Pirates in Somalia are getting rich because the civilized world no longer has the laws and will to confront them.

The dirty little secret is that if the pirates grab a crew, the company owning the ship will pay ransom.

Now the stakes are heightened with two attacks: One, where an American ship’s crew fought and the captain was taken captive, and the other, a naive French yacht that ignored warnings, and their captivity was ended by a French commando raid.

It says a lot for the state of the world–and in the whinyness of the press– that some are outraged that one of the captives of the French yacht might have been killed in the cross fire.

If President Obama blows the Somali pirate test, the bad news is that bigger bullies like the Iranian government (which is up for election by the way), the North Koreans (who will be sent a nasty letter after sending a missile to threaten Japan) and Russia (who is simply trying to bully everyone, nothing personal).

In the meanwhile, here in the Philippines we have our own hostage problem. Some UN types were kidnapped by the AbuSayyaf for profit.

Nothing new about this.

No one is very fond of the government, but there is a growing irritation over the antics of the MILF, partly because of the temper tantrums and ethnic cleansing raids against Christian villages (200 thousand fled) when the “peace treaty” with them was rejected by the Supreme court because it removed the civil rights from Christians who had lived in the area which was supposed to be the “muslim home land”.

But the Abus, although some of them are merely Alqaeda trained locals, include some outsiders, including some Indonesian bomb makers.

No one wants them to get money to recruit locals to help deliver more bombs.

The point in all of this is that kidnapping is up here in the Philippines: most of it for money.

But the bad guys in Mindanao know that the Europeans pay well.

After the third Italian priest was kidnapped, one local wag joked that the kidnap groups must be fond of pizza, because they keep kidnapping Italians. In all three of these cases, the government denied ransom was paid, and no one believed them.

And indeed one of the newest hostages is Italian, and the other one Swiss.

The governments of the hostages and the International Red Cross (their employer) has asked the Philippine government to cooperate with negotiations, and the Abus are threatening to behead the hostages.

So there is a standoff. The Philippine Armed forces have pulled back after a first demand, but have refused later demands that they pull back completely, which would mean the locals would be left without protection.

StrategyPage reports that the government is refusing to go along with the UN and European requests, and is planning to stop the kidnappers, even if the hostages are put into danger.

And AFP reports that despite the big Easter holiday weekend, the miitary is continuing the cordon around the terrorist’s area.

“Ultimately, it is money that terrorists are after. In order for terrorists to cow their victims and relatives into virtual submission… terrorists toy with emotion, sow fear and panic,” the statement said.

Abu Sayyaf’s ranks grow every time they kidnap someone, proving people join the group in the hope of getting some of the ransom money, it added.

the bad news is that a lot of us expect that the Europeans will figure a way to pay off the kidnappers so that their own citizens go free, and the end result will be a lot more dead Filipinos.

So what does this have to do with Somalia?

Well, you notice that it is Italians being kidnapped by the Abus. Yes, we also see local businessmen, usually of Chinese or Indian origin, but those kidnappings are criminal gangs, not Alqaeda, and the ransom is a lot smaller, since their families pay it.

But Europeans pay big money.

In contrast, Americans are somewhat safe: true, two Americans who were kidnapped back in 2001 were killed, one (Guillermo Sobero) beheaded in a threat, and another (Christian missionary Martin Burnham) in the crossfire of a rescue. But since then, we Americans are safer because it is known that they won’t get ransom and that they might end up dead.

In other words, it’s not cost effective to kidnap Americans.

Similarly, in Somalia, cooperation with kidnappers will result in more attacks on American ships.

The Philippines has a stake in this because over 100 of the sailors being held for ransom in Somalia are from the Philippines.

Alas, there is no way for the Philippine Navy to intervene so far away (although they do rescue fishermen from local kidnappers/pirates from time to time).

The bad news is that the only way to really stop the piracy threat is to hit them at their home base.

StrategyPage notes:

The third option is to go ashore and kill or capture all the pirates, or at least as many as you can identify. Destroy pirate boats and weapons. This is very dangerous, because innocent civilians will be killed or injured, and the property of non-pirates will be damaged. The anti-piracy forces will be condemned in some quarters for committing atrocities. There might even be indictments for war crimes.

One sees how the press manipulation by Hamas is getting Israel accused of war crimes, and how press manipulation by the “peace” movement is trying to indict the Bush administration for destroying one of the worst mass murderers of the twentieth century, so such manipulation of public opinion is the result of the same “poor terrorists are just misunderstood” mindset.

But one has to wonder about the “soft” approach to what is essentially criminal gangs is actually endangering more people than a messy “surgical” strike would do.

In other words, we need Dirty Harry approach.

Piracy and a lot of what claims to be “insurgency” of various sorts are merely a cost effective way of making money. That’s why a lot of these groups are involved with drugs and smuggling and extortion (most of the bombs in the Philippines are extortion/blackmail by “insurgents” who need money).

If those involved in kidnapping and extortion know that they won’t get the money, or indeed might be killed, the only ones left to fight will be the “true believers”.

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  (who would be the president if the press had reported all those Chicago scandals and the manipulators on the left hadn’t stolen the caucuses during the primaries) pointed out that this attack on an American ship is similar to the attack that caused Thomas Jefferson to declare war on the Barbary Pirates.

Now the only question is if President Obama is willing to fight the bad guys, or merely send them a nasty letter.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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