REPORT: Why Mueller’s report looks so bad for Obama…
“And this comes from CNN! What is happening right now is that the vast majority of the Establishment Media is spinning x1000 to deflect from a multitude of facts which exonerate President Trump while also pointing out some very serious legal implications for those who perpetrated the Trump Russia hoax—including one Barack Hussein Obama. The media will continue its attempted “obstruction” drumbeat, hoping that the vast majority of Americans won’t actually take the time to read the Mueller report (and they are likely right about that) so that they can continue to push a lie – BUT they also know they’ll have to report on the actual facts just in case the truth does suddenly go mainstream.
(CNN) — The partisan warfare over the Mueller report will rage, but one thing cannot be denied: Former President Barack Obama looks just plain bad. On his watch, the Russians meddled in our democracy while his administration did nothing about it.
The Mueller report flatly states that Russia began interfering in American democracy in 2014. Over the next couple of years, the effort blossomed into a robust attempt to interfere in our 2016 presidential election. The Obama administration knew this was going on and yet did nothing. In 2016, Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice told her staff to “stand down” and “knock it off” as they drew up plans to “strike back” against the Russians, according to an account from Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump”.
Why did Obama go soft on Russia? My opinion is that it was because he was singularly focused on the nuclear deal with Iran. Obama wanted Putin in the deal, and to stand up to him on election interference would have, in Obama’s estimation, upset that negotiation. This turned out to be a disastrous policy decision.
But don’t just take my word for it that Obama failed. Congressman Adam Schiff, who disgraced himself in this process by claiming collusion when Mueller found that none exists, once said that “the Obama administration should have done a lot more.” The Washington Post reported that a senior Obama administration official said they “sort of choked” in failing to stop the Russian government’s brazen activities. And Obama’s ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, said, “The punishment did not fit the crime” about the weak sanctions rolled out after the 2016 election.
A legitimate question Republicans are asking is whether the potential “collusion” narrative was invented to cover up the Obama administration’s failures. Two years have been spent fomenting the idea that Russia only interfered because it had a willing, colluding partner: Trump. Now that Mueller has popped that balloon, we must ask why this collusion narrative was invented in the first place.
Given Obama’s record on Russia, one operating theory is that his people needed a smokescreen to obscure just how wrong they were. They’ve blamed Trump. They’ve even blamed Mitch McConnell, in some twisted attempt to deflect blame to another branch of government. Joe Biden once claimed McConnell refused to sign a letter condemning the Russians during the 2016 election. But McConnell’s office counters that the White House asked him to sign a letter urging state electors to accept federal help in securing local elections — and he did. You can read it here.
I guess if I had failed to stop Russia from marching into Crimea, making a mess in Syria, and hacking our democracy I’d be looking to blame someone else, too.
But the Mueller report makes it clear that the Russian interference failure was Obama’s alone. He was the commander-in-chief when all of this happened. In 2010, he and Eric Holder, his Attorney General, declined to prosecute Julian Assange, who then went on to help Russia hack the Democratic National Committee’s emails in 2016. He arguably chose to prioritize his relationship with Putin vis-à-vis Iran over pushing back against Russian election interference that had been going on for at least two years.
If you consider Russian election interference a crisis for our democracy, then you cannot read the Mueller report, adding it to the available public evidence, and conclude anything other than Barack Obama spectacularly failed America. Subsequent investigations of this matter should explore how and why Obama’s White House failed, and whether they invented the collusion narrative to cover up those failures.
The above is CNN doing a half-hearted attempt at real journalism but the fact they are even doing that much shows just how strong a condemnation the Mueller report is against the Obama White House. President Obama’s refusal to act against Russia makes no sense unless you consider he knew the entire thing was a ruse meant to attack then-candidate Donald Trump, and later, President Trump. A sitting/outgoing president weaponized U.S. intelligence agencies, colluded with the media and foreign nations, to influence an American election in order to place his chosen successor (Hillary Clinton) into power.
