Please visit the new home of Majikthise at bigthink.com/blogs/focal-point.

« Morning Coffee: Bolivian president on hunger strike | Main | Questions about the Navy's new pirate policy »

April 14, 2009

Enough dead teen pirate porn already

I'm relieved that the Navy SEALs rescued the American hostage from Somali pirates. Their skill and professionalism was indeed impressive.

But really... Two days after the rescue, the banner headline on the front page of the Washington Post should not read "3 Rounds, 3 Dead Bodies." And if that's the front page headline, surely they don't need a second story about pirate-shooting in the same edition.

The American public is relishing the deaths of the pirates to a degree that's downright unseemly. Even Mother Jones has a post entitled "Obama is the pirate-killingest president ever."

Gates said the four pirates involved in taking Phillips hostage were 17 to 19 years old -- "untrained teenagers with heavy weapons." The pirate whom Reza wounded in the hand asked the USS Bainbridge for medical attention, effectively surrendering. [WaPo]

All the jubilation is distracting from some serious questions about U.S. policy towards piracy.

The on-scene Navy commander aboard the USS Bainbridge reportedly gave the order to fire because the hostage's life was suddenly in danger. If that's true, then of course the SEALs did the right thing.

Despite the blanket coverage of the SEALs who fired the shots, very little has been reported about the evidence that moved the commander to order the shooting. So far, nobody has explained why the commander decided that the hostage was in jeopardy at that particular moment.

The standoff was dragging on and there was intense political pressure to resolve the situation. Maybe he just seized an opportunity to get three clean kills.

Given the international significance of this incident I hope that a full and impartial report will be made available to the public in English, Arabic, and Somali. When the police shoot hostage takers, they're held accountable for their decisions. We need the same level of transparency when the military goes after criminals on the high seas.

Imagine if some American criminals were holding an innocent Somali hostage in international waters. We'd demand answers if the Somalis shot them. It would be the responsible thing to do and we'd feel entitled to a full accounting of what happened to our people.

But realistically, nobody's going to ask the commander to justify his decision. He spared the politicians some difficult choices about whether to authorize lethal commando raids to liberate hostages, as the French have done.

It's creepy to see so many Americans are exulting over the fact that the United States military managed to shoot three teenagers, albeit three very dangerous teenagers who may have been about to kill an innocent hostage. Even if authorities did the right thing, it was a sad, sordid necessity, not a glorious adventure.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c61e653ef01156f250ebe970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Enough dead teen pirate porn already:

Comments

Would you take the Somali government's word about who's a criminal and who isn't?

You say you wouldn't care to learn what happened if the Somali government shot a criminal. But that begs the question. I'd care to learn what happened. Maybe the reports shows that he is a criminal, in which case it was worth establishing that the Somali government did the right thing. Maybe they're just saying he's a criminal, or overstating his culpability or misrepresenting the facts for political reasons, in which case, it would be good to know that, too.

The details of the incident actually matter. I'd like to know what the policy of a foreign government is regarding terminating certain people with extreme prejudice, even if they are criminals. I'd like to know whether they followed their own policies.

Remember the arguments we had about torture after 9/11 where people said they didn't care if the government tortured terrorists? Because they're terrorists. Well, we now know that a lot of the people we tortured weren't actually terrorists despite the governments' solemn assurance that they were the worst of the worst.

It is sad that so many commenters are so cavalier about the killing of these three teenagers. I am surely not saying that we (and by "we", I mean a team of highly trained military operatives that i am in no way, shape, or form related to) should not have taken swift and decided action in rescuing the captain. I am not saying we did anything wrong. What I am saying is that just because we have the luxury of sitting in our comfortable and privileged position of safety, half a world away, and calling these kids the bad guys, doesn't mean we should gloat.

Of course we killed those kids... they were kids against the full force of the mightiest military power in history. To save our people we look like decisive and resolute people. To brag about it we look like petty thugs and bullies. What we should be thinking is that it is tragic that there are places in this world where kids grow up amidst such abject poverty and violence that becoming these type of criminals actually seems attractive to them... and what can we do to change that reality proactively...

Anything else is just jingoism.

I can say this... those three talented sharpshooters who did their duty... those guys were heros, and you'll likely never hear a peep from them.

I just posted the following comment on this topic here:

http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2009/04/dead_pirates_the_media_and_acc.php

Thank you Josh and Lindsay for having the decency to ask these questions. Perhaps I can help you find the answers, but I'm afraid you won't like what I say.

You see, the fact is that one of the three pirates was aboard the Bainbridge in negotiation when his comrades were killed. That means all involved were under a white flag of truce at the time of the killings. Some of the reporting has mistakenly stated that this third pirate went aboard the warship to seek medical care, but of course that is absurd on the face of it since he wasn't under arrest, and the official report acknowledges that he was aboard negotiating.

The lifeboats are enclosed and this truce gave the two pirates and their captive a chance to leave the enclosure for some air and sun. In other words, because of the truce they exposed themselves. The only protection that the pirates had - other than the integrity of the men on the Bainbridge in honoring the truce - was their captive. If they killed him then their lives were certainly forfeit. Thus, it stands against reason to assert that the captives' life was suddenly at risk at this moment when the pirates were exposed under the protection of a white flag.

So what is the truth? The reports we are receiving from our military, and our media, including our public media, ignore these obvious facts by avoiding asking the sorts of questions you have asked. So perhaps the most relevant question now is, "How many innocents will die as the pirates' friends take their promised revenge, and will journalists be targeted?

A more personal question might be, "Should we trust any report from the msm?" I don't. Not one. Perhaps next year, one of those rare groups that monitors media accountability will publish a criticism of their colleagues in regards to this, but I doubt the story will gain legs. I've sent a round of emails to various NPR programs asking them to address these issues. One of those was to the producer of the Diane Rehm Show because a plug airing on our local station announced that a program addressing the affair would air on Monday morning but that show never happened. I received a response from the shows top producer, Sandra Pinkard. She asked me to identify the station that had announced the show that was cancelled and stated, "We will go back to the Somalia story - in the Friday News Round-Up if not before." That promised coverage never happened either, and I do not believe that anything we do will compel any msm journalist to do the right thing, but if there is strength in numbers then here I join with you in asking for the truth

I'll check back here to read responses to this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.