A wrap up of the US versus Somalia Pirates saga of April 8-12

April 14, 2009 at 8:45 am | Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

If you’ve read/watched the news at all since last Wednesday, you must know about the Somalia Pirate incident involving the US freighter Maersk Alabama. If not, here’s a wrap up of what happened and some ongoing issues.

On Wednesday Morning, April 8th, Somolia pirates stormed the U.S.-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama, a freighter loaded with food for Africa. The 20-member crew, unarmed, according to the ship’s owner, managed to overpower at least four pirates and regain control.

The attack on the cargo ship was the second in two days, U.S. officials said. After rebuffing the first attempt, the ship’s crew radioed Wednesday that two skiffs were closing in. Thirty minutes later, the ship told maritime officials that pirates had attached a grappling hook and were climbing aboard.

With a US warship on it’s way, Capt. Richard Phillips offered himself as a hostage. The pirates accepted Phillips as a hostage and left the Alabama the same day aboard a lifeboat.

For four days, the American sea captain was held hostage. During those four days, Admiral. Rick Gurnon, head of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy was more concerned for Captain Phillips’ family than for the captain himself. “I was pretty sure he would be OK,” Gurnon said of Phillips, adding, “as a captain at sea, in a lifeboat, he was in an environment he was comfortable with even if he was sharing it with four armed Somali pirates. I was more worried for his family. They’ve been going through hell since Wednesday”.

Phillips jumped out of the lifeboat Friday and tried to swim for his freedom but was recaptured.

On Sunday March 12th, news came that U.S. Navy snipers had shot and killed three of the four captors(from 75 feet away!). The fourth was taken into custody. Captain Phillips was rescued uninjured.

Gurnon, who described the captain as “the good shepherd who willingly exchanged his life for the lives of his flock,” cautioned that the end of one hostage situation should not be taken as the end of the growing problem of piracy, especially with scores of other lives in peril from pirates who are holding ships and crews off the expansive Somali coast.

President Obama did vow to make piracy a higher priority after the captain’s rescue.

Since President Obama needed to give permission for the use of deadly force, and the conditions under which it could be used, the rescue mission is being described as his first national security test.

Obama granted U.S. forces what aides called “the authority to use appropriate force to save the life of the captain.” On Saturday at 9:20 a.m., Obama went further, giving authority to an “additional set of U.S. forces to engage in potential emergency actions.”

GOP leaders were there, hoping (and convinced) Obama would fail. Obama was referred to “President Pantywaist” under the assumption that he would not make use of the military.

In a much less reported pirate situation happening during the same days, a French military operation to free a yacht hijacked by Somali pirates resulted in one of the hostages being killed.

The pirate saga isn’t over. Obama and other national leaders have to decide if they want to attack pirate’s land bases in Somalia, or perhaps offer aid to Somolia so that the country can establish it’s own coast guard. The rise in pirating isn’t just because of some greedy criminals. It’s actually quite a complex situation affecting many countries. For example:

The Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun reported today that the Japanese Diet (parliament) will consider amending the country’s pacifist consitution to allow the use of force against pirates.

Since the end of the World War II, the Japanese constitution has stipulated that its military hold only non-combat roles. Is this a first step on the way to bigger non-combat roles or even combat for Japanese troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan?

pirate versus ninja
Another aspect of Japan’s involvement in the fight against pirates is that we may finally learn the answer to the age old question, who would win in a fight of Pirates versus Ninjas?

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