Posted by: wrmcnutt | April 6, 2010

What to do with captured pirates? Why is this a question?

I was delighted to see in an article in WaPo this morning giving the sketchy outline of an engagement between the USS Nicolas and a couple of skiffs full of pirates off of the coast of Somalia.  Apparently, the pirates opened fire on the Nicolas shortly after midnight, and the results were about what you would expect.  The Nicolas immediately sank one skiff and followed the second one back to the mothership, and promptly captured them both.

I can only imagine that, in the dark, the bad guys mistook the Nicolas for some kind of freighter, because it’s clear that they were attempting to capture the vessel to hold it for ransom. Talk about biting off more than you can chew.  Whew.  Can you imagine the surprise of those guys when the Nicolas responded to their warning shots and threats?

Which brings me to this article in the Christian Science Monitor. The title disturbs me:  “What to do with them?”  Why is this even a question?  There is a long-established precedent for what to do with captured pirates, with a long tradition and signed off on by the “international community,” whatever that is.  What you do with capture pirates is: hang them.

Cicero tells us that “Nam pirata non est ex perduellium numero definitus, sed communis hostis omnium; *** hoc nec fides debet nec ius iurandum esse commune.”1

Translation: “For a pirate is not included in the list of lawful enemies, but is the common enemy of all; among pirates and other men there ought be neither mutual faith nor binding oath.”
Our nation’s first war, the Barbary War, or War against the Barbary pirates, was fought under similar circumstances.  Later, in the 1800’s, capture pirates were hung.
Today, we have the British Home Office warning the Royal Navy not to capture pirates, because they might sue for asylum.
Young men engage in piracy because the profit is great and the risk of punishment is small.  We learned in the 1800’s that the way to deal with pirates is to sink their vessels, then go ashore and burn their havens.
1 Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Officiis, Book III, Ch. XXIX, 107.

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