In the movies, pirates are a lot more fun. Now, this is serious. In the last 24 hours in the waters off Somalia, two more merchant vessels were captured by Somali “pirates.” These tinhorn twerps in their “pirate ships” (which come closer to resembling recycled tinfoil than actual boats) have somehow been able to overpower numerous large cargo ships, one of which is a oil supertanker carrying over $100M in cargo. A second ship was also captured today – an Iranian freighter carrying a cargo of 30,000 tons of grain. Oh, and don’t forget – a ship carrying Russian tanks is still in the possession of another band of Somali pirates.
The Times of London reports on this latest chapter of the story, with the unbelievable byline “Alarm grows as governments and navies are rendered legally powerless to conduct security operations on the high seas” “Legally powerless?” I am simply speechless. Here we have some of the most potent naval powers in the world attempting a response, and they are unable to summon the firepower to sink these popgun pissants? Yes, the terrorists are carrying submachine guns and RPGs. And for “insurance and safety reasons” the merchants are unable to use any kind of significant arms. From the looks of the pirates’ “ships,” it would probably take little more than a Daisy air rifle to perforate the hull and send them to the bottom of the sea.
The shippers, the EU and others are wringing their hands in helpless befuddlement. The real story appears to lie in the “deer in the headlights” response of the governments involved:
Operations undertaken by the coalition fleet are fraught with legal difficulties, ranging from restrictive rules of engagement to rights of habeas corpus, as the British Navy discovered when it detained eight pirates after a shootout last week. Yesterday the detainees were passed on to Kenya, where efforts to prosecute them will be closely watched for precedent.
The limitations of naval action are refocusing international attention on the conflict within Somalia, where the rule of warlords, the lack of a functioning government and resulting anarchy have spawned the piracy epidemic. The Somali President admitted this weekend that his Western-backed transitional Government was on the brink of collapse, with fighters from the ousted Islamic Courts regime bearing down on Mogadishu.
Of course the Times attempts to place the blame on the United States:
Washington was instrumental in the ousting of the Islamic Courts, backing Ethiopian troops to throw them out for fear that they would make Somalia a haven for extremists. Since then piracy has soared and, should it worsen – and the violence in Somalia increase – pressure will grow on the international community to reconsider its support for the corrupt and ineffective regime, even if it means the return of the Islamist Courts.
Weak. Very weak. If you can’t succeed, blame the U.S.
These spineless governments are worried about “legal difficulties”? “Habeas corpus?” Are they afraid of violating the rights of the poor, defenseless pirates? Apparently. The BBC reports that “Rules frustrate anti-piracy efforts”. Rules?? What has happened to the willingness to fight against an enemy? Apparently the British are more concerned about the rights of the pirates than the welfare of the shipping business:
But even all these operations have to be conducted within international law, defined in this case as the provisions of the UN Law of the Sea Convention.
There has also been a legal opinion by the British Foreign Office that captured pirates cannot necessarily be sent back to whatever authorities can be found in Somalia, in case they are subject to harsh treatment. That would contravene the British Human Rights Act. The pirates captured in the Royal Navy action have now been handed over not to Somalia, but Kenya.
The Law of the Sea Convention places limitations on daring action. Under Article 100 of the convention a warship has first to send an officer-led party to board a suspected pirate ship to verify any suspicions.
The warship cannot just open fire. Any inspection has to be carried out “with all possible consideration”. That sounds rather tentative.
As one of my fellow RedState contributors points out:
The codified and understood law of civilized men for over 300 years is and has been that pirates forfeit their lives by virtue of their acts; that summary hangings, shooting, and sinkings are what they must expect for their crime, so that we discourage them to undertake those acts.
The BBC article mentions this as well:
Maritime writer Dr David Cordingly, author of “Life among the Pirates”, says that, historically, firm measures were taken against pirates.
“There would often be a show trial in London, Jamaica, Boston or Charleston,” he said. “That was followed by a public hanging and the bodies would be left swinging on the gallows at the entrance to harbours. Sailors would draw the conclusion that piracy was not a good career option.
The comment stream in the London Times article is telling. An American responder sarcastically states “The US certainly can’t get involved in this – after all the pirates have rights which have to be protected. We would have to first sit down with them and find out their motivation for their actions as our new president-elect prefers to do with terrorists.” And there’s the rub – that is precisely the logic that is likely to be employed by our newly elected Leftist. As with the terrorists in Gitmo, Obama would undoubtedly be more concerned with the rights of the
terrorists pirates than of the victims. We may be seeing a foreshadowing of what’s to come with our president-elect. He is cut from the same cloth as these emasculated “leaders” who are unable (or unwilling) to protect their own national interests. It’s no coincidence that the Europeans were so elated to see Obama elected. They would rather have a “sophisticated” President who will sit down and have tea with the terrorists, rather than a “cowboy” response from President Bush.
Until the countries targeted by these pirates decide to respond decisively and stop the analysis paralysis, the problem will continue. How long will it take for these nations to figure out that terrorists do not understand diplomacy and do not care about laws? They understand but one thing – violence and force. And this is what needs to be applied. Deadly force. Send in air power. Sink every one of these Captain Jack Sparrow pretenders. No mercy. There should be no concern about what Somalia thinks. This is not a time to be worried about the sensitivities of the country who has permitted this to occur.