During and after the dramatic Easter Sunday rescue of Captain Phillips (a heahty Vahmontah!) of Maersk Alabama, there was considerable discussion here and at other venues regarding whether or not the actions of the US Navy SEALs in popping the three pirates would do more harm than good. There was fear that this would somehow “escalate the violence”. That somehow, despite binding and gagging their prisoners and threatening them with the ubiquitous AK-47s, the pirates didn’t really have evil intent.

Now, this from the Associated Press:

*********************************************************

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Somali pirates holding a hijacked ship off the coast of Somalia fired at a U.S. Navy helicopter as it made a surveillance flight over the vessel, the first such attack by pirates on an American military aircraft, the Navy said Thursday.

The helicopter, which is based on the USS Chancellorsville, was not hit and there were no injuries, the Navy said.

The copter was flying on Wednesday over a Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel, the Win Far, which pirates seized along with its 30-member crew in April and were holding south of the Somali port town of Hobyo.

The helicopter was about 3,000 yards away from the ship when the pirates opened fire with “a large caliber weapon,” the Navy said in a statement. The helicopter did not return fire, it said.

Since seizing the Win Far in the Gulf of Aden, the pirates have used the vessel as a base for attacking other commercial ships, including the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama. Four pirates seized the Maersk Alabama in April, taking its captain Richard Phillips hostage. He was held for five days in a sweltering lifeboat off the coast until U.S. Navy snipers shot three of his captors dead.

************************************************************

I wonder if the helicopter pilots would agree with the rather silly and naive assertions that the pirates really mean no harm, and are just trying to provide for their families. Let’s hope this is an argument-ender for such nonsense. Appeasement of bullies does nothing but make the problem worse, the bullies bolder.

We need to get it through our heads that sometimes, some people need to be killed. A pirate on the deck of a rogue ship banging away at a Navy helo with a heavy machine gun fits nicely into that category.




Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Foreign Policy, Maritime Security, Navy


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  • JD

    Right on! I never have believed that the pirates mean no harm, but now we have some evidence that they do mean harm. So what if they’re desperate and trying to provide for their families? They are criminals and they cooperate with Al-Shabaab, who cooperates with Al Qaeda. It’s time to loosen the rules of engagement at sea, form a solid legal plan for dealing with captured pirates, and help the Somali government get on its feet. It’s also time the shipping companies realize that their ransom payments are perpetuating piracy and the corrosion of Somali society.

  • http://www.eaglespeak.us Eagle1

    Actually, I’m surprised that this hasn’t happened before.

    Here are a couple of scenarios:

    (1) Some idiot pirate got tired of waiting for ransom and waiting in general and took a “I’m bored” potshot at the helo, knowing that with 30 or so hostages on the captured vessel the helo was unlikely to respond; or

    (2) The pirate master minds have decided they really want a full out war with the U.S. Navy and brought out a heavier weapon to the hostage ship and decided to start the war now – just before the end of the monsoon winds and the beginning of prime pirate weather and a chance to grab more ships for ransom. A war that they cannot win and in which the U.S. has more that little blue skiffs full of AK-47s to play with

    Somehow, with a lucrative business operation, I tend to think #2 is less likely than #1. So, without more intel to the contrary, I’m going with my “idiot pirate” thought.

    On the other hand, if it happens again . . .

  • Total

    Your second-to-last paragraph is the kind of silly rhetoric that got us into trouble in 2003-2006. First off, if you’d like to provide someone meaningful who’s actually arguing that the pirates are lovely people, I’d like to see the link (meaningful does not mean ‘random blogger that I dredged up with a Google search’). Second, which historical event would you like to use to prove your ideas about appeasement? Munich? Backs you up. July-August 1914? Oops! Catastrophic world war as a result of people following your ideas. Cuban Missile Crisis? Oops! Would have been a nuclear war if JFK had followed the Generals’ advice that he couldn’t look weak and had to attack Russia.

    Stop with the simplistic machismo and try living in the real world, which is substantially more complex.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Total,

    I will reserve you a seat on a helicopter, and then let the pirates shoot at you. And, when you wind up in the drink, the last thing that can go through your head (beside sea water) can be that “they didn’t mean it, sure glad we didn’t shoot back!”

  • Byron

    Or, as an old soldier once said, “Some people just need killing”.

  • Total

    “I will reserve you a seat on a helicopter, and then let the pirates shoot at you. And, when you wind up in the drink, the last thing that can go through your head (beside sea water) can be that “they didn’t mean it, sure glad we didn’t shoot back!”

    So, rather than responding to what I actually said, you’re just going to start jumping up and down like a small child? Excellent. Zero for reading comprehension, but excellent.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Hey Total,

    As H H Morant might say, “This really ain’t the time nor place…”

    Detailed discussions of your assertions regarding the diplomatic and military positions of the Allied and Central powers from 1900-1914 and whether negotiations constituted “appeasement” are likely too long for this comment block. The same can be said for the negotiations during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Which, by the way, featured a naval “quarantine” but forces superior to the Soviet Navy, and Khruschev knew JFK meant business.

    The old phrase “you’re known by the company you keep” is pertinent here. Al-Shabaab, and by proxy, Al-Qaeda, have major influence here. If the situation didn’t start out that way, it has certainly evolved there. Natural enough, to this point there has been immense profit to be gained with very little risk. (Oh, but my 401k should be such.)

