Some of you may remember quite a while ago when I did a post on the pirates in Somalia. At that time I did the post for my mom because she wanted to know about the pirates, regardless of whether politics in America were pertinent or not. This time I am writing about the Somali pirates for two reasons. First because she wants to know about them, but second because now they are important to write about in terms of politics. As I discussed in the intro yesterday, the “March to Socialism” series will not run every day, but instead every other day or so, as it takes more research and time to write. On off days I am writing stuff a bit more from the hip. But I didn’t want to have a day without a bit of controversy….
So the quick background. Last week an US flagged, Danish owned ship in the waters off Africa. The ship, Maersk Alabama, was carrying US food relief to refugees via Kenya. After hours and several attempts, the pirates were able to finally board the ship. The crew eventually repelled the attackers, who fled aboard a lifeboat, however they took a hostage when doing so, the ships Captain, Richard Phillips. Second mate Ken Quinn said the crew had released a pirate they had been holding for 12 hours in the hope the hijakers would return the Captain. But the Somali pirates would do no such thing and demanded a ransom for the Captain. This was the first hijacking of a merchant US vessel in over 200 years.
A US Navy Guided Missile Destroyer was dispatched to the area and negotiations began to get the release of the Captain. Using FBI hostage negotiators, they worked to find a solution. They were offered only one, pay up or the Captain dies. The US Navy continued to negotiate for several days while awaiting an opportunity to end the stand off. Captain Fisher took one opportunity to escape by diving in the water. They quickly retrieved him. During this time Navy S.E.A.L. snipers moved in and set up positions and waited. When Captain fisher attempted to escape by diving in the water a second time, they acted. Snipers took down 3 of the 4 pirates, captured the 4th, and rescued the Captain.
It should be noted that the American rescue followed a similar operation Friday carried out by French navy commandos, who stormed a pirate-held sailboat, the Tanit, in a shootout at sea that killed two pirates and freed four French hostages. The French owner of the vessel was also killed in the assault. For the record the stunning losses in two instances has not deterred the pirates, who took another ship last night, details on the ship are yet unreleased.
Now the question comes: What next? Let’s start with future actions from merchant ships who are moving through those waters. Anti-pirate training is not going to help. This crew was able to repel the pirates after the Captain surrendered himself in exchange for the safety of his crew. But the bottom line is that the small crews on these massive vessels cannot protect them and do their jobs. They train primarily in non-lethal measures because doing otherwise puts the crew at risk. When trained these crews are told that if they discharge a weapon they are not protected by America and will be subject to prosecution in the country of jurisdiction.
It would seem that arming the crews better or hiring security for these ships would be the way to go. But not so fast. The liability insurance alone is massive, over $750k per shipment, when weapons are brought into the picture, which makes doing so not cost effective. It is cheaper to pay the ransom on the odd chance your ship gets taken. Not to mention there are specific laws that govern the possession of weapons in international waters.
So how do we protect these ships that are simply carrying out the normal business of transporting goods from country to country? Do we dedicate a portion of our Navy to patrolling the waters constantly looking for Pirates and waiting to see them do harm? Certainly we cannot just start shooting any boat we think is a group of pirates. The first time one of those boats ends up being a fishing vessel, there would be hell to pay.
And yet we cannot do nothing. The pirates are not going to stop. Pirates currently hold more than a dozen foreign ships, most moored along the Horn of Africa nation’s long coast, with about 230 foreign sailors from Russia to the Philippines. “Every country will be treated the way it treats us,” said Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town. “In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying,” he told The Associated Press by telephone. “We will retaliate for the killings of our men.”
Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old self-proclaimed pirate, told The Associated Press that the three pirates’ deaths were “a painful experience.” Speaking from the pirate hub, Eyl, he added: “this will be a good lesson for us. From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them,” Habeb said. “Now they became our number one enemy,” he said of U.S. forces. The pirates feel like they have been wronged. Poor guys, all they wanted to do was hijack a boat and ransom it for millions. How dare we kill them for their violence.
And what of Somalia itself. The nation is out of control, and while they condemn the pirates actions, they are in no position to stop them. Are we within our rights to attack? To hit the pirate hubs hard and take out their bases? I know that there are many who say yes. I feel confident that Black Flag will say no. He will deem it retribution against people who are not acting violently, making us the bad guys if we strike back.
But they struck first. I know he will also say we ruined Somalia and caused their dire straights in the first place. Because any other position would go against how evil the US government is and we certainly can be blamed for any and every action taken against us. But I am not sure I agree this time. I know, regardless of BF’s claims, that we were trying to help in Somalia in 1993. I also know that because of the personal nature of it for me, I hold a bias against Somalia and would level the country for spitting oddly. And because it is personal I am going to reserve my opinion for now and let everyone else have their say.
So what say you all? What’s next? How far should we take this? How can we make those waters safe? Do the pirates, who are doing wrong, both morally and legally, have any right to safety from the wrath of those countries they choose to pick a fight with? Or did they seal their doom by deciding they had the right to an American ship?