On Tuesday, Somali pirates shot and killed four American hostages. A single hostage intentionally killed by these pirates had been almost unheard of; four dead was unprecedented….
Exactly what happened Tuesday is still murky. Pirates in the Arabian Sea had hijacked a sailboat skippered by a retired couple from California, and when the American Navy closed in, the pirates got twitchy. Navy Seals rushed aboard but it was too late. It’s still not clear why the pirates would want to kill the hostages when their business model, which has raked in more than $100 million in the past few years, is based on ransoming captives alive.
But I suspect that if the pirates had instead found cartons of Playboy Magazine on the yacht, the Americans would have suffered the same fate. It would demonstrate the grip Islam has even on criminal Muslims.
It is unlikely that the pirates expected to collect much of a ransom from the murdered Americans. It is likely that they were holding the U.S. government hostage, by demanding it pay the pirates the ransom instead. Two of the pirates were aboard the warship “negotiating” when pirates on the yacht fired at the warship, and then gunfire on the yacht itself was heard.
The big money is in hijacking commercial vessels, such as super-tankers and super-cargo ships, and holding them and their crews hostage until ransoms are paid. Because of the murders, however, I believe the Somali pirates have adopted a new tactic: kidnap smaller private vessels whose owners are unlikely to be able to pay million dollar ransoms, and hold the captured nationals on them hostage until their governments pay up.
The pirates have sent an unmistakable message to the U.S. and other Western governments: they mean business. Does the U.S. mean business? Is it willing to pay millions in “tribute” to Islamic pirates (a.k.a. Islamic jizya) as Americans were not willing to pay Napoleon to stop raiding American vessels?
The hijacking of a private Danish yacht several days ago suggests this new strategy. The promise to execute the Danes, a mother, father, their three teenaged children, and two other adults if a rescue attempt is made, suggests this new tactic, as well.
Most hostages captured in the pirate-infested waters off East Africa are professional sailors. Pirates rarely capture families and children, but a 3-year-old boy was aboard a French yacht seized in 2009. His father was killed in the rescue operation by French navy commandos. Two pirates were killed and four French citizens were freed, including the child.
The Danish family was captured along with two adult crew members, also Danes, when their sailboat was seized by pirates Thursday, the Danish government said.
Mohamed [a spokesman for the pirates] said that any attack against the pirates would result in the deaths of the hostages, and he referred to the killings last week of four American hostages captured by pirates on their yacht.
Jihad Watch reports on the natural and logical connection between Islamic jihadists and the pirates, who, being Muslims waging war on the West, act as a kind of guerilla contingent. But this is not officially acknowledged. The West dare not convict or indict Islam, lest Islamists cry foul. But Somali Jihadists are now demanding their cut of any ransoms paid, and the cut is strictly by the book – the Koran.
"And know that whatever ye take as spoils of war, lo! a fifth thereof is for Allah, and for the messenger and for the kinsman (who hath need) and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, if ye believe in Allah and that which We revealed unto Our slave on the Day of Discrimination, the day when the two armies met. And Allah is Able to do all things." -- Qur'an 8:41
The West, however, is not able to do anything. Its hands are tied by a fear of offending Muslims by naming the moral culprit. It refuses to acknowledge that the pirates are proxy allies of the jihadists. It prefers to treat the pirates as mere criminals.
The piracy “crisis” off the Somali coast can be solved easily and quickly – the West certainly has the means to do so – but with some regrettable risks and consequences. The situation, after all, is of the West’s own making. Western governments have dithered and bitten its nails for years over what to do, not only because the pirates still hold ships and hostages, but because the pirates are Muslims.
That is what is stopping any concerted action – such as blasting every pirate ship and every pirate port and safe havens to atoms, and shooting to kill on sight any pirate with no chance of “trial” in any Western nation. When pirates were captured in the West ages ago, they were summarily tried and hanged.
“But,” one might object, “they’ll just execute the hostages or they’ll be killed during an attack. That isn’t very humane. It’s better to just dither and negotiate. To attack the pirates would be barbarous, especially because they aren’t as well-armed as we are. What would the world think?”
It is not bad enough that “Just War” theory reigns supreme in our military. It apparently reigns supreme when dealing with gangs of pirates.
During World War Ii, when the Allies decided to bomb German and Japanese cities to accelerate the surrender of the Nazis and the Japanese and to bring the war closer to an end, doubtless strategists knew that some “innocent” German and Japanese civilians would be killed as well as those who actively or complicitly supported and sanctioned the Nazi and Imperialist regimes. When American bombers attacked Japanese cities, they also did so knowing that American POW’s were being used as slave labor in those cities, and that they, too, might be killed.
