It Begins

April 2009


“Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding the Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, said: ‘Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying,’ he told The Associated Press. ‘We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men.'”

Taken from here. This is an interesting quotation to me as it relays the pirate’s sense of entitlement. For some reason, he thinks that they have a right to seize property and detain foreign citizens. The man quoted above seems to be as sure of his right to rob as we are sure of our right to freedom on the high seas. I wonder what led him to think this? Perhaps they’ve been conditioned to consider it a right given that payment of ransom is the standard procedure of dealing with pirates. 

Anyway, we seem to be dealing with an ideology and not just a criminal enterprise. They truly think they have a right to rob, and it will take force to convince them that it is not in their interests to keep pursuing this “right.”

Posted by Jeffrey Withington in Maritime Security, Navy
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  • Eagle1

    “The man quoted above seems to be as sure of his right to rob as we are sure of our right to freedom on the high seas.”

    Nicely said.

    Culture clash.

  • Jeffrey, great post.

    I couldn’t help but think of an article I read in the UK’s Guardian interviewing a Somali Pirate. In that country, the pirates are considered heroes. The fact that there is nothing else to idolize is probably a forcing function to that end.

    An interesting (and rather perverse) hypothetical thought is that as the piracy problem escalates militarily, it could have an unintended effect of galvanizing the Somali population. Piracy is their only business, the only thing that they can have pride in.

    I’m all for the use of force in the context of piracy, but without any alternative to continuing in that line of work, it could become a hollow cycle of violence. How can we send the message that this behavior is unacceptable and that they should value other means of income and notoriety? The DoD’s role is pretty clear to me, but how do we leverage State and other “soft power” means to come to a final resolution to this problem?

  • PK

    these guys don’t have much more than small boats and small mother ships. the mother ships are just getting up to a size where the real ship to ship weapons are effective.

    Krazy Kadafi taught us in the seventies that small boats are quite easily sunk by anything that flys.

    if they think that its thier right to commit acts of piracy then sit back, use the medium range stand off weapons and engage in civic education.

    that is if you don’t mess with the americans they will leave you alone.

    of course they will scream that we don’t and point to many contrived and semicontrived incidents but what the hell, show them pictures of stuttgart, dussledorf, tokyo, hiroshima, nagasaki late in WWII.

    perhaps the “Elders” need to learn that even though we complain and talk adnausium about the percieved weakness in shore bombardment equipment, what we do have works much better than what they have.


  • “The DoD’s role is pretty clear to me, but how do we leverage State and other “soft power” means to come to a final resolution to this problem?”

    Not only is the country broken but most likely the society and the culture itself. A final resolution probably involves a decade of occupation by someone willing to back up being there with force.

    As for not having any other options. This was a road they drive down, right? If State does anything, it should be to push the UN. As worthless as they are, this is what they are around for. And when they fail, that can be used again them.

  • jwithington

    Very interesting article buffalojack. You raise some very interesting points about how the question of piracy is tied to success of the Somalian state. I will have to think on this.

  • Wharf Rat

    A poster on ‘information disemination’ stated something very interesting, talking about the demographics in Somalia, with the fact that these are not educated people.

    My concern is that an undecuated population will do something by our standards to be irrational and not well thought out.

    They just go outsmarted by the US Navy, not just in the fact that we ended it, but how we ended it. They were tethered to the stern of USS Bainbridge – when that happened, that was the end of it – right there. I suspect that there was a standing order to end it when they had the chance, not just when they felt the captain of Alabama was in danger – when wasn’t he?

    I have questions on how the three pirates were taken down, when I see a lifeboat with a cover on it, likely preventing a good view on what was going on inside it. Congradulations to the service members who did a great thing – I suspect more to come.

  • RickWilmes

    Here are some questions and answers to think about.

    What social system do the Somalis live under?


    What kind of ethics is synonymous with tribalism?


    What kind of social system is required for individual rights to be recognized and what type of ideology is required to put such a social system into practice?

  • Why would the foreign citizens come to someone’s land and dump nuclear west? plus those foreign ships trying do what ever they can because these somalians don’t have government? come on that is not your land so find somewhere else. What the pirate guy quoted got right to say because that is his land. What the US did to those pirates will make these pirates to kill any hostage they capture and the world will blame the US and everybody in the world would wake up and there will be a lot of bloods.

  • Smiley1081

    My father, in his wise years, always says that we need another Lepanto, and he is not only talking of the Somali pirates…

  • Byron

    Somalia has been in a state of anarchy for a long time. If you look in the dictionary under “failed state”, you’ll find a picture of Somalia. Neptunus Lex said it best at his blog: “Build a large wall, 50 feet high, with one gate, around the whole country. Leave them the wherewithall to feed themselves. Lock the door. Come back in 50 years and see how things are doing. Rinse, repeat, as necessary.”

    Anyone disagrees, they need to remember what was going on prior to the incidents recounted in “Black Hawk Down”. As for pirates, vigorous patrolling, any boat or ship caught with more than a shark rifle is to be sunk and the occupants brought to the beach and dropped off. Any boat foolish enough to send a round near the Navy, is DRT: Dead Right There. Rinse, repeat, until they get the message.

  • Fouled Anchor

    “Every country will be treated the way it treats us.”

    A Somali cultural trait might help explain this attitude…not defend it, just explain it.

    The Somali culture is founded on mutual respect. This Abdullahi Lami probably feels that the pirates, maybe even Somalis in general, were disrespected by the U.S. actions to end this situation. I say tough, they got what they deserved…but it might help to understand the reaction.

    A couple of other cultural traits to remember:

    – The most respected people in Somali society have always been priests and warriors. No doubt the pirates see themselves as the latter.

    – Somalis consider themselves all equal, and subservient only to Allah. Giving in to any U.S. demands during negotiations would probably be unlikely.

  • Fouled Anchor, I’m not knocking you, but how about the Somalis show a bit of respect for OUR culture?

  • Fouled Anchor

    I hear ya…but I wasn’t suggesting we respect their culture, just understand it.