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Posted on Oct 5, 2010 in
Modern-Day Pirates

We recently asked our web readers if they carried a weapon (firearm) aboard their boat. The response was quite overwhelming. In fact, just over half of you do while about 38 percent of you don't.

Under international law, the concept of crimes against humanity originated to deal with piracy at sea. Piracy was the first offense deemed subject to universal jurisdiction.

Today's problems with piracy in and around Somalia in great part stem from questions of sovereignty. Which country can take responsibility for prosecuting piracy? Unfortunately, today's international courts no longer consider such piracy a crime against humanity. If they did, we could return to the time when any country could assume arrest and punishment powers over pirates caught on the high seas or within that country's sovereign waters. Once, courts trying pirates could be held and punishment meted out anywhere. Perhaps, not all of today's legal problems can best be resolved through enlightened beneficence. Sometimes older ways of conducting justice can be more effective. If today's naval forces in the area could legally intercept pirates, hold onboard trials and mete out summary justice - on the spot, piracy could be severely curtailed in fairly short order.

According to Dr. Tom O'Connor, Program Manager of Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Director at the Institute for Global Security Studies at Austin Peay State University, "Pirates are truly criminals against mankind, and are hostis humani generis, which means they have renounced all the benefits of society and government, and have reduced themselves to the savage state of nature, and that by declaring war against all mankind, all mankind must declare war against them, so that every community has a right under the rule of self-defense to inflict that punishment upon them as every individual would."

Pirates are terrorists, plain and simple. They fall into the same "Crimes Against Humanity" category as any other terrorist.

For more than 200 years starting in 1615, the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean preyed upon international sea transport, committing truly horrendous atrocities, American interests tried to negotiate for the release of pirated vessels by paying ransoms. Sound familiar? Those pirates became so successful that by the early 1800s, our government ended up paying a substantial portion of our nation's GDP to them to win the release of our citizens. It didn't work very well then.

Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801 and reversed this appeasement policy, sending American warships to the Mediterranean to confront the Barbary pirates. Ask any United States Marine to tell you about this effort. "To the shores of Tripoli" in the Marine Corps proud anthem describes that very effort. Marines gained the nickname "Leathernecks" for the leather collars they invented and wore to protect themselves for the slashes of the Barbary pirates' cutlasses. By 1830, summary justice by American and European forces finally decimated enough of the Barbary pirates' forces that the problem ended.

Today, the ability to try and punish pirates no matter which nation catches them, no matter whether the acts of piracy are successful or merely attempts, is the only way this scourge will be defeated. In this case, too much political correctness will result in more innocent mariners being kidnapped and killed. Hang them high and they'll stop. And that goes for anyone who commits an act of piracy closer to home, as well!