On Wednesday, I noted here on The Dem Daily that pirates had seized an American ship off the coast of Somalia. The crew of the ship “later overpowered some of the pirates,” but Capt. Richard Phillips of Underhill, Vt. “surrendered himself to the bandits to safeguard his men, and four of the Somalis fled with him to an enclosed lifeboat.” Phillips is still being held by the pirates.
On Thursday the U.S. “brought in FBI hostage negotiators to work with the military in trying to secure the release” of Phillips and Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “called for hearings on the mounting piracy threat as the fate of an American cargo-ship captain remained in limbo.”
“These acts of piracy off of Somalia’s coastline may seem surreal, but they’re all too real and a thorough policy debate is long overdue,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in a statement. “When Americans, including at least one from Massachusetts, are endangered, you’ve got a complicated and dangerous international situation brewing, and that includes questions about a hot-pursuit policy on Somalia’s coastline.” […]
The pirate attack was not only the first on American sailors in 200 years, but the sixth in the span of a week along the lawless Somali coast.
“There have been more than 50 attacks in the area this year alone and the problem isn’t going away,” Kerry said. “I plan to hold hearings to further examine the growing threat of piracy and all the policy options that need to be on the table before the next fire drill becomes an international incident with big implications.”
The NY Times reports that “Pentagon planners are beginning to adjust the American arsenal to deal with the threat posed by pirates and other stateless, low-tech foes.” Ship owners are reluctant to arm crew members because they fear “pirates would be more likely to continue shooting once on board if they confronted weapons, and the company might be held liable for deaths or injuries inflicted by someone on the vessel.”