That alone is enough to land Barack Obama in jail. That’s not hyperbole. It’s not a partisan comment.
THAT IS FACT AND ALL AMERICANS SHOULD BE OUTRAGED.”
“Attorney General William Barr told a Senate panel Wednesday that “spying did occur” during the 2016 presidential campaign as he testified about the Mueller report and the origin of the Russia probe.
Barr’s disclosure came as he was being questioned by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about his plans to investigate how the probe began into Russian meddling in the campaign.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told the Senate appropriations subcommittee, noting that he grew up in a Vietnam War generation that included a lot of concern about the government spying on anti-war activists.
When he stated he didn’t think rules were necessarily violated during the campaign, Shaheen then said: “So you’re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?”
“Well … I think spying did occur,” Barr responded. “Yes, I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was … adequately predicated. And I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated.”
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, later asked Barr whether he wanted to use different language than the word “spying.”
“I think the word ‘spying’ could cause everybody in the cable news ecosystem to freak out,” Schatz said.
Barr clarified his comments later in the hearing, referring to possible “improper surveillance.”
“I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred,” Barr said. “I’m saying that I’m concerned about it and looking into it, that’s all.”
Trump Signs Executive Order to Protect Free Speech on College Campuses
|| PJ Media
“On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to protect free speech on college campuses.
“In America, the very heart of the university’s mission is preparing students for life as citizens in a free society, but even as universities have received billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and to the First Amendment,” the president said.
He mentioned the case of Hayden Williams, a field representative for the Leadership Institute who got punched in the face in Berkeley, Calif.
“You see people being punched hard in the face, but he didn’t go down,” Trump said of Williams. “I said you have a better chin than Muhammad Ali.”
Trump took Williams on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) earlier this month.
Turning to the broader problem, Trump said, “Under the guise of speech codes and safe spaces and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of young Americans like those here today.”
The president had many college students who had been silenced by the speech restrictions at their colleges and universities in attendance at the signing.
“The administration is right to recognize the threats to freedom of speech on public university campuses and the need to do something about preserving the marketplace of ideas,” Tyson Langhofer, director at Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) Center for Academic Freedom, said in a statement.
“In the course of winning more than 400 legal victories since 2006, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom has continued to encounter massive free speech and other First Amendment violations, unconstitutional policies, and many repeat offenders,” Langhofer continued. He praised the administration for understanding the problem and the Department of Justice for filing briefs to support free speech.”
Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement of 1964 at UC Berkeley –
“With the participation of thousands of students, the Free Speech Movement was the first mass act of civil disobedience on an American college campus in the 1960s. Students insisted that the university administration lift the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledge the students’ right to free speech and academic freedom. The Free Speech Movement was influenced by the New Left, and was also related to the Civil Rights Movementand the Anti-Vietnam War Movement.”
“Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the litigation against the declaration of a national emergency by President Donald Trump in order to build his long-promised wall. Some members of Congress has said that they expect the House of Representatives to sue while private litigants have already filed challenges. Regardless of the litigants (and there are likely to be a mix of parties), they face similar barriers in convincing a federal judge to rescinded a declaration that Congress has not rescinded.
This is a straight statutory interpretation case, not the “constitutional crisis” widely described by critics. There are possible claims against the funding conditions, but Congress gave the President not just the unfettered authority to declare such emergencies but the largely unconditioned appropriations that he may use to build the wall.
Here is the column:
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “If my fellow citizens want to go to hell, I will help them. It is my job.” He was expressing the limited role of courts in challenges to federal law. It is not the task of judges to sit as a super legislature to question the agendas of the political branches. They will gladly send Congress to hell. It only needs to point to the destination.
In the matter of the border wall, Congress could not have been more clear where it was heading. It put itself on the path to institutional irrelevancy, and it has finally arrived. I do not agree there is a national emergency on the southern border, but I do believe President Trump will prevail. This crisis is not the making of Donald Trump. This is the making of Congress.