This is also a risk the West must take with the pirates’ hostages if it is ever going to erase the pirate jihadists off the map. The moral conundrum is possible only because the West has refused to acknowledge the nature and identity of its enemy: Islam. The piracy “problem” is a direct consequence of especially the U.S.’s “war on terror.” It is a direct consequence of not eliminating states that sponsor terrorism.
What is the alternative? Allowing the hostages to remain in captivity until they rot away, or are killed because no ransom was collected or likely to be collected, and perpetuating the commissions of crime on the high seas. Is not acting decisively against the pirates a more humane policy? Is allowing the hostage sailors to remain hostages, still living at the whim of killers, who are now resorting to torturing the hostages, a more humane policy? No.
I am sure that Western governments have every Somali pirate port and village pinpointed. It should simply give a single warning, broadcast to the pirates, that all hostages are to be released, unharmed, immediately, and all hijacked vessels abandoned by the pirates. If all we got in reply were threats to kill the hostages, or actual executions, or if they reply with a wish to “negotiate,” Western naval vessels should simply commence erasing the ports, the villages, and every pirate vessel afloat; the “mother ships” especially should be sunk as well, and no attempt made to rescue survivors. Let the sharks claim them. No mercy should be shown to any pirate. The Somali pirates show none for Westerners or anyone they take hostage. Remember the four Americans executed by them just a few weeks ago?
Would this action violate the sovereignty of Somalia? No. There is no such country as Somalia. It is a region of anarchy with no true government, and one to which the U.S, incredibly, is paying to simply exist, with no power to punish the pirates.
Somalia’s central government collapsed more than 20 years ago, and now its landscape includes droughts, warlords, fighters allied to Al Qaeda, and malnutrition, suffering and death on a scale unseen just about anywhere else.
The United States and other Western powers are pouring millions of dollars into Somalia’s transitional government, an appointed body with little legitimacy on the ground, in the hope, perhaps vain, that it can rebuild the world’s most failed state and create an economy based on something like fishing or livestock. Young men then might be able to earn a living doing something other than sticking up ships.
The Times aptly describes the kind of country Somalia is:
Piracy Inc. is a sprawling operation on land, too. It offers work to tens of thousands of Somalis — middle-managers, translators, bookkeepers, mechanics, gunsmiths, guards, boat builders, women who sell tea to pirates, others who sell them goats. In one of the poorest lands on earth, piracy isn’t just a business; it’s a lifeline.
It is time the West extinguished that bandits’ economy and severed the lifeline, but enacted no Marshall Plan to help Somalia back to its economic and political feet. Victims do not owe their subdued victimizers anything.
Remember that the Somali pirates are Muslims and that they are obeying the commands of the Koran. During WWII, the Allies did not stay their hand because they could point to some “benign” passages in Mein Kampf. The Somali coast is as much a war front as Western Europe was during WWII. But the West must first acknowledge that Islam has declared war on the West, and that the Islamic jihadists have declared war on it and make no distinction between military and civilian targets. Or were the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the London subway, and the Madrid train station, and the Bali resort, et al., all figments of our imagination?
The Somali pirates hold between 600 and 800 hostages, and still have under their guns between 50 and 80 vessels of various sizes, some of which they have converted into “mother ships” that can range far beyond Somali’s coast to launch “swift boats” to attack private vessels and commercial shipping. The sea lanes between the Gulf of Aden and in the Arabian Sea have become “seize lanes.”
The West has the air power, the firepower and the navies in place to accomplish the end of Somali piracy. All it needs are the will and the moral certainty to get on with it.
And while we are on the subject of thievery and extortion, one must ask: Is there any difference between Somali piracy and, say, Saudi, Libyan, or Venezuelan extortion of Western wealth in oil in the Western oil fields developed by Western companies? Somalis are not the only pirates. The entire membership of OPEC is a club of pirates, extortionists, and thieves – of Western wealth.
At the very least, a military strike against the Somali pirates would send a clear message to Islamist jihadists everywhere: This particular reign of terror is over. One should wholeheartedly agree with William R. Hawkins when he stresses that it is the pirates, like any criminal who initiates force, who should be mindful of the risks, chiefly that they may forfeit their lives if retaliatory force is employed.
It is a strategic mistake to appease aggressors. It is the pirates who must be put at risk, and learn the harsh lesson that their raids will only result in their own destruction.
And punitive attacks against pirates should not mean "nation building" or any prolonged involvement in the country. Indeed, any deep intervention in a place as wild as Somalia is to be avoided. The mission would simply be to teach the brigands that "crime" doesn't pay with an application of armed might beyond anything they can imagine or endure.
It the West cannot or will not deal with so lesser a threat as pirates, then it is doomed to extinction, and the Islamists will have won.