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Piracy and Al Qaida.

We all knew that President Obama, like President Bush, would have to defend Americans from a ruthless foreign organization—actually, a cluster of similarly motivated foreign organizations—that takes advantage of the chaotic conditions of failed states to hide and regroup, and that therefore cannot easily be handled with ordinary criminal process. We just didn't realize this group would consist of Somali pirates rather than Islamist terrorists. It is eerie testimony to the unpredictability of events, yet there is an underlying theme: the dangers posed by the confluence of three trends—the advance of crossborder economic activity, the improvement of weaponry, and the disintegration of states.

There are differences, of course, but these are less significant than they first appear. Al Qaida is (was?) more dangerous, but that could end. Al Qaida is a terrorist group that seeks political ends; the Somali pirates are robbers who seek profits. Legally, this distinction matters, but only at the retail level. Laws against terrorist financing prohibit ransom-paying to terrorists, not to (profit-making) kidnappers, and, for similar reasons, you're less likely to get in trouble if you donate money to the pirates (in case you sympathize with their plight, as many people apparently do) than if you donate money to Al Qaida. But the distinctions blur. Revolutionary and other politically motivated organizations have often resorted to common crime to finance their operations, and criminal organizations often adopt political causes to spread their appeal. If the Somali pirates hire a PR firm and announce an intention to form a revolutionary government dedicated to the oppressed and firmly opposed to American empire, and finance some nursery schools from the ransom money, soon Noam Chomsky will be on their side. Yes, they will be terrorists under the law, but they will also be an oppressed group with legitimate grievances that appeal to anyone who rejects the existing order.

The Obama administration has not repudiated the Bush-era theory that members of Al Qaida may be detained indefinitely with minimal process, as enemy combatants in fact if not in name. And it has enthusiastically carried on the Bush-era practice of blasting them to pieces when they appear on the "battlefield." Yet it would be awkward, to say the least, to apply these precedents to the pirates, even though it would be easy enough to classify them as a nonstate entity with which the United States is at war. (Congress would surely supply an AUMF if that is necessary.) Obama has, in word if not in deed, repudiated these Bush-era practices. But there seems to be little effective alternative.

All the old problems pop up in new form. Criminal trials of pirates in the United States are likely to be expensive and impractical. The current detainee, caught red-handed, may not pose much of a challenge (putting aside the awkward question of whether he is a juvenile). But imagine what would happen if the U.S. detained pirates in the act of attacking a ship from Malaysia: the crew, the only witnesses, are not going to travel to district court in New York City, and the sailors involved in the detention will be on the other side of the world. If the U.S. is actually to make headway with the pirates, it will have to detain hundreds or thousands of people, not just a few. This would overwhelm American logistical capacities, not to mention those of the Kenyan courts, a twelfth-best option that has been explored but that is costly and raises the same set of problems for crews who do not live in the area. (The Somali justice system is not considered a serious option.) And any serious effort would mean shooting to kill long before the type of imminent threat that is necessary under domestic and international criminal law involving civilian suspects. Of course, none of this would solve the problem; it would at best reduce the risks to shipping by a small amount. Soon nation-building in Somalia will appear the only viable option as it has in Afghanistan. History has never before repeated itself so quickly.

People talk now of an international court. Perhaps, such a court will be constructed on a platform that floats along the currents of the Gulf of Aden. The important thing to see is that the purpose of an international court would be to compromise the due process protections that the pirates would otherwise receive. If it instead hews to western standards, and provides lawyers, translators, and security in a chaotic environment, and demands that transient crew members from all over the world appear and testify, then this court will be like all international criminal courts—an unbelievably cumbersome and expensive monument to the fear of action.

So we will have the closest thing to a controlled experiment that one can ever have for such matters—two administrations, two parties, one type of problem. Will the Obama administration swallow its pride and pursue the military option that has apparently addressed the Al Qaida threat for the time being? Or will it pursue a criminal law enforcement strategy more in line with prevailing rhetoric? Much depends on how strong the pirates become, and how quickly. One suspects that, like the Bush administration, Obama will use military and law enforcement approaches as needed, but, unlike Bush, will avoid warlike rhetoric, and sing the reassuring but uninspiring poetry of legal process.

