The Handmaid’s Tale?

It’s apparently a thing where people are panicking over The Handmaid’s Tale and saying how “relevant” it is and “we’re living it now.”

What an utter piece of crap.

The whole thing is based on two, and exactly two points:

  • Some folk think abortion is morally wrong and should, at best, only be allowed in extreme circumstances (with considerable disagreement on what extreme circumstances would qualify)
  • People should not be forced to pay for other people’s birth control.

Really.  That’s it.

Nobody is suggesting that women should not be allowed to work.  Nobody is suggesting that women should not be allowed to own property.  Nobody is suggesting that women should not be allowed to read (a feature of The Handmaid’s Tale).

You might find a few fanatics who would want to actually prohibit birth control or criminalize sex outside of very narrow bounds (and, again, quite a bit of variation where those bounds are, usually “within marriage” but sometimes with further strictures within).  You’ll find more people who think those things are wrong but few of those people actually want to criminalize them.  I know.  I know.  It’s a strange idea to disagree with something, to think it’s morally wrong, and yet be willing to let other people do it anyway if that’s their choice.

It’s called “Freedom”.  It’s a provocative concept, I know.

But there’s a flip side.  It’s called “Responsibility.” It’s up to you to take care of your own wishes in that side.  If you want to have sex without risking pregnancy, then it’s up to you to provide your own birth control.  It’s up to you to ensure that you’re not bringing children into the world that you cannot provide for.  It’s not like birth control is expensive.  Even the expensive birth control pills are on the order of two McDonald’s meals per week in price or less than one daily Cafe Latte (Tall) at Starbucks.  The cheap ones are like one McDonald’s meal a month.  Then there are plenty of places that hand out free condoms. (Hint:  unless you’re in a committed monogamous relationship and can trust that your partner is also monogamous, then use a condom.  It’s safer that way.) And they do it with private money.

You’re not going to lose your birth control.  You may have to make some choices if you want it, but you’re not going to lose it.  Those choices?  That’s part of that “responsibility” thing.

But if you must worry about something, consider the following scenario:

  • All women must have a male guardian and they need the guardian’s permission for
    • Marriage and divorce
    • Travel (if under 45)
    • Education
    • Employment
    • Opening a bank account
    • Elective surgery
  • Special police to ensure that women are properly covered (everything except hands and eyes)
  • Women forbidden to drive cars
  • Women must have a man to swear for them in a court of law
  • Must have guardian’s explicit permission to work outside the home.

Sound like what you think Conservatives want for women in the US?  Well, actually, it’s what women face today in Saudi Arabia. And yet, the UN just elected Saudi Arabia to the Women’s Rights Council.

If you’re worried about The Handmaid’s Tale becoming reality, then rather than building illusionary fantasies about the Republican Party, you might want to take a look there.  It would seem a more productive approach.


Coming Soon: Oruk means Hard Work

After a long march through the day the orcs put Elara, young princess of the Elves and now their captive, in one of the tents, tied hand and foot, where she drifted between fitful sleep and groggy waking.  In the morning they fed her again, more meat and some kind of spongy bread, took her out to relieve herself and left her under the guard of one of the shorter orcs while they struck the camp.

Finally they struck camp, packed the tents and ropes away and extinguished the last coals of the fire.

“Azg!” the orc guarding Elara said.

“Azg, yourself,” she said looking up at the orc.

The orc grasped her shoulder and pushed. “Azg.” He pulled at rope that poked from his pack. “Azg shek tak gorug shet.”

“I don’t understand you!  I don’t speak orc!”

The orc stared at her for a moment then walked a few steps. “Azg.” He pointed at her. “Azg.”

Tears welled up in Elara’s eyes. “I don’t want to ‘azg.’ I want to go home.  Can’t you let me go home?”

The orc waited while she cried, terrible in his patience then pointed at her once more. “Azg.”

Sniffling, the last of her hope  dying within her, Elara walked.

For three days they walked, each night’s stop being a repeat of the first.  On the fourth day, before the sun had reached its zenith, they reached a narrow sinkhole.  At the rim of the sinkhole iron spikes protruded from the rock.  To these the orcs tied ropes, the free ends of which they dropped into the dark.

