birth of our America) when marauding pirates, radical members of Islam, stormed west across the Mediterranean and the top of Africa. In their zealous quest for supremacy, these jihadist radicals took both land and seaports bordering that ancient region. Their mission was to loot, plunder, enslave and kill all “infidels,” those who would not submit to radical interpretations of the Muslim faith.
By the mid-1500s, radical Muslim pirates had taken control of the greater part of the Mediterranean, placing a stranglehold at Gibraltar. From strategic positions in Northwestern Africa, these pirates, originally from the Middle East, seized thousands of trade ships in a narrow 17-mile gap between Africa and Spain. In that 800-year period, more than one million Christian Europeans were taken hostage. Those who were not valued highly enough for a sultan’s ransom were enslaved across the top of Africa, then forced to work - or suffer excruciating torture until death. Legions of innocent tradesmen died of starvation while building lavish palaces for the leaders of this horrific era in Eastern Hemisphere history. Restating the obvious as it relates to those who “blame America,” we were not to become a nation until some 250 years later. Acts dating back to the 16th Century simply cannot be “credited” as inviting terror in our nation today. Accusations of American “fault” cannot reasonably, rationally or logically be asserted when our founding fathers had not yet been born!
There was a period in history, a new era, when American actions did have an impact on radical Islam. At the dawn of the 1800s the Barbary Pirates of the Mediterranean met a new foe when the United States of America was born. This followed a decades-long legacy of Great Britain yielding to pirate demands: pay-for-protection schemes, ransoms and other forms of bowing deeply, in mind and money, before a savage enemy. Our American patriots (while still British subjects) had been forced to accept these terms until after the Revolutionary War. Freedom helped this nation shed the barbaric shackles of radical Islamic tyranny. Upon his election to office, Thomas Jefferson – far from sanguine with these arrangements, launched an assault by our Marines, their first formal incursion, now steeped in our traditions of United States military lore; the place - “On the Shores of Tripoli.”
We are not the empire others here and abroad (who lack knowledge of history), condemn. The only foreign land we have “taken” for our own during brutal wars of the past century is that upon which now stand thousands of marble and granite tombstones. These glistening monuments attest to the ultimate sacrifice given freely by brave American men and women. Empire building? Far from it! Courageous Americans, living and dead empowered other nations to take back their sovereign soil through peace treaties won by American blood. Without us, who would have helped Europe and Asia wrest their people, possessions and the very earth from the deadly grasp of tyranny? It is an affront to all American countrymen, living and dead, that anyone would either assert that “globalization” has been our nation’s goal, or apologize for United States military gallantry over the past 230 years.
We must correct falsehoods – accidental or intended, by conveying factual representations of history along, especially to those who naively subscribe to dark theories of American History. And may God Bless America and all those who stand strong for our Constitution, from whatever your walk of life.
Tom V. Ellis,
Retired WCHS Teacher
World History & English Certification