Monday, November 23, 2009


Nowadays, I consider myself a man of peace, although I'm not a pacifist. I voted for George McGovern in the California primary of 1968, and I marched in San Francisco to protest George Bush's little war in Iraq.

However, in my early days, I was an officer in Britain's Royal Navy. I gloried in my studies of Naval History, and numbered many admirals, from Sir Francis Drake to Lord Nelson, among my heroes.

In more recent times, I have enjoyed the Hornblower novels, and later the wonderful Aubrey/Maturin novels of the late Patrick O'Brian.

When I read stories about the huge ransoms paid to Somali pirates, I long for the days of those brave seaman of fact and fiction.

Every time that a ransom is paid to the pirates of Somalia, they are able to buy more powerful boats and heavier armaments. It is easy to understand the logic of ship owners and their insurers, that it is more economic to pay ransom than to leave ships and crew to molder away in Somali hands.

However, I am rather shocked at the pusillanimity of the many governments who allow this to continue. In my opinion, it is time to act with force to put an end to piracy near the Gulf of Aden. I am aware that the pirates don't remain at sea, but skulk away on land. I am fully aware that the forces of many nations are occupied in Iraq and Afghanistan, but many of the affected nations are not so caught up in other conflicts.

In 1980, almost thirty years ago, two Episcopal priests were charged with "trading with the enemy", because of their humanitarian efforts to assist those trying to leave Cuba. After spending thousands of dollars on legal fees, Joe Morris Doss and Leo Frade (Both now Episcopal Bishops, the former in retirement) were exonerated. Perhaps the legislation needs tweaking, but I consider pirates to be enemies, not withstanding the charm of Johnny Depp, but if Cuba could be considered an "enemy", how much more should the pirates be considered our enemy? I would be happy if other nations would create similar legislation, so that any corporation or individual yielding to ransom demands from pirates would be subject to prosecution for "trading with the enemy".

I remember Operation Entebbe, as it was later called, when the Israelis made a surprise raid, rescuing most of the hostages held by Idi Amin, and his cohorts in 1973.

If the nation whose ships have been hijacked are afraid to put their citizens "in harms way", I would suggest that there are mercenaries to be hired, who would be glad to undertake the work with suitable logistical support, although personally I would prefer that Marine commandos undertake this task. The pirates who surrender should be given a fair trial, but those who resist would do so at their peril. Teams in professional sports in this land include Raiders, Buccaneers, and even the Pittsburgh Pirates, but off the East African coast we are not dealing with fictional characters like Captain Hook. The real pirates of the present era are creating havoc, and it was time they were stopped.

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