President Trump’s Full State of the Union Speech | C-SPAN
– This occasion was historic on many levels. Some great moments, especially when the Women’s Caucus acknowledges the tremendous progress women have made in society and the U.S. Congress at this state of the union at 52:00 min into the video.
Ending with the great cheers of “USA, USA, USA!” in the Congress of the United States.
The speech was historic moreover for it’s freshness and authenticity. Most state of the union speeches are boring promises of a future agenda that the audience understands will never be implemented. This was the first in my lifetime that was real. / CJ
CNN Tries To Explain Away Its Own Viewer Poll’s HUGE Numbers For Trump
“CNN’s David Chalian struggled to explain why President Trump scored 76 percent “somewhat positive” or “very positive” in the cable network’s instant poll. The poll only counted “speech watchers,” Chalian explained, so Trump’s supporters might have been over-represented because they were watching the speech. CNN seems to be having a tough night. Incidentally, the CBS News viewer poll also clocked in at exactly 76 percent approval for President Trump’s State of the Union address.”
Polar Vortex Brings Temps Colder than Antarctica to Midwest, Prompts Flights Cancelations and Even Stops Mail
“A blast of polar air enveloped much of the Midwest on Wednesday, cracking train rails, breaking water pipes and straining electrical systems with some of the lowest temperatures in a generation.
The deep freeze closed schools and businesses and canceled flights in the nation’s third-largest city, which was as cold as the Arctic. Heavily dressed repair crews hustled to keep utilities from failing.
Chicago dropped to a low of around minus 23, slightly above the city’s lowest-ever reading of minus 27 from January 1985. Milwaukee had similar conditions. Minneapolis recorded minus 27. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, saw minus 25.
Wind chills reportedly made it feel like minus 50 or worse. Downtown Chicago streets were largely deserted after most offices told employees to stay home. Trains and buses operated with few passengers. The hardiest commuters ventured out only after covering nearly every square inch of flesh against the extreme chill, which froze ice crystals on eyelashes and eyebrows in minutes.
The Postal Service took the rare step of suspending mail delivery in many places, and in southeastern Minnesota, even the snowplows were idled by the weather.
The bitter cold was the result of a split in the polar vortex, a mass of cold air that normally stays bottled up in the Arctic. The split allowed the air to spill much farther south than usual. In fact, Chicago was colder than the Canadian village of Alert, one of the world’s most northerly inhabited places. Alert, which is 500 miles from the North Pole, reported a temperature that was a couple of degrees higher.
Officials in dozens of cities focused on protecting vulnerable people such as the homeless, seniors and those living in substandard housing.
At least eight deaths were linked to the system, including an elderly Illinois man who was found several hours after he fell trying to get into his home and a University of Iowa student found behind an academic hall several hours before dawn. Elsewhere, a man was struck by a snowplow in the Chicago area, a young couple’s SUV struck another on a snowy road in northern Indiana and a Milwaukee man froze to death in a garage, authorities said.
Temperatures in Chicago were expected to tumble again into the minus 20s early Thursday. Some isolated areas could see as low as minus 40, according to the National Weather Service. Daytime highs could climb into the single digits before warming up to the comparatively balmy 20s by Friday.
Aside from the safety risks and the physical discomfort, the system’s icy grip also took a heavy toll on infrastructure, halting transportation, knocking out electricity and interrupting water service.
At least 2,700 flights were canceled nationwide, more than half of them at Chicago’s two main airports. Another 1,800 flights scheduled for Thursday were also called off. Fuel lines at O’Hare Airport froze, forcing some planes to refuel elsewhere before continuing to their destination, an airport spokeswoman said.
Amtrak canceled scores of trains to and from Chicago, one of the nation’s busiest rail hubs. Several families who intended to leave for Pennsylvania stood in ticket lines at Chicago’s Union Station only to be told all trains were canceled until Friday.
“Had I known we’d be stranded here, we would have stayed in Mexico longer — where it was warmer,” said Anna Ebersol, who was traveling with her two sons.
Chicago commuter trains that rely on electricity were also shut down after the metal wires that provide their power contracted, throwing off connections.
Ten diesel-train lines in the Metra network kept running, but crews had to heat vital switches with gas flames and watched for rails that were cracked or broken. When steel rails break or even crack, trains are automatically halted until they are diverted or the section of rail is repaired, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis explained.
