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COMMENTARY · 20th March 2011
Merv Ritchie
From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean:
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.

Marines Hymn penned between 1859 & 1878

The Battle of Derne, Tripoli, was a victory of an army led by a detachment of United States Marines over pirate forces along the Barbary Coast, in the nation of Tripoli during the First Barbary War. The Battle of Derne was the first recorded land battle of the United States on foreign soil after the American Revolution.

A bit of history

Libya’s original inhabitants are today called ‘Berbers’ who are believed to have inhabited the coastal and North African regions before 1200 BC, then came the Phoenicians who established trade routes and the community we now refer to as Tripoli. The Greeks set up a learning center called Cyrene and the Romans conquered the whole region and provided great advancement for the region in agriculture with irrigation and improved roads and cities. After Rome fell Libya was under the rule of various Arab and Muslim tribes. The Berbers were replaced by the Bedouin as the predominate culture and Islam became the local faith.

From 1500 to the 1900’s Libya was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire and the local rulers held Libya as almost an independent country. One feature however was the Barbary Pirates who used Tripoli as a base. In 1805 American marines invaded Tripoli, hence the lyrics above. Piracy was largely stopped and the Ottomans continued to rule the area

Italy ruled the area after 1911, after a war with Turkey, until world war two when Britain kicked out the Italians. After WWII, in 1951, the UN set up a Monarchy with King Idris I to run the independent country of Libya. In 1958 oil was discovered and in 1963 a central government was formed ruling 10 provinces made up from the previous three ‘administrative units’. On September 1, 1969, Colonel Muammar al Qaddafi took power in a revolution.

Qaddafi attempted to merge Libya with Egypt in1972 and then in 1974 with Tunisia. In 1973 he took controlling positions in the first step to nationalize all oil facilities.

Up until today Libya’s revolutionary government has had a civilian cabinet supervised by the revolutionary command, essentially Qaddafi.

Today, 206 years after America engaged in its very first military action outside of its own territory, the world is witnessing the new might of the American military pulverizing Tripoli again. As the Muslim world stands back in horror, as Canadians, Europeans, Russians and more watch death and destruction inflicted on yet more innocent civilians, we wonder if this might be Americas last external excursion. It would be timely.