Rod Blaine (mail):
Reverse the onus of proof but make it relatively easy to rebut.

Ie, declare any stretch of water where pirates operate to be a controlled zone. Legitimate fishing (etc) boats in this area can request a (free) licence from the US Navy to operate in a controlled zone. No guns, and must submit to periodic checks when hailed, without attempting to flee.

Publicise the ;olicy very widely and announce that any boats operating in a controlled zone without a licence (or observed to be attempting piracy) get sunmmarily blown out of the water.
4.14.2009 12:43am
Psalm91 (mail):
This is very hasty analysis. Al Qaeda=Pirates. Somalia=Afghanistan. Obama=Bush. What next?
4.14.2009 12:52am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
This isn't really a post about Obama and pirates, is it? It's another attempt to justify George Bush's codpiece-based approach towards Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, some significant differences between Al Qaeda and the Somali pirates had to be elided; for example, Al Qaeda organized in, among other places, Western Europe, and plain old police work broke up their Hamburg cell and who knows what else. The Somali pirates are, as far as we know, without this type of international base, and that's a good reason to believe that different measures are needed to combat them.

Piracy trials were held in the 17th Century, despite its primitive communications, and pirates were tried (and hanged) then in England for depredations committed in the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean. I find it hard to believe that conditions in the intervening 350 years make it impossible to do likewise today. Perhaps, the point of the post is justifying indefinite detention without trial and without the rights of POWs (you know, what that wimp Winston Churchill called "in the highest degree odious"). One would think, just as a first suggestion, that in the Internet age, arrangements could be made for the hypothetical Malay witnesses to testify to the appropriate tribunal by videoconference, if necessary. Is this so far-fetched? Is it less of a distortion of our judicial norms than the right claimed by the outgoing cloWn show to detain anyone it pleased?
4.14.2009 1:28am
Malvolio:
One would think, just as a first suggestion, that in the Internet age, arrangements could be made for the hypothetical Malay witnesses to testify to the appropriate tribunal by videoconference, if necessary.
Not under American legal norms. The accused has the right to confront his accuser, and that confrontation has to be under oath -- which means that the witness has to be within the physical jurisdiction of the court (else the witness could perjure himself with complete impunity).
OATH, n. In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury.
4.14.2009 1:36am
RPT (mail):
AJL:

At least Mr. Posner did not hope for the failure of the rescue efforts, as did combat veterans Gingrich, Beck, Limbaugh and others, or use it as an excuse for more defense budget increases, as did naval strategist Kristol.
4.14.2009 1:38am
RPT (mail):
Malvolio:

Have you ever tried a case that involved deposition testimony? Really?
4.14.2009 1:40am
Ricardo (mail):
Treating pirates as "enemy combatants" would be an awfully slippery slope. It seems just a very small additional leap to then classify accused international drug traffickers as enemy combatants. I could see this happening in Afghanistan and there's already precedent given the military response to Manuel Noriega. Then we can move on to international child pornography distributors. And then...

A better option would be to actually look to the Constitution, the laws of the United States and to ancient legal practices and principles which classify piracy as a criminal offense to be tried in criminal courts for which there is universal jurisdiction: any country can prosecute piracy on the high seas. If Posner is correct and it really is too difficult logistically to try pirates in US District Court, we could change the law to allow pirates to be tried before military commissions on US bases in the Middle East. Given post-9/11 precedent, I would imagine this would be held to be Constitutional although it might hinge on whether the practical difficulties Posner cites are as onerous as he implies.
4.14.2009 2:20am
Mark Buehner (mail):
Scuttle their ships. End of controversy. 50 years ago this wouldn't have been a question mark.
4.14.2009 2:29am
Dan M.:
It's a totally different situation, really. If, for instance, Al Qaeda were only in the business of hijacking planes, then we could have simply taken steps to ensure the safety of planes and be done with it. Likewise, with these pirates, we simply need to put guns on the ships and tell them to kill anyone that gets too close.
4.14.2009 3:48am
Chris99 (mail):


Regarding the issue of logistical and expense problems related to prosecuting those who attack non-US registered ships, the easy answer is not to put a priority on protecting vessels that are not registered in the US and require the militaries of Liberia, Italy, UK and France to provide security for their vessels. Many owners register their vessels in countries such as Liberia because of tax considerations and they should bear the risk of that decision by paying higher insurance or the loss of the vessel. If a ship owner wants US protection then let them pay US taxes.

Before everyone gets upset and condemns me and tells me that the US has a duty to protect merchant ships on the seas, consider that a US citizen is required to pay federal income tax on money made entirely outside the US. The rational of having to pay federal taxes is that as a US citizen you are provided certain privileges and protections. Theoretically, if you are taken hostage in a foreign country the US military may be sent to rescue you. However, if you are an Italian, Liberian, Russian, etc. is the duty of your country to secure your release.
4.14.2009 4:02am
Ricardo (mail):
Likewise, with these pirates, we simply need to put guns on the ships and tell them to kill anyone that gets too close.

Aside from the higher insurance premiums that armed ships command, there is also the problem that they won't be able to dock at the ports of countries that prohibit armed ships nor might they even be allowed to get within 12 nautical miles of these countries. It's not completely crazy for African countries to prohibit ships full of arms from their territory, after all.

Before everyone gets upset and condemns me and tells me that the US has a duty to protect merchant ships on the seas, consider that a US citizen is required to pay federal income tax on money made entirely outside the US.

I think that consideration cuts against you, though. As I understand tax law, the American crew of a Liberia-flagged vessel will owe income taxes on 100% of their income as long as they spend at least 35 days in either international waters or within US territory in a 12 month period. Given that they pay taxes, their lives ought to be protected by our Navy as much as the American crew aboard a US-flagged vessel.
4.14.2009 4:17am
BGates:
RPT, perhaps you could amuse us with a quote from Gingrich, Beck, or Limbaugh to that effect.

Incidentally, any one of Gingrich, Beck, or Limbaugh has as much combat experience as the President, Vice President, and entire Cabinet (save Eric Shinseki) combined.

(And that's twice as much as Bill Kristol, who you say had the wacky idea of using a growing threat of violence in international waters to argue against diminishing American naval power.)
4.14.2009 4:55am
Dan M.:
Higher tax rates for armed ships is ridiculous, though. Do you have to pay higher liability car insurance if you regularly carry a gun? Home insurance? I don't see why insurance companies should be dicks about it and put a gun surcharge on the ships rather than having a fact-based adjustment based on the likelihood of an accident. Do they have any insurance based on the likelihood that someone is just going to go into a rage and toss someone overboard?

Yes, it seems to be a problem if countries aren't going to allow armed merchants to dock. Countries that are receiving aid can simply go to hell for all I care if they're not going to allow our merchants to arm themselves. I would hope that some sort of arrangements could be made with our trade partners. It's unfortunate that so much of the world is so hostile to the fundamental right of self-defense.
4.14.2009 5:10am
Chris99 (mail):
I think that consideration cuts against you, though. As I understand tax law, the American crew of a Liberia-flagged vessel will owe income taxes on 100% of their income as long as they spend at least 35 days in either international waters or within US territory in a 12 month period. Given that they pay taxes, their lives ought to be protected by our Navy as much as the American crew aboard a US-flagged vessel.

Consideration for what, that that ship owners want a free ride? I believe where I read that the Italian ship owner was wanting the US to help them because his own govt would not. During Gulf War 1 or a crisis with Iran, one of the things that the US did was to flag the tankers going through the Straits because they became subject to US laws and protection.

Regarding the taxes, there are two test for determining taxes, one is the physical presence test that you cite and the bona fide residence test which is determined by objective and subjective facts such as owning a home, voting, etc.
4.14.2009 5:13am
Joe T Guest:
We just didn't realize this group would consist of Somali pirates rather than Islamist terrorists.


