Tuesday, April 21, 2009



By : The Right Honorable Admiral Sir Hercules Robinson, Acting Governor General of Her Imperial Majesty Queen Victoria in the Crown Colony of Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA; Former Governor General of New South Wales in the Crown Colony of AUSTRALIA; Former Supreme Commander of Her Majesty’s Naval Forces in and around the Crown Colony of FIJI in the PACIFIC ISLANDS; Former Governor General in and for the Crown Colony of HONG KONG, a City wrested from the savage and barbaric CHINESE EMPIRE; Deceased 1897.

International commerce depends on secure transport by sea. Our great British Empire understands that sea power translates readily into economic power. When our merchant ships pass freely across the world’s oceans, British power grows. But it is no easy task to secure the sea. Nothing is vaster—or more perilous—than those great oceans over which our valuable cargoes must travel. Danger lurks everywhere. Captains must weather brutal storms on the Indian Ocean. They must navigate harrowing crosscurrents near the Cape of Good Hope. They must skillfully avoid shoals and reefs in the Caribbean. And no matter where they sail, they must keep vigilant watch for PIRATES, those enemies of all humanity.

I have recently learned that pirates hijacked the American container ship Maersk Alabama near the Somali Horn in Africa. According to reports, these vicious buccaneers took the Captain hostage and imprisoned the crew in the boiler room. Thankfully, the crew sent a distress signal, alerting the American Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge that they required immediate assistance. The pirates abandoned their quarry in a lifeboat, taking the captain with them at gunpoint. Bainbridge secured Alabama, then made chase after the cowardly pirates as they fled in their lifeboat. Bainbridge swiftly overtook the pirates. Marines stationed aboard Bainbridge eliminated the pirates with sniper fire, captured one surviving pirate and rescued the captain.

I am at heart an Admiral. I must say this was a highly effective naval intervention. Jolly good work, gentlemen.

Despite the happy result in the Alabama case, I write today to urge the American government to crush the pirate menace once and for all. As a fellow colonial power with overseas interests, I cannot overemphasize how important it is to secure the sea-lanes. The attack on Alabama was no fluke; these brazen African pirates have long harassed international sea traffic along the Somali coast. Piracy did not die in the 18th Century. We must recognize that pirates still prowl the waves, threatening vital sea commerce between colonial outposts and home ports. More than any other transport method, our economies depend upon intercontinental sea carriage. Ships transfer the largest amount of material at the lowest cost. Without reliable sea transport, costs for goods ranging from Chinese umbrellas to African coffee beans to Vietnamese rice will skyrocket. Merchant captains will fear to leave port, increasing crew costs and insurance expenditures. Our troubled economic outlook will only worsen if we do not seriously address the pirate menace.

I am no expert in American or British law. I am a Governor General and an Admiral by trade. But I understand that piracy harms overseas interests. And I understand that America—like Great Britain—depends on overseas interests for continued economic strength. Nonetheless, there are established legal mechanisms in place to deal with these seaborne brigands. Any Nation on earth may seize pirates and try them in their own courts under a universal jurisdictional principle. Pirates are hostes omnes humanis—enemies of all humanity. By taking arms against ships under any flag, pirates exclude themselves from the brotherhood of Nations. As such, all Nations have a right to seize and punish them, for they are equally hostile to every Nation. Furthermore, your American Constitution empowers Congress: “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas[].” U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8 cl. 9. In short, do not hesitate to take harsh action against pirates. Both American law and international law regard them with contempt. I urge you to launch a determined effort to sweep these thankless rogues from the oceans.

We must protect our commercial interests. Let us be honest: We maintain a military presence on many continents in order to protect our trade all over the world. For example, Her Majesty would not maintain a garrison in South Africa were it not for the mineral resources British companies exploit here, nor would your American President maintain a garrison in Iraq were it not for the mineral resources American companies exploit there. We invest military force when necessary to expand and protect significant commercial interests. Yet our investments on land would be for naught if we did not control the sea. In that sense, we may win commercial rewards on land across the globe, but we cannot truly realize our bounty unless we can freely ship our treasure from port to port. Just as the military protects commerce on land, so too must it protect commerce at sea. Consider the sea the circulatory system of international commerce. Without clear, healthy arteries, the whole organism dies. To that extent, our military must jealously guard the sea-lanes. We owe it to the merchants who make our countries as great as they are.