A track in the Minneapolis light-rail system also cracked, forcing trains to share the remaining track for a few hours.
In Detroit, more than two dozen water mains froze. Customers were connected to other mains to keep water service from being interrupted, Detroit Water and Sewerage spokesman Bryan Peckinpaugh said.
Most mains were installed from the early 1900s to the 1950s. They are 5 to 6 feet underground and beneath the frost line, but that matters little when temperatures drop so dramatically, Peckinpaugh said.
On a typical winter day, the city has five to nine breaks, with each taking about three days to fix. But those repairs will take longer now with the large number of failures to fix, he added.
Detroit is in the second year of a $500 million program to rehab its water and sewer system. Last year, 25 miles of water mains were replaced.
“Water pipes are brittle. The more years they’ve gone through the freeze-thaw cycle,” the greater the stress and strain, said Greg DiLoreto, a volunteer with the American Society of Civil Engineers and chair of its committee on American infrastructure.
Pipes laid a century ago have far exceeded the life span for which they were designed, said DiLoreto, who described the aging process as “living on borrowed time.”
“When we put them in — back in the beginning — we never thought they would last this long,” he said.
The same freeze-thaw cycle beats up concreate and asphalt roads and bridges, resulting in teeth-jarring potholes.
“You won’t see them until it starts warming up and the trucks start rolling over the pavement again,” said DiLoreto who is based in Portland, Oregon.
Thousands of utility customers were without electricity after high winds also caused trees and branches to fall into power lines, especially in the south Chicago suburbs. The ComEd utility in northern Illinois said crews restored power to more than 42,000 customers and were working to restore another 9,400.
About 5,000 Duke Energy customers in central Indiana lost power due to high heating demand that tripped circuits. Another outage affecting 1,000 customers was reported near Kokomo, Indiana, about 40 miles north of Indianapolis.
Low temperatures can cause overhead wires to contract, said Otto Lynch, chief executive of Power Line Systems in Madison, Wisconsin, and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“The tension goes way up the wire and gets tighter and causes poles to break,” Lynch said. “The wires are usually not going to break. It’s really dependent on how the line was designed. Fifty years ago, they didn’t do a whole lot of engineering” for the coldest possible temperatures.”
A dozen people taken into custody after fishing vessel comes ashore near Seal Beach naval weapons site
|| OC Register
“Federal officials took 12 people into custody, including 10 Chinese nationals and two Mexican nationals, after they apparently escaped from a fishing vessel that landed near rocks Monday, Jan. 28, at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach.
“Several people got out of the boat and ran,” said Huntington Beach police Lt. Tom Weizoerick of the incident, first reported at 1:45 p.m. to the Long Beach Maritime Coordination Center.
The center, at the Port of Long Beach, coordinates several federal, state and local law enforcement agencies aimed at keeping the waters off California safe from smugglers and other criminals.
Bridgett Lewis, director of the MCC and security operations for the Port of Long Beach, confirmed Monday that 12 people, including one woman, were taken for processing at the San Clemente Customs and Border Patrol station.
Charges have not yet been filed, she said.
“We don’t know what their intent was,” Lewis said. “We don’t know if there is another boat behind them or who they were supposed to meet up with, if anyone.”
The MCC was first notified by the Navy who observed the boat landing near its beaches.
“Any vessel that lands here, we’re involved,” Lewis said. “The call came into the MCC and our assets were notified.”
One of the first on scene was the Orange County Sheriff Harbor Patrol, whose officers heard the MCC’s notification.
Two civilian employees, who were working on harbor buoys, saw a boat going in and people getting off, said Sgt. Isaac Felter.
“They radioed dispatch,” he said
At that time, the department’s deputies were seven miles out at sea responding to a call of a human body that had been found in the water. The body was discovered by a fisherman, who first saw a group of birds eating what he thought might be a whale or dolphin.
“When he took his boat there,” he realized it was a body,” Felter said.
The male body has not been identified but the coroner said, likely it had been in the water for about 24 hours based on physical examination, Felter said.
Harbor Patrol deputies responded to the report of the boat landing but once on scene, they determined it had become a land-based operation being run by Seal Beach and Huntington Beach police departments and Customs and Border Patrol agents.
The passengers were caught by the two police agencies, Felter said. They were taken to a nearby business where a Harbor Patrol sergeant stood guard until they were picked up by Border Patrol agents.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The incident is the latest of several in Southern California in recent months involving alleged smugglers who have used boats to illegally bring in people and drugs to the United States.
