The Obama administration has been careful not to use the word “terrorists” to refer to the Somali pirates who attacked a U.S.-flagged cargo ship and held its captain last week. Certainly, what these pirates do on the high seas is terrorizing. There’s probably not a ship’s crew in that part of the world that isn’t worried about meeting the same fate as the Maersk Alabama.
Still, the administration, which has stopped calling the global fight against al-Qaida and associated groups the “war on terror,” was careful not to call the pirates terrorists. The distinction probably is made with the pirates’ primary motivation, which is booty or ransom. A number of news reports depict the pirates as young men who’ve turned to kidnapping and extortion as a way to make money.
As such, the Obama administration considers them criminals first and last and soon may announce strategies to deal with them as such. Perhaps the first case will involve the pirate who was aboard a U.S. destroyer negotiating Sunday when Navy snipers picked off three of his cohorts as they menaced Capt. Richard Phillips, the Maersk Alabama’s skipper.
You can certainly go the legal/criminal route. But with it come U.S. courtroom procedures, rules of evidence, defense lawyers and appeals, which certainly is the long and winding road to justice. Then again, there’s Guantanamo …