Interesting that everybody views this as either an international law problem or a military or police problem, but nobody seems to consider that piracy and violent Islamic extremism might both be symptoms of social unraveling and partly the result of a crisis of confidence in western culture (including Western abdication of any responsibility whatsoever for Africa, and Russia's failure to perform the leadership duties that are concurrent with the world leadership role it aspires to).
4.14.2009 7:31am
Mikeyes (mail):
Clause 10. The Congress shall have Power * * * To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations.

Doesn't the Constitution give Congress a blank slate on the issue of Piracy?
4.14.2009 8:10am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
MIkeyes.
Yeah, it appears it does. So...Congress? Efficient, sensible, timely action?
How much would the pirates have to pony up to buy a couple of strategically-placed representatives? Given what's come out in recent months about how much those guys cost, and what the pirates have amassed, it would be chump change for them, even if the Saudis didn't help.
4.14.2009 8:15am
ERH:
I don't understand why Posner is insisting on over-complicating the situation. As Mikeyes points out, Clause 10 give Congress the power to define and punish pirates. They've done so in Title 18 secs 1651-1661. In which, they've specifically addressed how and when to deal with alien pirates.
4.14.2009 8:47am
martinned (mail) (www):

Piracy trials were held in the 17th Century, despite its primitive communications, and pirates were tried (and hanged) then in England for depredations committed in the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean. I find it hard to believe that conditions in the intervening 350 years make it impossible to do likewise today.

Sounds reasonable. Unfortunately, in reality the story wasn't so clear cut:


Maritime writer Dr David Cordingly, author of "Life among the Pirates", says that, historically, firm measures were taken against pirates.

"There would often be a show trial in London, Jamaica, Boston or Charleston," he said.

International forces often try to intercept pirate vessels
"That was followed by a public hanging and the bodies would be left swinging on the gallows at the entrance to harbours. Sailors would draw the conclusion that piracy was not a good career option.

Source
4.14.2009 8:53am
rick.felt:
We just didn't realize this group would consist of Somali pirates rather than Islamist terrorists.

Wait, why is it either-or? Obama has to deal with al-Qaeda, too.
4.14.2009 8:56am
Anderson (mail):
Doesn't the Constitution give Congress a blank slate on the issue of Piracy?

Right. I don't see why the Navy can't be empowered to try, convict, and punish pirates on the spot.

Possible counterargument: "Offenses against the laws of nations" is fascinating in its scope. Does that cover treaty violations? If not, then what was "the law of nations" in 1789? ... If terrorism is an "offense against the law of nations," then one wonders whether Congress could invoke this clause as allowing it to "define and punish" the crimes of 9/11 without judicial involvement ... including habeas?

Counter-counterargument: The power to "define" and "punish" does not include the power to "try" pirates. But that leaves us back at square one.

Anyone know what, if anything, the UCMJ says about pirates? Or does it not even cover offenses by non-servicemen?
4.14.2009 8:57am
Anderson (mail):
They've done so in Title 18 secs 1651-1661. In which, they've specifically addressed how and when to deal with alien pirates.

Unfortunately, this just seems to define the offenses and penalties ("define and punish"), not to provide procedures for trial.

... Max penalty for piracy is life in prison. Who knew?
4.14.2009 9:00am
Anderson (mail):
Wikipedia:

English admiralty vice-admiralty judges emphasized that "neither Faith nor Oath is to be kept" with pirates; i.e. contracts with pirates and oaths sworn to them were not legally binding. Pirates were legally subject to summary execution by their captors if captured in battle. In practice, instances of summary justice and annulment of oaths and contracts involving pirates do not appear to have been common.