In all, there were 433 arrests of people trying to enter the country via panga boats between Nov. 1, 2017 and Oct. 31, 2018 in the San Diego sector, which includes Orange County, officials have said. Panga transports are organized by criminal smuggling operations and single transports can cost $13,000 to $17,000.
While panga and small vessel landings have been the main focus, law enforcement is also aware of other efforts for people to come ashore illegally. Pangas meet up with pleasure crafts and fishing vessels on the open sea. When that happens, it’s harder to detect.
Still, within the last few months, calls from concerned boaters in Dana Point and Newport harbors about illegally docked boats have alerted Harbor Patrol. Officials found evidence of smuggling activities occurred, including life vests, food and water that could only have been purchased in Mexico.”
Bruce Ohr: FBI, DOJ Knew Dossier Was Dirty from the Beginning
|| PJ Media
“Virtually everyone at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department involved in the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of candidate Donald Trump knew from the beginning that the investigation, dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane,” was based on shaky opposition research compiled by a Trump-hating former British spy and funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Bruce Ohr, the demoted associate attorney general, testified to Congress last August that he repeatedly warned top officials at the FBI and DOJ about Steele’s bias and Fusion GPS’s conflicts of interest, yet this information was kept hidden from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
And to add insult to injury, instead of investigating the officials who actively participated in the dossier hoax, Special Counsel Robert Mueller hired several of them to be on his team to investigate President Trump.
Steele, a former MI6 operative, was hired by Fusion GPS to find dirt on Trump after he clinched the Republican nomination.
The FBI fired him in the Fall of 2016 for lying, but the FBI and Justice Department officials nevertheless wrote in the FISA application that he was a reliable source.
Ohr kept top officials at both the FBI and Department of Justice apprised of his conversations with Steele both before and after the former British spy was fired as an informant.
On July 5, the very day of then-FBI Director James Comey’s press conference on Hillary Clinton’s emails, Steele flew to Rome to meet an old FBI contact, according to reports.
Later that month, he met with Ohr, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel reported, based on leaked transcripts confirmed by congressional sources.
Mr. Ohr testified that he sat down with dossier author Christopher Steele on July 30, 2016, and received salacious information the opposition researcher had compiled on Mr. Trump. Mr. Ohr immediately took that to the FBI’s then-Deputy Director Andy McCabe and lawyer Lisa Page. In August he took it to Peter Strzok, the bureau’s lead investigator. In the same month, Mr. Ohr believes, he briefed senior personnel in the Justice Department’s criminal division: Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz, lawyer Zainab Ahmad and fraud unit head Andrew Weissman. The last two now work for special counsel Robert Mueller.
Former FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page were also hired to work on Mueller’s team after being involved with Crossfire Hurricane, but had to be removed after the DOJ inspector general discovered their extreme anti-Trump bias in text messages.
Ohr testified that he stressed that the information he was sharing came from Trump’s political opponents in the Clinton camp and warned that it was unverified and likely biased.
“When I provided [the Steele information] to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information,” he testified. “I don’t know how reliable it is. You’re going to have to check it out and be aware. These guys were hired by somebody relating to—who’s related to the Clinton campaign, and be aware.”
He also told the team that Steele was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected” and that his own wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that compiled the dossier.
FBI corruption probe of L.A. City Hall focuses on downtown development boom
|| LA Times
“The rapid transformation of downtown Los Angeles’ skyline is being fueled in good measure by huge investments from Chinese companies eager to burnish their global brands and capitalize on L.A.’s real estate boom.
The warrant, which was filed in federal court in November but reviewed by The Times this weekend, sheds new light on the investigation and shows federal investigators are seeking records related not only to Huizar but also other City Hall officials, including Councilman Curren Price and current or former aides to Huizar, Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti.”
Now some of those projects have become a focus of federal agents seeking evidence of possible bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes as part of a corruption investigation at City Hall.
Federal investigators have cast a wide net for information about foreign investment in Los Angeles real estate development, according to a search warrant that names an array of political and business figures.
Among those named are executives of Chinese firms bankrolling two ambitious downtown projects that would result in three new towers on Figueroa Street. Investigators are also seeking records about L.A. development projects involving other foreign investors, including firms with large-scale hotel and residential projects in downtown.