Elara barely had time to scream as one of the orcs wrapped a hairy arm her around her waist, grabbed one of the ropes, and leapt into the darkness.  Her breath caught in her throat as they fell, stifling her scream.  The rope hissed and smoked as it slipped through the orc’s hand.  She kept expecting him to let go of the rope and the two of them to plunge to their deaths but their descent slowed.  By the light of the dwindling circle of sky above them Elara could see the orcs descending other ropes.

A yelp burst from Elara’s throat when the orc carrying her hit bottom with a painful thump.  He released her and Elara sat on the damp stone floor and moaned.  It was dark. The only light came from the sinkhole far above them.  She could see that they were in a cavern but its size was lost in the murk.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked. “Are you going to kill me?”

The orc bared his teeth and pointed. “Azg.”

Tears running down her cheeks, Elara got up and tried to walk in the direction the orc had indicated.  She had not gone three steps before her foot caught in a rock unseen in the gloom and she fell, bruising her cheek painfully since her hands were still tied.

The orc grunted and grabbed her arm with a calloused hand, a hand still hot from the descent down the rope, and pulled her to her feet.  She could then feel his hands working at her wrists.  Shortly, the ropes around them fell free.  The orc stood back and pointed again, “Azg.”

Untied now, Elara could possibly run, but where could she go?  “Azg,” she said and walked in the direction the orc had pointed.


A tunnel led from the large entrance cavern.  Elara stumbled along in the dark guided by the orc’s hand on her shoulder.

As she walked, she began to see deeper shadows in the gloom, then more detail.  There was light in the cave, not much but enough to see.  Streaks of soft light glowed from the walls and ceiling of the cave.

The orc removed his hand and simply pointed the way.  When the cave branched the orc said nothing, simply grunted and pointed.  Mutely, Elara followed his directions.

A brighter light marked an opening ahead of them.  As they approached, Elara could see that the light came from fires in a larger cavern.  Many small tents dotted the cavern floor, each with a small fire before it.

The orc directed Elara to the center of the cavern where a smooth area formed the floor.  A larger fire burned in a pit in the center of this floor.

When they reached the fire, the orc took Elara’s wrist and lifted her hand high over her head. “Arnak te gimbtul!” he shouted.

Other orcs, tending cooking fires and other tasks looked up at that.

“Arnak te gimbtul!”

The other orcs started to gather around the fire. “Arnak te gimbtul.”

From somewhere several orcs produced drums and began to beat a complicated rhythm.

Numb with fear, Elara follwed as the orc led her to the fire.  She screamed when the orc drew a long dagger from his belt and held it, point up, in front of her face.

“Arnak te gimbtul” he said, then in a quick stroke, drew the point of the dagger across her palm.  Her hand burned as the dagger carved a bloody furrow across it.

Still holding her firmly by the wrist the orc pulled her hand and held it over the fire so that blood from her hand dripped onto the burning wood.  He held her there for a few seconds then released her hand.

Elara stared at her hand transfixed.  Blood continued to well from the cut and ran down her arm.  Her hand hurt.  It throbbed.  But she was still alive.  They had not killed her, not yet.

The orc knelt in front of her he reached out with one finger and almost gently tapped her in the chest. “Bak te gimtul gem.” He said more then but Elara scarcely heard him.  She did not understand anything that had happened since being taken from her home.  She stared numbly at her captor as another orc placed a folded piece of wet cloth against her hand — a cloth that burned as it touched the cut — and bound it in place with a leather strap.

The orc led her from the fire to one of the larger tents and pointed at a thin blanket and a small pillow.  Nodding, she rolled herself in the blanket.  Lying there, she cried herself to sleep.

That’s it for now.  Look for the novelette soon from Amazon.  In the meantime, you might enjoy some of my other fantasy, including The Hordes of Chanakra

Pulled into an alternate world mired in the middle ages, Kreg finds allies in Kaila, a rough swordmistress, and her wizardly father. He’s also found their foes – an unending horde pouring forth from the small nation next door.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the true source, before everything he cares about ends in fire and death!

