Burning of the frigate "USS Philadelphia (1799)" in the harbor of Tripoli, February 16, 1804, by Edward Moran, painted 1897, depicts a naval action of the First Barbary War. American sailors and marines burned the ship to avoid letting the muslim pirates use it against us.
Thanks to an interesting inteview on the Glenn Beck show this morning with Brad Thor, author of the new historical novel The Last Patriot, I did some research on the Barbary Wars. [I don't recall this getting a lot of coverage in history class way back when, but I do recall the goofy 70's tv show The Barbary Coast with William Shatner. That's my only reference to this period in US history]
It seems that several muslim states of the Ottoman empire were involved in piracy on the high seas in the late 1700's and early 1800's. The navies of Great Britain and France kept them at bay until American independence in 1776, when we were left to fend for ourselves. The USA paid "tribute" to the muslims to keep them away from our commercial ships, but when Thomas Jefferson took office as president he declared the USA would no longer pay their extortion money. The result was the First Barbary War as the USA flexed its muscle with her tiny fleet to defeat the pirates.
The war is commemorated by The Tripoli Monument, the oldest military monument in the US (after the Revolutionary War), which currently resides at the Naval Academy.
Here's an interesting little tidbit from the Wiki:
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to negotiate with Tripoli's envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman or (Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja). Upon inquiring "concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury", the ambassador replied:
It was written in their 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 mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.
Sound familiar? And they say we're fighting the Islamists because of GW's foreign policy. I don't think so...
Read about the 18th Century Jihad here.