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Thursday, July 31, 2014

America's First War in the Middle East

The first war the US fought in the Middle East was in 1801. This was also the first time the US sent its military overseas. The enemy were pirates based in Tripoli, in what is now Libya. It began when the pirates began attacking US ships and taking the crews hostage. They did this because the US government refused to pay tribute for safe passage. At the time, every other nation, including powerful ones like Britain and France, was paying tribute to these pirates.

US ships sailed to Tripoli and bombarded the city. During this time, one ship ran aground and was captured. It was later burned in a commando raid by US marines to prevent the pirates from using it. This raid is the origin of the words "to the shores of Tripoli" in the US Marine Corps hymn.

After this incident, the US government began a long series of negotiations with the pirate government, led by a man named Yusuf Karamanli. He was a Pasha or military governor of the Islamic Ottoman Empire which controlled the area. At the same time, an American army officer and diplomat named William Eaton worked to overthrow Yusuf. Yusuf had gained power by overthrowing his brother Hamet. Eaton's plan was to help Hamet regain the throne and then Hamet would release the American hostages and sign a treaty with the US.

Eaton and Hamet raised an army and marched on Derna, Yusuf's capital city. With help from the US navy, they captured the city after a bloody battle and forced Yusuf to flee. A few months later, the US government announced that it had signed a treaty with Yusuf which freed the US hostages in exchange for a large ransom. Eaton was recalled and Hamet was forced into exile again. Eaton drank himself to an early death out of bitterness at the outcome.

But on a positive note, the war made a strong impact on public memory, and the US never again waged a fruitless war in the Middle East.


1 comment:

Kizone Kaprow said...

14,202 page views...
5 comments.
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