Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Was it just a fantasy? No escape from reality?

Probably like a lot of people with too little money to actually do it, I have long fantasized the notion of taking off in a yacht and sailing all the way around the world, traversing the Panama Canal, circumnavigating South America and Africa, rounding the Indian subcontinent and the coast of Australia, passing through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, visiting Hanoi and Hong Kong and Hawaii, before making my way back to California under the Golden Gate Bridge.

What never occurred to me in that dream was piracy. Yet that is, alas, the dark side of that fantasy, especially in the Arabian Sea. Every day, Somali pirates, usually armed with light military weapons, are capturing seacraft, large and small, and holding them for ransom. That is what happened to four Americans last week on a yachting trip around the world:

The Americans, Jean and Scott Adam, from Southern California, and Phyllis Mackay and Robert A. Riggle, from Seattle, were sailing on their 58-foot yacht for the tiny nation of Djibouti to refuel when they were hijacked several hundred miles off the coast of Oman on Friday afternoon.

When I heard about their capture, it immediately made me think of my yachting fantasy. It was disenchanting. In an instant I knew that the dream of visiting every port from Sydney to Capetown could become a nightmare. I thought of the opening lyrics in the Queen song, Bohemian Rhapsody:

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see

The song itself has to do with a "poor boy" who has killed someone and his life is thereafter spiraling downhill. But it works (in my mind) for any time you put yourself in a terrible position, such as getting captured by pirates:

Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body's aching all the time
Goodbye everybody - I've got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooo - (anyway the wind blows)
I don't want to die
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all

This morning, the New York Times reported that all four Americans aboard that yacht, the Quest, had been killed by their captors:

Four Americans taken hostage after their yacht was hijacked by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa last week were killed early Tuesday when gunfire erupted during attempts by the United States Navy to negotiate with their captors, American military officials said.

Two pirates were also killed in a confrontation with Navy forces and 13 were taken into American military custody.

The 13 pirates taken into custody will surely be tried for piracy and murder in US courts. I would honestly rather none of them get a trial at all. My sincere preference would be that the US Navy, today, place them in a small dinghy at sea and kill all of them with a torpedo blast. They don't deserve our Constitutional protections; we don't deserve to pay the costs of their lawyers and incarceration.

According to the military, the confrontation began after a pirate shot a rocket-propelled grenade at the nearby Navy ship, the Sterett, at 1 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday, which would be mid-morning local time. At the same time, American forces aboard also heard gunfire on the hijacked yacht.

In response, the military said, a small rescue force of 15 Navy Seals in two high-speed assault craft moved to board the Quest and were shot at by several of the pirates on board. In the ensuing gun battle, two pirates were killed.

It's probably a line out of some movie, but 'Who do these dumb Africans think they are dealing with?' They have nothing to gain getting into a fight with the United States Navy. Do they think we are pussies like Europeans?

The American forces then boarded the vessel and discovered that all four of the hostages had been shot. Two had died immediately, and two others succumbed to their wounds shortly after, despite emergency medical care provided by the American forces at the scene. The forces also discovered the remains of two other pirates who appeared to have been killed earlier, possibly by fellow pirates, the military said.

The sad truth is that this squadron of criminals will be instantly replaced by the Somali pirate breeding machine. It's not as if Somalia is not overflowing with human garbage willing and able to do these dastardly deeds. However, if we are as brutal with them as possible, maybe the message will be sent: Don't mess with Uncle Sam.

Despite an international effort to ensure safe passage through the world’s most treacherous waters, pirates have escalated their attacks in recent years, striking more ships and taking more hostages last year than in any year on record, according to the Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau.

At the present time, 33 vessels bearing 712 hostages were still being held for ransom. But of those, only one — a South African yacht with two passengers hijacked in 2010 — was a recreational vessel.

This strikes me as an eminently solvable problem: fly a number of unmanned drones over the Somali coast; any time a Somali boat tries to leave port, blow it up and kill everyone on board. That would destroy their fishing fleet and kill a lot of innocents, which is unfortunate. But at the same time it would make piracy a losing proposition. And doing so would return that portion of the Arabian Sea to the civilized world.

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