I think "admiralty law" is where I was going with my inchoate invocation of the UCMJ, but I know even less about admiralty law than about the UCMJ. Does U.S. admiralty law cover piracy?
4.14.2009 9:04am
ReaderY:
Speak softly and carry a big stick.
4.14.2009 9:21am
Houston Lawyer:
I find the whole idea of due process for pirates laughable. They should be shot on sight. If they attempt to flee, they should be machine gunned in the water and their vessels either sunk or taken as a prize.
4.14.2009 9:42am
David Starr (mail) (www):
First of all, pirates are not unlawful combatants, or terrorists or freedom fighters. They are pirates.
Why waste resources on trying pirates ashore, especially ashore in New York City? Proper procedure, going back a long time, is for the senior Navy captain to convene a court martial on shipboard and convict and sentence the captured pirates. The online UCMJ does not appear to speak of piracy, but it does prohibit robbery and assault.
4.14.2009 9:44am
Adam J:
Houston Lawyer- Wow, quite the humanitarian aren't you? Machinegunning down fleeing pirates... gee I can't imagine how that could create any blowback. Brilliant plan... really.
4.14.2009 10:01am
rosetta's stones:
Yes, the on-site military commanders could be entrusted to deal with pirates, much as they dealt with war crimes in the field during WWII, when they often issued judgments and death sentences to war criminals. But that would exclude the gaggle of civilian lawyers, and we can't have that, can we?

This is the clusterfuqq we've gotten ourselves into. We've ignored history, and expedient processes of the past, and embraced pettifogging.

The military kills people and smashes things. Sometimes you need that, as Obama seems to understand. One lawyer down, only 30M more to go.
4.14.2009 10:07am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Adam J.
Yeah, pissing off those who steal and kill is a bad thing.
They might steal and kill.
4.14.2009 10:09am
JohnO (mail):
David Starr:

Although the UCMJ does criminalize robbery and assault, there's nothing in the UCMJ that gives a court-martial jurisdiction over a pirate or makes a pirate subject to the UCMJ. There is UCMJ jurisdiction over prisoners of war in the custody of the armed forces, but I'm not convinced a court would find the pirates to be a prisoner of war.
4.14.2009 10:18am
Adam J:
Richard Aubrey- A pirate is a thief, but not necessarily a murderer. You don't think people (and not just the pirates) might get upset by someone shooting a thief in the back when he's running away? If we start shooting people in the back with as poor justification as this then we'll be dealing with less pirates and more terrorists.
4.14.2009 10:24am
The Unbeliever:
There are a large number of private military and mercenary companies. There is a provision in the Constitution providing for Letters of Marque and Reprisal.

Throw in a little cash, and the solution seems perfectly obvious.
4.14.2009 10:33am
martinned (mail) (www):

This is the clusterfuqq we've gotten ourselves into. We've ignored history, and expedient processes of the past, and embraced pettifogging.

That should be the new official motto of the United States: "United States of America, summary executions since 1776"
4.14.2009 10:46am
Dave N (mail):
RPT,

Have you ever tried a case that involved deposition testimony? Really?
Have you ever tried any criminal case? Really?

Criminal law and procedure, like political analysis, is apparently not your forte. Maryland v. Craig noted that "face-to-face confrontation enhances the accuracy of factfinding by reducing the risk that a witness will wrongfully implicate an innocent person."

Nevertheless, the Court held that, on a case-by-case basis, one-way video conferencing could be used in child sexual abuse cases.

Justice Scalia's scathing Craig dissent foreshadows the Court's later decision (which he authored) in Crawford v. Washington. Crawford held that the Right of Confrontation pretty much means what the Constitution says. Given Crawford, I doubt any judge would allow "deposition testimony" or even video-conferenced testimony just because the witness was half a world away.
4.14.2009 10:52am
Oren:

Piracy trials were held in the 17th Century, despite its primitive communications, and pirates were tried (and hanged) then in England for depredations committed in the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean. I find it hard to believe that conditions in the intervening 350 years make it impossible to do likewise today.

In the intervening 350 years, the British have transformed themselves from naval power to complete pansies.

Adam, a genuine surrender in times of war requires the party to lay down his arms and cease any attempt to escape. You can shoot an enemy soldier that's running away, not one until he puts his hands up and stops moving. You can shot any enemy ship that's sailing away until they fly a white flag and stop sailing away.

As to those that chose to surrender, they should get the same court martial that our sailors would get -- should be quick and painless without the bullshit of a civilian trial while still having the procedural niceties required to comply with Boumedienne (which, as I read it, is not a requirement that foreigners get habeas in civilian court but a threat that they will be given that if Congress doesn't provide them with a procedurally sufficient one -- that is, Federal civilian habeas is not the remedial, not optimal solution).

