If you have been paying even cursory attention to world events over the last few days, you are aware of an American flagged merchant ship, the Maersk Alabama, that was briefly seized by Muslim pirates off the coast of Somalia. The crew managed to regain control of the ship, but the captain, Richard Phillips, is being held in one of the ship's lifeboats by four of the pirates.
This incident represents the first time in nearly two hundred years an American flagged merchant ship has been hijacked by pirates. Ironically enough, it was Muslim pirate activity in this same area that ultimately helped to bring about what we now know as the United States Navy.
Why the world's merchant fleets have continued to tolerate this nonsense is beyond me. Muslim pirates have been operating in this region for centuries, and have amassed quite a pile of cash for their efforts. As of October of last year, the Muslim pirates in the region had pulled in nearly $30 million since the year began.
If you ask me, there is a far better (not to mention cheaper) way to deal with this age-old problem: Arm the ships.
That's right, blast their boats into toothpicks and the Muslim pirates into fish food. Once their fellow pirates back in Somalia start to notice their friends disappearing, or start seeing their friend's half-eaten body parts washing up on African beaches with regularity, just maybe the pirates will start seeking more respectable (and much safer) employment.
Simply paying them off will only encourage more piracy.
This is an early test for our new CIC. It will be interesting to see if he handles this as Thomas Jefferson would, or will it be more like Jimmy Carter?
We will know soon enough.
Boat captain briefly escapes in full view of U.S. Navy
According to an Associated Press story, captain Phillips was able to escape his captors and made a swim for it but was shortly recaptured.
My question is, if the Navy was right there, why didn't they immediately blast the boat into toothpicks and turn the Muslim pirates into bite-sized culinary fare for small fish?
Why is it I think the Navy was restrained due to orders from on high?
Thank God for the U.S. Navy
Easter Sunday, while most of us were glued to our TVs watching the final round of the Masters, the Navy was busy rescuing Capt. Phillips from the clutches of the Muslim pirates who were holding him hostage. As a nice bonus, Navy sharpshooters were able to send three of his captors straight to Hell with some well-placed head shots.
That is a good thing.
Many of the media accounts I have read differ somewhat concerning certain details of the operation, but the best write up I have found on the subject was penned by Uncle Jimbo over at Black Five.
I am unable to set up a direct link, so I have posted it in its entirety below:
How the rescue happened
UPDATE: I am getting plenty of email and chatter with the following argument:
Gortney's statement was clear: "our authorities came directly from the president." Just to clarify, he added in response to a later question: "[T]hat was a standing authority from the president. He wasn't on the phone with the skipper of the Bainbridge saying, oh, yeah, go ahead and at that time shot."
This does not affect my point that the commander on scene already had the authority to deal with an imminent death situation in his standing rules of engagement. It means that when this situation was escalated to national command authority i.e. Obama those rules were suspended and Obama implemented new ones specific to this incident. Then he had to restore the authority the captain already had to use deadly force to save a hostage from execution. There is considerable talk that the initial new ROE that Obama instituted did not allow a rescue so as to allow the negotiations to proceed, and then a second set of ROE was instituted after the Navy could not respond to Captain Phillip's escape attempt. That is unconfirmed but fits the facts as they happened.
I just finished listening to the press conference w/ ADM Gortney about the rescue of Captain Phillips. At the time it happened the USS Bainbridge was towing the lifeboat to calmer waters as the sea state was deteriorating. One of the pirates was on board the Bainbridge as the talks about obtaining Phillip's release continued. The lifeboat was approx. 25 m behind the Bainbridge when snipers on the fantail observed one of the pirates in the pilot house of the lifeboat pointing an AK-47 at the back of a tied up Phillips and the other two pirates on board were visible (at least shoulders and heads). The standing authority gave them clearance to engage the pirates if the life of the captain was in imminent danger. The on scene commander deemed this to be true and gave the order to fire. All three bad guys were taken out and then a rigid inflatable boat went to the lifeboat to retrieve Phillips. Iti is unknown at this point whether the shooters were SEALs or Marine Scout Snipers as both would have been available. This was not a rescue attempt ordered by National Command Authority i.e. the President. It was a reaction by the on scene commander under standard authority to safeguard the life of a hostage.
The AP is reporting that President Obama gave the order to use military force to rescue the hostage, that is misleading.
WASHINGTON (AP)—Administration officials say President Barack Obama approved the military operation that rescued a U.S. captain held hostage by Somali pirates. The officials say Obama ordered the Defense Department to use military resources to rescue Richard Phillips from a lifeboat off the Somali coast.
WASHINGTON (AP)—Administration officials say President Barack Obama approved the military operation that rescued a U.S. captain held hostage by Somali pirates.
The officials say Obama ordered the Defense Department to use military resources to rescue Richard Phillips from a lifeboat off the Somali coast.
He did affirm the military's authorization to use force if the captain's life was in danger, but they already would have had that authorization as part of their standard rules of engagement. If there are innocents about to be slaughtered the same reasoning that authorizes self defense also covers an imminent execution unless the ROE specifically forbid it.The AP is making it sound like there was an active rescue ordered by the President. It was not, there was an imminent threat and the local commander gave the order to fire. Good on Obama for ensuring their authorization was clear, but let's also be clear that he did not authorize or order an active rescue attempt.
UPDATE: Good gravy, the Kossacks are trying to spin Obama up for a medal or something.
Well this will make the wingnuts' heads explode!
Apparently Obama approved the Special Forces mission to save the Captain!
As I have said in many diaries, Obama has to give the final approval for use of Special Forces. If this mission resulted in the Captain being killed he would have been blamed by the media as well as the wingnuts. Since this mission was successful, Obama is responsible for the success as well.
Since I already explained that Obama's part in this was apparently to reinforce the authority already possessed by the on scene commander. Matter of fact if there was a second communication with the President it nay have been because his first order actually restricted them from taking action i.e. why nothing happened when Phillips made his escape attempt. Regardless, Obama did not order a rescue and I kinda doubt he would have.
I have to wonder why the pirates would have threatened Phillips or considered killing him. It would be an obvious death sentence, as evidenced. The second they shot him, it would have allowed free rein for the Bainbridge to blow them out of the water.
Oh and for the record lefty Kossack wanker, these were SEALs, Marines and Sailors with zero Special Forces. Not that an uninformed ass clown like you would know.
UPDATE: More thoughts on the President's actions in this incident.
The vessels in the task force were expected to be stopping piracy so their ROE would certainly have addressed the contingency of an imminent threat to US citizens and their authorization to use deadly force to prevent deaths. It is ridiculous to assume that they needed President Obama to actively affirm that before acting. Imagine a scenario where they come upon a hijacking attempt in progress and the pirates point an AK at the captain of the ship. Would we really expect them to wait and dial the phone?
Ludicrous, I know and precisely why ROE anticipate those situations and give authority to commanders on scene. When it became a national crisis the President can review and potentially change the ROE based on what he wants to happen. If a determination is made to pursue negotiations then tighter restrictions on the local commander's authority to use deadly force could be applied. He also could have done what some reported and authorized a rescue if an opportunity presented itself. It looks like the only step he took was to allow the normal authorization for deadly force to stand, essentially doing nothing.
This is in no way reflects badly on the President. The pirates had little history of using violence against hostages and any rescue attempt is inherently difficult and dangerous. It was fortunate that the on scene commander and shooters were on the ball and on target. Since the reports say the pirates either fired shots on the lifeboat or appeared to be about to execute the hostage. It is certainly worth reconsidering negotiating in any future incidents.