MarEx Mailbag:

Readers weigh in (again) on our February 5th lead editorial

Back in February, we published an editorial entitled “Attacking Piracy” The Long Road to Nowhere”. In that editorial, I talked about the futility of trying to eliminate the problem offshore without attacking the root cause on land. The piece brought in some mail a while back, but the letters shown below came in only this week. They follow another letter last week that I thought worth sharing with the readers. This week, I will keep my powder dry. However, another MarEx reader takes on the assertions of the first letter writer. You can read the original editorial by clicking HERE.

You can read last week’s Mailbag exchange by clicking HERE and/or you can also see what our readers had to say about all of it below. The first letter in one in response to my comments of 5 March:

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Let me help you out. I will start with your last point. An allegation is a claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically made with out proof. A fact [noun] is something that is indisputable. To the case in point. Although I was not there, I saw the photos and it is indisputable that the seven men in the boat were in possession of AK-47s, a rocket propelled grenade and other weapons. Suntan lotion, fishing gear and water skis were not mentioned or seen in the photos. Oh - and that is aside from the "FACT" that they were caught in the act.

It has become the norm for journalists to characterize individuals caught committing crimes as "suspects." They are not suspects they are perpetrators. The media are so concerned with the niceties of liable and slander that on the evening news you will often be treated to a video tape of a robbery in progress and the commentator will identify that individual a suspect. It is only in Anglo-American courts that that such individuals are entitled to the presumption of innocence. It does not apply in the court of public opinion or in any other court system in the world.

With regard to your main point. There is no evidence that improving the economic conditions in Somalia will diminish piracy. This is a politically correct excuse for turning a blind eye to criminal activity. The individuals engaged in piracy have a criminal mentality that will not be diminished by all the do-good intentions in the world. The fastest and easiest way to ameliorate the problem is subject the pirates to harsh consequences of their actions.

History demonstrates that this is the only practical solution. Recall that the Barbary Pirates thrived under the rule local governments that not only condoned their actions but supported them. The other governments in the Mediterranean whose ships were being harassed and whose sailors were captured and sold as slaves or held for ransom had the same attitude that you exhibit. Only the action of the US Government stemmed this tide.

Finally, some commentators, who seem to think that they know something about international law, have said that capturing the pirates and trying them in a court is not possible because Somalia does not have a functioning government or legal system. That proposition is wrong on 3 counts:

1. There is no imperative to return pirates to their "home state";
2. In fact, international law says that the pirates can be tried on board the ships that capture them. In this regard it should be noted that the capturing ships have to be State Owned; i.e., war ships of the capturing state; and
3. The preferred jurisdiction is the maritime courts of the capturing state.

btw - I still prefer keelhauling.

Best Regards
Dan Reiss

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MarEx Editor’s Remarks: Mr. Reiss has his opinions. I like the following letter, however. I think I will let it stand on its own merits.


Your correspondent who believes that the cure for piracy does not involve control in the lands they come from is the years behind in time and misguided.

MarEx note:(the reader provides the following link to an article)


Successes in fighting pirates in the Straits of Malacca have come precisely from control by nearby governments.

Russia and China are quick to send warships to fight the Somalia pirates (which gives them an excuse for presence), but have never been eager to weigh in on a mutual move to stabilize the land areas from whence the piracy stems.


Bill Lyons

MarEx Editor’s Remarks: Mr. Lyons has written in before. Thanks for weighing in again. PS: the article link is worth reading.