Monday, April 13, 2009

High Seas Piracy Is No Johnny Depp Movie

If Somalia was an oil rich nation would the United States allow the piracy on the high seas, that has gone on for years, continue? I doubt it. My guess is we would have invaded it long ago for some obscure reason.

However, this nation of 9 million, mostly Islamic, people is as poor as dirt. They're a nation of thuggery and war lords. The life expectancy for men is 47 and for women - 49. Their main exports are livestock, that which hasn't starved, bananas, hides - probably from the livestock that has starved, and fish. Their main source of income seems to be fishing and piracy.

So why has it taken an act of piracy on a U.S. flagged freighter to get our attention? Or is that reason enough? Fortunately, the Captain who was being held hostage has been rescued and three of the pirates are dead thanks to the Navy Seals.

I've been listening to the reports for days now with explanations of why this has been such a delicate situation. Other than the fact we wanted to get an American out alive, I'm not convinced the explanations are entirely valid. I don't have to be an expert in the shipping business nor an international whiz kid to know that this is costing the world billions in lost cargo and ransom, not to mention the cost of insurance and other sundries too many to list.

Here, from our very own Coast Guard is as concise a description of piracy as I could find:
Because piracy is a universal crime under international law, every nation has the legal authority to establish jurisdiction over piracy and punish the offenders, regardless of nationality of the perpetrator or the victims, or of the vessels involved. This has been a basic tenet of customary international law for centuries, and is also enshrined in treaties such as the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas and the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1846 and 1851 have recently extended this authority to include acts committed within the Somali territorial sea, and have sanctioned the apprehension of suspected pirates and their supporters found ashore in Somalia.
Sunday the Navy did what it should have done long ago. They eliminated the perpetrators. We're always looking for and bemoaning the lack of international cooperation when it comes to our national interests such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conflict between the Islamic middle east and Israel. Why are we less concerned with the strife that runs rampant in countries like Somalia and the starvation and genocide running rampant in too many African nations?

Is it because we aren't "directly" affected? But we are! Think about what the shipping industry means to every nation in the world? How can we, in good conscience, turn a blind eye or a deaf ear? Consider all the ships that the pirates are holding, not to mention the crews. What's it doing to those awaiting the cargos and what's it doing to the families and loved ones of the crews? For that matter, it has to put a dent in the sum to be divvied up by the pirates when the ransoms are paid. It costs a lot to keep ships afloat, cargo's unspoiled and men alive.

The lack of comment from Obama on this particular incident was deafening. The lukewarm response from Secretary of State Clinton wasn't much better.

I'm glad this one has been resolved. Will there be another? Heck yes. As this was going on another ship had been taken. Is this not just as much an international crisis as the "possibility" the Iranians' will have nuclear capabilty all too soon or that Netanyahu, Israels' latest Prime Minister, is threatening to stop them if we don't?

This is happening now, in real time. We have the right, under international law, to act. Will we? Or will we keep the blinders on until it's another American flagged ship?

6 comments:

Rinkly Rimes said...

I'm glad it's not my job to stop them! The area to be controlled is enormous and escort ships would cost the earth! I feel every cargo ship should carry a sharp-shooter, but I'm sure that's a thornier question than it seems.

Word Tosser said...

the news show this morning, compared this to a mugging in New York. Happens all the time, just part of the life. While he didn't say no big deal... it was the attitude he had. I thought well, it is a big deal the to crew.
Obama's silence, I found comforting because I am tired of the past US official of all offices, postiering about what they are going to do. It seems like Obama has said nothing but did act. As the Navy Seals would not be there without his ok.

Peggy said...

I soooooooooooo agree with you as I think many Americans do. I was going to write about this today. I am proud that we reacted the way we did. I'm sorry for any loss of life, but I'm happy that we have ended this unlawful act of what I think is, terrorism!

Linda said...

I'd like to hear more from you about this subject. I'm not sure where you're going with this train of thought.

I've wondered for years about the problems in Africa. Isn't some of Africa rich in oil?

I couldn't tell exactly what you think America should do about the Somalian piracy issue. Are you suggesting American step forward and take on nation building in Somalia as well as ridding the world of their pirates? Shouldn't some of the other countries also losing ships step up also? Can America take this on right now along with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan? How many wars can we fight at one time. And we also have N Korea to think about. Do we want to start another war there. Then there's the Iran situation.

I'm not for America taking on the Somalia/piracy/national building alone. I want to see participation from other countries on this one.

As for the President's silence, I thought that was exactly what he needed to do. Keep quiet and keep working on solving the crisis. I was pleased with the outcome and pleased with all parts of government that were involved. Now these countries losing ships need to partner with the US planning out a solution.

Dogwalkmusings said...

Linda,

The point I was trying to make, somewhat obscurely I guess, is that this has been a long standing problem - and not just off the coast of Somalia. The U.S. has been very quiet on the subject though I should think it fits into their definition of terrorism.

Under Bush, would the lone captive be sent to Guantanamo as an enemy combatant? Men who have done far less were.

I agree it is not a problem for the U.S. to tackle alone. And I agree with how it was handled. Mainly because I'm tired of the pirates continually getting a pass. However, there will be consequences.

I doubt we could "nation build" there any more than we'll be able to in Afghanistan.

Someone, however, somewhere has to take the lead in formulating a strategy to stop these seizures. Piracy is against international law and those attacked, no matter their nationality have the right to defend themselves against the perpetrators no matter their nationality.

We don't have to bull our way in as we've been known to do in the past. We must, however, now bear a degree of responsibility since we did kill three of the pirates and they have vowed retaliation which began today with the shooting at a U.S. Congressman's plane leaving Mogadishu.

Once blood is shed it changes the dynamics. We're the ones who shed the blood. We must now bear the consequences for it will reach beyond us. I just hope it's being addressed behind the scenes; there has been no indication in the past that I'm aware of that it has.

It won't do anything to endear us the the Islamic Middle East. We had best be ready. It is not the time to go it alone; it may well be the time for strong American leadership in the international community. For the sake of that entire community.

Linda said...

I have no problem with America leading in an effort, with other countries, to find a solution. Some how I feel America should lead in these situations but never again do I want to see us take something on 'alone.'

As to the terrorism part of it. I heard this discussed the other day on a Diane Rehm podcast. She referred to these events as acts of terrorism but the guest was of a different opinion, saying these are acts of desperate people from a country with no government and the people are starving. He claimed it's not political, that they don't think like terrorists. I have read, however, that Somalia is rich for Al Qaeda to move in and set up camp.

I need to go and read some about Somalia before I keep shooting off my mouth.