    So much for the higher level. Let’s talk about the practical aspects. To assume someone who is shooting at you means you no harm is patently and absurdly stupid. Fact of life. To try and interpret those actions any other way is ludicrous. If you choose to label it “simplistic machismo” and “jumping up and down like a child”, then you have a reserved seat on that helicopter…

  • http://fredfryinternational.blogspot.com/ Fred Fry

    Well, for all the talk about not wanting to arm merchant sailors for fear of ‘escalating the situation’, we can now see that it is the US Navy putting everyone in danger in that their mere presence is escalating the situation.

    Watching CNN this morning there was a statement that the US Navy has fired ‘warning shots’ at least 15 times in the area. So what kind of non-escalation is that? This pirate probably heard that helicopters are shooting at pirates who may or may not (given their own poor aiming skills) know that they are mere warning shots.

    Lets face it, the only reason the US Navy does not want armed seafarers is the selfish desire to know that merchant ships that they might board to search are unarmed.

  • leesea

    Both the Navy and Coast Guard have snipers capable of taking out individuals and boat engines (small similar sized targets). Why is the US Navy NOT retaliating in-kind to being shot at? Tit for tat. OH everyone will wring their hands about the 30 crewmembers onboard the pirate mothership. IF the pirates were to do anything that would be provocation enough to send in NSWG to capture the ship WHEREVER it was anchored? Maybe this stalemate (due to legal restrictions) needs to be broken?

    Pls tell me what is wrong with changing the Navy ROE?

    BTW this is a separate issue from arming US flag merchant ships, for which there is a simple solution re-establish the Naval Armed Guards on all US flag merchant ships doing any business with Military Sealift Command.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    If ANYBODY opens fire on a USN aircraft, boat, craft, ship, vehicle, bicycle, velocipede, guard dog, building, out building, tent, container, sailor, marine, dependent or pet goldfish…KILL THEM. IMMEDIATELY.

    Any questions? Buellar? Buellar?…

  • Chuck Hill

    Apparently this is a know mother ship, which has ben operating as such for months. Why hasn’t it been taken down?

  • Derrick

    I believe standard rules of engagement require someone who has been fired upon to first if possible, evade and radio back for orders on whether to engage the target or not. Only when that is not possible are they authorized to fire back (in self defense). If this is wrong, please let me know. Returning fire in all circumstances is a bit extreme considering all the political ramifications. Also, this particular helicopter may have been ordered to do surveillance only, which was probably why it chose to back off rather than blow the pirates out of the water.

    I don’t think arming merchant vessels is the best way to deal with pirates localized to the Somali area. First off, the US taxpayer pays the US Navy a large amount of money to provide global presence and protect sea-lanes. Secondly, US Navy personnel will always be trained on the latest weaponry, so it’s much safer to leave the job of handling armed enemy forces to the US Navy.

    I also don’t think it can be assumed that the US Navy firing warning shots would contribute to escalation of the incident. If the US Navy has already pre-warned the vessel in question via radio, and the vessel refuses to comply, what choices does the navy have? The US Navy could just disregard its orders and allow the vessel to do what it wants, or it could fire a warning shot to let the vessel know it intends to follow through on its orders. If the US Naval asset fired warning shots without provocation or warning, then that is an escalation of the incident.

    Finally, I don’t understand how whether the pirates actually meant harm or not has any relevance to the situation. Whether a subject was intentionally targeted or not, they were dangerously close to being killed, and reserve the right to defend themselves if necessary.

    As for the pirate mother ship not being taken down, that’s probably because the Taiwanese government has not asked for US military intervention as of yet.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    Derrick:

    They are not “enemy forces”, they are pirates. Criminals.

    The right of self defense is inherent.

    If they shot at you (and missed), they meant to kill you. You therefore have the right to kill them.

    It’s not an incident, it’s attempted murder or an act of war…no third category.

    If the Navy is not on scene they can’t do bupkiss for you. The PIRATES have already crossed the bright line labeled “use of deadly force”. You have now entered the land of “kill or be killed”. Or surrender because you are unarmed, relying on the good will of the pirates.

    Chancy option, that third one.

    In any case, any criminal who fires on any asset or personnel of the US Navy should be immediately killed. Unless they immediately surrender.

    The difference between war and piracy on the high seas, for a Navy, is that after you capture those pirates who surrender or are too severely wounded to resist, you turn them over to the US Marshal. In war you give them to the Army MP’s, who put them in a POW facility. If they are not lawful combatants…well, that’s a bit fuzzy right now, if you capture them. If you kill the fanatics sworn to kill you or die trying, they are dead and can’t hurt any law abiding people any more.

    Which is why if you give a PFC a firearm, you have created a policy maker. Just sayin…

    Most likely the helo wasn’t properly armed, and couldn’t fire back. That is an entirely different topic.

  • JD

    The news article at this link never received much attention, but the pirates have, in fact, killed before. http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/06/23/somalia-pirate-ship326.html

    Relying on the good will of pirates is “chancy” indeed.

  • Derrick

    I think if President Obama gives the US Navy an order to patrol within known areas of pirate activity, that presence alone would negate any perceived need to arm merchant vessels. I’d still rather leave the fighting to the paid professionals.

    Relying on pirate goodwill is never an option. However, arming merchant vessels may incite pirates to shoot to kill instead of taking prisoners.

    As long as the US Navy has presence around Somalia, I think the problem will die down. I’m sure pirates that see an US Navy air patrol will not want to risk any action and just head back to harbour…

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Derrick:
    EVERYBODY would rather leave the fighting to the paid professionals. If they aren’t within range to do anything effective, it’s not an option.