After all, it would be hard to for a court to argue that Congress can subject sailors and soldiers to courts martial but not pirates.
4.14.2009 10:59am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Adam J.
The folks who would be annoyed that thieves and killers got killed in the process of robbing and killing are the sorts of folks who can't be trusted not to be buttheads no matter what we did or didn't do.
So we defend ourselves and some pirates die. The hypothetical blowback folks get all upset with us.
We don't defend ourselves and some of us die. The hypothetical blowback folks see an opportunity.
I don't see the upside of the latter.
You?
4.14.2009 11:02am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Here's the conservative blowhards ridiculing Obama for his inaction. Major helpings of crow all around.
4.14.2009 11:15am
George Smith:
Q-ships.
4.14.2009 11:16am
wfjag:

There are a large number of private military and mercenary companies. There is a provision in the Constitution providing for Letters of Marque and Reprisal.

Throw in a little cash, and the solution seems perfectly obvious.

Absolutely obvious -- if any of them actually use their firearms, they are indicted in the USDC SD NY and tried on weapons charges -- just like the Blackwater employees who were working as Dept of State contractors in Iraq providing security services.


Although the UCMJ does criminalize robbery and assault, there's nothing in the UCMJ that gives a court-martial jurisdiction over a pirate or makes a pirate subject to the UCMJ. There is UCMJ jurisdiction over prisoners of war in the custody of the armed forces, but I'm not convinced a court would find the pirates to be a prisoner of war.

Articles 2 &3, UCMJ, 10 USC 802 &803, define who is subject to trial by courts martial. There is no grant of jurisdiction to try "pirates".


We just didn't realize this group would consist of Somali pirates rather than Islamist terrorists.

Interesting, and not a little ironic, that President Obama's first unqualified foreign affairs success arises out of the unilateral use of force. He got rave reviews in the press in Europe, but almost nothing of substance, and his repeated statements that sounded a lot like apologies don't appear to be helping his polling numbers (especially since no one in Europe said, "You're right, but we haven't been as cooperative as we should have been, either."). Then, a SEAL team broadly construes "imminent danger" as to Capt. Phillips, and does what it was trained to do, and suddenly it looks like Cowboy Swagger is back in fashion at the White House and among the WH reporters pool. And, the DOW even starts going up some (or, at least not dropping as much), and even talk of a GM bankruptcy doesn't give Wall Street another case of the vapors. If this is any indication of the effects of the US responding aggressively to threats, then, AdamJ, Houston Lawyer's idea might be of great benefit to my 401(k).
4.14.2009 11:17am
Connecticut Lawyer (mail):
Under the traditonal law of the sea, which has now arguably been superceded by various treaties and national statutes, pirates caught on the high seas could be hung summarily without trial. The US ought to announce that it is going to enforce the old law and encourage the various EU nations and the Chinese navy to join it. Indeed this would be a good test of Obama's ability to encourage multilateral solutions.

This solution would take care of the fear that EU nations have that any pirates they capture might successfully petition for asylum in their country.
4.14.2009 11:19am
Sarcastro (www):
Even though that the percentage of shipping in the area affected by piracy is very, very low, I think we need to spend a whole bunch of resources to stop it! It's America's massive pride on the line, here!
4.14.2009 11:32am
Nunzio:
If convicted, do these Pirates have to walk the plank?
4.14.2009 11:33am
Oren:

Under the traditonal law of the sea, which has now arguably been superceded by various treaties and national statutes, pirates caught on the high seas could be hung summarily without trial.

So, if you had looked up the treaties, you would find out that the UNCLOS (note: un.org wasn't responding, so link to the Google cache) allows the seizure and disposition of pirates and their vessels by whatever method the laws of the seizing State shall dictate -- e.g. it is absolutely no bar to Congress doing as it sees fit in this arena.


On the high seas, or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State, every State may seize a pirate ship or aircraft, or a ship or aircraft taken by piracy and under the control of pirates, and arrest the persons and seize the property on board. The courts of the State which carried out the seizure may decide upon the penalties to be imposed, and may also determine the action to be taken with regard to the ships, aircraft or property, subject to the rights of third parties acting in good faith.