Big Blue: A Snippet

Jovan Crncevic swore softly. Next town, he promised himself. Next town he’d get the bus’ radiator fixed. For now he had his sleeves rolled up while he poured water into the radiator.

Flashing blue and white lights drew his attention away from the radiator. He set the water can down and rolled down his sleeves. After wiping his hands on a rag, he adjusted the celluloid collar at his throat. He scowled. The ecclesiastical garb defiled him. But needs must in the Dread Lord’s service.

The crunch of gravel on the shoulder of US Highway 12 heralded the deputy’s approach.

“Afternoon, Padre.”

Crncevic pasted a smile on his face. “Deputy.”

The Deputy looked the length of the bus, an old school bus painted a neutral gray. White lettering spelled out “St. Sebastian’s Cloister” on its side. He peered into the engine compartment. “Trouble?”

Crncevic waved at the engine compartment. “Radiator. If I can just get us to the next town…Roundup, isn’t it?”

The deputy nodded.

“Well, then, I can get it fixed and we can proceed on our way.”

“You’re a bit off the beaten path, aren’t you? What brings you out this way?”

Suspicion, Crncevic wondered, or just curiosity?

“The tsunami, of course.”

The Deputy cocked his head to one side, the question plain on his face.

“We’re on our way to help with the relief effort.” Crncevic waved down the road. “We didn’t want to interfere with the official relief convoys so we stuck to back roads and—” He spread his hands, indicating the stopped bus. Looking up at one of the acolytes looking out the windshield at him, he made an unobtrusive gesture with the fingers of his right hand before dropping his hands to his sides. “—here we are.”

The Deputy nodded and leaned in to take a closer look at the radiator and its overflow tank. “It’s a piece yet to Roundup and you’re still awfully dry. I’ve got a water can in my cruiser. Let’s get you topped up and back on the road.”

“That would be most kind, Deputy.”

While the deputy went back to his cruiser, two of the acolytes, dressed in simple black robes, emerged from the bus. “Eminence?”

Crncevic raised a finger in warning. “Brother Padraic, Brother Simon, is there a problem?”

The acolyte to whom Crncevic had assigned the name Brother Padraic, caught his breath then said, “No, Father. We simply wished to stretch our legs for a bit while we’re stopped.”

“Of course.”

The two walked toward the rear of the bus as the deputy returned with a five gallon can. They nodded amiably as they passed the deputy who nodded in return.

At the front of the bus, the deputy popped the cap on the can and started pouring it into the radiator.

While the water glugged into the radiator, the two acolytes returned.

“How can I thank you, Deputy?” Crncevic said.

“Oh, my pleasure, Father.” The deputy shook the can as the last of the water ran into the radiator. “Glad to help.”

The first genuine smile of the encounter spread across Crncevic’s face. “Oh, you have helped indeed,” he said as the two acolytes stepped up to the open door of the bus, “more than you can possibly imagine.”

As Crncevic’s nod, “Simon” pivoted and pressed a stun gun to the back of the deputy’s neck. As the deputy stiffened and fell, the two grabbed his arms while other acolytes boiled out of the bus.

From within his own clothing, Crncevic removed a ceremonial dagger. He held it out to one of the acolytes.

“Over there,” he said, nodding in the direction of a hollow that would not be visible from the road.

“The Dread Lord rises!” The acolyte whispered as he took the dagger.

“Dash cam,” Crncevic said to another acolyte. He pointed to the police cruiser. “Pull the memory completely. Don’t just erase the file. Then soak everything with gas. We’ll burn it with the deputy when we’re done.

The acolyte nodded.

From the hollow, the deputy’s screams began.

[ Later ]

One swift slash of the knife in the dim glow of a single lamp. Blood sprayed from the severed carotid artery.

“Sh’fath dulakh k’lathna vah. Djebdu methakha vektha K’t’rahl,” the acolytes of the Dread Lord chanted as Crncevic held up a bowl to catch the spurting blood.

The spurting stopped along with the heart of the sacrifice. The flow of blood slowed to a trickle, then a drip. Crncevic turned to face the wall, holding the bowl of blood before him. A fresh-dried coat of whitewash covered the wall. Gouges through the whitewash at each of the corner formed letters in the script of the Old Ones.