    You’ve got it backwards. Seizing American flag merchants on the high seas may incite the US to arm said merchants. Arm, as in arm, train, drill the entire crew and take other measures to prevent successful boarding. Including civilian armed guards and Naval Armed Guard Detachments, electric barbed wire barriers at the deck edge, claymore mines, attack dogs, escort vessels, Seals, riot gas, augmented night sensors and sights and anything else reasonably likely to be useful in repelling boarders.

    Failure to meet force with overwhelming force will incite the criminals to more crime. Always has, always will.

  • Chuck Hill

    I think in this case the helo did not know they had been fired upon until they got back and film was analysised.

  • Cap’n Bill

    I believe there is a certain degree of hesitancy at taking strong lethal action that may well sink this ship. It is being negotiated for by the owners, captors,and insurance gangs. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is a specific prohibition in effect.
    Having said that I add “NO GUTS, NO GLORY”. Sweep the decks with 50cal. It might help the negotiations.

  • REM

    So, once again, who is arguing that “pirates really mean no harm?” URR, I gotta say that your response to Total in this thread has been unsatisfying.

    I don’t think this post is much about “gleaning intent of the Somali pirates.” Let’s be honest – we all know what their intent is already. It’s to make money by ransoming hijacked ships. They use violence as necessary to take those ships and often implicitly or explicitly threaten further violence against the crews to extort ransoms. Is it your belief that they are terrorists, or that they are in some way linked to Islamic extremists or somesuch?

    Nobody’s saying they’re non-violent. They’re simply prepared to use violence to further their specific goal. There’s no evidence that they’re irrationally and indiscriminately violent. Sorry if that doesn’t fit neatly into your worldview.

    Speaking of which, why is this appearing on the blog of the United States Naval Institute rather than, I dunno, WorldNetDaily? This isn’t about naval issues – it’s about politics, thinly veiled.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    REM,

    There were comments aplenty on previous postings regarding the Navy having escalated the “level of violence”. Also, much has been written and broadcast in the press that these pirates are sympathetic figures, simply eking out a living for their impoverished families.

    “Is it your belief that they are terrorists, or that they are in some way linked to Islamic extremists or somesuch?”

    Well, we know that they are linked to “Islamic extremists or somesuch”. Whether they started out that way or even intended to, they are now. Al-Shabaab has direct ties to AQ, and the pirates are increasingly associated with Al-Shabaab. The latter organization has been called Al Qaeda’s “proxy” by the current administration as well as the past one. So save the “thinly veiled politics” speech.

    This is a matter of whether the American public understands the threat, and whether our government and her Navy are allowed and positioned to take the appropriate actions. That is why this is posted under “foreign policy, maritime security, and Navy”.

    “There’s no evidence that they’re irrationally and indiscriminately violent.”

    Unless, of course, you happen to be one of these folks in Baidoa:

    “July 10, 2009;

    Al-Shabab militants in the south-central Somali town of Baidoa have beheaded seven people in what is believed to the largest mass execution carried out in Somalia by the al-Qaida-linked group since 2006.”

  • http://sonofneocles.blogspot.com/ shaun

    I suspect there was no return fire because they had worries it would be taken out on the captives by the ‘troubled youth’ (assuming there are some captives. These guys aren’t stupid. Hostages are great insurance)

    So, from the perspective of Maersk and other shipping concerns, what do you do? Even with the naval presence, the Gulf of Aden, and the surrounding seas are a very big neighborhood. So merchant ships will always run a risk.

    You would think arming the merchantmen would be an easy solution. Hey, slide some 32 pounders in, give the crew small arms, problem solved. But, interestingly, Maersk doesn’t want anything to do with that. Not even hired guns ala Blackwater, or whatever they call themselves these days. This was true at least as of last April, when I heard their CEO speak in Baltimore. One of the mids I took asked him point blank about arming his ships. Insurance issues, docking issues, all kinds of legal complications go along with armed crew. He didn’t want anything to do with this. The odds of getting hit are low, and he essentially said it was worth the gamble not to take on the extra expense and complications.
    It would be interesting to see if he has changed his mind post Maersk Alabama.

  • http://fredfryinternational.blogspot.com/ FFry

    “It would be interesting to see if he has changed his mind post Maersk Alabama.”

    I am not sure about Maersk, but I am aware that there is at least one US Flag vessel in the area with private armed guard onboard.

    As expected, there was a problem getting the weapons onboard as this was not possible at every port, but once onboard there has been no problems with local port authorities. At least this is what I have been told.

  • REM

    “There were comments aplenty on previous postings regarding the Navy having escalated the “level of violence”.”

    I think that’s just poor analysis rather than touchy-feelyness. It’s only escalating the violence if you believe that the pirates will get more violent in response to the Navy using direct action to retake a ship. That doesn’t seem likely, as they’re using violence in support of a specific goal and killing more people doesn’t seem to advance their goal.

    Also, much has been written and broadcast in the press that these pirates are sympathetic figures, simply eking out a living for their impoverished families.”

    There’s no conflict between seeing some truth in this and believing that we shouldn’t stand for extortion. Your objection to this is symptomatic of that simple belief that there are good people and bad people, that bad people’s motivations are never rational or reasonable even if one stands in their shoes, and that we should never have to feel bad about killing the bad people.

    “Well, we know that they are linked to “Islamic extremists or somesuch”. Whether they started out that way or even intended to, they are now. Al-Shabaab has direct ties to AQ, and the pirates are increasingly associated with Al-Shabaab. The latter organization has been called Al Qaeda’s “proxy” by the current administration as well as the past one. So save the “thinly veiled politics” speech.

