Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pirates: President Obama Should Look To Our History

I saw a small article, buried in the "crawl" space under the news on cable TV. It was about another ship being seized by Somali Pirates and being held along with it's crew for ransom. This is happening so often these days that it does not even get much notice by the media. Why is that? More importantly, why do we let people, any people, do this to us so often that is has even stopped being news? What is the matter with us? I decided to do some reading about it and discovered some pretty disturbing facts. Briefly, ships are being taken at a rate of about 1 every 3 days. The average ransom paid is 2 million (yes, million) dollars. There are currently over 200 crewmen being held, some of whom have been held for as long as a year! The most active area of piracy is around Somalia but it is common along every coastal area in the world other than the Atlantic coasts of Europe and the United States and the northern Pacific. It happens in southeast Asia. It happens in the Caribbean. It happens along both coasts of central America. It even happens along both coasts of Mexico. Just why the hell is that? I do not understand why the entire world just goes on meekly giving in and paying the ransoms, encouraging even more of this activity. I have read how several countries, including the United States, have sent warships to the area around Somalia to patrol. There have been several instances where the pirates were chased off, or even killed or captured, attempting to attack ships. But these are rare, less than a dozen out of hundreds. They tell us that the warships are not allowed to act until the pirates actually attack and they can't shoot unless the heavily armed pirates shoot first. There are international laws to be observed -and remember, the pirates have rights too! -Oh, really? Give me a break. They forfeited any rights the minute they picked up an AK-47 assault rifle or a rocket-propelled grenade and boarded their little boats. As far as I am concerned, the minute they did that they stopped being people with rights and simply became floating targets.

Some of the shipping companies have said that it's
just best to go ahead and pay the ransoms. Most of the time the crews are returned safely and, although they may loose the cargo, they unusually get the ship back. Just when did it become O.K. to let criminals get away with crime? How long to do you go on paying them? How much of those millions gets passed along to us consumers? How high do we let prices get so that our goods can be shipped safely? When will somebody take a calculator and realize that if all those millions of dollars in ransom were combined they would have been enough to build and equip an entire navy capable of stopping the problem. -And have enough over to buy everyone an ice cream cone.

But wait, you don't need to build and equip a navy to do this. There is one already out there with the ships, equipment, manpower and willingness to handle the problem. The United States Navy is already there and they have a lot of experience handling these problems. The people of the United States have already paid to create this force and have posted them all around the world. One of the very reasons they exist is to protect the lives and interests of United States citizens. So what's the problem? Why don't they act to put a stop to all this nonsense? Is the Administration afraid that we may actually have to shoot at these guys? Do they think that will make us look like we are picking on the poor defenseless pirates with our big bad ships? Do they think that the rest of the world will like us better if we try to be nice to the pirates?

President Obama needs to look to our own history. I don't think many people remember the fact that just after the American revolution one of the first challenges for our new little country was a group of M
uslim pirates in North Africa that kept seizing our merchant ships and demanding ransom for the ships and crews. The Congress actually authorized the formation of the United States Navy in 1794 after our citizens demanded the government take action to protect our ships. In 1815 we sent a squadron of frigates, bombarded several ports in North Africa where the Muslim pirates were centered and then landed Marines and seized Tripoli. The pirates stopped taking US ships. It is also interesting to note that the pirates continued to demand, and receive, annual cash payments from Britain, France and Spain to leave their ships alone.

Our founding fathers figured out what works. We have their experience to learn from. It's time to stop dithering, hesitating and n
egotiating. It's time to act and the US Navy already knows what to do!

No comments: