Yes, I’m Glad They Shot the Pirates

I woke up this morning to the news that the Navy had killed the the three Somali pirates, and rescued Captain Richard Phillips, and I gave a little internal cheer. As I continued with my online reading, I found quite a few people saying they were not so happy.

Many of them are making good points. The United States is directly responsible for the disaster in Somalia, having intervened in a civil war, pulled out after a helicopter was shot down, then helped destablize the Islamic government that was starting to pull the country together.

Beyond that, Phillips’ plight received so much attention solely because he is an American citizen. It is hypocritical and bigoted to call for the pirates’ heads after they kidnap an American, but to pay no attention when they kill or threaten to kill French, Taiwanese, Ukranians, and many others. Bloodthirsty jingoism like “Three dead pirates are only a start” is disgusting.

However. Is Richard Phillips, an innocent man doing his job — a native, by the way, of rednoodlealien‘s hometown — guilty of any of this? Do liberals who condemn collective punishment such as the Israeli policy of demolishing suicide bomber’s houses and making their families homeless, support collective punishment like this? Do liberals who oppose the death penalty for people who really did murder someone, also believe that a random civilian should be executed, without due process, for the crimes of people he’s never met, or for beliefs and attitudes he may not share?

That’s callous and cruel nonsense, as callous and cruel as Bobby Jindal and Mark Sanford letting their citizens suffer to make a political point. Richard Phillips, the human being with a wife and kids, who worked a difficult and dangerous job, did nothing to deserve to be held by thugs on a lifeboat for days and threatened with death.

You can’t say the same about the thugs who were holding him, who did make individual decisions that led to their own deaths. They may not have chosen to be in their economic and social situation, but they certainly chose to take a hostage after they failed to take over the ship, and to threaten to kill him rather than surrendering or negotiating his release. And if you believe the Navy they may have been preparing to kill him when they were shot. Let’s also remember that these pirates are not heroic Robin Hoods. They go back home with their money, buy Hummers and Escalades and automatic weapons, and terrorize the Somalis who have not chosen to become criminals.

The decision of whether or not to pull the trigger in this instance came down to this: Who deserves to live more? The innocent hostage, or the three thugs? Given the choice, which the thugs created, I support the Navy’s decision. It’s not pleasant, but I’m much happier this morning to read that the three of them were shot and killed, than that they had killed their hostage.

I hope this incident leads to a constructive set of policies to address the problem, as opposed to the raids on the pirate strongholds that some are calling for. Perhaps this will serve as the impetus to try to help Somalia rather than further damaging it. But let us please not confuse that issue with the plight of one Vermonter who suffered something none of us would ever want to endure.

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