    This is a matter of whether the American public understands the threat, and whether our government and her Navy are allowed and positioned to take the appropriate actions. That is why this is posted under “foreign policy, maritime security, and Navy”.”

    Evidence please? [Pirates operate out of Somali] + [Al Shabaab operates in Somali] =/ [Pirates are Al Shabaab], if that helps. Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda, blah blah blah. Fine. Not pertinent.

    What you’re trying to do is conflate the pirate threat with a terrorist/Islamic extremist threat. To do that convincingly you have to, you know, show they’re connected in some way.

    ““There’s no evidence that they’re irrationally and indiscriminately violent.”

    Unless, of course, you happen to be one of these folks in Baidoa:

    “July 10, 2009;

    Al-Shabab militants in the south-central Somali town of Baidoa have beheaded seven people in what is believed to the largest mass execution carried out in Somalia by the al-Qaida-linked group since 2006.””

    What does that have to do with pirates?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    REM,

    From Reuters, last August:

    “NAIROBI (Reuters) – An explosion of piracy this month off the coast of Somalia is funding a growing insurgency onshore as the hijackers funnel hefty ransom payments to Islamist rebels, a maritime official said on Sunday.

    A record four ships were seized in 48 hours last week off the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, meaning Somali pirates are currently holding hostage four cargo vessels, two tankers and a tug boat, along with about 130 crew members.

    The spike in attacks at sea has coincided with a rise in assaults on land by radical al-Shabaab [the "youth"] insurgents, including the capture on Friday of Somalia’s strategic southern port Kismayu.

    The United States say al-Shabaab is a terrorist group with close ties to al Qaeda. Experts say some of the businessmen and warlords who command the pirates are also funding the rebels.

    “The entire Somali coastline is now under control of the Islamists,” Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, told Reuters in an interview.

    “According to our information, the money they make from piracy and ransoms goes to support al-Shabaab activities onshore.”

    Not sure it can be made any clearer.

  • Derrick

    So is the actual intent of the pirates to rob ships to fund terrorist activities?

    Regardless, if the CIA can verify that pirate funds are being knowingly/unknowingly used to fund terrorism, then it’s up to the US military to take action now.

    Probably sending in a carrier strike force and marine complement will be enough to find the pirates home base and eradicate them, plus capture any of those al-Shabaab or al-Queida contacts. Would probably be the cheapest way too, as once the pirates are all taken out, there won’t be a need to arm merchant vessels.

    Though in the aftermath of the operation the US would probably have to send humanitarian aid to the Somalis…

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “Though in the aftermath of the operation the US would probably have to send humanitarian aid to the Somalis…”

    Oddly enough, Maersk Alabama was doing just that when it was hijacked.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    The Captain and crew of at least one Maersk vessel hold a different view of being armed in pirate waters than the main office remf. But it’s their lives on the line.

    Mr Business Man doesn’t like the administrative headaches and thinks it’s cheaper to pay the odd ransom. Dead mariners at the hands of pirates or kidnapped mariners in the hands of pirates have almost no overhead associated with them.

    It isn’t personal. He’s always liked them. It’s just business.

    As to the other thing…escalation. If one is a naval professional, one does not escalate with pirates. One does not negotiate with pirates. One hunts them. To extermination. Mercilessly.

    If one is ineffective in pirate hunting, pirates increase and prosper, and buy sympathy and accomplices and power and utimately, politicians (if one is effective, politicians will take a bow).

    And yes, armed conflict between merchant crews and pirates is often to the death. That is what history teaches. Just as it teaches that a policy of surrender and ransom leads to better armed, more ambitious, more common and more ruthless piracy. Not to mention higher ransoms.

    As the Captain and crew cited above are well aware.

    I believe their position was that no worthless pirate scum are going to get away with taking their ship.

    It’s a sailor thing, others may not understand.

    Piracy is very detrimental to freedom of the seas. As we will all see. Once the scales fall from the eyes.

    Think of it as PMS (MRC R-1) on civilisation.

    Note: 1105’s unfamiliar with the terminology in the preceding sentence are in hack until they learn it. SA’s, FA’s, HA’s and AA’s (& etc)in the same boat report for EMI after liberty call, muster with the AT1. Aviators and staff corps officers ask your sea daddy.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Grampa,

    EXCELLENT Sal Tessio reference. And you are right about this being a ’twas ever thus’ regarding civilization.

    Even if the pirates did not start out aligned with Al Shabaab, and by proxy, AQ, it was bound to happens sooner or later. The Islamic Extremists will always ensconce themselves in a profitable venture, and likely would “make them (the pirates) an offer they can’t refuse”.

  • pk

    [It’s a sailor thing, others may not understand.]

    seems to be a lot of that going around.

    C

  • Byron

    I’m not a sailor, and I GET it…but I’m a little strange that way :)

  • REM

    “Not sure it can be made any clearer.”

    I think it could be made significantly clearer. You know, if the International Maritime Organization, some U.S. agency, or any other reputable organization were to demonstrate some link. All we’ve it here is some guy saying so. I wonder if it serves his purpose for the Western world to think that there is a link, provable or not? You think he realizes a few more resources might be brought to bear on his area of interest if a link is made to the GWOT? So again, show me the money. Don’t you think the USG would be only to eager to put it out there if some proven link between Al Shabaab and the pirates was found?

    Just to stay on point here – nobody’s arguing that pirates aren’t bad. And it’s not just “a sailor thing” (though I’d still “get it” if it was). URR, you haven’t convincingly addressed any of the above critique.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    REM,

    Are you intimating that the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program doesn’t have a grasp on what is taking place in Somalia and off the waters of HOA?

