Monday, April 13, 2009

Americans Captured by Pirates, Freed by SEALs/Marines

Over the last five days or so, Americans were taken prisoner by pirates, then freed by American military personnel.

The US-flagged Maersk Alabama was attacked by pirates off the cost of Somalia. It is one of many ships taken recently in that region and not even one of the more spectacular ones (Berman Post: Pirates Seize Ship Carrying 33 Russian Designed T-72 Tanks and Berman Post: Pirates Hijacked Saudi Supertanker (Oil)). What does make it special is that it is thought to be the first US-flagged vessel taken by pirates in a non war zone in roughly two centuries.

The Marine hymn "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli"; the "shores of Tripoli" is a reference to fighting Muslim pirates in North Africa (present day Libya) around 1800.

The American crew fought back and was able to retake control of the ship. In the process they through three pirates overboard and captured one. The captain of the Maersk Alabama was taken hostage on a life boat.

The life boat quickly ran out of food, fuel, and water. Still, the pirates refused to give up the captain. In what can only be described as an incredible feet of marksmanship and timing, three snipers simultaneously killed three pirates holding the captain hostage. Imagine the difficulty from three snipers on one bobbing ship hitting three moving targets on another bobbing ship all at the same time. If anyone misses the captain will almost certainly be killed. With that the captain was rescued. His ship had already reached its destination in Kenya to deliver relief supplies.

After the dust settled, there was some question as to what role Obama had played. While he did not order the attack he had apparently authorized the use of force twice. Some say that all Obama did was confirm/affirm what was already the rule, to use force if the life of the captain was in imminent danger. In that context, Obama did not actually authorize anything nor restrict anything, just solidify what was already in place.

Focus is now shifting on how to prevent future attacks. Most promising in my opinion are attacking the pirate's land bases, arming the crews, and a strict no negotiation policy. History seems to show that the only real way to stop pirates is to destroy their land bases. Arming the crew provides for a significant deterrent effect. A policy of no negotiation takes away the main financial incentive the pirates have.

Clinton had an inappropriate moment where she appeared to chuckle at the situation.

Video embedded below. (From

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