The warrant does not say the FBI has gathered evidence of criminal activity by any of the people or companies named in the document. No one has been arrested or charged in the investigation.
The federal investigation became public in November, when FBI agents descended on the home and offices of L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the vast majority of downtown. Since then, The Times has reported that investigators have sought records involving a longtime lobbyist and a fundraiser close to City Hall.
The warrant, which was filed in federal court in November but reviewed by The Times this weekend, sheds new light on the investigation and shows federal investigators are seeking records related not only to Huizar but also other City Hall officials, including Councilman Curren Price and current or former aides to Huizar, Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Until recently, Huizar headed the powerful council committee that vets development projects. Price, in turn, heads a council committee focused on economic development, which reviews taxpayer subsidies offered by the city to hotel developers in and around downtown.
The warrant is not the only sign of FBI interest in L.A. development.
In recent months, real estate developers with projects in Huizar’s downtown-to-Eagle Rock district have received federal grand jury subpoenas instructing them to turn over communications with the councilman and dozens of current and former Huizar staffers since 2013, according to two sources familiar with the FBI’s instructions.
Those developers also have been told to provide information on any contributions they have made to Huizar’s reelection bid, his officeholder committee, any legal defense fund or his alma mater, Bishop Mora Salesian High School, the sources said. The subpoenas seek information on any donations made to two political committees with ties to Huizar — Community Support PAC and Families for a Better Los Angeles.
Developers in Huizar’s district also have been instructed to provide information on any gifts, meals, trips, vacations, flights, event tickets or rounds of golf they have provided to Huizar, his staff or any other council member, the sources said.
Among the information sought in the warrant were records related to trips to Las Vegas and stays at four hotels, including the Palazzo and Caesars Palace. The document does not explain why investigators want them.
Depending on where it goes, the FBI investigation could spur Angelenos to demand reforms of real estate development and campaign contributions and gifts at City Hall, said Kathy Feng, who was until recently the head of California Common Cause, a watchdog group that monitors ethics and money in politics.
“People already have a level of skepticism about how City Hall decisions are made around major development projects,” she said.
In the warrant, agents sought information from Google about a Gmail account tied to Ray Chan, a former deputy mayor for economic development for Garcetti who once headed the city building department and has worked since then as a consultant. Agents said they were looking for evidence related to an investigation into bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes that could involve more than a dozen people.
Among those named were two executives linked to Shenzhen New World Group, a Chinese company that has unveiled plans to redevelop the L.A. Grand Hotel downtown with a 77-story tower and build a 31-story hotel near Universal Studios.
The Times was unable to reach Wei Huang, president of Shenzhen New World Group, and Ricky Zheng, who was identified in state campaign contribution records as a Shenzhen New World LLC executive. Besides evidence of any possible crimes involving the two men, the federal warrant sought records relating to Shenzhen New World Group and two of its hotels.
The warrant, first reported by George Washington University counterterrorism expert Seamus Hughes, also named Fuer Yuan, founder of another company called Shenzhen Hazens. In 2017, the City Council approved a Shenzhen Hazens project on Figueroa Street, allowing the developer to demolish the nine-story Luxe City Center Hotel and replace it with two skyscrapers, one for a hotel, the other for condominiums.
As part of the approval process, the developer signed an agreement to contribute to initiatives long backed by Huizar, including $750,000 to support a planned downtown streetcar and $550,000 to the effort to revitalize the Broadway corridor.
Investigators asked in the warrant about the Luxe Hotel and George Chiang, who city records indicate was involved with the skyscraper project. David Chaiken, a company attorney, told The Times that Shenzhen Hazens was unable to share any information about its activities or the investigation.
“When I first began to plan my short biography of Thomas Jefferson, I found it difficult to research the chapter concerning the so-called Barbary Wars: an event or series of events that had seemingly receded over the lost horizon of American history. Henry Adams, in his discussion of our third president, had some boyhood reminiscences of the widespread hero-worship of naval officer Stephen Decatur, and other fragments and shards showed up in other quarries, but a sound general history of the subject was hard to come by. When I asked a professional military historian—a man with direct access to Defense Department archives—if there was any book that he could recommend, he came back with a slight shrug.
