Tuesday, April 14, 2009


How could the Washington Post be publishing this on their front-page? It's taunting, no, gloating, please be in awe of the precesion with which we can create killers? Such good marksmen? We will now glorify our killings of these three men, and luckily for them, they were without their chew? Is this supposed to be patriotism? I don't understand it. They need a full explanation to go along with such a decision.

"Based on those reports, the White House said, the president gave 'the Department of Defense policy guidance and certain authorities to allow U.S. forces to engage in potential emergency actions.'"

Obama ordered the kill?

"In Somalia, in the pirate haven of Harardhere, where locals have benefited from millions of dollars in pirate ransom, the military operation seemed like a bewildering display of force against four errant young men. 'It was wrong to kill those pirates,' said Aisha Gurey, an Arabic teacher. 'The international community is wrong, and the pirates are wrong. But in this case, the strong one has killed the weak one.'"

Monday, April 13, 2009


As the US media's short-sighted and vacillating attention again turns to the Somali pirates, President Obama signaled today that he would like to "halt the rise of piracy."

But any solution (as naive and improbable as that sounds) will have to be grounded in a process that can both stabilize the economy of Somalia and offer viable ways for these militants to make money outside of their ransoms -- neither of which will be solved in the short term, and neither of which will be solved until we decide that these "pirates" are not pirates or killers or terrorists or any other derogatory euphemism that we can use to denigrate them, but, as the Times puts it so aptly: "reckless, money-driven predators akin to the rapacious warlords who have haunted this country since the central government imploded in 1991." Often "blamed for rising food prices, the departure of aid agencies and other ills," these men are the result of an anarchy that the US has distantly watched over the last decade, without a care for their pillaging until our direct interests were involved.

Military (and humanitarian) action at this point seems difficult and improbable, considering the breadth of the pirates' coverage in and around the Horn, their lack of any centralized base, their willingness to threaten any outsiders who approach, and their unwillingness to stop these heinous yet tantalizingly lucrative kidnappings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

U.N. Calls for Ship Riders

Today, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said police from Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania or Yemen could patrol waters off the coast of Somalia as "ship riders" and arrest pirates in the name of their country, increasing their chances of a trial.

The ship rider technique, already used to fight drug trafficking in the Caribbean Sea, is more realistic than putting pirates on trial in their home country since Somalia's criminal justice system is almost non-existent.

Political Rifts Deepening in Somalia

On Tuesday, Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed appointed a new prime minister, but the previous prime minister is refusing to accept his dismissal and is backed by the country's Parliament.

On Monday the Parliament backed Nur Hassan Hussein, who has been prime minister for about 13 months. But the president named Mohamed Mohamud Guled as the new prime minister because he's a close ally of the transitional federal government, the new Somali premier. It is a move "certain to deepen the political impasse in a country already struggling with an Islamist revolt, a refugee crisis and rampant lawlessness that has fueled awave of piracy off the Horn of Africa."

Heightening Tension

The move by Ahmed also has caused concerns from neighboring Ethiopia, which which has been protecting the Somali government with troops. Ethiopia recently announced it would withdraw its troops by the end of this month, which will leave the government vulnerable to Islamic insurgents, who began a brutal insurgency in 2007.

United Nations officials are now in crisis mode, calling high-level meetings in East Africa and New York to address piracy and the greater Somali problems. Some U.N. officials are pushing to send in peacekeepers, but no countries are rushing to offer troops.

Pirate Hunting

A number of international warships equipped with high-tech tools like radar and long-range cannons are now patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

An Italian officer said that going after them in a 485-foot-long destroyer, bristling with surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes, was like “going after someone on a bicycle with a truck.”

But international law in the seas is restricting some countries in their hunts for the pirates. Several times this year, the Danish Navy captured men they suspected to be pirates, but they had to drop them on shore because their government decided it did not have jurisdiction.

Vice-Admiral Gerard Valin, the commander of the French naval operation in the Indian Ocean, said the piracy will only be defeated by a strong government in Somalia.

Deception to fight pirates?

The Washington Post printed an interesting letter to the editor last week, with a creative way to fight the Somali pirates. The writer called for trapping the invading pirates with a decoy vessel loaded with explosives. Apparently the tactic was used in WWI against German submarines.

Unfortunately, the writer of the letter seems to be more concerned than the Bush administration, which is mounting a last-ditch push this week to muster international backing for a relatively small U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia to help stem piracy and prevent the resurgence of Islamist militants.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Where is the international solution?

Despite a pledge from NATO, a fleet of international ships patrolling the waters in and around the Somali coast, and a new U.N. resolution against the pirates, none of the solutions seem to be ebbing the influx of hijackings. And the pirates are becoming even more daring in their takeovers of some ships.

The U.S. navy declared it is impossible to patrol all 2.5 million miles of sea surrounding Somalia and Yemen. The navy has instead called on the shipping companies to hire private security contractors to protect their ships. 

But according to Cyrus Mody, the head of the International Maritime Bureau, navies are reluctant to seize or detain any pirate ships because they don't know if it is legal.

Three anti-piracy guards (who were supposed to protect the latest chemical tanker that was hijacked today, though they don't carry weapons) were the first three crew members to jump ship. 

But does the reluctance to actually confront and battle the pirates come from the protectors' lack of ability to locate the pirate ships soon enough, or from the fear that the pirates are more than willing to give up their lives for a million dollar ransom?

At what point (when the pirates have hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons and artillery? when ships can no longer travel through the Gulf of Aden or surrounding waters? when the pirates begin to travel beyond their surrounding waters?) will international forces actually care about confronting the pirates?

One Hijacking, One Release, One Ransom Deadline Approaching

The pirates hijacked a chemical tanker, with 25 Indians and two Bangladeshi men on board, in the Gulf of Aden on Friday.

The pirates also released a cargo ship on Thursday, and the crew of 25 Filipino men were unharmed, though held captive for two months. 

Some shipping companies are beginning to use nonlethal measures to deter the pirate ships, including evasive maneuvers, electric handrails and painful sounds blasted at the pirates. 

The pirates currently hold 17 ships. 

Sunday is the deadline for the owners of the Saudi oil tanker, the Sirius Star, to pay a ransom of $25 million (the earlier offer of $15 million seems to be off the table.) The owners of the ship seem likely to pay the ransom.