In a recent article prompted by his reading of Joshua London’s Victory in Tripoli, Andrew Bostom, who compiled The Legacy of Jihad, adduces from London’s text a number of telling descriptions of Islam and of Muslims by some of the most important figures in American history. Two of them were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, in 1786 ambassadors (Jefferson in Paris, Adams in London) from the newly-established American Republic still under the Articles of Confederation (the Treaty of Paris had been signed in 1783, the Constitution was ratified only in 1787). They had a meeting with the representative of Tripolitania (present-day Libya) then in Great Britain, Sidi Haji Rahmand Adja. Like other Christian maritime powers, the American state had suffered from the state-piracy of Muslim corsairs. The word “piracy” implies mere seeking at random for booty, and is inadequate to describe the formal system by which Muslim corsairs had for centuries been making war on Christian shipping, with the foreknowledge (indeed, often registering in advance either the places their ships would be going, or what Infidel shipping they intended to attack) and support of the Muslim rulers of the North African states -- which, in turn, were ostensibly under the control of the Ottoman rulers in Istanbul.
Both Jefferson and Adams were learned men. Take a tour in Quincy or at Monticello and look at their libraries, and then imagine the reading material that sustains the current, or the last few, American presidents. But they had no reason to know about Islam. They were interested in the civilization of the West, to which they belonged. Islam was merely a disturbing and violent intruder, to south and east, of that West. The notion that someday Muslims in the Western world would be insisting that the Western world owed so much to Islam, that the Renaissance was practically a Muslim invention, that without Islam the great civilization of the Western world was unthinkable, would have been regarded by them as what it is: absurdity, from first to last, a travesty of history.But did they know much about what prompted Muslim behavior? No. So they asked why the Barbary states (present-day Morocco, Algerian, Tunisia, and Libya) would continually attack American and all other Infidel shipping, seize the cargoes and the sailors, taking both back to Islamic lands and enslaving those Christian seamen who sometimes could be ransomed, sometimes not. So they asked the ambassador, Mr. Adja, why the Muslims of the Maghrib, the “Barbary pirates” as they were known in the West, did as they did. He had no trouble answering them, as the report written by Jefferson and Adams to the Continental Congress shows:
“…that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”Nothing surprising here to any contemporary Muslim, though many will wish that Americans will never read that paragraph above, especially since it was written by two of the Founders, two of the Framers of that Constitution which is so flatly contradicted by the principles and Holy Law of Islam. It is easy to denounce this or that truth-teller about Islam today, but not quite so easy for Muslims to denounce or attempt to belittle a report written by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
Bostom also quotes London quoting William Eaton, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, who later became the U.S. consul in Tunis, and who in 1799 reported on his meeting with the Dey of Algiers, Bobba Mustafa:“…we took off our shoes and entering the cave (for so it seemed), with small apertures of light with iron gates, we were shown to a huge shaggy beast, sitting on his rump upon a low bench covered with a cushion of embroidered velvet, with his hind legs gathered up like a tailor, or a bear. On our approach to him, he reached out his forepaw as if to receive something to eat. Our guide exclaimed, “Kiss the Dey’s hand!” The consul general bowed very elegantly, and kissed it, and we followed his example in succession. The animal seemed at that moment to be in a harmless mode; he grinned several times, but made very little noise. Having performed this ceremony, and standing a few moments in silent agony, we had leave to take our shoes and other property, and leave the den without any other injury than the humility of being obliged in this involuntary manner, to violate the second commandment of God and offend common decency. Can any man believe that this elevated brute has seven kings of Europe, two republics, and a continent tributary to him when his whole naval force is not equal to two line-of-battle ships? It is so.”Not exactly one of those Western ambassadors – a John C. West or James Akins or an Andrew Kilgore or a Eugene Bird – full of salaam-aleikum lecca-leccas for their Arab counterparts. No, it was a no-nonsense early American, sure of himself, and equally sure that he could recognize a comical primitive when he saw one – and saw no need to pull any rhetorical punches. One wonders how many today would report back in a similar fashion on the absurdities, say, of Arafat and company, or the pretensions of the ludicrous Arab regimes and Arab-League officials who have been allowed to believe in their own significance and importance, when their only significance and importance is that supplied by an accident of geology and the complete failure of even these recipients of the largest unearned wealth in history to create modern polities and modern economies. The fact that these regimes remain morally and intellectually paralyzed should show those who, in the Western world, ought to know a little something about what makes the West the West, just a little something about what the civilizational fruits of Islam are – or rather, about the absence of those civilizational fruits.