For decades, Congress frittered away control over its authority, including the power of the purse. I have testified before Congress, warning about the expansion of executive power and the failure of Congress to guard its own authority. The two primary objections have been Congress giving presidents largely unchecked authority and undedicated money. The wall funding controversy today is a grotesque result of both of these failures.
Start with the National Emergencies Act of 1976. Presidents have long declared emergencies based on their inherent executive authority. The use of that authority produced some conflicts with Congress, the most famous seen in the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company versus Charles Sawyer, in which the Supreme Court declared that the federal seizure of steel mills during the Korean War was unconstitutional because Congress had never granted President Truman that authority.
However, Congress later gave presidents sweeping authority under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. While this law allows for a legislative override by Congress, the authority to declare national emergencies is basically unfettered. It is one of many such laws where Congress created the thin veneer of a process for presidential power that, in reality, was a virtual blank slate. At the same time, Congress has continued to give the executive branch billions of dollars with few conditions or limitations.
This is why President Obama was able to go to war in Libya without a declaration and fund the entire war with billions of undedicated funds. Neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor most of the current Democratic leadership made a peep of objection at this. But when it comes to the wall, Democrats have indicated they will rely on the ruling in House of Representatives versus Sylvia Burwell, in which the court declared the House of Representatives had standing to sue over executive overreach and that Obama violated the Constitution in ordering the payment of billions to insurance companies without authorization from Congress.
I was lead counsel for the House of Representatives in that case. Ironically, Pelosi vehemently opposed the litigation as a frivolous and unfounded challenge to presidential authority. We won the case. Superficially, it may look like the wall controversy. Obama sought funds from Congress and, when unsuccessful, acted unilaterally. But Obama ordered the money directly from the Treasury as a permanent appropriation, like the money used to pay tax refunds. Congress had never approved such payments.
Conversely, Trump is using appropriated funds. Like the authority under the National Emergencies Act, Congress gave this money to the executive branch without meaningful limitations. Trump now has almost $1.4 billion in newly approved funds to use for border protection. He has identified about $8 billion in loosely dedicated funds for military construction, drug interdiction, and forfeitures. Even if a court disagreed with the use of this money, Trump has the power and funds to start construction of the wall.
Congress has yielded more and more power to the executive branch over decades. In many areas, it has reduced the legislative branch to a mere pedestrian in government, leaving real governing decisions to a kind of “fourth branch” of federal agencies. For their part, presidents have thus become more and more bold in circumventing Congress. When Obama gave a State of the Union proclaiming his intention to bypass Congress after it failed to pass immigration reform, Democrats applauded loudly.
Many of them, like Pelosi, denounce this unilateral action by Trump yet ecstatically supported the unilateral actions by Obama, including his funding of some critical parts of the Affordable Care Act after Congress denied any funds. Democrats insist Trump can be challenged on his use of emergency authority since they do not believe an emergency exists on the southern border. They will fail spectacularly if the case gets to the Supreme Court. While the source of funding can be challenged, there is no compelling basis to challenge the national emergency declaration.
The reason? Congress has never been particularly concerned over past declared emergencies, which have continued with perfunctory annual renewals. Most such emergencies are entirely unknown to the vast majority of Americans. Indeed, the first proclamation of a national emergency occurred under President Wilson in 1917, “arising from the insufficiency of maritime tonnage to carry the products of the farms, forests, mines, and manufacturing industries of the United States.”
Remember that national emergency over the “anchorage and movement of vessels” with respect to Cuba? How about the national emergency over uncut diamonds from Sierra Leone? Then there were the declarations over property owned by certain figures in Zimbabwe, the presidential election in Congo, and issues concerning Yemen, Burundi, Myanmar, Lebanon, Somalia, and South Sudan. All of these were “national emergencies.”