I suggest aggressive action on both land and sea. In my experience, I have learned that restless natives are dangerous. Applying that lesson, I have found that it is always best to strike first. When it comes to naval action, “striking first” means choosing the place of engagement. Do not wait for pirates to attack you; attack the pirates when they least expect it. Patrol their known launch areas. Assemble rapid strike forces. Do not wait for them to put to sea; bombard their harbors and put marine parties ashore to round up their leaders. If you prefer sea action, I suggest using decoy ships to lure pirates onto the water. Once they commit themselves to piracy, deploy a fast fleet and destroy them. The American Navy has massive resources. Use them aggressively. There is no point wasting national treasure on warships if you do not use them for their intended purpose: Sea combat.

We must match aggressive measures on the high seas with aggressive actions on land. When we capture pirates, there is no time for legal nicety. Pirates are not ordinary criminals; they are enemies of all humanity. As such, they do not deserve the same legal process as other prisoners. In the British tradition, Royal Navy Captains hanged pirates from the yardarms or threw them overboard for shark fodder. If they did transport them back for trial, justice was swift. After all, what legal defense can a pirate offer? That he did not take up arms against a defenseless merchant ship? That he mistook the merchant ship for a man-o-war? Rubbish. Pirates have no legal defense. If they are taken in arms on the high seas, they are pirates. Pirates are enemies of all humanity. That ends the legal debate. The fact that British authorities put pirates to death indicates the seriousness of the crime. We do not tolerate interference with our colonial or commercial interests. We did not invest our national toil and blood creating an Empire to sit by and allow bloodthirsty robbers to plunder our bounty at will.

In 2009, you Americans occupy much the same position we occupied in 1890. You have the largest economy in the world. Your commercial interests stretch across the globe. Your merchant fleet supplies your wealth. In that light, I must urge you to protect your bounty. No Nation in history has ever cultivated commerce as masterfully as the United States. It would be a tragedy if piratical scallywags shook faith in American economic might. Your military power is unmatched. Start using it for its proper purpose: To protect American commerce worldwide.

We cannot afford to lose the war against piracy. World commerce depends on safe sea traffic. To that extent, I urge you not to give in to “humanitarian” concerns when prosecuting captured pirates. I am informed that you already hold one pirate in custody. It is admirable that you wish to put him on trial, but you cannot let him win. Pirates have no legal defense. Do not let pirates hoodwink you. Do not encourage future atrocities by allowing pirates to believe they can escape punishment. This suspect says he was “forced into piracy” by “intimidating local warlords” who “promised him money.” He also claims he is only 16 and speaks no English. You must put aside your sympathy and remember what this man did. Your Navy captured him on the high seas after he forcibly boarded a merchant ship and threatened the crew with a rifle. That is piracy. It would not matter if he were 16 or 6 or 600. It does not matter why he did it; it matters that he forcibly boarded a ship while armed. If we start treating pirates like “regular criminals,” we put our entire colonial economy in jeopardy. Our overseas commercial interests are simply too important for us to accord civil liberties and legal process to pirates determined to interfere with those interests. After all, Nations exist to engage in world commerce. Pirates undermine our very raison d’etre as independent sovereignties. That distinguishes them from common robbers. Pirates make war on the very foundations of our national identity. Thus, we must have no qualms about treating them in a peremptory manner.

I wish you good fortune in your enterprise against the pirates. We must act quickly. If you require support from the Royal Navy or Royal Marines, please do not hesitate to enlist my assistance. Together, we can sweep these curs from the oceans for all time. On that happy day, goods will travel unimpeded—at low cost—from Shanghai to Montevideo to New York to Hamburg to Vladivostok and beyond. When we secure the seas, we secure commerce. And when commerce is secure, Nations prosper.

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