Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Territorial Waters of a Failed State

The Barbary piratesIt seems that I was uncharitable towards the French in last night’s post, because the U.S. Navy is also unwilling to follow pirates into Somali territorial waters.

According to yesterday’s Navy Times:

The dock landing ship Carter Hall shot flares, fired warning bursts and unleashed a volley that set fire to three skiffs towed behind a hijacked Danish cargo ship off Somalia on Tuesday, but it could not prevent the freighter from slipping out of international waters and towards a known pirate camp, the Navy said.

The Danica White, a Danish-flagged merchant vessel with a crew of five, was hijacked by pirates early Saturday in view of a French warship that could not cross into Somali territorial waters to offer help. The Danica White never radioed for assistance, but the Carter Hall called to ask if it needed help, said Lt. John Gay, a spokesman with Navy Forces Central Command in Bahrain.

“They made several calls and tried to hail the ship,” he said. “They responded they were under control of pirates.”

The hijacked ship then tried to get the Carter Hall to change course so it could proceed to Somali waters unobstructed, which was when American sailors spotted at least one armed man on the freighter’s bridge wing, Gay said. That’s when the amphib’s guns opened fire.

“The USS Carter Hall fired flares and several shots across the bow as well as several disabling shots at the three skiffs in tow,” he said. “They shot at the skiffs and they caught on fire.”

Sailors used the ship’s .50-caliber machine guns, 7.62 mm miniguns and 25 mm Bushmaster cannons in the encounter, Gay said.

“As long as they’re in international waters, they can engage,” he said.

But the hijacked Danica White made it into Somali waters and the Carter Hall had to back off and watch.

“We’re observing them at this point,” Gay said. “It’s ongoing.”
- - - - - - - - - -
The Carter Hall, a ship designed to haul Marines and their gear, left its homeport of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., on April 10 without a Marine contingent on what was described as catch-all “maritime security operations” in the Middle East. Gay said the Carter Hall is in the waters off eastern Africa specifically for “anti-piracy search operations.”


On Friday, a U.S. Navy destroyer is reported to have bombarded a terrorist position in Somalia, although officials would not provide any details.

This is something I find hard to understand. Somalia is a failed state, a lawless enclave for warring tribes and Al Qaeda thugs. Its “government” cannot carry out the normal functions of a nation-state, and has virtually no control over its territory, whether on land or at sea.

So why is the Navy under orders not to venture into Somalia’s territorial waters to rescue the victims of piracy?

I’m sure there’s a good, sound reason behind this policy. Maybe we want to make sure that Iran won’t see our example as a license to make mischief in the Persian Gulf — whoops, that’s right; I forgot about those British hostages. And now there are three Finnish hostages in the hands of the mullahs.

So the Navy can bombard Somalia, but it can’t follow a scurvy pirate scow past the territorial limit and save the lives of the pirates’ victims?

Don’t make no sense.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right it makes no sense whatsoever. And its funny, I was just thinking about this and about to write something about it in the previous post, when this popped up.

If a state is lawless it should be common sense, that it cannot have sovereign borders. We saw the same problem with Lebanon/Hispallah vs. Israel.

The only explanation I can imagine is that something is very rotten on the UN level. It must be possible to have ownership over a country and at the same time, not have any responsibility as to what goes on there.

It seems that countries can wage undeclared wars, and still have their territories, somewhat under UN-protection.

I am totally clueless as to how these things work, but something is clearly not right. We live in strange times. I hope someone can explain this weirdness. Until then, I am going to asume that, UN is an idiot moron.

enuff said...

As another party has stated, there may be a War on Terror and one party is definitely fighting this war...but it ain't us.

Anonymous said...

Don’t make no sense.

That means the US State Department must somehow be involved.

Whiskey said...

It makes perfect sense.

Under severe pressure from Dems and the Media GWB has stopped fighting the war on terror. Which Edwards believes is a bumper sticker slogan and does not exist.

Iranians caught red-handed in Afhanistan arming the Taliban? Does not exist. Same in Iraq? Does not exist. Somali pirates? Does not exist.

Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here:

Mark Tempest said...

It isn't our ROE that poses the problem except to the extent that it requires compliance with international law, which, as is noted in an post of mine here, precludes "hot pursuit" into the territorial waters of a foreign state, even a state like Somalia. UNCLOS Art 111, para."3. The right of hot pursuit ceases as soon as the ship pursued enters the territorial sea of its own State or of a third State."

I suggest here, State should get permission from what we recognize as a government in Somalia for to pursue pirates in Somali waters.

