Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Somali Pirates and Iranian Vessels: We Wuz Robbed !!!

When I heard that an Iranian ship was taken hostage by Somali pirates, I had a very hard time writing about it. Typing a coherent article when you are falling all over yourself laughing is not an easy proposition.

According to The Times of LondonSomali pirates struck again yesterday, seizing an Iranian cargo ship holding 30,000 tonnes of grain, as the world’s governments and navies pronounced themselves powerless against this new threat to global trade.

Admiral Michael Mullen, the US military chief, pronounced himself stunned by the pirates’ reach after their capture of the supertanker Sirius Star and its $100 million (£70 million) cargo. Commanders from the US Fifth Fleet and from Nato warships in the area said that they would not intervene to retake the vessel.”

What is amazing is the reaction of the world’s superpowers to the Saudi’s angry denunciation of terrorism (when it is directed against a Muslim nation.)

“Piracy, like terrorism, is a disease which is against everybody, and everybody must address it together,” Prince Saud al-Faisal said piously

The British government came quickly to the aid of the Iranians with tea and sympathy. (No tears and beers please) Their response was well reasoned and totally useless.

“Maritime security operations in that area are addressing the symptoms not the causes,” said Jason Alderwick, a maritime defence analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Gosh golly gee Mr. Alderwick, you bring back memories of New York City in the 1960’s. That was when a dynamic young mayor of the city named John Lindsay looked for root causes while the City went to hell in a handbasket.

The Times of London article, recounting the international community’s legal obstacles to stopping the piracy sounded like an Obama Supreme Court nominee.

“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.” quoth the Times of London.

I would normally be seething with indignation, but the last ship hijacked by Somali pirates was reportedly carrying a “dirty bomb” containing nuclear waste which was headed for detonation in Israel.

According to Israel National News, a non governmental Israeli News agency, “U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials maintained a tight-lipped silence on the alleged incident. However, Russian intelligence sources reportedly said the ship was “an enormous floating dirty bomb, intending to detonate after exiting the Suez Canal at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in proximity to the coastal cities of Israel.

“The entire cargo of radioactive sand,” said the Russian sources, ” [was] obtained by Iran from China (the latter buys desperately needed oil from the former) and sealed in containers which, when the charges on the ship are set off after the crew took to the boats, will be blasted high into the air where prevailing winds will push the highly dangerous and radioactive cloud ashore.”

Several reports came out of some pirates falling ill with symptoms that were described as resembling radiation poisoning. Researching the story with the keywords “Iranian dirty bomb” has the peculiar effect of shifting my sympathies to the pirates. I actually wonder if this latest Iranian ship to be hijacked was actually carrying grain.

It is not easy to imagine Obama adding anything new to the discussions of combatting piracy, which has afflicted numerous individuals with legitimate cargo and plans.

The Saudis have been known to pay terrorist groups to stay out of the Saudi Kingdom and to do their mischief elsewhere. The chaotic situation in Somalia, which I imagine has disrupted mail service has made it difficult to mail their check to Somalis in charge of finding “root causes”. It is hard for those familiar with Saudi checkbook diplomacy to view their expressions of indignation without a touch of cynicism.

The disturbing thought about Somali piracy is the innocent individuals who could be hurt. The problem of total anarchy and poverty in Somalia is a real one. It would be a mistake to link this to physical attacks on the pirates themselves. Perhaps some of the money used to fund wars in Lebanon and elsewhere could be used to secure and support a united government in Somalia. So far, neither the Saudis nor the Iranians have shown any interest in supporting a strong peaceful regime in Somalia, an Islamic country.

The legal objections to military action against the pirates ca

n be overcome with a simple word Whoops! You could also say “Oopsie!” or “Sorry about that.”

All of these words could be used after an attack on the pirates. It is slightly more likely that Obama could get away with it. The media would not likely want to condemn a Democrat that they worked so hard to elect. It might have the added medical benefit of helping Chris Matthews get rid of that “thrill going up his leg” that he reported experiencing whenever Obama spoke.

I would not want my personal feelings about Iran and its dirty bombs to get cloud my thinking about piracy when it effects them. I think therefore that it would be a good idea to look at “root causes” whenever an Iranian ship is hijacked by pirates. Perhaps Ruth Bader Ginsberg or David Souter could apply their judicial expertise to the problem at hand. I am sure that Barack Obama can find others of their calibre to work on the problem.

Sometimes in rough parts of Brooklyn, drug dealers, pimps and others have a shootout over territory. This is considered to be unfortunate only when innocent bystanders get killed. In neighbourhoods with higher income and lighter skin colour, the street crime is stopped before it ever erupts into shootouts, but that’s another story. Often, the cops find that the best way to address “root causes” when gangsters shoot each other is to finish that coffee break and stop for all the red lights when responding to the call. Even if a rapid response is needed to protect the innocent, police often close the case if only known violent criminals are hurt or killed.

The comparison to piracy is obvious. When a ship from a peaceful country like Holland or Cameroon gets hijacked, that is cause for concern. But it is hard not to see a Greater Hand when the pirates end up with a dirty bomb on their hands.

The problem of piracy is a major one not only off the coast of Somalia but in other areas as well. A strong, effective response, unhampered by legal straight jackets is often what is called for. But sometimes, it is better to finish that donut and coffee while problems sort themselves out.

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