I suppose the last clause means that the US may not claim as prize vessels seized by pirates, but must return them to their rightful commercial owners. Since this is the practice anyway, that's really no hindrance.

Incidentally, look at Article 111 for the rights of the US Navy to engage in "hot pursuit" into territorial or EEZ of sovereign nations without their consent. I'm surprised the UN would endorse such a thing, but I'm pleasantly surprised.
4.14.2009 11:36am
Oren:

If convicted, do these Pirates have to walk the plank?

US Law is life in prison. Congress could amend that to be the death penalty.
4.14.2009 11:37am
Adam J:
Richard Aubrey - I have absolutely no problems with what occurred the other day- the pirates threatened a hostage with death, and our navy took actions necessary to assure the hostages safety. Some people are who are looking for any reason to rail against the US will find fault with these actions, but we should not appease them and do things differently.
However, I don't believe it's just to kill someone simply because you know that person is a thief &he is evading capture. Immoral acts such as this will inevitably and understandably push people to side against the U.S.
4.14.2009 11:37am
martinned (mail) (www):

Immoral acts such as this will inevitably and understandably push people to side against the U.S.

True, but why the recourse to pragmatic arguments? Killing people other than in self defence is quite simply extremely wrong, and no one should want their government to engage in the practice.
4.14.2009 11:44am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
adam j. martinned.
Killing people who are trying to avoid being killed while trying to kill you is self-defense. The pirates, if they are forced to abandon a highjacking attempt by superior firepower are not giving up, surrendering, changing their vocation. They are merely waiting for a weaker opponent. It would be like, on land, killing somebody who, having decided that standing in the open while trying to kill you is a bad idea, breaks for cover so he can keep trying while under some protection.
There being no cover on the ocean--absent a third or fourth ship in the area--the pirates are merely waiting for a better shot.
Just for a quick weekend's read, I suggest Rebecca West's "Black Lamb and Gray Falcon". Some things never change.
Now, as I said, and apparently will need to keep saying, the people who are annoyed that you killed somebody who was trying to commit a crime against you are not your friends in the first place. And they will find an excuse no matter how you want to roll belly up and pee on yourself. In fact, that tactic will suggest a number of things to them, none of them pleasant.
4.14.2009 11:52am
Adam J:
Martinned - People always have pragmatic limitations on morality. For instance, the idea is based on the (probably wrong) idea that showing no quarter is justified because it will stop piracy. Of course, they don't seem to realize that even though they might have stopped piracy they've made themselves murderers, a far worse crime that will result in other people desiring to bring them to justice.
4.14.2009 11:55am
Anderson (mail):
just like the Blackwater employees who were working as Dept of State contractors in Iraq providing security services

Blackwater's killing innocent people on general principle, which is what they &their ilk did in Iraq, is not to my mind an improvement over piracy.
4.14.2009 11:59am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Adam J.
Roll and pee.
Glad you're up front about it.

BTW. "murder" is a social construct which international law does not apply to the killing of pirates. See "enemy of all mankind" in Latin.
4.14.2009 12:02pm
Adam J:
Richard Aubrey - Do you assume every thief is trying to kill you, or just pirates?
4.14.2009 12:03pm
The Unbeliever:
Absolutely obvious -- if any of them actually use their firearms, they are indicted in the USDC SD NY and tried on weapons charges -- just like the Blackwater employees who were working as Dept of State contractors in Iraq providing security services.
I'm far from an expert in the field, but I'm willing to bet there is a significant difference between what is permitted to government contractors, and what is permitted to those carrying a Letter specifically allowing for armed search, seizure, and destruction beyond the borders of the granting nation.
4.14.2009 12:03pm
Adam J:
"'murder' is a social construct which international law does not apply to the killing of pirates." Doesn't even pass the smell test dude.
4.14.2009 12:05pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Richard Aubrey: I suspect that trying to rebut your ridiculous claims is like the proverbial mudwrestling with a pig. So instead I'll just quote some actual law for you:


Article 6

1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.

3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.

5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.

6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.
4.14.2009 12:09pm

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