    But, REM, there’s also Jane’s Intelligence Review, which has maintained that the links between Al Shabaab and the pirates are close and getting closer.

    Jane’s is fairly reputable.

    How about the US State Department? This from US Ambassador Shinn:

    “The pirates in Kismayu coordinate with the al-Shabab militia in the area, although al-Shabab apparently does not play an active role in the pirate attacks. Al-Shabab requires some pirates to pay a protection fee of 5 to 10 percent of the ransom money. If al-Shabab helps to train the pirates, it might receive 20 percent and up to 50 percent if it finances the piracy operation. There is increasing evidence that the pirates are assisting al-Shabab with arms smuggling from Yemen and two central Asian countries. They are also reportedly helping al-Shabab develop an independent maritime force so that it can smuggle foreign jihadist fighters and “special weapons” into Somalia. A link with terrorism is worrisome, but the alliance between the pirates and al-Shabab is fragile.”

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    pK

    There is indeed a great deal of not understanding going around.

    Some folks are just stuck on being a(nother) horrible example of the same old fundamental principles.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Byron:
    “that way’ among others.

    Metal fumes, industrial solvents, cajun food…results may vary
    (far from the norm).

    It’s so hard to find kindred spirits. Glad you are here.

  • Byron

    Glad to be here, Granpa.

    REM, my daddy told me to never argue with a man who thought he was smarter than me… So I won’t.

  • REM

    “Are you intimating that the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program doesn’t have a grasp on what is taking place in Somalia and off the waters of HOA?”

    Of course not. I have no idea whether they do or not, because I’ve never heard of them and they – unsurprisingly – have a limited internet presence. It seems likely that they are well acquainted with what takes place on those waters. What I’m certain they don’t have a grasp on is the flow of dirty money between pirates and Al Shabaab. Why would they? And my point – which is pretty clear above – is that Mr. Mwangura has an incentive to oversell any piracy-terror links in the interest of increasing attention paid to (and money invested in) his issues. I’m not even saying he’s lying, just that 1) there’s no reason he would have knowledge of any such links and 2) it’s better for him if others think such links exist, so we should take what he says with a grain of salt.

    “But, REM, there’s also Jane’s Intelligence Review, which has maintained that the links between Al Shabaab and the pirates are close and getting closer.

    Jane’s is fairly reputable.”

    You should have no trouble pointing me in the direction of some Jane’s articles discussing these strengthening ties, then.

    “How about the US State Department? This from US Ambassador Shinn:”

    Now we’re talking…

    “‘“The pirates in Kismayu coordinate with the al-Shabab militia in the area, although al-Shabab apparently does not play an active role in the pirate attacks. Al-Shabab requires some pirates to pay a protection fee of 5 to 10 percent of the ransom money. If al-Shabab helps to train the pirates, it might receive 20 percent and up to 50 percent if it finances the piracy operation. There is increasing evidence that the pirates are assisting al-Shabab with arms smuggling from Yemen and two central Asian countries. They are also reportedly helping al-Shabab develop an independent maritime force so that it can smuggle foreign jihadist fighters and “special weapons” into Somalia. A link with terrorism is worrisome, but the alliance between the pirates and al-Shabab is fragile.'”

    So could you point me to where he says that the pirates are hijacking ships in order to fund Al Shabaab? I couldn’t find that part. Protection money is one thing. The pirates hijack ships for money – to feed their families, buy Benzes, whatever they’re doing with it – and are obliged to shave a bit off the top to give to the militants so they can stay in business. This does not make them militants, and it STILL MEANS THEY’RE INTERESTED IN MONEY AND NOT VIOLENCE FOR ITS OWN SAKE. Right?

  • REM

    “Some folks are just stuck on being a(nother) horrible example of the same old fundamental principles.”

    “REM, my daddy told me to never argue with a man who thought he was smarter than me… So I won’t.”

    I’m sorry to see that the blog of the professional forum for the sea services is not, in fact, interested in discussion at all, but has instead degenerated into a talk shop for those who share the same moralistic worldview.

  • Byron

    Nice parting shot. Instead of going back to URR’s very plainly stated argument, you instead attack the USNI blog. Well done!

  • UltimaRatioReg

    REM,

    I have pointed you to the cereal box, I will let YOU work the spoon. Unless you think I (or Jane’s, or AMB Shinn) invented these comments for the purpose of commenting on this blog, you should go have a look.

    “This does not make them militants, and it STILL MEANS THEY’RE INTERESTED IN MONEY AND NOT VIOLENCE FOR ITS OWN SAKE. Right?”

    That’s just silly. As Ahab said, “be he agent, or be he principle…”

  • swogo

    Gramp Bluewater-

    This 1110 follows, but I’m damned confused about why the aircrew didn’t fire back. Usual loadout in that area includes a significant small arms/anti-FAC/FIAC capability.

    Those bastards can take a pot shot at me during my watch; there’s a reason my OOD requal letter includes small arms batteries release.

    As an aside to the ongoing discussion above, I think that the pirates DO look at this as a business; they’re not ideological, they’re just in a high risk field (even if there are larger ideological organizations ultimately bankrolling everything). It’s no different than miners or fisherman in the United States; you do the job because the rewards outweigh the risks. I would postulate that the job of the United States Navy (and coalition forces) is to tilt that risk/reward equation back towards the risk side; if you go to sea with an AK-47 and try to take over a merchant ship, you are going to die. Maybe not right away, but eventually and irrevocably. When that lesson is illustrated for the pirates (it only takes a couple of high profile engagements and a military presence with some balls and batteries release from on high), amazingly piracy will no longer be a cottage industry.

    Look at Somalia the same way you look at many inner-city neighborhoods here in the States; there might be root causes that make these neighborhoods dangerous, and those should be addressed. But part of the solution is more police and re-establish law and order too. Rudy Guiliani, it turns out, would’ve been a helluva pirate fighter.

    V/r
    swogo

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    SWOGO

    It is so encouraging to a grumpy old man to meet a nice intelligent young fellow such as yourself.

    Thanks for the update/correction. While a comfortable retirement amid the grandkids IS the best revenge, one is a ways out of the loop.

  • REM

    “Nice parting shot. Instead of going back to URR’s very plainly stated argument, you instead attack the USNI blog. Well done!”

    If you just go ahead and read the comment right above that one, you’ll see that I responded to URR in detail.

    “I have pointed you to the cereal box, I will let YOU work the spoon. Unless you think I (or Jane’s, or AMB Shinn) invented these comments for the purpose of commenting on this blog, you should go have a look.”

    Did you read my last comment? It looks like you did, since you quoted from it to tell me I was silly. But I can’t figure why you didn’t respond to anything in it. I don’t think you or Jane’s or the Ambassador are inventing things to strengthen your argument. What I’m saying is that these quotes DON’T STRENGTHEN YOUR ARGUMENT. If you believe they do, you should tell me why instead of implying that I can’t read or can’t think. (On top of which, you haven’t actually showed me anything that Jane’s has said about this issue – you’ve just SAID that they said something.)

    I really hate to condescend to you the way you’ve done to me, but I really don’t get it. This is how a discussion works. One side makes a point and backs it up with evidence. The other side side refutes that point if he can or makes his own point, supported by evidence. You can’t argue with a guy that makes a claim and then says “if you’re too stupid to understand, I’m not gonna spoon-feed you!” instead of supporting his claim.

    I’m really not here to stir things up for the sake of it. I’m honestly trying to engage on this topic, but it seems everyone’s already set in their ideas and impervious to evidence.

  • Byron

    Didn’t take long to start shouting….

  • UltimaRatioReg

    REM,

    I am not sure what you mean when you say the positions of Jane’s, the US State Department, and East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program, all stating evidence of links between the pirates, Al Shabaab, and Al Qaeda does not lend credence to my statement that “Al-Shabaab, and by proxy, Al-Qaeda, have major influence here. If the situation didn’t start out that way, it has certainly evolved there.”

    The idea that this is only because I am narrowly interpreting because of a particular “worldview”, whatever that term means, I find rather absurd. If Jane’s and State, and EASA, and many others believe that such a link exists, I would believe that bears serious consideration other than the “show me proof!” argument. What, at this late date, would make us think AQ would not interject itself into an Islamic country if the risks are low and the strategic advantage of leverage as well as monetary payout are good? This is the way of criminal enterprises, non-state terrorist organizations, and corrupt governments. Somalia has all three in spades.

    Fingerprints on the murder weapon is very strong evidence. It would take REALLY strong evidence to the contrary to aid the defense.

    Nobody implied that anyone can’t read or think (except maybe Byron in reference to a certain rogue-ishly handsome Marine…). The exchange of you asking for evidence, and get evidence, and then are asked for MORE CREDIBLE evidence, and get that, only to tell me that there is no proof, makes me doubt your desire to engage deeply.

    And I am not going to get into a loop of finding other organizations and other public statements, present them, only to have you shrug and say “so what?”. Look around yourself, and you will find an increasing number of reliable entities who are worried about this very subject of links between the pirates, Al Shabaab, and AQ. Many may claim there IS no link, but many more are believing there is.

  • pk

    some of you guys are getting away from the original thought.

    people that swarm aboard ships with guns, take over the ship, kill legitimate crew and ransome the ship to anyone who has a suitcase full of money are PIRATES.

    i am quite suprised that the ship whose crewman took a shot at one of our helicopters with a “weapon of war” is still afloat.

    by the way, davits for motor whale boats, captains gigs, and liberty launches make excellent gibbets.

    just a thought.

    C

  • UltimaRatioReg

    pk,

    So true. But the problem is exponentially larger if bigger boys are now pulling the strings on what otherwise would be a “mom and pop” operation. Resources grow, capabilities expand, and lethality increases as both intent and tactics change.

    To quote another criminal mastermind, “your enemies will become my enemies, and then they will fear you”.

  • pk

    well this business of letting the small fish get off easy so that they will rat out the bigger ones and then we follow that trail up to the top end dosen’t seem to be working that well.

    that policy seems to allow the drug trade in california to flourish even though occasionally we see really noisy announcements that the feds have arrested “drug lords”.

    the broken windows philosophy actually works.

    i firmly believe that if enough of the little guys are killed then the piracy will go away.

    of course i will be cursed by the liberals that say “you can’t arrest your way out of this situation” have not seen a really strong serious attempt at that.

    here in california we have seen that arresting our way out of high crime “the three strikes law” actually does reduce the crime rate. of course the liberals attack the practice at every opportunity and that leads me to wonder just what the purpose is behind their caterwaulling.

    perhaps they have a nephew in jail????

    apply that to some of the comments in this discussion.

    C

  • swogo

    Agree completely with PK/URR – now apply the political pressure and get our boys batteries release when something like this happens. If an enemy shows opportunity, intent, and capability, he should get what’s coming to him – lethal force. I’d even be inclined to give our ships over there a license to board/inspect/detain ANY dhow or small boat that is suspected of pirate activities. The only wrong action is the one we’re taking – NONE.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    PK:

    One fine point to your otherwise admirable summary; killing pirates does not require that they kill merchant crews. Killing pirates only requires that they are in the act of piracy, or are caught on the high seas with the implements of piracy (boarding ladders in a small fishing boat, for example). A credible death threat or an attack with deadly force is not a minimum criteria, it’s a hunting license for any naval force of any nation within range. It’s also full justification for the lethal application of deadly force by the law abiding mariners which have been attacked on the high seas.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    REM:

    “What I’m saying is that these quotes DON’T STRENGTHEN YOUR ARGUMENT. If you believe they do, you should tell me why instead of implying that I can’t read or can’t think.”

    The implication is not that you can’t read. You responded to URR… QED.

    Nor is there an implication that you can’t think. Opinions do vary about the clarity of your thinking.

    Your assertion that “these quotes DON’T STRENGTHEN YOUR ARGUMENT” is a straightfoward enough example. While you may argue that URR
    didn’t weaken your argument by his thesis, he pretty well bulletproofed his own.

    Honest, we get the thesis is followed by antithesis bit. What you seem a bit foggy about is that arguing counter to each point in your thesis is not the same thing as stating and providing credible evidence to support an antithesis. Declining the opening gambit by refusing to accept the premises of the thesis is a perfectly legitimate response.

    And yes, many folk here are trained board, subdue, seize and (optionally) capture rather than fence with mask and pads. It tends to show in the discussion, but for low ruffians in the group (I include myself, of course) it just adds zest.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Besides, I think a cutlass between the teeth frees both hands for swinging from mast (own) to mast (opponent’s) as well as adding a measure of panache and style. What say the rest of you sea dogs?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    I plan to use “avast ye” and “stow the mizzen” in conversation tomorrow at work. Maybe at the staff meeting.

  • pk

    urr

    it won’t help.

    years ago i took my stuff to a scheduling conference in a Star Trek notebook labeled something like “UPS 1700-1724 class warp speed engine specifications”

    they didn’t even notice.

    C

  • Byron

    URR, you utter the words “avast ye” and “stow the mizzen”, and your Marine tongue will fall off. It’s in the OCS programing you don’t remember ;)

    Grampa, don’t forget the dirk in waistband!

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Byron

    I was always one of the “dirk in one sea boot and pistol in the other” school of melee boarding theory (as a holdout, you know, in case the enemy has a fire arm or has superior skill with edged weapons)

    URR: Avast means simply “stop”. “Avast heaving” means, for example, stop turning the windlass to bring in the anchor and chain, or stop turning the capstan. Interestingly, on the great lakes, the appropriate terminology for avast heaving is “hang on” (?!).

    “Stow” means “store or put away properly” so the motion of the ocean (be it yaw, pitch, roll, heave, sway, or surge), or (in a submarine) the longitudinal angle of the ship with reference to the horizonal – aka the bubble, does not unstow the item at the least convenient time.

    Mizzen refers to the after mast on a three masted ship (fore, main, mizzen) and more frequently is used as an adjective than a noun. The immediate response to “stow the mizzen” could be “what?”, absent ship unique considerations. “Secure the mizzen” would most likely be interpreted as “using associated running rigging, take action to ensure nothing on the mizzen mast can fall or change position unexpectedly, by taking appropriate slack out of all mizzen lines and securing them to the appropriate fixture (cleat, belaying pin etc.). More exact verbiage exists and would be the standard command, application may vary from ship to ship.

    Nautical terminology in the english language is a sort of verbal short hand based on a lot of old english and old norse words. This is why an american shiphandler can understand much of what the Norwegian pilot is saying to the tug masters when mooring in Norway.

    I just wanted to encourage your new found fascination with nautical terminology, by giving a few easy examples.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Grampa,

    Thanks for the lesson :-) I know what the words mean. And they may make no sense at all when I say them, but in a staff meeting comprised of public health folks, they will both sound cool (especially if I lead off with a hearty ‘Arrrrggh’) and nobody will know what the he** they mean.

    I may get fired, I may get a laugh… I’ll let ya know! ;-)

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Tell em that the loblolly boy needs to lay up from the orlop and post the binnacle list in time for 12 oclock reports, then ask em what you just said.

  • REM

    Obviously I’ve gotten increasingly frustrated in this thread, so I’m not going to carry on banging my head against the wall and addressing this point by point. To be fair, I think we’ve been largely talking past each other here.

    It seemed to me that the argument you were making, URR, is that the pirates and Al Shabaab are essentially the same guys, therefore their primary interest/motivation is cutting off heads/establishing sharia/being generally bad guys in the name of Allah. My issue with that argument is that if we paint them all with the same broad brush just because they happen to be Muslims and therefore misidentify their motivation – e.g. say they’re interested in cutting off heads when really they’re just interested in cashing checks – our response risks being based on a false premise.

    To be honest, I’m not even arguing that piracy shouldn’t be met with deadly force. Your original post and a few of the subsequent comments stuck in my craw a bit and we got sidelined. I’m definitely not arguing that AQ might be linked to Al Shabaab – a lot of serious people who would know suggest that might be true – or that nary a cent of pirate profits goes to Al Shabaab – as you mentioned, there’s always protection money.

