Ask most people what the longest war the United States has ever fought and you will most likely get Afghanistan as the answer. The only problem with this answer is it only states the most recent battle of the longest of wars in which the United States has been engaged. The truth is that the war the United States has been fighting in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq are but battles in a generational contest in which the first shots were fired in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean off of Northern Africa even before General George Washington accepted the final surrender from British General Cornwallis after the battle of Yorktown. The United States was founded already in a state of war which eventually would become known as the War with the Barbary Pirates. After two separate campaigns the Barbary Pirates were forced into signing a treaty ending their attacks and kidnappings on United States merchant vessels. This signaled an end to aggressions as far as the United States was concerned, but not so for their adversaries who simply had made a Hudna, a temporary end to a conflict taken by Muslim forces and nations when their enemy is more powerful than themselves. A Hudna differs in one significant manner from an actual peace treaty, it is a temporary form of a truce which is intended to be broken whenever the Muslims believe they have gained the advantage and are able to defeat their enemy.
This war of which this writing refers had its beginning in the city of Medina with the rise of Mohammad as the leader of a tribe who made up the first Muslim Army. Once gaining a strong and able army, Mohammad wrote a whole new set of rules and laws for the religion he was founding. No longer was it necessary to honor other religions or people as had been the case in Mecca where the first parts of the Quran was written. In Medina the Quran spoke of mutual respect and honoring the rights of those who were different. Such was no longer necessary and the sections of the Quran written in Medina spoke of the supremacy of Islam and the requirement to spread Islam until it becomes the only religion on Earth. These two separate faces of Islam has come to serve the Muslims well as it allows them to coexist in peace when their numbers are small and they are the strangers in a new land and to impose their religion once their numbers have reached a critical level. This war which was first declared in Medina with Mohammad and his rise to lead and eventually rule in Medina and set in the Quran the ideology that Islam must become the sole and supreme religion on Earth. Even with the death of Muhammad in 632AD this aim of spreading Islam throughout the world has never died. This long war has lasted emerging out of the Arabian peninsula continuing through the Crusades, the wars between Muslims and the Hindus in India and in modern times between Pakistan and India, the many permutation of the Arab-Israeli war, the Balkans conflict over Kosova, the Chechen conflict with the Russians, and even the current Shiite-Sunni conflict which is an intrinsic part of the Civil War in Syria among other conflicts throughout Islamic history.
The actual beginning of hostilities between the Barbary Pirates and the United States was initiated by President Thomas Jefferson despite his strong aversion to engaging in foreign conflicts, treaties or alliances. Thomas Jefferson’s initial contact with Islamic culture came in the company of John Adams when they were the ambassadors to France and Britain respectively when they met the ambassador from Tripoli and inquired as to why his countrymen were attacking American merchant ships and abducting their sailors. The ambassador answered honestly and simply responding, “That’s what we do. We are commanded to do so by Allah. 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 Mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to Paradise.” When Jefferson became President he decided that paying the Jizya to the rulers in Tripoli who were demanding more tribute every year had become overly expensive and endangered the future of the United States. President Jefferson stopped making the payments which resulted in a first of two wars between the Barbary Pirates and the United States. Where there was eventually a treaty ending that war, the Barbary Pirates once again returned to attacking merchants of the United States resulting in a second Barbary War.
Whether the current hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9-11 are actually a continuation of the Wars with the Barbary Pirates would be a stretch, the underlying rationalizations and justifications which led to those conflicts are attributable to the Quran. Don’t believe this article, simply take the words from the al-Qaeda Fatwa issued three years before the attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City which stated, “We — with God’s help — call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it. We also call on Muslim Ulama, leaders, youths, and soldiers to launch the raid on Satan’s U.S. troops and the devil’s supporters allying with them, and to displace those who are behind them so that they may learn a lesson.” The supposed original sin committed by the United States and their allies was their response to requests by the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia who requested aid as they felt directly threatened by Saddam Hussein when he attacked and overran Kuwait in August 1990. The United States entered Saudi Arabia in order to defend a Muslim nation from the seeming imminent invasion from a dictatorial expansionist lunatic. For risking the lives and paying a terrible cost in both personnel’s lives, equipment, and funds in efforts to protect a Muslim nation, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda declared a holy war against the United States which led directly to the death of nearly three thousand Americans on September 11, 2001 to which the casualties in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the numerous terrorist attacks since all originating in that initial fatwa. The honestly saddest reality of this is the numbers of casualties and destructive actions are nowhere near reaching an end. How long and the final cost of this longest of wars may not be finished being tallied in our lifetimes, and that is truly the most regrettable of truths.
Beyond the Cusp