Some of you may be tired of my oft stated opinion that when you ignore history, it is sure to repeat itself. Well, it is happening again. The first major crisis faced by this nation following the two wars for independence was a battle with African pirates. The first time, they were operating along the Northern cost of Africa in the Mediterranean Sea.

Of course, the pirates had been there for a long time by then. They were seizing European shipping and taking white, Christian men captive and selling them into slavery. All victim nations, including the U.S. in the later period, were paying the pirates to not attack their ships. But the attacks continued.

The first major construction project of the new U.S. Navy was a fleet of warships to fight the pirates. Even that did not curtail the criminal action until the U.S. Marines landed at Tripoli and overran the pirates’ fortifications.

Another part of this story is the same. The pirates were justifying their actions by quoting the Koran, the Bible of radical Muslims.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams asked Tripoli’s envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, how the Muslims justified making 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 Muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.”

Does that sound familiar to you: radical Muslims today are making the same argument. And it will take the same kind of effort to put an end to the crimes against all nations currently occurring in the Somali area. Just as it happened over 200 years ago, paying the pirates will only increase their activities. Only by destroying their ability to commit their crimes will the crimes stop.

The U.S. Navy, with help from a number of European nations, seized the pirates’ ships 200 years ago, and the U.S. Marines went ashore and eliminated their base of operations. That was the only way to stop the criminals from their raids on international shipping then, and it is the only way to do it today.

The immediate answer is to designate shipping lanes in the pirates’ area of operation. Require any ship using those lanes to register with a responsible international agency listing their ports of origin, destination, direction of travel and the dates they will be using the lanes. Then make it clear that any unregistered ship of any size entering the designated shipping lanes will be seized or destroyed. The combined maritime nations ought to have enough ships, helicopters, drones, radar and other equipment to enforce that rule.

Then send U.S. Marines and the special forces of other nations to raid the pirates’ bases of operations on the mainland, freeing the ships and hostages currently being held and destroying their bases of operations.

These people are driven by criminal religious teachings. They will not willingly stop their crimes. The only answer is to stop them by force.

Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is His website can be accessed at

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