The acolytes continued their chant. “Shev’kha ezekhadja tredzkhan’th. Sh’fath dulakh k’lathna…”

Crncevic lifted the bowl high and stepped toward the wall.

The lamp blinked. Crncevic frowned. The lamp continued to blink. Crncevic turned to the acolyte at the front of the group and held out the bowl. “Continue the ritual.”

The acolyte bowed and took the bowl. Crncevic strode to the door of the small room, sparing a glance for the corpses, each with their throats slashed, piled in the corner.

In the hallway outside the room, Crncevic removed the hood and mask that covered his head. He stripped off the polyethylene rain suit and nitrile gloves. A quick glance showed no trace of blood on his priest’s garb.

With a sigh, he opened the door to the stairwell and climbed from the basement where the Order’s work proceeded to the ground floor where their public face waited.

“Father!” another acolyte, who had remained here to tend the lost and wounded that came to them, called as he entered the main foyer of the abandoned building in which they had set up housekeeping, “I was just about to call you.”

Crncevic looked from the acolyte to the two police officers who stood in the doorway.

“I’m sorry, Father,” one of the policemen said, “but could you come with us, please?”

“Is there a problem?”

The officer shook his head. “One of the search teams found someone and, well, he asked for a priest. I remembered you setting up an aid station here and…”

“Of course, Officer. Let me get my things.”

“Thank you, Father,” the officer said. “Truth is, I don’t think that guy’s going to make it.”

Crncevic forced a friendly smile to his face. “Then we had best hurry.”

Crncevic collected his bag, which contained the things a priest would have in ministering to the sick and dying. He pulled on a jacket against the chill outside then extended his hand toward the door. “Shall we?”

A big SUV with police insignia stood in the street, its engine running. One of the officers opened the back door for Crncevic and he climbed in. The two officers got into the front seats. “Shouldn’t take long, Father.”

Crncevic said nothing as the police officers pulled out. He ran his hand over his bag while affecting a serene expression while inside he wanted to scream. Two days. The pause before the final rise of K’t’rahl had continued for two days. It was time to receive the Dread Lord’s word. He should have been there to complete the ritual. Instead, the charade forced upon the order required he be here instead.

Very well, he would give that doomed fool his Last Rites, but in his heart he would dedicate his soul to Dread Shev’kha, one more to prepare for the rise.

You can find the full novel here:

When an accidentally detonated nuke from a stolen submarine releases something never before seen, Sea Hawk pilot Lieutenant Steve Pomerantz is sent to investigate. He finds a blue-green monster ten times the size of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex and seemingly impervious to every weapon in mankind’s arsenal.

Earthquakes in the South Pacific, at a location dubbed as the most remote spot on Earth, raise tsunamis all along the West Coast. Air Force Captain Jamal White, pilot of a C-130 Hercules is pulled off of search and rescue duties to ferry two scientists to investigate. What they find is a new continent arisen from the deep. And on that continent something stirs, bringing terror and madness in its wake.

Two monsters, one from the frozen North Atlantic, one from the remote South Pacific, on a collision course with the survival of mankind hanging in the balance.

Confessions of a Viking Goth

I have often described as Goth, although maybe “Goth Lite” or perhaps “Entry Level Goth” is a better description.  Part of it is “personal branding”–having a distinctive “look” that can be distinctive and recognizable.  For instance, there are other writers out there who wear black almost exclusively but when I started on my personal branding efforts I searched and no one was styling himself or herself as “The Writer in Black”.  So I did.

But it was more than just a branding effort.  It was also a matter of recognizing who I am.  In the early eighties, I was out of my home, in the Air Force, out of training, and at my first duty assignment in Great Britain.  Basically, this was the first time where I was positioned to make my own choices for style and clothing.  Oh, sure, on duty it was all Air Force uniforms but off duty was my choice.  I found myself choosing black clothes and a style that, in retrospect were kind of “Goth-ish”.  The someone told me that if I wanted to be attractive to young women I should wear bright colored clothes.  Being unreservedly heterosexual, young, and single this was an important issue to me.

Worst.  Advice.  I’d.  Ever.  Got.