But now the curious reader may choose from a freshet of writing on the subject. Added to my own shelf in the recent past have been The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World, by Frank Lambert (2005); Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror 1801–1805, by Joseph Wheelan (2003); To the Shores of Tripoli: The Birth of the U.S. Navy and Marines, by A. B. C. Whipple (1991, republished 2001); and Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation, by Joshua E. London (2005). Most recently, in his new general history, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, the Israeli scholar Michael Oren opens with a long chapter on the Barbary conflict. As some of the subtitles—and some of the dates
of publication—make plain,
this new interest is largely occasioned by America’s latest round of confrontation in the Middle East, or the Arab sphere or Muslim world, if you prefer those expressions.
In a way, I am glad that I did not have the initial benefit of all this research. My quest sent me to some less obvious secondary sources, in particular to Linda Colley’s excellent book Captives, which shows the reaction of the English and American publics to a slave trade of which they were victims rather than perpetrators. How many know that perhaps 1.5 million Europeans and Americans were enslaved in Islamic North Africa between 1530 and 1780? We dimly recall that Miguel de Cervantes was briefly in the galleys. But what of the people of the town of Baltimore in Ireland, all carried off by “corsair” raiders in a single night?
Some of this activity was hostage trading and ransom farming rather than the more labor-intensive horror of the Atlantic trade and the Middle Passage, but it exerted a huge effect on the imagination of the time—and probably on no one more than on Thomas Jefferson. Peering at the paragraph denouncing the American slave trade in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, later excised, I noticed for the first time that it sarcastically condemned “the Christian King of Great Britain” for engaging in “this piratical
warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers.” The allusion to Barbary practice seemed inescapable.
One immediate effect of the American Revolution, however, was to strengthen the hand of those very same North African potentates: roughly speaking, the Maghrebian provinces of the Ottoman Empire that conform to today’s Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. Deprived of Royal Navy protection, American shipping became even more subject than before to the depredations of those who controlled the Strait of Gibraltar. The infant United States had therefore to decide not just upon a question of national honor but upon whether it would stand or fall by free navigation of the seas.
One of the historians of the Barbary conflict, Frank Lambert, argues that the imperative of free trade drove America much more than did any quarrel with Islam or “tyranny,” let alone “terrorism.” He resists any comparison with today’s tormenting confrontations. “The Barbary Wars were primarily about trade, not theology,” he writes. “Rather than being holy wars, they were an extension of America’s War of Independence.”
Let us not call this view reductionist. Jefferson would perhaps have been just as eager to send a squadron to put down any Christian piracy that was restraining commerce. But one cannot get around what Jefferson heard when he went with John Adams to wait upon Tripoli’s ambassador to London in March 1785. When they inquired by what right the Barbary states preyed upon American shipping, enslaving both crews and passengers, America’s two foremost envoys were informed that “it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (It is worth noting that the United States played no part in the Crusades, or in the Catholic reconquista of Andalusia.)
Ambassador Abd Al-Rahman did not fail to mention the size of his own commission, if America chose to pay the protection money demanded as an alternative to piracy. So here was an early instance of the “heads I win, tails you lose” dilemma, in which the United States is faced with corrupt regimes, on the one hand, and Islamic militants, on the other—or indeed a collusion between them.
It seems likely that Jefferson decided from that moment on that he would make war upon the Barbary kingdoms as soon as he commanded American forces. His two least favorite institutions—enthroned monarchy and state-sponsored religion—were embodied in one target, and it may even be that his famous ambivalences about slavery were resolved somewhat when he saw it practiced by the Muslims.
However that may be, it is certain that the Barbary question had considerable influence on the debate that ratified
the United States Constitution in the succeeding years. Many a delegate, urging his home state to endorse the new document, argued that only a strong federal union could repel the Algerian threat. In The Federalist No. 24, Alexander Hamilton argued that without a “federal navy . . . of respectable weight . . . the genius of American Merchants and Navigators would be stifled and lost.” In No. 41, James Madison insisted that only union could guard America’s maritime capacity from “the rapacious demands of pirates and barbarians.” John Jay, in his letters, took a “bring-it-on” approach; he believed that “Algerian Corsairs and the Pirates of Tunis and Tripoli” would compel the feeble American states to unite, since “the more we are ill-treated abroad the more we shall unite and consolidate at home.” The eventual Constitution, which provides for an army only at two-year renewable intervals, imposes no such limitation on the navy.
