Saturday, April 11, 2009

Oh, Those Cunning Somali Pirates

Certainly, I cannot be the only one on the planet wondering how in hell can a bunch of Somali renegade pirates outwit, out maneuver and out perform the world's combined fleet of navy vessels. And earning big bucks in the process.

Perhaps the key is that so far the pirates haven't killed any of their hostages.

And, so far, only the French have shown some spunk in retaliatory commando attacks on the pirates, the latest killing three pirates and one hostage.

But the U.S. and other nations are exercising extreme caution.

For once, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News offers a knee-jerk reaction that could diffuse the crises: Arm the merchant ships with military to kill the pirates as they attempt to board ship. That's about as effective as the U.S. manning commercial airlines with air marshals.

Another option is invading Somalia to rid the source of the pirate braintrust. Bad idea, the pundits say for it conjures visions of the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" tragedy.

Somalia, it seems, is a country -- perhaps the most dysfunctional in all the world -- too prickly to invade and come out smelling like a rose.

So what's a law-abiding nation to do to stop this utter nonsense? The answer is paying the ransoms demanded by the pirates. Memo to world leaders: That ain't gonna stop it.

The ransoms paid are Somali's largest producer of gross national product and they only go into the pockets of the thugs.

The crazy thing is, the pirates have the street people in many impoverished nations rooting for them as they are portrayed as a bunch of Robin Hoods robbing the king's treasures. And, the world leaders are buying into that PR nonsense.

It is said the pirate mother ships carry hostages with them as a shield for protection while their high-speed launching boats raid the unarmed merchant vessels. Is it a bluff? We don't always know.

What would happen if the navies began blowing the pirate ships out of the water? The consensus is that's like winning the battle but losing the war. The French don't seem to give a damn about that PR nightmare.

I think the Obama administration better get off the dime and take some action patterned after the French.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on. The latest pirate seizure occurred this Saturday morning. The following is a dispatch of the incident filed by Reuters:

Pirates captured an Italian-flagged tugboat with 16 crew including 10 Italians on Saturday, in the latest hijacking in the busy Gulf of Aden. The tugboat, with enough fuel and food on board to last a month, was believed to be heading toward the Somali coast, the head of the Italian company that owns the boat told Reuters.

"I've entered into contact with the families (of the crew)," Claudio Bartolotti, head of Ravenna-based Micoperi Srl, said, adding there were also five Romanians and one Croatian on board.

...Andrew Mwangura, of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, said the tugboat's crew were believed to be unharmed. He said the tugboat was towing two barges at the time of capture but there were no details about their cargo. "This incident shows the pirates are becoming more daring and violent," Mwangura told Reuters by phone.

NATO alliance officials on board the Portuguese warship NRP Corte-Real, which is patrolling the Gulf of Aden, said a distress call came from the MV Buccaneer tugboat but communications were lost six minutes later.

Bartolotti said he received an email around midday informing him that the pirates had taken the ship. He said it came from the tugboat captain's email address but did not appear to be written by him. He said calls to the boat so far had not been answered.

Bartolotti said he had received word that an Italian navy warship, the Maestrale, was heading toward the area where the tugboat was hijacked. Somali pirates have stepped up attacks in March after a lull at the start of 2009.

International interest has focused this week on the plight of an American hostage, Richard Phillips, held by four pirates on a lifeboat flanked by U.S. naval warships in a high seas standoff since Wednesday.

As I was saying, this is ridiculous that it continues to happen almost daily.

Lawlessness rules.

The Somali pirates are outsmarting the rest of the world. Crime pays.

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