For one thing, it didn’t work.  But the clothes I was wearing just weren’t “me”.  Oh, over time I convinced myself they were, but…no.

Fast forward many years later.  I get introduced to music that I hadn’t been exposed to before.  Power metal, Symphonic/Gothic metal, darkwave.

Music like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Oh wow.  That was some exciting stuff.  It called to me in a way that the stuff I’d heard before, even my very favorites from before, hadn’t.  And it broke through the wall I had built.  I looked at my bright colored shirts and khaki and beige pants and said “this isn’t me.”

So I start wearing darker colors, mostly black.  I feel more comfortable than I ever had before.  I dye my hair black (beard too sometime later when I started growing that), bleach a streak above my right eye (which I dye purple for cons and the like).  And I feel more comfortable in my own skin then I ever have before.

Now, one thing I did learn is that there are different subgenres of Goth.  There’s Trad Goth, Industrial, Pastel Goth, Cyber Goth, Cowboy Goth, and so on.  Similarly in metal:  Power Metal, Death Metal, Symphonic Metal, Viking Metal, and so on.

And wait a minute I thought.  Back up.  Viking Metal?  Could there be Viking Goth too?  I look.  There’s no Viking Goth that I could find.

Cool, thinks I.  I can try something new.  The trick is to get a “Viking look”  like, say this:


And blend it with a Goth look like, say, this:


So far my results are looking more “Viking Biker” than “Viking Goth” but working on it.  Biker would be a perfectly fine look, but it’s not what I’m aiming at.

In the meantime, if you like stories about Vikings and perhaps Viking women, perhaps you would like my story “The Spaewife”, a fantasy novelette set in pre-Viking age Scandinavia.

A young mother hears the Norns. They tell her of terrible things to come. When Ulfarr wants her gift of prophesy to serve him, he takes her and steals away her children. Can the young mother escape from Ulfarr’s clutches and save her children from him? Only the Norns know.

(As always,

The tale of the infected computer

This is going to be brief.  For the last several days I’ve been dealing with computer woes.  The problems had been going on for some time but lately I’ve been working on getting it fixed.

Basically, I’ve been having two problems.  The more serious was that from time to time programs on my computer would freeze and report “Not responding”. And generally, when one went, everything went.  I’d have to sit and wait for several minutes for the computer to respond again, then I could use it as normal until the next time it froze.  Sometimes, I could go days with no problems.  Other times, every ten minutes.  In the latter case, it essentially rendered the computer unusable.

Needless to say, this was interfering with things like writing.  I’m working hot on a story then…”not responding”.  A few minutes later it’s back, but I have no idea what I was going to say next.

I could, of course, have gone to a computer shop and gotten help but 1) I didn’t want to spend the money (I would if I had to, but I didn’t want to) and 2) I’ll be honest; I’ve got things on the computer I really don’t want people pawing through.  Yes, yes, I know, I won’t have anything the professionals at Geek World (or wherever) haven’t seen before, but still…

Fortunately, there was another avenue.  There are sites on the Internet where people will help you with computer problems.  One of these is SpywareInfo Forums.  That’s where I went.  First I had to run some programs to check the current status of my computer.  they check what’s running, what processes are running, do an initial look for malware, and generally provide information for the knowledgeable geeks at the site to begin to know how to help.

So, I head over there and I find that, yes, I’m infected with malware. (I do a lot of research which can take me to strange corners of the Internet and, well, I don’t know what I’m going to find until I go.) But also a number of important Windows services aren’t running.

First we get the malware off my system.  The person helping me at Spywareinfo forums walks me through several procedures.  Eventually we get the computer clean.  Then we begin working on restoring the missing services.

And finally we get my system back to a working configuration.  Not quite fixed yet entirely but it looks like the “Not Responding” only happens when one of the Mozilla products–FireFox or Thunderbird–is running.  I had Chrome as my backup browser and am using it right now with Firefox uninstalled.  Normally I always kept Thunderbird running in the background and just switched in to check the latest messages from time to time but for the time being until I can either get that problem fixed or until I replace it with something else I figure I’ll just only open it periodically to grab and read emails which might mean having to wait through periods of “not responding” while Thunderbird catches up on whatever it’s doing.

