Monday, April 13, 2009

Now Kill Them!

Posted Monday, April 13, 2009

Piracy: The Navy's spectacular rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips left three of his captors at the bottom of the sea. But this wasn't a clear enough message to the Somali pirates, who now vow to kill Americans..

The full majesty of the U.S. military was laid before the ragtag sea thieves holding an American captain hostage. Spearheaded by the Navy's highly trained SEALs, the coordinated U.S. response not only rescued Phillips, but blew away three pirates, demonstrating the stunning array of training, experience, leadership, split-second thinking and superior firepower unknown anywhere else. It was a magnificent end to a terrifying five-day ordeal.

But unfortunately this isn't the end of the story. Pirate confederates onshore vow revenge on the U.S. and France, which rescued its own nationals from pirates this weekend, too.

"France and the U.S. will encounter unforgettable lessons," Mohamed Hashi Yasin, a self-declared pirate spokesman, told Bloomberg News by mobile phone from the port of Eyl.

"We will take quick revenge on American ships if we don't receive apologies," said another. "We will not only target ships and crew in the sea, but also American agencies' staff in Somalia." [are they looking for Obama European Tour Type apoligies? - my comment]

It's easy to laugh at the rage of these pathetic sea thugs. But their threats must be taken seriously.

Lawless forces fired on a U.S. congressman leaving Somalia Monday, and the congressman believes this may only be the start. He may be right, because pirates are essentially an organized crime gang, and this Somali syndicate has metastasized in a failed state.

Somali pirates drew $150 million in ship ransoms from some 200 of the 20,000 ships that pass through the Gulf of Aden in the last year. They have networks of informants in ports throughout the world advising of ships approaching. They have much of what passes for the Somali government on their payroll, forking over 30% of their ransom take to corrupt officials. They have links to the 64,000 Somali-born refugees in the U.S. Most disturbingly they could make common cause with terror groups like al-Shabab.

The revenge threats signal that Somali piracy is now about more than "getting paid." It's about the next logical move from crime: war, with the aim of ruling the global sea trade on pirate terms.

That requires a stronger response than what's now seen from the world community, and there's a need to move fast.

President Obama has stated a global response is necessary, and that means the U.S. and its allies will have to show the will to take the war to the pirates onshore.

Ports that accept pirated ships must be destroyed, just as the Barbary pirate lairs once were. Coastal pirate villas must be bombed. Overseas, financing avenues will have to be broken, and collaborators in the civilized world must be busted.Just as the rescue was coordinated, so must this second stage be.

Right now for Somalia, whose coast abuts 11% of global trade, including 7% of the world's seaborne oil, there's no coordinated response, just every country looking out for its own nationals, using the best options it can. The U.S. is the only nation with the experience and organization to lead.

Years ago, the U.S. recognized the dangers of the criminal-to-state dynamic in Colombia, when the Medellin cartel's four billionaire drug lords amassed enough cash and paid off enough officials to challenge the state's very existence.

As described in Mark Bowden's "Killing Pablo," the U.S. brought a bigger war to these criminals and the terrorists they made common cause with, culminating in the success of Plan Colombia.

Somalia's pirates are no different. If the pirates want to make war on the U.S. in a bid to convert their criminal spoils to terror and power, the only response is to give it to them.
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