The joys and pain of piracy

Sailing the seas in search of plunder would appear to have some strange effects upon a man.  For example, in the space of a day, Somali pirate Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse has gone from laughter to tears, among other changes.

Of course, these are the only changes that the Somali sea-bandit has undergone. Another “sea-change” has been from pirate to… victim.

“He was caught red-handed on a Navy ship, but Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse may not have to walk the gangplank if his attorneys play it right, defense lawyers said.

“Call it the pirates-made-me-do-it defense.

“You’ve got an 18-year-old kid who has no education. He’s as poor as they come, and he got caught up with these pirates,” veteran defense lawyer Martin Geduldig said.

“In a sense, he’s as much a victim as anybody else,” said Geduldig, who is not involved in Muse’s defense.”

Maybe I’m suspicious and a trifle cynical, but I have a hard time calling the fellow brandishing the AK-47 and who robbed the vessel of $30,000 dollars a victim. The captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama, I suspect, would agree:

“He (Muse) was among the first to storm the U.S. ship on April 8, fired at Capt. Richard Phillips and stole $30,000 from a safe, according to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan.

He allegedly forced Maersk sailors to lower a ladder so more pirates could board – but then was tricked into putting down his weapon, tackled and tied up.

The rest of the pirates agreed to leave the Maersk only if the crew freed Muse and gave them a lifeboat – where they held Phillips hostage for four days.

“Muse told the captain that he had hijacked other ships before,” the complaint charged, adding that he distributed the $30,000 in plunder on the lifeboat”

Not exactly the best set of facts and circumstances upon which to base a “victims, aren’t we all” defense. To bad Muse and his defense team had already blown the “try him  as a juvenile” gambit, what with their client giving a range of ages from 16 to 26 since being taken prisoner.

While they’re at it, his defense team has been darkly hinting that Muse might be entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention, although that might be simply an effort to lay the foundation of an appeal on the basis of an incompetent or inadequate defense.

The prisoner of war status would only apply if Muse complied with the four requirements, which include A) being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates (maybe), B) having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (no), C) carrying arms openly (no — they’re fishermen when Navy vessels are around and pirates when they’re not) and D) conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. (Given their piracy and ransom demands, this would seem to be a forgone conclusion…).

In other piratical news, our NATO allies are playing “catch and release” with some other Somali pirates:

“Dutch marines board a fishing boat and free two dozen Yemenis from Somali pirates. They seize and destroy AK-47s and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher but then put the nine bandits back in their skiff and set them free.The Dutch marines were among a NATO flotilla that has helped fend off several pirate attacks in recent days in the crowded shipping lane off Somalia’s coast; in each case the culprits were released amid questions over jurisdiction to arrest them.

That drew criticism from the Obama administration, which killed three Somali pirates and arrested one in the dramatic April 12 rescue of an American cargo ship’s captain. The surviving pirate was arrested and sent to New York for trial.

Releasing pirates “sends the wrong signal,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after meeting her Dutch counterpart Maxime Verhagen in Washington on Monday. Both ministers said they would push for NATO to begin arresting pirates.”

One wonders how long it will be before someone accuses the US of “over-reacting” or “gun-boat diplomacy” in this matter. I mean,we wouldn’t want to violate the pirates victim-hood, now would we?