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Friday, July 08, 2005

Revisiting the Barbary Pirates

This book review gives a lot of details about theearly US Navy and Marine Corps:
For centuries, all along the North African coast, state-sponsored privateers - Barbary pirates - had preyed on European merchant ships, seizing their cargoes and enslaving their sailors. Seeking relief, the Europeans often paid an annual tribute to the rulers of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli.

The fledgling United States, with no navy to speak of, meekly fell in line, to no avail. Yussef Karamanli, the bashaw of Tripoli (a territory encompassing modern-day Libya), deemed the steady stream of gifts from the United States to be insufficient and in 1801 declared war. The United States responded by sending a few warships, one of which, the frigate Philadelphia, ran aground in Tripoli harbor. Suddenly, the United States was looking at a ransom demand of nearly $1.7 million, more than its entire military budget...
The NYT does not seem to care for the book's style, but the history is compelling...

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