In his review-article Bostom also spatchcocked on, from a period later than that of the Barbary Pirates episode in American geopolitical life, a piercing, no-nonsense quote from John Quincy Adams, writing in about 1829 after his retirement from public life:“….he [Muhammad] declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind…The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God…the faithful follower of the prophet may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.”The “command” to Believers to engage in “perpetual war” -- performed “alike by fraud or by force” – against the Infidels, the Unbelievers, was no secret to the well-traveled (St. Petersburg, among other places he was stationed) and well-read John Quincy Adams. In a previous article Bostom had quoted John Quincy Adams comparing the essence of Christian doctrine with the essence of Islam.This was John Quincy Adams on Christianity:“And he [Jesus] declared, that the enjoyment of felicity in the world hereafter, would be reward of the practice of benevolence here. His whole law was resolvable into the precept of love; peace on earth – good will toward man…On the Christian system of morals, man is an immortal spirit, confined for a short space of time, in an earthly tabernacle. Kindness to his fellow mortals embraces the whole compass of his duties upon earth, and the whole promise of happiness to his spirit hereafter. THE ESSENCE OF THIS DOCTRINE IS, TO EXALT THE SPIRITUAL OVER THE BRUTAL PART OF HIS NATURE [Capitals in original].”And this was John Quincy Adams on Islam:“Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST; TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE (Capitals in original)...Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. The war is yet flagrant...While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men.”And Adams concluded:“As the essential principle of his [Muhammad’s] faith is the subjugation of others by the sword; it is only by force, that his false doctrines can be dispelled, and his power annihilated.”As one reads and ponders these remarks by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and John Quincy Adams, one is struck by the self-assurance that they represent civilization, and that Islam and its representatives did not, and it would have been ludicrous to pretend otherwise. Islam did not change between 1786 or 1805 or 1830 and today. The doctrine of Jihad did not change. The Qur’an was not a different Qur’an; the Hadith were not differently ranked from the way muhaddithin had ranked them, according to various levels of authenticity, nearly a thousand years before. If anything, the forces of Islam were far weaker then, and far less able, therefore, to conduct Jihad. The only instrument available was military, and in military matters the Muslims were hopelessly surpassed by the technology of a much more advanced civilization – more advanced in every possible way. So what happened? How is it that today no Western leader can bring himself to write about Islam as Jefferson, Adams, John Quincy Adams, or even in modern times, as Churchill did in The River War?
What happened are any number of things, beginning with an entirely different class of rulers. What a falling-off, intellectually, there has been since the days of the Founders and the Framers. The self-assurance and leisure necessary to learn about things, the absence of breathless, round-the-clock news, the fantastic piling-up of duties so that no leader can conceivably read, and take in, once he has risen to the top, the very things he most needs to know -- all this has contributed to that falling off. And right now, of course, the thing that leaders and elites all over the Western world most need to know is all about Islam, its tenets, its history of Jihad-conquest, its subjugation of all conquered non-Muslims, and its recommended instruments of Jihad that go far beyond either “terror” or even military means. This conquest is promoted now in Western Europe mainly by demographics -- the numbers of Muslims multiplying at a rate far faster than that of the indigenous Infidels -- and Da’wa. That Da’wa is targeted at prisoners, and at others who are economically and psychically marginal, and inclined to embrace a belief-system that can be viewed as a vehicle of protest against “the System,” and also supplies, for those who need it, a Complete Regulation of Life and Total Explanation of the Universe. There are plenty of weak-minded people around, their numbers increased by the sometimes intolerable stress and stupidity of frantic getting and spending, or not getting, and not spending.
What happened? Why could Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and John Quincy Adams and so many others in American history have understood Islam, and also understood that there was no possibility of, and no need to even attempt, to “win hearts and minds” of Muslims, but rather to obtain their cooperation, to force changes in their behavior? The latter is a very different thing from winning hearts and minds, and is grounded in the reality of what Islam teaches its adherents to believe. When Theodore Roosevelt demanded from a Moroccan bandit chief the return of Ion Perdicaris (who at the time was not even an American citizen, though few paid attention to that -- he did have a long American connection) with that famous phrase about “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead,” he too understood that dealing with such people required that kind of attitude.
Jefferson and Adams and Quincy Adams read. They thought. They studied. They learned things directly. They did not have staffs that attempted to supply their every mental need by supplying little 1- or 3- or 5-page summaries of information, offered up in bite-size bullets that were not even sentences. They were well-traveled. They all had the habit of study and of thought, and would not have wasted the kind of time that our leaders, in and out of office, waste on meetings, and meet-and-greet sessions, and smiles, and wiles, and all the intolerable nonsense that modern political life requires of those who can endure it, and that often drives away the best people because, in the end, they cannot.