Thus, Lambert may be limiting himself in viewing the Barbary conflict primarily through the lens of free trade. Questions of nation-building, of regime change, of “mission creep,” of congressional versus presidential authority to make war, of negotiation versus confrontation, of “entangling alliances,” and of the “clash of civilizations”—all arose in the first overseas war that the United States ever fought. The “nation-building” that occurred, however, took place not overseas but in the 13 colonies, welded by warfare into something more like a republic.
There were many Americans—John Adams among them—who made the case that it was better policy to pay the tribute. It was cheaper than the loss of trade, for one thing, and a battle against the pirates would be “too rugged for our people to bear.” Putting the matter starkly, Adams said: “We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever.”
The cruelty, exorbitance, and intransigence of the Barbary states, however, would decide things. The level of tribute demanded began to reach 10
percent of the American national budget, with no guarantee that greed would not increase that percentage, while from
the dungeons of Algiers and Tripoli came appalling reports of the mistreatment of captured men and women. Gradually, and to the accompaniment of some of the worst patriotic verse ever written, public opinion began to harden in favor of war. From Jefferson’s perspective, it was a good thing that this mood shift took place during the Adams administration, when he was out of office and temporarily “retired” to Monticello. He could thus criticize federal centralization of power, from a distance, even as he watched the construction of a fleet—and the forging of a permanent Marine Corps—that he could one day use for his own ends.
At one point, Jefferson hoped that John Paul Jones, naval hero of the Revolution, might assume command of a squadron that would strike fear into the Barbary pirates. While ambassador in Paris, Jefferson had secured Jones a commission with Empress Catherine of Russia, who used him in the Black Sea to harry the Ottomans, the ultimate authority over Barbary. But Jones died before realizing his dream of going to the source and attacking Constantinople. The task of ordering war fell to Jefferson.
Michael Oren thinks that he made the decision reluctantly, finally forced into it by the arrogant behavior of Tripoli, which seized two American brigs and set off a chain reaction of fresh demands from other Barbary states. I believe—because of the encounter with the insufferable Abd Al-Rahman and because of his long engagement with Jones—that Jefferson had long sought a pretext for war. His problem was his own party and the clause in the Constitution that gave Congress the power to declare war. With not atypical subtlety, Jefferson took a shortcut through this thicket in 1801 and sent the navy to North Africa on patrol, as it were, with instructions to enforce existing treaties and punish infractions of them. Our third president did not inform Congress of his authorization of this mission until the fleet was too far away to recall.
Once again, Barbary obstinacy tipped the scale. Yusuf Karamanli, the pasha of Tripoli, declared war on the United States in May 1801,
in pursuit of his demand for more revenue. This earned him a heavy bombardment
of Tripoli and the crippling
of one of his most important ships. But the force of
example was plainly not sufficient. In the altered mood that prevailed after the encouraging start
in Tripoli, Congress passed an enabling act in February 1802 that,
in its provision for
a permanent Mediterranean presence and
its language about the “Tripolitan Corsairs,” amounted to a declaration of war. The Barbary regimes continued to underestimate their new enemy, with Morocco declaring war in its turn and the others increasing their blackmail.
A complete disaster—Tripoli’s capture of the new U.S. frigate Philadelphia—became a sort of triumph, thanks to Edward Preble and Stephen Decatur, who mounted a daring raid on Tripoli’s harbor and blew up the captured ship, while inflicting heavy damage on the city’s defenses. Now there were names—Preble and Decatur—for newspapers back home to trumpet as heroes. Nor did their courage draw notice only in America. Admiral Lord Nelson himself called the raid “the most bold and daring act of the age,” and Pope Pius VII declared that the United States “had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages.” (In his nostalgia for Lepanto, perhaps, His Holiness was evidently unaware that the Treaty of Tripoli, which in 1797 had attempted to formalize the dues that America would pay for access to the Mediterranean, stated in its preamble that the United States had no quarrel with the Muslim religion and was in no sense a Christian country. Of course, those secularists like myself who like to cite this treaty must concede that its conciliatory language was part of America’s attempt to come to terms with Barbary demands.)