Curiously, Pelosi has called for the declaration of a national emergency to deal with the “epidemic of gun violence in America.” She also said that she wished Trump would add that declaration but that a “Democratic president can do that.” Yes, a Democratic president certainly could, and that is the key point here. Congress gave all presidents the power to make such declarations, and Pelosi is now making the case for Trump today.
While Democrats insist this emergency declaration is simply an effort to use executive power to get what Congress would not give Trump, any litigation would be an effort to use judicial power to do much the same thing. The House of Representatives would try to convince a federal judge of the merits against a wall, after failing to convince enough members of Congress to override the emergency declaration and a presidential veto.
That brings us back to Holmes. Congress has the authority to rescind the national emergency declaration of Trump with a vote of both chambers. The legislative branch should do so. If Congress cannot muster the votes, however, a federal judge is unlikely to do so. Simply put, the courts were not created to protect Congress from itself. Congress has been heading to hell for decades, and it is a bit late to complain about the destination.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.
Obama Declared 13 National Emergencies — 11 Are Still Active
“There are a lot of national emergencies going on. In fact, there are 31 active national emergencies declared under the National Emergencies Act.
Bill Clinton used this authority 17 times. President Trump has only used it three times so far.
Sorry Democrats, this “national emergency” business is not quite the work of “dictators.”
Conservative Tribune reports: “Of Obama’s 11 continuing national emergencies, nine of them were focused exclusively on foreign nations, while only one seemed focused on protecting America — a declaration aimed at punishing individuals “engaging in significant malicious cyber-enabled activities.”
All of the rest of Obama’s national emergencies were focused on blocking property or prohibiting transactions/travel for individuals engaged in various activities in — by order of the date of enactment — Somalia, Libya, transnational criminal organizations, Yemen, Ukraine, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Venezuela and Burundi.
The American people stand with President Trump following his amazing Oval Office address explaining the human cost of illegal immigration.
If President Donald Trump uses the U.S. military to build the border wall along the United States’ international with Mexico by declaring a national emergency, won’t liberals simply run to a Federal judge whom they believe to be left-wing within the Ninth Circuit and block Trump? Can Congress vote to overturn Trump’s declaration of an emergency?
No. If the federal courts actually follow the law, President Trump cannot be prevented from “reprogramming” funds appropriated for the U.S. Department of Defense and actually using the military (such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) to build the border wall.
As noted in the first installment on this topic, Congress has given a president the power to declare a national emergency by 50 U.S.C. 1621 and 50 U.S.C. 1622. A declaration of an emergency allows the President to reprogram funds in the military budget. See 33 U.S. Code § 2293 “Reprogramming during national emergencies.”
Trump could reprogram funds from other parts of the Department of Defense budget — including from other DoD construction projects such as on bases, military housing, etc. — and engage in construction in areas of need for the national defense. The statute says that explicitly (although statutes are never easy reading).
But Democrats are threatening and commentators are warning that such an action would be challenged in court and in Congress immediately. Can such a plan be blocked?
First, 50 U.S.C. §1622 allows the Congress to over-turn a president’s declaration of an emergency. If both the Senate and the House each pass s resolution terminating the President’s declaration of an emergency, than the emergency status terminates under 50 U.S.C. §1622. But clearly the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate would not join the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. Unless a significant number of Republican Senators vote against a border wall built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or contractors with military funds, Congress could not block Trump’s efforts.
(Note, although I argue in the next section that this power has been invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court, if a court disagrees on that, a legislative veto power should block a lawsuit. Where Congress has provided a specific method for challenging a declaration of an emergency, the federal courts would normally hold that that method becomes the exclusive remedy. A lawsuit would be blocked by the fact that Congress provided a non-litigation remedy.)
Second, however, the Congressional veto process described above has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, in INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983), finding a legislative veto of Executive Branch action unconstitutional. Congress passed many laws which specifically enabled Congress to veto regulations or actions under that law. The U.S. Supreme Court found a legislative veto violates the structure or architecture of the Constitutional system.
