- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

Historically, terrorist attacks have been uncommon on American soil, but they have played a role in the country's development and policy toward what officials have dubbed rogue states.
Even before the American Revolution, terrorism was pursued against U.S. citizens, usually on the high seas. Only the names of countries, the terrorists and their tactics have changed over the centuries.
From the 1500s, the Barbary States Tripoli (modern-day Libya), Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers plied their piratical trade on commerce in the Mediterranean. They took the ships of European nations, confiscated their cargoes and imprisoned sailors and travelers alike, demanding ransom for their release. Given the slow communication of the time, captives often died before negotiations could take place, usually as a result of inhumane treatment.
During America's colonial days, Britain dealt with the Barbary pirates by paying tribute or protection money. After the American Revolution, the United States did the same. The reason, however, was more than simply tradition.
In an age when Europe was perceived to be the center of the universe's civilization, peoples outside that continent were looked upon as inferior and unworthy of much concern. The barbarian nature of the Barbary States, with their piracy and contempt for Western rules of warfare, confirmed their status as the lowest of the low. Better to pay them off than to acknowledge their humanity through warfare.
As one official reasoned, "Bribery and corruption answers their purpose better … than a noble retaliation."
The administrations of George Washington and John Adams paid enormous amounts of tribute money in spite of the popular cry, "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."
In 1796, precisely $992,463.25 was paid to Algiers for 100 captives the ransom included a 36-gun frigate worth $100,000 and numerous arms, as well as ammunition and American officials committed an additional $21,000 for annual tribute to Algiers.
What was worse, piratical attacks continued, and more money had to be paid in 1800, as well as goods ranging from oak planks to tar to "5 red birds and cages."
When Thomas Jefferson assumed office in 1801, he broke with the patient, accommodating policy of his predecessors and went to war against Tripoli, the country that appeared to be the leader of piratical actions against American ships.
To Mr. Jefferson, piracy cried out for retaliation by the United States as a violation of human rights that made normal diplomatic crises pale. As for the paying of tribute, Mr. Jefferson was appalled. "When this idea comes across my mind," he said, "my faculties are absolutely suspended between indignation and impatience."
The Tripolitan War that Jefferson initiated in 1801 was a response to Tripoli's demand for $225,000 in a lump-sum payment and a $25,000 annual tribute. The war ran for four years and would be accorded lasting significance in the Marine Hymn ("From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli"). Naval heroes would emerge, as would victory but at a price. The peace treaty included an American payment of $60,000 to free prisoners and hostages.
And no sooner had the ink on the treaty dried than the piratical incursions of other Barbary nations became significant. Foremost was Algiers, whose attacks were like periodic bee stings interspersed with periods of inaction that made it difficult for Jefferson's successors to retaliate militarily.
So more money was paid out, especially as the United States became involved in the War of 1812 with Britain, which provided a golden opportunity for Algiers to expand its attacks on American commerce. In the summer of 1812, for example, 12 Americans were captured by Algerian pirates.
Washington officials attempted to negotiate for their release through an intermediary, but the Algerian ruler went beyond the bounds of a prudent ransom sum.
"My policy and my views," he said, "are to increase, not to diminish, the number of American slaves: and that not for a million dollars would I release them."
Once the war with Britain came to an end, the United States sent a squadron of 10 ships to extract a treaty with Algiers and the other Barbary States abolishing the tribute system, releasing American prisoners and providing for compensation of seized property. These objectives were realized as a result of the show of force, and Stephen Decatur, the leader of the squadron, came home a hero.
Yet, the specter of a mighty nation having to show its military force to areas of the world that were ill-equipped to defend themselves brought forth still another predicament: whether it was wrong for America to use force to redress such wrongs. That dilemma was reflected by Decatur in a toast at a celebration in 1816: "Our country," he began, "in her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right, but our country, right or wrong."
After 1830, the Middle East and North Africa assumed an obscure place in American foreign policy until, of course, events during the last several decades provided a sense of deja vu.

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