Just imagine that in the previous administration, one of the “experts” called on for his “expertise” on Islam was that supreme and sinister apologist, John Esposito. Jefferson, Adams, and Quincy Adams would have seen through him in a moment’s time. When they were writing, they were not worried about “offending” Muslims. They could afford to speak the truth. But so could Western leaders today, if only they would begin to do it. The Muslims have very little hold over us. Yes, they have oil. And they desperately need to sell that oil. And they are terrified that the West could begin to find other sources of energy, or that the West could begin to tax oil use themselves in ways that would dampen demand. And the Arabs and other Muslims do not “have the Gatling-gun” and militarily could be laid waste overnight. They have money with which to buy influence, but if all over the Western world those on the take were relentlessly exposed, ridiculed, held up for inspection (and that would include a good many ex-diplomats, journalists, academics and others), then that army of apologists could lose its effectiveness. There is no “oil weapon” and never was. There is a financial weapon, but it is in Western and chiefly American hands. What would the rich Arabs do if the Western world decided to seize their property in the West as the assets of enemy aliens, just as was done to the property owned not only by the German government, but by individual Germans, during World War II? And what would they do if they were to be permanently deprived of easy access to Western medical care? (How would you feel if someone threatened to deprive you of the possibility of seeing your Western doctors or being treated in a Western hospital? That might get your attention.) What would they do if they were deprived of access to Western education (for their children, especially), or if they lost any chance of moving to the West? What would they do if they began to see a relentless campaign to remove, as a security threat, Muslims from within Dar al-Harb, where they have been allowed to settle, through negligence, by the tens of millions?
What has happened is not merely a kind of cretinising of our political class, but also a laziness. This can be seen from those who are not in the executive branch, and who could, if they chose, study the contents of Islam, learn about Jihad and about the dhimmi, and never be fooled again. But do you know of any Senators and Congressmen who, over the past few years, have decided to study such matters? Do you have the feeling that John Kerry, with no money worries whatsoever and a good deal of time, has been burning the midnight oil reading Robert Spencer, or Bat Ye’or, or Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim, so that he won’t and can’t be fooled? Do you think any of the Democrats, so critical -- for all the wrong reasons -- of the war in Iraq, will ever be able to criticize the war for the right reasons, as has been done here for more than two years?
Sometimes it is fun to imagine a figure from the past suddenly coming to life. I have always imagined John Keats suddenly appearing, and my taking him to Macdonald’s, and trying to explain it to him. Imagine Jefferson and Adams coming to life. Imagine what they would make of all kinds of things, but imagine in particular what they would make of people all over the Western world who had now allowed, within their midst, millions of people who, as a matter of belief, were taught to hate those people among whom they lived, and to work to destroy those Infidel institutions, laws, customs, manners, until Islam dominated and some form of the Holy Law of Islam could be established? What would they make of this? What would they make of the $400 billion in sunk costs spent or committed in the near-term to the war in Iraq, as we try to create out of three separate groups of Muslims a nation-state that supposedly will serve as a “model” for other Arab Muslims, a kind of Light Unto the Muslim Nations? They would rub their eyes in disbelief. They would wonder – how did this happen to the country they helped to found and nurture? Where did things go wrong? And then they would have questions. “What’s a speechwriter?” “You mean, you actually have someone else write words you present as your own, fashion your thoughts, express what should be your views?” “And what are ‘bullets’ used in these pages of Daily Briefings?” “And what is a ‘Daily Briefing’”?
They would be quite capable today, as they were in their own day, of reading and finding out about Islam – through books and through the evidence of their senses. They didn’t have CNN, Fox, spy satellites, and an army of CIA agents. But they knew what Islam was all about. It is we, with all that paraphernalia, seeking complexity when things are perhaps too obvious, too worrisomely simple for many to wish to grasp the matter, who are the innocent ones. It is Jefferson and Adams and Quincy Adams and many others, right up to Churchill, who had an unobnubilated grasp of Islam and of Muslims. They were not distracted. They were not charmed by a Saudi oil minister, or by someone at the “Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.” They had the leisure to read, to think, and even to ponder, slowly, what it was they read, and make it their own. The hectic vacancy of official Washington is scandalous -- especially when one rises to the very top and learns only from those briefest of briefings, and even that only when it is too late, or treated as if it is too late, or perhaps beneath the dignity of the highest officials (“As for study, we’ll let our valets do that for us”).
And this is how it has become nearly impossible to get their attention, to get them to start making sense.