    Anyway, I’m afraid I’ve come off sounding a bit unreasonable in this thread as I demand to know what’s not to like about apples as you’re telling me how much you hate oranges. Maybe next time we can argue more constructively.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    REM,

    “It seemed to me that the argument you were making, URR, is that the pirates and Al Shabaab are essentially the same guys”

    Nope. In fact, I have stated several times to the contrary. But the danger identified is that when Al Shabaab and AQ begin to exercise influence over operations, the pirates’ (and AQ’s) potential and capabilities increase exponentially. Hence the Ahab quote “be he agent or be he principle”. At that point, it doesn’t matter. You have a much bigger piracy problem, a much bigger smuggling problem, and an exponentially-bigger port security problem.

    The pirates themselves may not care about global jihad. They might not even be literate. But those pulling the strings do. And if they are increasingly calling the shots and raking in a good portion of the ransom money, that is a very dangerous situation.

    The original point of the post was that, despite the killings and kidnappings, many comments in the press and here have maintained that the pirates mean no real harm. And the US Navy has escalated the level of violence by defending American shipping. As if now the pirates have a ready-made excuse for more bloodshed. Such a viewpoint reeks of appeasing the bully in the hopes he will go away. If there is anything that has failed more consistently than collective security in the last century and a half, it is that very premise.

  • Aubrey

    Frankly it doesn’t matter WHY someone engages in piracy, their own action should determine the result. The only response to piracy that has worked throughout recorded history is military action to both eradicate the pirates taking part in the actions and to deprive them of their base of operations. I’m not suggesting you need to copy Julius Casesar and destroy an entire pirate village, but as far as I know both tradition and maritime allow for the fact that if you come over the side of my ship as a pirate, you get shot. Quid pro quo.

    Put another way – I don’t care if the guy robbing my house had a hard childhood, is an addict and just needs “some help to get him through”. He still gets to stare down the business end of a 9mm.

  • Aubrey

    err, make that “maritime law” above

  • Derrick

    I’m just concerned that whatever armament is provided the merchant vessels, the pirates will always have better.

    That’s why I’d still prefer to have an US Navy carrier strike force nearby Somalia, running constant air patrols. That way if a merchant ship is attacked by pirates or if a patrol aircraft spots a pirate, the carrier can launch some helicopter gunships or jets that will have much more firepower than the pirates will ever be able to muster.

    I’m just afraid that if civilian ships are armed, be it with a naval detachment or a civilian security force, it may incite the pirates to shoot first, as opposed to allowing them the opportunity to surrendur without loss of innocent life.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Derrick

    The armed guard dets outgun the pirates. Put your mind at ease.

    It’s not the 6 pistols, two shotguns, three rifles always locked up, never practice, cluster that a shipping executive thinks of(OOoo, guns, icky, scary, mustn’t touch, might get hurt). The name of the rating is Master at Arms. There is a reason for that.

    If hiring civilians, hire Ghurkas. Nice guys. Run about 5’4″, stocky, big smile, tough as an old boot. If I need a body guard, Sgt Garung will do nicely. Don’t take my word for it. Ask a Brit.

    Escort of convoy combined with armed guard dets would be better. But every thing must be done on the cheap for the next few years, we all know why.

    Not enough bird farms left to “run constant air patrols”. Ocean too big, planes too few, take too long to get there, what are they going to do when they do? Expensive beyond belief.

  • Derrick

    Here is a news story of a successful capture of 2 Somali pirates by European Union naval forces:

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/091004/world/somalia_piracy_shipping_spain

    I see the point of having armed guards on merchant vessels as a cheap way to deter the pirates, but would like to know a 800 lb gorilla (ie carrier strike force) is nearby in case backup is required.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Derrick:

    Everybody wants a bird farm at their beck and call. Nobody wants to pay the taxes to have nearly enough of them for that to happen one time out of a hundred (thousand, pick a number…).

    Would you like to pay the bill for a CVBG (aka carrier task force)to loiter within range on a heel and toe basis? Lousy mileage, huge overhead. The hotel service costs alone would break a Hilton heir.

    This is work for frigates and corvettes, minimally adequate but competent small escort vessels. “Cheap” (comparatively, given good shipbuilding and repair ED’s, which is by no means a given, alas) little maids of all work. Not glamour girls. Much less one of the Queens of the Sea(s).

    Unfortunately, we have something of a shortage. “Failure to plan is planning to fail” proved a better maxim than “we have reached the end of history”

    “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” (Kipling)still rule.

    So, yes we got no banana…or bird farm.

  • Derrick

    So would positioning a small task force of corvettes, frigates, and maybe a destroyer or 2 be cheap enough, yet provide sufficient firepower to deter or destroy the Somali pirates?

    What would be the number and type of ships that would be sufficient to patrol for pirates yet not break the American taxpayers wallet?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Kipling would have LOVED the way we throw around the word “transformational”…

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Derrick:

    The last time folks went over this ground an answer was worked out for east africa in some detail. Check the back numbers for the discussion based around a force of (minimally) variant Bertholf class cutters and a small wing of Seahawk helos, to take advantage of economies of scale from piggybacking on an existing program, for the east african waters case. I think you’ll find food for thought that will hold your interest.

    There is a fast combat craft (PTG’s etc.) school of thought, but I’m not a fan. Logistic considerations and blue water durability problems look to me like a tough nut to crack for the very small boys.

    Remember cheaper than CVBG isn’t cheap. But cheaper than LCS should be attainable, if we use that program like the Marines used the Gallipoli landings (i.e., a detailed case study of how not to do it).

    The taxpayers wallet is likely broken for 3 generations, regardless, but that’s a different topic.

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