But that’s why I haven’t been able to get any writing done lately.  Still not quite fixed, but I can see the light.  Now if it’s not just an oncoming train.

When is it science?

There’s a lot of talk these days about people being “anti-science.”  The problem is, a lot of people making those claims either are a bit unclear on the idea of what science is or know full well what it is but are hoping you don’t.  Just because someone calls something science doesn’t mean that it actually is.

First off, science is not a collection of “facts”.  It’s not a set of conclusions.  And it most certainly is not ultimate Truth, forever and ever, amen.

Science is a method.  And the core of that method can be summed up in one simple question:

“How would we know if we were wrong?”

The late Richard Feynman described it this way:


First, we guess what we think our new law will be.  Then we calculate what must happen if that law is right.  Then we compare the result of that calculation with experiment.

And here’s the most important part.  If the calculation from our guess does not match experiment, it’s wrong.  Period.  Yes, there can be experimental error.  Yes, if the data is variable sometimes just from chance you’ll get a result that is atypical.  But once you account for those, once you’ve gotten your measurements nailed down precisely enough  to differentiate from your calculated result, once you’ve got enough measured data for the statistics to say whether it matches calculated results or not, then if they do not match, they’re wrong.  Period.

It doesn’t matter how “common sense” your proposed law of nature/theory/hypothesis (various terms which science uses to label proposed explanations of how the world works) is.  Doesn’t matter how much you want it to be true.  Doesn’t matter how good, or bad, the results will be for you.  Doesn’t matter how many people, how many scientists, say it’s true.  If it doesn’t match experiment, it’s wrong.

The only reason, the only reason to accept or reject some scientific law/theory/hypothesis is whether or not  it agrees with experiment. And any such law/theory/hypothesis is always subject to being amended, or outright rejected, as further data comes along.  Science is never settled.

Let me give you an example.  Back in the early days of optics as a science there were two schools of thought on what the nature of light might be.  One was the “corpuscular” theory, that held that light consisted of really small particles that bright objects emitted.  The other was the wave theory, that light consisted of waves, like sound.  Now, waves and particles behave differently in certain circumstances.  In particular, waves will tend to diffract and interfere and particles will not.

Someone looked at that diffraction and did the math and found that in certain circumstances light, if it were a wave, would behave in ways that was just patently absurd.  In particular it was found that in some very specific circumstances the shadow of a small object illuminated by a point source light of a single wavelength on a screen behind it, certain combinations of size of object, distance to the screen, and the wavelength of light, the shadow would contain a bright spot in its center.  Contrariwise, light shining through an aperture would have a dark spot near the center of the light spot.  This, of course, was completely ridiculous so of course light had to be a particle.

The science was settled.

Then, someone actually found a combination of object and screen distance, paired with monochromatic light (a sodium flame was useful for this, it’s two spectral lines are close enough that it can be treated as a single wavelength for the purposes of many experiments).  And the bright spot in the shadow, the dark spot in the light disk, was there.  Once this was seen, it was utterly clear that light had to be a wave.  Couldn’t be anything else.  Only waves act like that, produce the diffraction and interference that would make that happen.

The science was settled.

And then, once more, experiments started finding oddities.  We learned that the light had to be “transverse” waves rather than “longitudinal waves”:



Bu that led to some puzzling aspects.  If it was a transverse waves, what was “waving”?  Transverse waves aren’t carried through a liquid or gas, but only through a solid (the ocean waves you see on the shore are a different phenomenon and can only happen when there’s an interface between two materials).  Furthermore, experiments in interferometry had given us the wavelengths of light–very, very short wavelengths–and the speed of light suggested that whatever material was “waving” had to be very stiff indeed.  This led to the conclusion that the Universe was filled with something both extremely tenuous but also extremely stiff to allow light to pass through it.  But this material wasn’t dragging on the planets as they circled the sun so it had to be infinitely elastic.

Then folk started finding out other things.  They discovered that light didn’t quite, or didn’t always, act like a wave.  The photoelectic effect, the “ultraviolet catastrophy” of black body radiation (you heat something and it glows, but for a wave, the higher frequencies should carry most of the energy so that instead of glowing red, or even white, most of the energy should be in ultraviolet, x-rays, and gamma–but it wasn’t).

