Monday, April 13, 2009

A Major Military Victory: Sharpshooters from US Naval Warship Pick Off Three Pirates in a LifeBoat

Throughout the suspense-filled time period of Captain Richard Phillip’s ordeal, I linked his heroism with that of Captain Chesley Sullenberger. After Sully successfully landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, his first thought was the safety of his passengers and crew. In like manner, Captain Phillips put his crew members first by offering himself to the pirates as hostage.

Headlines to news accounts of Captain Phillips’ rescue on Easter Sunday continue to praise President Obama for meeting his first test as commander-in-chief by authorizing the use of force which was accomplished when snipers from a Naval warship shot and killed the three pirates holding Phillips.

The MSM is describing the incident as a major military victory for America. But according to the Armed Forces Press Service, the USS Bainbridge, a naval warship, was about 25-30 meters away from the 18-foot lifeboat holding the pirates and Phillips when the snipers on the fantail of the Bainbridge simultaneously shot the three pirates.

Obviously, the operation required the skill and timing of sharpshooters, and we celebrate that Captain Phillips was rescued unharmed. But it seems somewhat of an exaggeration to describe trained snipers picking off three pirates in an 18-foot lifeboat as a major military victory.

There is no doubt, however, that pirates have become a real menace on the open seas and as noted in this updated interview by RadioAustralia, “the failed lawless state of Somalia has quickly moved up the Obama Administration’s long agenda.”

The interview’s presenter is Linda Mottram speaking to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Stephen Smith Australian Foreign Minister:

Updated April 13, 2009 11:54:35

One of Washington's most perplexing foreign policy dilemmas - the failed, lawless state of Somalia - has quickly moved up the Obama administration's long agenda.

The captain of an American ship has finally made a successful escape from Somali pirates in the seas off the Horn of Africa, and it has just emerged that President Obama authorised deadly force against the kidnappers.

Japan, China and Korea are among the nations now patrolling a vast area of ocean to try to prevent the almost daily attacks, while U-S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says an internationally co-ordinated response is needed.

LINDA MOTTRAM: In the 1990s, Somalia became a place of deep humiliation for Washington, not to mention the violent nightmare it became for Somalis. It remains a failed state awash with guns and war lords, "The worst place on Earth", the journal Foreign Policy has called it. In 2009, pirates attacking the world's shipping off the Horn of Africa and demanding and receiving massive ransoms are the best evidence that Somalia is one of Washington's running foreign policy sores. An American ship captain was still being held by pirates in the area as Hillary Clinton spoke at a news conference in Washington after the annual Australia-US ministerial talks.

HILLARY CLINTON: The State Department has been in the lead in helping to put together an international task force. There are a number of nations now ranging from, of course, the United States to Europe, to Asia including Japan and China and Korea which have naval vessels in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

LINDA MOTTRAM: But the pirates operate in an area of ocean around 3,250,000 square kilometres. To date, there are about 30 patrolling navy ships from various countries trying to protect about 25,000 transit vessels a year. The pirates in small, agile vessels are all but invisible, the task of finding them made more difficult by a lack of coordination in the international effort. About 200 people are said to be in captivity in northern Somali towns along with dozens of ships. Many shipping lines have re-routed in response to a problem that's grown 300 per cent since the beginning of 2008. It's lucrative for the pirates who face no legal ramifications in their lawless country. Pirates are also amongst Somalia's richest people. There's little to deter them making it a very perplexing problem. Hillary Clinton stresses historic US credentials in fighting piracy.

HILLARY CLINTON: This is an old scourge. One of the very first actions that was undertaken by our country in its very beginning was to go after pirates along the Barbary Coast and it's important that we come up with an international resolution of this and we will be consulting closely and widely to determine what else other countries are willing to do and what further steps the international community believes should be taken.

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1 comment:

  1. The point is that the snipers got the pirates before the pirates could kill the hostage -- whom they had at gunpoint.

    This 'lifeboat' is not like an open rowboat: it's enclosed, opaque. According to one report, the hostage was inside the enclosure with one pirate inside with him holding a gun on him. If that's correct, they must have shot that pirate through the window.

    It was really quite a military project to get the sharpshooters transported to the area, parachuted down to the water, pulled aboard the big ship -- all without the pirates' knowledge.

    Obama does not deserve any credit for this. He delayed the rescue for several days till the Navy went ahead (perhaps on their own).