Western intelligence agencies have known for years, and the press has reported, that al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations such as Somalia’s Al-Shabab have trained and armed Somali pirates in return for a share of the proceeds of piracy. Canada’s National Post reported last Dec. 2:
The Somali militant group Al-Shabab has been arming and training pirates in exchange for a share of their spoils, says a newly released Canadian intelligence document. Al-Shabab has formed a “relationship of convenience” with one of the two main pirate networks operating off the Horn of Africa, the “Top Secret” intelligence assessment says.
The report describes an “Islamist extremism-piracy nexus” that involves Al-Shabab providing “weapons, combat training and local protection” to the Mudug pirates of southern Somalia.
In return, “elements of Al-Shabab continue to receive portions of the spoils from successful hijackings either in cash or seized weapons and materiel,” it says.
A suicide bombing for which al-Shabab took credit killed 76 people in Uganda last Sunday, in an apparent terror attack on Ugandan Christians by Islamic militants. Ugandan authorities yesterday said that they had thwarted another bombing attack.
Western nations and world shipping companies have a tacit policy of paying the pirates off rather than attempting to suppress them. I attended last November’s annual conference of the German Marshall Fund at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and reported:
A case in point is the problem of piracy, the subject of an on-the-record session featuring the Defense Minister of the Netherlands, Eimert van Middelkoop. Piracy is a business and it is about money, Van Middelkoop allowed, not worth shooting about. Isn’t piracy a vehicle for funding international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda as well as a terrorist capability?, a questioner asked. “That is not how I present the problem,” the Dutch minister grunted.
Piracy has deep connections to terrorism, in the estimate of every intelligence agency in the NATO sphere, but it is inconvenient to speak of it. A shipping company executive explained why: security for a container ship requires a four-man team and costs $1 million a year per ship. With a thousand ships afloat, his firm would pay $1 billion a year to protect them. It doesn’t help that it is already losing more than $1 billion a year due to the global contraction of world trade, which shows no sign of recovery. Ransom costs about $2 million per hijacking, a tiny fraction of the cost of protection. Were the military to provide guards, it would need to deploy 40,000 soldiers for his company alone, at a time when personnel resources already are overstretched.
“Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute,” went the American slogan during the 1805 campaign against the Barbary pirates. Tribute today seems the better part of valor: when Vladimir Lenin said that capitalists would sell him the rope with which to hang them, he could not have imagined quite so literal an example as Western governments encouraging shipowners to bribe prospective terrorists. At best, banana republic style blackmail, at worst, support for terrorism.
American navy brass were also present and in so many words agreed with the Dutch minister. It is outrageous and scandalous. And now African Christians are paying with their lives.
It’s no accident that the Somali terrorists are hitting Uganda. Uganda has the fastest-growing Christian population in Africa, where Christianity is slowly but surely supplanting Islam. The connection between the bombings and Christian evangelization seems obvious; the American Thinker blog drew it eloquently on July 13.
The Islamic terror bombings that took so many lives in Uganda over the weekend has generated some surprise.
Sheik Yusuf Isse of the Islamist al-Shababb group provides one possible answer, “Uganda is a major infidel country supporting the so-called government of Somalia…we know Uganda is against Islam and so we are very happy at what happened in Kampala. That is the best news we have ever heard.”
A knowledgeable friend also tells me that Ugandan troops provide the bulk of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. They are fighting al-Shababb. Islamists who would like to take control in Somalia – not just to add another nation to the Islamic world but also for strategic purposes since Somalia occupies a key piece of land on the horn of Africa.
But overlooked by major media outlets is why Uganda, regardless of the Somalia situation, may itself be a target for Islamic terror.
Uganda has become Africa’s center for Evangelical Christianity – a religion that is booming there.
The solution? Issue Letters of Marque to privateers to attack Somali piracy. Pay other Somalis to go out in boats and hunt the pirates down. Encourage African Christians to arm themselves and to go sea to put down the traffic. American and other Western naval forces in the Indian Ocean operate under rules of engagement that belong in American courtrooms, not the violent high seas. As Voice of America reported in April:
Recently, a U.S. Navy ship fired on a pirate skiff after it was attacked. A pirate was killed. And in another recent incident, a private security team member also shot and killed a pirate after a vessel was attacked. So, why not simply blow pirate vessels out of the water every time? Retired naval commander John Patch says it’s not that simple.
“I think it comes down to rules of engagement. If you don’t see the act actually being committed or you’re not actually fired on, our rules of engagement are pretty strict on when you can use deadly force,” he says.
And he says rules of engagement also make it a legal issue.
“No commanding officer of any ship wants a situation where he used force and then is told a week later that he shouldn’t have. That he violated the rules and under international law maybe murder would be applied to that. It’s a dangerous line to cross,” he says.
As the senior Western officials who addressed the German Marshall Fund indicated, these efforts to suppress piracy are largely cosmetic. But there is no need for Western navies to do the dirty work. It’s cheaper to engage the locals, as the US army does regularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yes, there will be some collateral damage. But the alternative is an endless and useless debate about rules of engagement by Western forces. Fight fire with fire. Otherwise we contribute to the arming of jihadists to murder African Christians.