The science was becoming unsettled.

Then a certain Swiss Patent Clerk (I won’t keep you in suspense; it was Albert Einstein) suggested that light was waves that came in discrete “packets” called quanta.  Under certain circumstances they behaved as waves.  Under others, as particles.  This was the foundation of what is now called Quantum Physics.

And the science is settled.

This Time For Sure.

Or until someone else comes along to unsettle it with some experimental results that just don’t fit.

To the Shores of Tripoli

In the early 19th Century pirates from the Barbary States, Morocco, Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis, started raiding the merchant shipping of the newborn United States.  They would take the ships and crews and hold them for ransom, ultimately wishing to extract tribute from the United States.

When the Brigantine Betsey was captured by Moroccan pirates, diplomatic channels were first tried.  Spain’s recommendation was to pay tribute to the Barbary states to get them to leave us alone. Then US Minister to France Thomas Jefferson decided to send envoys to Morocco to try to  purchase treaties.  The attempt was apparently successful in that Morocco agreed that if any ships were captured and brought into Moroccan ports they would come under the protection of Morocco and be set free.

This did not help when Algeria seized the schooner Maria and then Dauphin.  Diplomatic talks failed.  Envoys were authorized to pay up to $40,000.  The four Barabary Coast states wanted $660,000 each to free the crews and ships (Morocco apparently forgetting its existing treaty, or perhaps simply not considering it to apply when it was another of the Barbary states that did the actual pirating).   It took a decade, during which time other ships were taken and their crews enslaved, before the US won their release at the cost of $1 million (out of a total Federal budget, for all purposes, of about $6 million).

This continuing demand for tribute led to the first rumblings that America had had enough with these people.  The US formed the Department of the Navy in direct response in 1798.

Thomas Jefferson, then Vice President of the United States along with President John Adams once more tried to negotiate with them going to London to negotiate with them, a much more serious move than a similar trip would be today.  The response they received was disheartening in the extreme:

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. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.

It was clear at this point that paying tribute was a losing game.  However, then President John Adams believed we needed a stronger navy before we could stop.  The US agreed to pay $1 million a year (still a substantial portion of the US Federal budget) for the next 15 years for safe passage of US shipping through the Mediterranean.

However, when Jefferson took office as President in 1801, Tripoli demanded an additional $225,000.

This was enough.  Jefferson refused.

Frigates were sent to protect American shipping. Congress never voted a declaration of war but they did authorize the President to instruct American vessels to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli “and also to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify.”  The US ships, joined by a Swedish flotilla, blockaded Tripoli.

This undeclared war continued for several years before the battle that is the reason for today’s post.

On March 6 of 1805 Lieutenant William Eaton of the United States Marines starting at Alexandria Egypt with a force of 600 marines and 400 locally recruited Arab and Greek mercenaries and began a 600 mile trek across the Libyan desert.  In the course of this trek friction arose between the Muslim Arabs and Christian Greeks.  There were several mutinies among the Muslim forces.  Eaton quelled the mutinies and finally reached the port city of Bomba in late April where the ships Argus, Nautilus, and Hornet waited under the command of Hull.

On April 26 Eaton sent a letter to the Governor of Derne asking for safe passage through the city.  This request was, of course, denied with the Governor reportedly writing back “My head or yours.”

So on April 27, Eaton attacked.  A cannon from the Argus had been shipped ashore and the Hull began a naval bombardment.  Eaton divided his forces in two, sending one group under Hamet to cut the road to Tripoli and attack the city’s weakly defended left flank.  He led the attack against the harbor fortress himself.

When his mercenary forces wavered under musket fire, Eaton led the charge himself being seriously wounded in the wrist.  Hull, seeing the charging forces, ceased fire.

So successful was the charge that the defenders in the fortress fled, leaving their cannon loaded and ready to fire.  Eaton turned the guns on the city.  This attack, in combination with Hamet’s flanking maneuver, led to the city being completely taken by mid-afternoon.

And this battle provided the young United States with the leverage to win back the captured Americans and end the First Barbary War.

At it added an important line to the Marine Corps Hymn.