Laws go to the President for signature or veto. Congress cannot reach over and pull a law back. Congress must pass a new law and present it to the President for signature if dissatisfied with how the law is working out. The U.S. Supreme Court had no hesitation finding that the Congress had over-reached, based only on the implied architecture of the Constitution.
In Chadha, 50 U.S.C. 1622 was one of the laws explicitly discussed. The dissenting opinion specifically warned that the Chadha decision invalidated Congress’s ability to overturn a presidential declaration of a national emergency.
Therefore, Congress cannot overturn a declaration by President Trump that the open border is a national emergency. Even if the U.S. Senate were to side with the Democrats, Chadha explicitly ruled the Congressional veto (termination) of a presidential declaration to be an unconstitutional distortion of the familiar “Schoolhouse Rock” means by which laws are passed and signed by presidents. Once a law is signed, there is no “claw back” right by Congress.
Third, of course, critics are discussing whether Trump’s actions would be constitutional. Here, however, Congress passed a specific statute, in fact a series of statutes. So there is no question about the President’s power to do what the Congressional statute has explicitly empowered him to do.
Some even point to a rather famous Constitutional landmark case — Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) — in which the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly ruled that President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not have the power to temporarily nationalize the U.S. steel industry to avert a strike for national defense. However, Youngstown was not that simple. Youngstown analyzed the inherent powers of Commander in Chief as modified by Congressional agreement by statute.
The U.S. Supreme Court explicitly analyzed that the President’s powers are at their greatest (zenith) when he acts not only by his inherent powers as President but also by the agreement of a statute passed by Congress. In Youngstown, Eisenhower did not have any statute supporting his action and the Court reasoned that he was actually acting in conflict with relevant statutes.
Here, the Congress has already enacted and President George W. Bush signed into law, the Secure Fence Act of 2006. It is already the law of the land that a border wall shall be built along the United States’ Southern border. Neither Congress nor any private plaintiff can challenge the official determination that a border wall or barrier shallbuilt. That is the law. That is the official determination of both the U.S. Congress and the Commander in Chief.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was never implemented (other than a few miles) because Congress did not appropriate the funds to pay for it. There are two steps: Authorization and Appropriation of funds. The decision to build a border wall is final. The only question is applying funds to make it happen.
Building of a border wall under the 2006 Act was also not completed because the Swamp and Deep State sabotaged it. Using classic bureaucratic games, the bureaucracy and open borders legislators followed “designed to fail” steps that ground the construction to a halt.
Note that in spite of the word “fence” in the title, the law does not actually mandate a “fence” in particular. The wording of the Act is not about a “fence” but about any kind of barrier customized to the particular terrain in each location to the extent necessary to “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.” That is “all.” As in “all.”
So the Secure Fence Act of 2006 requires building “whatever it takes” — not a “fence” per se. The Act does require specific enhanced barriers and lights, cameras, and sensors, in some named locations.
Fourth, could liberals run to the courts to block Trump from using the military to build a border wall? No. Only those with “standing” can bring a lawsuit. How is anyone harmed?
The federal courts have been waging Jihad against citizens bringing lawsuits for decades. The federal courts have been raising the bar higher and higher to make it nearly impossible for anyone to challenge the actions of government agencies or public officials. Specifically a complaint that is shared generally by much of the population cannot establish standing.
Contrary to strongly-held popular belief, the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly ruled that taxpayers do not have standing to challenge government spending, revenue, or action merely because they are taxpayers. See, Daimlerchrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 126 S.Ct. 1854, 164 L.Ed.2d 589, 547 U.S. 332 (2006). So the Left cannot block Trump’s plans by suing as taxpayers. (The only exceptions involve use of funds to establish a religion or local government taxpayers.)
To bring a lawsuit, one must show that they are tangibly harmed, personally, not just in disagreement with a policy. If Trump uses some of the $700 billion in the omnibus bill to build a border wall, everyone will be more safe. How is anyone harmed?”
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.
“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