Civilization walks the plank

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post notes that civilization is walking the plank:

A Somali pirate and a former US defense secretary are flying to London for vacation. One of them is stopped at immigration at Heathrow airport and arrested on suspicion of committing war crimes. Which one do you think it was?
As David Rivkin and Lee Casey explained in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, the problem with contending with piracy is not so much military, as legal and political. Whereas customary international law defined piracy as a threat against all nations and therefore a crime for which universal jurisdiction must be applied to perpetrators, in today’s world, states are unwilling to apprehend pirates or to contend with them because they are likely to find themselves in a sticky legal mess.

In centuries past, in accordance with established international law, it was standard practice for naval captains to hang pirates after capturing them. Today, when Europe has outlawed capital punishment, when criminal defendants throughout the West are given more civil rights than their victims, and when irregular combatants picked off of battlefields or intercepted before they attack are given — at a minimum — the same rights as those accorded to legal prisoners of war, states lack the political will and the moral clarity to prosecute offenders. As Casey and Rivkin note, last April the British Foreign Office instructed the British Navy not to apprehend pirates lest they claim that their human rights were harmed, and request and receive asylum in Britain.

Xan Rice and Abdiqani Hassan explain the consequences in Buckets of cash and seeking more wives:

Until recently Eyl was a rundown Somali outpost of 7000 people. Now, thanks to some spectacular ocean catches, it is booming, awash with dollars and heavily-armed young men, and boasting a new notoriety: piracy capital of the world.

At least 12 foreign ships are being held hostage in the waters off Eyl, 480 kilometres south of Africa’s Horn. They are being closely watched by hundreds of pirates aboard boats equipped with satellite phones and GPS devices. Hundreds more gunmen provide backup on shore, where they incessantly chew the narcotic leaf qat and dream of sharing in the huge ransoms.

In a war-ravaged country where life is cheap and hope is rare, each successful hijack brings more young men into Eyl to seek their fortune at sea. The entire village now depends on the criminal economy.

Hastily-built hotels provide basic lodging for the pirates, new restaurants serve meals and send food to the ships, while traders provide fuel for the skiffs flitting between the captured vessels.

The pirate kingpins who commute from the regional capital, Garowe, 160 kilometres west, in new four-wheel drives splash their money around. Jaama Salah, a trader, said that a bunch of qat can sell for $US65 ($100), compared with $US15 in other towns. Asli Faarah, a tea vendor, said: “When the pirates have money I can easily increase my price to $3 for a cup.”

The pirates’ daring has earned them respect. It has become a tradition for successful pirates to take additional wives, marrying them in lavish ceremonies. Naimo, 21, from Garowe, said: “It’s true that girls are interested in marrying pirates because they have a lot of money. Ordinary men cannot afford weddings like this.”

(Hat tip to Richard Fernandez.)

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