A Jacksonian said...

To the US an act of Piracy is an Act of War upon the United States. I have been going over that and looking to where there is a confluence of terrorism and Piracy laws. Because of the US view of extending the Laws of the Sea into airspace and the transportation and prohibition of interference by unlawful entities upon such trade and transport, the US takes a very wide view of Piracy and those trying to carve out mere terrorism have had to look at individual acts and not intrude upon Piracy laws.

Thus the taking of this vessel is only something the US can respond to if there is US interest in the vessel or the vessel's captain or commander calls upon aid for seamen from a US vessel. Or, if it is a known Piratical ogranization that has endangered Treaty obligations by the US or that the US holds in common with other Nations to be a Piratical organization. If there is any US interest in a vessel, even such as owning shares in the company that owns the vessel, then this is an act of Piracy against the US and it may respond to this not only under the Piracy laws but see it as an act of war against the United States and bring the full power of the Nation against it. Andrew Jackson did that with the very first US vessel to circumnavigate the world form the US: it was a warship out to give reprisals to pirates on the other side of the planet.

Piracy to the US is not *only* theft and stealing on the high seas, but any endangerment of the US, its armed forces or its companies or citizens engaged in foreign commerce via air or sea based transport or involving same for goods. Plus, of course, just firing on vessels involved in same, including the terminal to terminal tranpsorts between sea and airports and the US companies involved in oversight or ownership of same, that, too, is Piracy.

There are, in actuality, a large number of things done by terrorists that are, strictly speaking, Piratical in nature and allow the full US view of Piracy to be put in-force. Especially when one starts to consider US Code Title 18, Chapter 81, Section 1661: "Whoever, being engaged in any piratical cruise or enterprise, or being of the crew of any piratical vessel, lands from such vessel and commits robbery on shore, is a pirate, and shall be imprisoned for life."

A bit before that Section 1657 expands upon who falls under the Piracy statutes:"Whoever attempts to corrupt any commander, master, officer, or mariner to yield up or to run away with any vessel, or any goods, wares, or merchandise, or to turn pirate or to go over to or confederate with pirates, or in any wise to trade with any pirate, knowing him to be such; or

Whoever furnishes such pirate with any ammunition, stores, or provisions of any kind; or

Whoever fits out any vessel knowingly and, with a design to trade with, supply, or correspond with any pirate or robber upon the seas; or

Whoever consults, combines, confederates, or corresponds with any pirate or robber upon the seas, knowing him to be guilty of any piracy or robbery; or

Whoever, being a seaman, confines the master of any vessel--

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

This allows a very broad imposition of working to bring such organizations and individuals to heel and END such aid to Piratical operations. As Piratical operations are distributed and Privateers could go where the regular armed forces of the Nation could not, Privateers are given Letters of Marque and Reprisal against such operations and work on a 'reward for performance' concept while fully under the Uniform Code of Military Justice during such operations for Privateers. Those that come forth and meet the standards set by Congress are administered by the Executive are then fully accountable for their utilization of war powers granted by the Letters. These are open and above-board operations, not Piratical operations which are seen as clandestine in nature.

Beyond the Privateering, such organizations that aid and abet Piratical operations, under the statutes, are *themselves* liable to them. And if any attempt to resist enforcement is done, then a move from passive to active aiding is seen and the step over from 3 years of imprisonment to life imprisonment is the result: do the crime and be prepared to do the time.

It is amazing, to me, how many folks get nosebleeds about such down-to-Earth matters like Piracy and terrorism. Treat them by their actions, call them as they are and use the Laws on the books to bring them to heel. Of course that would mean that a large number of *terrorist* organizations would also be seen as *Piratical* organizations due to their actions.

Lovely how that works!

nimbus said...


nimbus said...


I R A Darth Aggie said...

Don’t make no sense.

Makes perfect sense.

The Carter Hall is a lightly armed amphibous ship designed to carry and land Marine forces.

Relevant details:

Crew: Ships Company: 22 officers, 397 enlisted.

Marine Detachment: 402 plus 102 surge.

Armament: Two 25mm MK 38 Machine Guns, Two 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts and Six .50 cal. machine guns.

I can understand why her captain chose not to take her into unknown waters without more offensive punch backing him up. A bold and daring pirate might decide that the Carter Hall would make a good prize.

Only thing that makes no sense to me is that the ship doesn't have her Marine contingent embarked. I don't buy that for a second, and suspect they have a more dangerous contingent on board. And rescuing wayward Danes wasn't on their duty roster for the day.

That may change, tho.