"The disposition of all power is to abuses, nor does it at all mend the matter that its possessors are a majority. Unrestrained political authority, though it be confided to masses, cannot be trusted without positive limitations, men in bodies being but an aggregation of the passions, weaknesses and interests of men as individuals." ~ James Fenimore Cooper
Christopher Hitchens, the British immigrant, Vanity Fair columnist and convert to the neocon cult, has published a short biography of Thomas Jefferson as part of HarperCollins's 'Eminent Lives' series. Hitchens, who apparently sniffed the changing aroma and the whiff of fascism in the air in America in the late nineties, adroitly begin his migration into the neocon fold with a book savaging Bill Clinton, always a reliable front for mesmerizing the deluded Reich-wing herds. By choosing Clinton as an enemy, Hitchens, the atheist and Marxist, gained acceptance among the brain-dead mainstream conservative movement, officially pledged to the Bible, God and the Cold War Military-Industrial Complex. In Hitchenized history, Jefferson was a Bush-like figure, smiting Arabs and raining holy, righteous fire down upon those dirty Muslims in a secularized crusade for 'civilization' whose fury and contempt for life is equaled only by their Jihadist opponents. To hear Hitchens tell it, in response to the depredations and kidnappings of Americans by the Barbary Pirates, which Hitchens likens to 'terrorism,' President Thomas Jefferson, sailing upon a heavenly cloud and dispatching his mighty American men to exterminate all Muslim life in the offending lands, was the epitome of modern presidents as the embodiment of the national security, centralized garrison state. Unfortunately for Hitchens, Jefferson was no fascist militarist like the current president. Writing in Time magazine, Hitchens described this 'war' as prefiguring 'later struggles with both terrorism and jihad.' As is typical of neocons, whether of the neocon Left (like Hitchens, Hillary Clinton, or The New Republic magazine) or the neoconned Right, they get the history wrong. And in the process, they rewrite American history and destroy the true principles of America that they so shamefully corrupt and ignore in their self-proclaimed defense of human civilization. Jefferson did not set out to reform through violence the religion of Islam or install 'regime change' in Northern Africa, nor to liberate the wretched condition of women or the enslaved masses suffering under the oppression of Arab tyrants ' all alleged goals of the fascists among the current American political classes (not to mention oil, Israel and empire). The Barbary Coast, stretching 1,500 miles from the Straits of Gibraltar to Libya, contained the slave states of Algiers, Tunis and Libya, the governors of which were appointed by the Ottoman Sultan and which specialized in kidnapping, hostage taking, slavery and ransom. Over the course of three centuries, these Barbary Pirates regularly raided the coasts of Italy, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, even traveling as far as Ireland and England to capture slaves, and raided ships throughout the Mediterranean, including trading ships of American citizens. At one time, Algiers held over 25,000 white slaves. Seventeen expeditions by Western powers would be sent against the Barbary States, but none succeeded in shutting down the slave raiding, including Hitchens' fevered fantasy of Jefferson's Jihad against the Islamic Peril. Rather than a believer in militarism, Jefferson believed that America needed only a small standing army of about 3,000 men (backed up by the hundreds of thousands in the citizen militias in every town and city), who would patrol the border for Indian and Spanish incursions, and a small navy to protect maritime commerce from depredations such as those from the Barbary pirates. Jefferson feared the Federalists wanted to wage war to strengthen the federal regime against the decentralization among the States, increase the debt (to the benefit of bondholders), raise taxes to pay this debt to the bankers, and ensure places for themselves in power. Jefferson, contrary to the stupid "wisdom" of today's "conservatives" who cloud their militarism under the nonsense that 'a strong defense begins with a strong offense' and that 'pacifism causes war' (actually uttered by that vacuous gasbag, Rush Limbaugh), believed, correctly as history shows, that preparing for war to protect the peace actually leads to war. Jefferson doubted this theory, which was based on the notion that the stronger a country (government) is in military power, the less likely that government is to be attacked. He believed that history proved that the more a government prepares for war, the more likely that government was to go to