Watching all this with a jaundiced eye was the American consul in Tunis, William Eaton. For him, behavior modification was not a sufficient policy; regime change was needed. And he had a candidate. On acceding to the throne in Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanli had secured his position by murdering one brother and exiling another. Eaton befriended this exiled brother, Hamid, and argued that he should become the American nominee for Tripoli’s crown. This proposal wasn’t received with enthusiasm in Washington, but Eaton pursued it with commendable zeal. He exhibited the downside that often goes with such quixotic bravery: railing against treasury secretary Albert Gallatin as a “cowardly Jew,” for example, and alluding to President Jefferson with contempt. He ended up a supporter of Aaron Burr’s freebooting secessionist conspiracy.
His actions in 1805, however, belong in the annals of derring-do, almost warranting the frequent comparison made with T. E. Lawrence’s exploits in Arabia. With a small detachment of marines, headed by Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon, and a force of irregulars inevitably described by historians as “motley,” Eaton crossed the desert from Egypt and came at Tripoli—as Lawrence had come at Aqaba—from the land and not from the sea. The attack proved a total surprise. The city of Darna surrendered its far larger garrison, and Karamanli’s forces were heavily engaged, when news came that Jefferson and Karamanli had reached an understanding that could end the war. The terms weren’t too shabby, involving the release of the Philadelphia’s crew and a final settlement of the tribute question. And Jefferson took care to stress that Eaton had played a part in bringing it about.
This graciousness did not prevent Eaton from denouncing the deal as a sellout. The caravan moved on, though, as the other Barbary states gradually followed Tripoli’s lead
and came to terms. Remember, too, that this was the year of the Battle of Trafalgar. Lord Nelson was not the only European to notice that a new power had arrived in Mediterranean waters.
Francis Scott Key composed a patriotic song to mark the occasion. As I learned from Joshua London’s excellent book, the original verses ran (in part):
In conflict resistless each toil they endur’d,
Till their foes shrunk dismay’d from the war’s desolation:
And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscur’d
By the light of the star-bangled flag of our nation.
Where each flaming star gleamed a meteor of war,
And the turban’d head bowed to the terrible glare.
Then mixt with the olive the laurel shall wave
And form a bright wreath for the brow of the brave.
The song was part of the bad-verse epidemic. But brushed up and revised a little for the War of 1812, and set to the same music, it has enjoyed considerable success since. So has the Marine Corps anthem, which begins: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” It’s no exaggeration
to describe the psychological fallout of this first war as formative of the still-inchoate American character.
There is of course another connection between 1805 and 1812. Renewed hostilities with Britain on the high seas and on the American mainland, which did not terminate until the
Battle of New Orleans, might have ended less conclusively had the United States not developed a battle-hardened naval force in the long attrition on the North African coast.
The Barbary states sought to exploit Anglo-American hostilities by resuming their depredations and renewing their
demands for blood money. So in 1815, after a brief interval of recovery from the war with Britain, President Madison asked Congress for permission to dispatch Decatur once again to North Africa, seeking a permanent settling of accounts. This time, the main offender was the dey of Algiers, Omar Pasha, who saw his fleet splintered and his grand harbor filled with heavily armed American ships. Algiers had to pay compensation, release all hostages, and promise not to offend again. President Madison’s words on this occasion could scarcely be bettered: “It is a settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute. The United States, while they wish for war with no nation, will buy peace with none.” (The expression “the United States is” did not come into usage until after Gettysburg.)
Oren notes that the stupendous expense of this long series of wars was a partial
vindication of John Adams’s warning. However, there are less quantifiable factors to consider. The most obvious is
commerce. American trade in the Mediterranean increased enormously in the years after the settlement with Algiers, and America’s ability to extend its trade and project its forces into other areas, such as the Caribbean and South America, was greatly enhanced. Then we should attend to what Linda Colley says on the subject of slavery. Campaigns against the seizure of hostages by Muslim powers, and their exploitation as forced labor, fired up many a church congregation in Britain and America and fueled many a press campaign. But even the dullest soul could regard the continued triangular Atlantic slave trade between Africa, England, and the Americas and perceive the double standard at work. Thus, the struggle against Barbary may have helped to force some of the early shoots of abolitionism.
Perhaps above all, though, the Barbary Wars gave Americans an inkling of the fact that they were, and always would be, bound up with global affairs. Providence might have seemed to grant them a haven guarded by two oceans, but if they wanted to be anything more than the Chile of North America—a long littoral ribbon caught between the mountains and the sea—they would have to prepare for a maritime struggle as well as a campaign to redeem the unexplored landmass to their west. The U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean squadron has, in one form
or another, been on patrol