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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Paying the Barbary Pirates

Back when the USA was a new country, ships flying the American flag were frequently attacked by a group called the "Barbary Pirates".  These pirates were home-based along the Barbary Coast in what today is Libya.  The pirates routinely stopped and seized ships and their cargoes, and then they held the crews for ransom.  Many countries made arrangements with the pirates so that their ships and crews could be protected from attack, and the subject of such "tribute" as it was called arose in the USA.  In debating the subject, a senator from Maryland came up with the formulation that has been the watch word of the USA ever since (or at least that's what we thought); he said, "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."  In other words, the USA would pay whatever was needed to defend itself, but it would not pay ransom or make payoffs out of fear.  Not long after that debate, the US Marines landed in Tripoli and attacked the Barbary Pirates and their attacks on American shipping came to an end.  (That's where the "shores of Tripoli" comes from in the Marine Hymn.)

Today we learned that president Obama abandoned that time honored strategy.  He had the USA pay a $400 million ransom to Iran for the release of the four hostages that Iran was holding at the time of the nuclear deal.  Even worse, Obama hid both the fact of the ransom payment and its amount from the American people and from Congress.  It's a disgrace.  It's also extremely foolish; it won't end Iran's misconduct to pay it off this way.  Indeed, since the payment, Iran has just arrested other Americans so that it has hostages to replace those who were released.

Obama is truly a disgrace.

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