war. Having a powerful military establishment offered a temptation to politicians to plot and scheme where to use that power for their benefit. That has been proven true under the current regime that plotted the conquest of Iraq for years and could only do so because the available military power was primed and ready to use. Jefferson spelled out his beliefs in his first inaugural address, that contrary to the G.I. Joe fantasies uttered by the current president upon his second inauguration, regaling the world with the threat of a permanent Global Jihad for 'Democracy,' Jefferson believed that Americans would be best served by a governmental policy of 'peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none,' and that America was 'kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe.' Jefferson also issued a preemptive warning against what would later become known as the Military-Industrial Complex of our time that 'sound principles will not justify our taxing the industry of our fellow citizens to accumulate treasure for wars to happen we know not when, and which might not perhaps but from the temptations offered by the treasure.' This danger was also shown in the late 1790s as the Adams administration schemed to ally with Britain against Jacobin France and began to build up a navy to take the war to the high seas alongside the British Empire. The accepted custom to deal with the demands of the Barbary pirates to return captives and cease molesting shipping was to pay their demands for money, arms and ships. The Washington and Adams administrations continued this custom, signing agreements with the Beys of Algiers in 1795, Tripoli in 1796, and Libya in 1797. Over the course of ten years, the federal government had paid out $2 million to these pirates to ransom captured American sailors and merchants. Once Jefferson took office, the demand for tribute was increased as the price for American shipping to use the Mediterranean. Faced with a deadline, Jefferson allowed it to expire, uttering the famous phrase 'Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.' In 1801, Jefferson sent three frigates and an armed schooner to force adherence to the treaty of 1796. Chasing off two Barbary ships and capturing another, the American ships moved to blockade the harbor of Tripoli. Every year Jefferson sent ships to the Mediterranean, until by 1805 nearly the entire US Navy was off the coast escorting American trading ships and blockading the harbor of Tripoli in 1801 and again in 1803-1805 and bombarding Tripoli five times between August and September, 1804. A mixed force of Americans, Greeks and Arabs crossed from Egypt to capture the desert town of Derbe (giving rise to the famous rant of the U.S. Marines). Hearing this and fearing further naval bombardments, the ruler of Tripoli agreed to sign a treaty abolishing annual payments and freed captive Americans. Jefferson would continue to pay tribute to other Barbary States to the end of his second term, and his successor, James Madison, would still be paying tribute up until 1816. In 1816, the British warship HMS Queen Charlotte, at the head of a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet, poured 500 tons of munitions into the town of Algiers, obliterating the Algerine navy and damaging or destroying every building in town and killing an estimated 5,000 - 8,000 citizens and soldiers. In response to this early Fallujah moment, the Bey surrendered all the slaves he had (1,642), promised never to enslave Christians again, and handed over 382,500 Austrian thalers, in sacks of 1,000 each, which amounted to over a '1 million. But even this did not stop the predations of these pirates in the Mediterranean, who would finally be defeated when France invaded and conquered Algeria and North Africa, sharing with Britain the policing of the Mediterranean, leading to endless colonial wars in Africa. Contrary to Hitchens' attempt to redesign Jefferson as an early neocon and a precursor to George W. Bush, Jefferson was an actual thinker, not given to clich's. Instead of acting to export American civilization to all the peoples of the Earth, Jefferson was more likely motivated by revulsion at the demand that Americans pay for the privilege of not being robbed and that these demands were an obstacle to genuine free trade. By combating Arab and Muslim kidnappers and pirates, Jefferson was engaged in preserving the freedom to trade. George W. Bush, by invading two Muslim countries and murdering 100,000 civilians, is engaged in a war for empire, for oil, for Israel and for popularity. George W. Bush is no Thomas Jefferson. Sources: * Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom. Ed. By John V. Denson. * The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815 ' 1830, by Paul Johnson.