Kenneth T. Walsh at US News & World Report gives details of President Obama’s handling of the Somali pirates’ holding of Captain Richard Phillips hostage.
The crisis began early in the morning of April 8, when Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama. The crew captured one pirate, and three others took Captain Phillips hostage. He talked them, along with one other, into getting into the lifeboat and keeping him as the hostage, as a way of saving his crew.
The US Navy, aware of the danger to Phillips’s life if it took precipitate action, brought in experienced FBI hostage negotiators.
This attempt to end the crisis through hostage negotiation was made fun of by the American right wing:
April 9, 2009, Fox Cable News:
‘GLENN BECK: Have you heard this one? The U.S. Navy is now looking to the FBI for advice on how to free an American cargo ship captain. Oh, no, they’re sending over a hostage negotiator. Yes, I hope we’re bringing them some hot cocoa over to the Somali pirates! The U.S. warship is near the pirates’ drifting light boat and the Navy doesn’t know how to fix this one. Wow!’
What Beck does not say is that a frontal US naval attack on the lifeboat at that stage might well have killed Phillips. Beck actually made fun of the US Navy, implying that it was dawdling about instead of going in with guns blazing. What kind of person makes fun of the professionals of the US Navy and the FBI while they are trying to do their jobs in saving a true American hero? This kind of snark is not patriotic or manly. It is just a little girl’s hissy fit masquerading as macho.
Meanwhile, even Rush Limbaugh’s supporters were embarrassed by his inability to stop bashing the president long enough to celebrate the escape of the crew. Ann Althouse lamented of Limbaugh, “He’d slotted the story into his Obama-doesn’t-know-what-to-do template and was riffing away about Obama’s indecision and what he must be fretting about and how he’d probably want to apologize to the pirates and so forth.”
Walsh explains of Friday, April 10: “In Obama’s first national security test, he secretly gave the Pentagon the go-ahead at 8 p.m. Friday to use force if Phillips’s life was in imminent danger.” So, Rush, I guess Obama wasn’t in a mood to apologize after all. Unless in Limbaugh Limbo, making preparations to whack someone is seen as a mea culpa.
What of Obama’s silence, which allowed the blowhards to bloviate? Walsh adds, “Throughout the crisis, Obama avoided saber rattling in public. His aides said that would have made negotiations for Phillips’s release more difficult.” In other words, Obama avoided posturing and talking like a cowboy about the pirates in order to avoid complicating a hostage crisis and endangering the life of the hostage. Obama took heat for his silence, but he took it like a man. Behind the scenes, he received 17 separate briefings.
At exactly the same time that the deft young president authorized lethal force, one of McCain’s advisers, the far rightwing pundit Ralph Peters, was ridiculing Obama as ineffectual and clueless:
April 10, 2009:
O’Reilly Factor, Fox Cable News (John Kasich, guest host; guest, far rightwing pundit Ralph Peters)
‘ KASICH: What about the silence that we are seeing out of the White House, colonel? What do you think’s behind that? Is this helpful in some way?
PETERS: I think our president is probably just hoping it goes away. I mean, sad to say, I wish him well because I wish America well, but he seems like the worst possible combination of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. And he — you know, he’s the dog that caught the fire truck. He’s never studied foreign policy, military affairs. And now he has to actually make decisions. And I suspect President Obama doesn’t know what to do. So I hope he listens to our military.’
Actually, in our democracy, Mr. Peters, it is the military that is supposed to listen to its commander-in-chief. And, calling our first African-American president a “dog” that “caught the fire truck” is at the very least extremely offensive and at worst a slur. You will note, by the way, Mr. Peters, that Obama handed you and others in the McCain campaign your asses last November. So I think we know whom the American public trusts to make the important decisions, and it isn’t you.
On the same day, April 10, Rush Limbaugh has the revelation that Phillips is not being held by pirates at all but by “community organizers” (hint, hint, by people like Obama): “Look, the Somali pirates and community organizers, they shake down private sector businesses, the Somali pirates claim they don’t want to hurt anybody, although the captain did escape, but they recaptured him, and now they’re threatening violence. You gotta laugh. This is not funny. But you have to laugh at a bunch of community organizers in basically a lifeboat surrounded by US destroyers, which appear to be powerless. You have to laugh at this. All the merchant marine organizers want is money from evil capitalists with big boats, the same as the ACORN community organizers out of Chicago, the same as the community organizers harassing and protesting AIG executives in Connecticut and New York.”
Actually, as far as I can see, AIG is the pirate. I can’t keep track. Did they hold up the US taxpayer for $185 billion? And you might say, well, it benefitted the US banks. But, no, not so much: A lot of it went to European banks. Then there were the $240 million in bonuses that your and my pockets were picked for by AIG with Rush’s connivance. Rush, the corrupt and inept financier’s best friend.
Not to mention that many Somali fishermen have been, well, deprived of their livelihoods by that nice unregulated capitalism that Mr. Limbaugh thinks so well of. There is no excuse for piracy, but that the fishermen are being reduced to penury does make it easier for the criminals to recruit them.
Limbo Limbaugh then posted a picture of Obama at a picnic table, implying that he was doing nothing.
Now it is Saturday, April 11. Walsh explains, “In a follow-up order at 9:20 Saturday morning, he gave more specific authorization that included allowing a Navy commander to order snipers to take out the pirates if the situation became dire, U.S. officials said.”
On Sunday, the US snipers were sent into action when it appeared that the pirates were menacing Captain Phillips with their weapons. They killed three and freed Phillips, capturing the fourth.
While the whiny Right was ridiculing the president as a do-nothing, or calling for blowing the lifeboat out of the water, or calumniating Obama with charges that he was “apologetic” to the hostage-takers and even “bringing them hot chocolate,” the president was quietly, competently, taking stock of the situation and putting in place the policies and personnel that would lead to a successful resolution and the freeing of a hero.
Reminds me of the Carly Simon Bond theme, “Nobody does it better/ Makes me feel sad for the rest.”
End/ (Not Continued)