American Hostage in Africa

Theodore Roosevelt (1904) English: President o...

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Well, our hostages, including Sam LaHood, are apparently coming home. Reports I’ve seen say that we paid about $500,000 ransom for each of them. If you remember it took Ronald Reagan about 5 minutes to clean up Jimmy Carter‘s mess in Iran. That’s what leadership can do. But I suppose Obama didn’t want to wait for a Republican President to clean up his mess so he thought it better to pay the ransom and hope the electorate will forget by the election. Given his leadership, if he wants any chance at reelection it’s probably a good call.

But let’s remember another American held hostage in Africa, this one in Morocco. Ion Perdicarus was kidnapped by a anti-government guy by the name of Rasuli along with his stepson and held hostage to force the ruler of Morocco to give him the 2 richest provinces and $70,000. Perdicaris was an influential guy, too. He was the leader of the expatriate community in Tunis and his father had been the American Consul in Greece.

The American President‘s secretary denounced the ransom demand as preposterous. One would expect it to go downhill from here particularly as the American President was a Progressive. But this Progressive was different, for he was none other than Theodore Roosevelt. He was angered by the whole thing. Instead of paying the ransom, he dispatched no less than seven warships under the command of Admiral French Ensor Chadwick as well as several companies of Marines. That was pretty much the whole Atlantic Squadron. Basically nobody had any idea of how they were going to do anything about it but, Washington had reserved any operational orders to itself, anyway. This went on for a while, and it was an election year and TR was having a lot of trouble getting the Republicans excited about electing him.

Finally, a telex went out to the US Consul in Tunis, and that Presidents secretary we mentioned before, an elderly gentleman named John Hay whose first Washington job had been as Lincoln’s assistant private secretary, saw fit to send a shortened cable to the Republican Convention, which was in session, in Chicago. It read. “This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.”

According to witnesses, this assured TR’s election (in his own right, he succeeded William McKinley when McKinley was assassinated.) In fact the reaction in Chicago was electric. the Convention, which had been lukewarm towards Roosevelt up until then, went wild at this remark. One Kansas delegate exclaimed, “Roosevelt and Hay know what they’re doing. Our people like courage. We’ll stand for anything those men do.”

Perdicardis was eventually released when the demands were sort of met by the Sultan.

When Perdicardis returned to Tunis and saw the American Squadron in the Harbor, he is reported to have said,

 Thank Heaven, it is that flag, and that people–aye, and that President, behind those frigates, thousands of miles away, who have had me dug out from amongst these Kabyles! That flag and no other!”

The kicker to the story is that Perdicardis had renounced his American citizenship during the Civil War to keep the Confederacy from seizing his property in South Carolina.

But still, this is an exemplary example of how a President should handle a hostage crisis.

On a somewhat related Note:

Have you seen Act of Valor yet? I haven’t but am looking forward to it with a lot of anticipation. In reading over at Command Performance I became aware that the movie ends with a poem. This is it:

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion;
respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.

Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled
with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep
and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

Just in case you didn’t know, it was written by one of the great American leaders: The Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh


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5 Responses to American Hostage in Africa

  1. Act of Valor was a wonderful experience! Thanks for posting this poem. I started looking for it and got sidetracked! lol

    On another note, may I ask you how you got this facebook widget ? I can’t seem to get it to work! lol


    • Consider the thanks passed to Dale (that’s his 5 star Gravatar) and the Williamsburg Military Insider, that he linked to.

      As to the facebook widget, it’s the standard one. Weirdly it comes and goes here, right now it’s blank.


  2. Freedom, by the way says:

    Yeah, it’s a shame we didn’t have any troops or warships in the area of the middle east to act as a threat. (Havey sacrcasm). Those that would do the US harm are constantly prodding us now to see how much they can get away with. Obama is weak. He has got to go.
    I haven’t seen Act of Valor, yet, but its on my to-do list.


    • And that was my somewhat veiled point.


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