Thursday, November 20, 2008

Avast, ye swabs!

Piracy is a terrific little business. Not the stealing music kind of piracy, but the hijacking of ships on the high seas kind. According to an AP article today:

"Somalia's increasingly brazen pirates are building sprawling stone houses, cruising in luxury cars, marrying beautiful women - even hiring caterers to prepare Western-style food for their hostages."

The pirates even use money-counting machines to verify their ransoms. Just like they do in the casinos -- another bastion of piracy.

The article goes on to report how this business has benefited the local economy. Lots of fans of piracy in little impoverished villages such as Harardhere.

Makes you think about joining up, eh? Maybe hanging around in Mogadishu and hoping to get shanghaied. Or is that "Mogadishu-hied?"

Elsewhere in the world there are pirates who are a lot less refined than those from Somalia; they tend to kill people as a standard operating procedure. It's in their business plans and employee handbooks.

So I guess the Somali pirates are "nicer" than others, even if they're not as cute as Johnny Depp. Still, they present a problem. Actually, they REpresent a problem: poverty, desperation, non-existent government. At minimum, Somalia ought to regulate these guys -- or tax their profits. But neither of those is going to happen.

This situation is rather like a war, it seems to me. And there ought to be some organization (the United Nations?) mounting protective measures and going on the offense against the pirates.

The British Parliament passed "The Piracy Act 1698" in, well, 1698 -- declaring that piracy was a crime against their nation and punishable by death. The Brits changed the law several times, eventually deciding that death was too harsh unless the crime involved violence.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982), defines piracy. All nations are required to prosecute piracy according to their internal laws. The Royal Navy, though was notified by the Foreign Office not to capture pirates from Somalia because to do so would "breach their human rights." That's because the penalty for piracy under sharia law in Somalia is beheading and whacking off of arms and legs and such. And if the pirates are captured and brought to Old Bailey they would be able to apply for asylum in Britain. And then you'd have even more pirates in Canary Wharf than work there now for various financial institutions. Not good.

I think it's kind of chicken of the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy not to go after these guys and put them in jail. But that would require some revisions to the civil rights and asylum laws of those nations. So first, let's get that done. Then let's get some war ships to patrol those waters. Then let's send a couple cruise missiles or those fancy drones they use in Iraq to take out the fancy new houses of the pirates there in Harardhere; they should be easy to identify among the mud huts.

Or we could do something about the roots of the problem: extreme poverty and no functioning government in Somalia.

1 comment: