While preparing to write my fictional account of the voyage of the Neko II around Africa, which Mr. Farago has been good enough to publish in serial on this site, I spent countless hours researching and reading the accounts of people fortunate enough to sail the globe in private yachts. One of the blogs I stumbled across and drew inspiration from was that of Scott and Jean Adam and their Davidson 58 pilot house sloop, s/v Quest. One of my story’s plot points involved a brush with Somali pirates. No metaphor about art, life, imitation, or the strangeness of fiction is adequate to describe the tragedy that befell this couple and their death at the hands of real Somali pirates.

Scott Adam was a retired Hollywood director and producer who worked on such TV shows such as The Love Boat, The Dukes of Hazzard, and McCloud, and the 1985 movie The Goonies. He and his wife have been sailing around the world since 2004. American friends Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle were their guests aboard Quest at the time of the kidnapping. They too were killed.

The Adam’s undoubtedly engaged in high-risk behavior. And ultimately they bore the consequence of their choices. It is impossible for any government to inoculate its citizens from their own poor decisions, such as separating themselves from the relative security of convoying with the Blue Water Rally through dangerous waters, as Brad Kozak reported in his excellent piece earlier today. Then again, sometimes governmental actions contribute to the problem.

The kidnapping, Yachting Monthly points out, “came two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by an American court after hijacking a tanker and another pirate warned that Americans would be targeted in retaliation.”

This raises a broader question regarding the appropriateness of applying western notions of due process and granting foreign nationals Constitutional rights when perpetrators are apprehended while committing crimes against American citizens in International waters, not to mention terrorists or “enemy combatants” that are taken into custody by our military in foreign lands.

Contrast this conviction to the unexplained disappearance of ten Somali pirates taken into custody by Russian marines and naval forces last May. Initially the Russians announced that they were going to prosecute the pirates. However, they soon changed their minds and “released” the pirates – so they say –leaving them to navigate their way back to their home country. The pirates were never seen again.

It is widely believed that the Russians executed the pirates at sea. To pirates, Russian actions speak louder than American words.

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17 Responses to Take Two: Somali Pirates

  1. This raises a broader question regarding the appropriateness of applying western notions of due process and granting foreign nationals Constitutional rights when perpetrators are apprehended while committing crimes against American citizens in International waters, not to mention terrorists or “enemy combatants” that are taken into custody by our military in foreign lands.

    The moral high ground is always appropriate. Due process and the rule of law are also always appropriate. Constitutional rights are never granted, only recognized. The government that doesn’t obey the law in foreign lands won’t obey it at home for long either.

    To pirates, Russian actions speak louder than American words.

    Is there any evidence for that?

    Edited to fix HTML. What a delicious edit button this is!

    • Is there any evidence for that?

      There are ten pirates that won’t rob and murder again. I would say that is sufficient evidence for those ten.

      • There are ten pirates that won’t rob and murder again. I would say that is sufficient evidence for those ten.

        The Somalian that America sentenced to 39 years in prison is highly unlikely to engage in piracy again should he live out his sentence.

        As the rule of law degrades further in this country those who wish for vigilantism by government agents may come to have cause for getting what they wished for.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the Somalians slaughter some Russians too.

  2. constitutional rights exist only for the citizens of the country and those legally within the borders of the country . all else is satire. It’s not like you can gather evidence of premeditation from the accused’s home , or interview supposed alibi witneses. as far as proof goes, the russians say the recidivism rate for their method is much lower than
    the recidivsm rate for our method.
    We are not god, we have to live in the world as it is, we cannot re-create it to suit our ego. murderous pirates have been handled for centuries without the ACLU, and that should continue.

  3. Applying due process to these [Expletive Deleted] does not weaken our position. It strengthens it.

    One of our greatest assets on the world stage is moral authority, moral authority which was crippled by Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, CIA black prisons, and other such atrocities.

    Far better to take the living pirates back to the US and give them a fair trial, let them rot in constitutionally-approved solitary confinement at ADX Florence for a few years while all appeals are processed before they receive their free and fair lethal injection.

    They are just as dead, retribution is satisfied, and we retain our moral authority.

  4. I heard a story, some time ago (so I’m a little fuzzy on the details). Back in the Jimmy Carter era, do you remember when the U.S. Embassy in Iran was overrun by “students” and all the Americans taken hostage? They were held there long enough for ABC to turn a nightly, post 10PM news update into Nightline, with Ted Koppel. What many people don’t know is that the Russian Embassy was also overrun. The Soviets handled their response a bit differently. The story I heard was they sent an emissary to the ‘students’ with a message. That message said, essentially, “We have kidnapped your families. We have them in a secure location. You may try and contact them, and will find that this is true. We will start killing them, one per hour, until all our personnel have been released. If so much as one hair on the head of any of our people is out of place, we will kill all of your family members. Then we will come after you.”

    The Russian hostages were quietly, immediately released. Game over.

    Our Constitution is a beacon of light and logic throughout the world. It guarantees American citizens freedoms such as the right to due process. Coincidentally, it does NOT guarantee any of these freedoms to non-citizens. Period. The sooner we stop pretending it does, grow a pair, and start treating these terrorists as the rabid dogs that they are, the sooner we’ll have the world’s respect again.

    Kindness, consideration and fairness do not win the hearts and minds of enemies. Being willing to do whatever it takes to win does.

    • Coincidentally, it does NOT guarantee any of these freedoms to non-citizens. Period.

      I don’t recall where the power to murder foreigners without a formal declaration of war is enumerated – perhaps you could refresh my memory?

      The sooner we stop pretending it does, grow a pair, and start treating these terrorists as the rabid dogs that they are, the sooner we’ll have the world’s respect again.

      They aren’t rabid dogs. They are criminals. You can dehumanize them and murder them, but then you only dehumanize yourself and become the very thing you are trying to rid the world of. There are many reasons the world no longer respects America, but one of the popular ones seems to be our criminal treatment of our prisoners caught in foreign lands.

      Kindness, consideration and fairness do not win the hearts and minds of enemies. Being willing to do whatever it takes to win does.

      Ye shall reap as you have sown.

      • The U.S. Constitution provides the legal basis for punishing pirates without a formal declaration of war.

        Art. I Sec. 8 cl. 10:

        The Congress shall have Power … To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations

        And with that power, congress can make piracy a captal offense as they did with the 1819 Act to Protect the Commerce of the United States and Punish the Crime of Piracy. Sec. 5:

        That if any person or persons whatsoever shall, on the high seas, commit the crime of piracy, as defined by the law of nations… upon conviction thereof… be punished by death.

        • The U.S. Constitution provides the legal basis for punishing pirates without a formal declaration of war.

          I forgot the other exception…after a trial punishment is of course legal. Executions without a trial are a very bad precedent.

    • The Russian hostages were quietly, immediately released. Game over.

      That sure sounds like an urban legend. I have never heard of any such event and can find no reference online.

  5. Killing pirates during a boarding/rescue action is one thing. Summary execution after capture is quite another. Can’t say I support the latter, at all. Sounds too much like what they do.
    That said, I can’t help but think of a classic line from the Green Berets: “Out here, due process is a bullet…”

  6. Under 18 U.S.C. § 1651,

    “Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.”

    The UN has a very broad definition of piracy.

  7. Just one point I’d like to make. These pirates were, not too long ago, fishermen. Because the SHTF, as we like to say on this site, in Somalia, and there is no government; the country is ruined and run by local strongmen. The fishermen can no longer make a living because much larger boats from foreign countries have destroyed their fisheries, and waste has been dumped into their waters by foreign nationals, assuring that it will be years and years before their income source can return. Many of these pirates see their actions as not just ways of gaining money, but of defending their waters.

    I am not arguing that their actions are legitimate. Murderers deserve to be brought to justice. But, no offense, I could not disagree more with the idea that all we have to do is “grow a pair.” Brute force is neither a rational argument nor a way to assure long-term stability, no matter how satisfying it might seem.

  8. What makes murdering someone right? Besides, the argument that “the pirates were never seen again” seems a little silly. They’re pirates. What do you expect?

    Would you agree that the Constitutionally guaranteed rights are only applicable to US Citizens or residents? What about black people, or Jews, or any other identifiable group of people? Saying that any one demographic is less than worthy of consideration as an equal undermines the moral strength of our Constitution.

    “…all men are created equal.”

  9. There are no easy solutions here. While I’m a big proponent of making pirates dead, any firefight can become mess messy and go bad.

    That said, setting an example is necessary to deter future attacks, even if you loose the occasional hostage.

    Again, there are no easy solutions. The ocean is really big and the USN cannot be everywhere. Raids (not rescue missions) against the pirates’ land bases could be effective and should be on the table. But that probably won’t be popular with this administration.

    An effective tactic may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing approach with ships. Buy a couple crappy old merchant ships, re-fit them with (well hidden) comms and surveillance gear. Hide a couple platoons+ of Marines trained in CQB. Sail up and down the Somali coast. Repaint, rename and reconfigure the ship monthly.

  10. If insurance companies didn’t pay ransoms there would be a lot less of this. Also notice the dumbasses out there hijacking boats aren’t the ones getting the millions. A bit of recon and some elimination at the top of that chain would stop much of this crap, as well as meeting force with greater force. Water hoses?! psh hose em down with a M2-2 flamethrower!

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