Paying ransom encourages piracySometimes I find hope in strange places. Last week, I found it in the waters of the Indian Ocean, where Somali
By: Tony Bender, The Dickinson Press
Sometimes I find hope in strange places. Last week, I found it in the waters of the Indian Ocean, where Somali pirates had been holding a Saudi oil tanker hostage since November.
First of all, I find the resurgence of piracy unsettling — and indicator that we are living in strange and disconcerting times. I mean how often do you find yourself in support of Saudi oil sheiks? That in itself left me a bit queasy. It was a little like Bonnie and Clyde robbing Pretty Boy Floyd. It’s interesting to watch but you aren’t terribly invested in who wins or loses.
But having pirates holding a supertanker loaded with 2 million barrels of oil is no small quandary. For one thing, it represents more than a third of one day’s consumption of OPEC oil or the amount of Brylcreen in Wayne Newton’s hair.
When the news broke that a $3 million ransom had been paid, it ticked me off. After all, it would just encourage more piracy. For instance, if our largest financial institutions robbed us blind and squandered stockholders’ money on exorbitant salaries and lavish retreats with rum and saucy wenches, you wouldn’t just give them more money would you? What kind of message would that send?
You start paying pirates ransom and the next thing you know Johnny Depp is ransacking Forrest Gump’s shrimp boat. It will be anarchy. Pretty soon everyone will have a tattoo. Don’t laugh. It could happen.
Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, was upset because the pirates were not asking for enough ransom. Originally they were asking for $6 million or $7 million, and Limbaugh felt even that was too low — they were devaluing the market. You have to admire his commitment to the free market system.
Then came the news that five of the pirates (and presumably their parrots) drowned in a storm with their share of the ransom. Three survived because their peg legs gave them buoyancy. You think it’s easy swimming with one leg and a patch over one eye? Mostly, you just swim in circles. The sharks got dizzy just watching.
I’ll admit it. It felt good to know five of them had perished. Real good. It was Old Testament style justice, and hey, what can I say; I’m old school that way. I am in favor of a little smiting from time to time. There’s nothing like a good keel-hauling to send a message. In this case, it felt like justice was done — like the hand of God had reached out and smacked them a good one. But such satisfaction — bordering on giddiness — left me feeling a little conflicted, though. It seemed so unenlightened. I just didn’t feel good about feeling so good about it.
Then I considered the facts. According to the French military, 165 ships were attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia this year. You can trust the numbers. Everyone knows the French are really good at counting defeats. It’s just a matter of time before they surrender to the Somalis. It’s not that there aren’t tough French guys, it’s just that they don’t get them in the military. All the mean ones are waiters.
Pirate attacks are up by more than 100 from the previous years. It seems the pirates are winning everywhere except Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Russian warships are monitoring a Ukrainian boat containing T-72 battle tanks that pirates hijacked in September. Are you kidding me? U.S. and Soviet arms dealers have already equipped every 7-year-old in the third world with rocket launchers, missiles and G.I. Joe action figures, and now they have tanks!
In the immortal words of Barney Fife, “You’ve got to nip it in the bud. Nip it!” And there is comedian Dennis Miller who said once in support of the death penalty, “Folks, there comes a time when you have to cull the herd.” How can you argue with Miller and Fife? So, if the U.S. Navy parks a battleship out there and starts blowing Somali pirate ships into toothpicks, it’s OK by me.