Well this is good news: Richard Phillips, the captain of the private freighter Maersk Alabama who had been a hostage of Somali pirates since Wednesday, was rescued last night when U.S. Navy snipers shot and killed three of his captors. A fourth pirate had left the small lifeboat where Phillips was being held and turned himself in. The Associated Press reports he could face life in prison here in the U.S. if convicted of kidnapping and piracy.
I hadn’t realized how emotionally invested I was in this story until I read about the captain’s rescue last night. I actually shouted for joy. Three of the pirates are dead, and I don’t think we should rejoice in the death of people, even bad people, but it sounds like the shooters who took them out did the reasonable thing to save the life of the hostage. And on a purely technical level, taking out all three guys without allowing harm to come to the hostage is just some marvelous fucking marksmanship. Well done, Navy snipers.
Media coverage of the rescue seems to be focusing on President Obama’s role in the decision to use deadly force. The AP story I read yesterday reported that Obama had approved the sniper operation, which isn’t that unusual for a commander-in-chief to do in this sort of situation. In all likelihood, Obama gave the commanders on the scene permission to use their own discretion in resolving the crisis as soon as he was brought up to speed. I ate dinner on Saturday with a group of people who were discussing the hostage-taking, blaming Obama’s indecisiveness for allowing the pirates to hold the captain several days without “shooting a flare in their raft,” as my girlfriend’s uncle suggested repeatedly, as though the commanding officer of the Bainbridge was constantly calling Washington seeking authorization to start shooting pirates, only to be refused over and over again. I’d guess the real reason for the delay was concern for the life of Captain Phillips; Obama’s supposedly dangerous pacifism had nothing to do with it.
There’s something else in the AP story that jumps out at me. The Somali pirates themselves have not reacted at all well to the death of their comrades. One, Abdullah Lami, speaking to the AP from a ship he and other pirates are holding for ransom in Somalia right now, said “Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying.”
Excuse me? “Every country will be treated the way it treats us?” You’re fucking pirates, Abdullah. You’re criminals. You jump aboard other peoples’ boats and threaten their lives for money. Don’t talk like you guys are persecuted small businessmen just trying to carve out a little place for yourselves in the world. You’re gangsters. You’re terrorists. Any trouble you get from people you attempt to kidnap and their countries is trouble you’ve brought on yourselves. I’m supposed to sympathize with you fucking pirates? You don’t even have eye-patches, for Christ’s sake!
Some pirates may have already attempted to take revenge for the deaths of the three holding Captain Phillips; mortars were fired at the plane of U.S. Congressman Donald Payne as it took off from Mogadishu earlier today. They missed. Unlike our Navy snipers, the Somali pirates, it seems: not such great shots.