Politicizing Captain Phillips’ Rescue From Somali Pirates

The breathless Associated Press report describes Obama as the hero – and not just once, but twice over:

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama twice authorized the military to rescue a U.S. captain held by Somali pirates and whose life appeared to be at risk.

Officials say Obama gave the OK on Friday and Saturday to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips from a lifeboat off the Somali coast. Officials say both times the Pentagon believed Phillips’ life was at risk.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Of course, anonymity gives political officials free-reign to lie their heads off, most of the time.

The AP story leaves us with the clear impression that President Obama was in the White House, watching live satellite feed of the hostage event, on the phone barking the direct order to the snipers to “take ’em down.”

Blackfive presents the actual details of the shooting rescue:

I just finished listening to the press conference w/ ADM Gortney about the rescue of Captain Phillips. At the time it happened the USS Bainbridge was towing the lifeboat to calmer waters as the sea state was deteriorating. One of the pirates was on board the Bainbridge as the talks about obtaining Phillip’s release continued. The lifeboat was approx. 25 m behind the Bainbridge when snipers on the fantail observed one of the pirates in the pilot house of the lifeboat pointing an AK-47 at the back of a tied up Phillips and the other two pirates on board were visible (at least shoulders and heads). The standing authority gave them clearance to engage the pirates if the life of the captain was in imminent danger. The on scene commander deemed this to be true and gave the order to fire. All three bad guys were taken out and then a rigid inflatable boat went to the lifeboat to retrieve Phillips. It is unknown at this point whether the shooters were SEALs or Marine Scout Snipers as both would have been available.

This was not a rescue attempt ordered by National Command Authority i.e. the President. It was a reaction by the on scene commander under standard authority to safeguard the life of a hostage.

Any authority to shoot had been given by Obama hours – and in fact the previous day – earlier, with the actual kill order being given by the commander on the scene, rather than from the White House.

We are now being presented with a White House that was intimately involved with every detail of the rescue operation, including the order to engage.  But that’s all after-the-fact.  Ask yourself: is that how this would have been reported had things gone wrong?

I don’t think so.

Let’s look at how this was being presented just a couple of days earlier, when Obama was clearly minimizing his role in the event that things didn’t turn out quite so happily:

Obama’s Somali Pirate Hostage Crisis is an ‘Annoying Distraction’
April 09, 2009 by Mark Whittington

The Somali pirate situation in which the pirates took and then lost an American cargo ship and then took her captain as a hostage is being described as an “annoying distraction” for President Barack Obama….

Nevertheless, while the White House is described as “working around the clock” on what has turned out to be a hostage crisis, President Obama appears to be unconcerned. At a meeting with homeowners in the White House Roosevelt Room, Barack Obama was asked what he thought of the Somali pirate situation and the plight of Captain Phillips. Obama responded, “Guys, we’re talking about housing right now.”

That response was hardly on the level of “Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead.”

So if you want to argue that I’m being cynical in questioning Obama’s new heroic role, well, stuff it in advance.

When I turned on the news and learned that Captain Richard Phillips had been rescued on Easter Sunday in a US Navy operation that led to the deaths of three Somali pirates, I was overjoyed.  It’s preposterous that a ship and cargo can be seized by a few kids with assault rifles, just as it is preposterous that we can be made to appear so helpless so easily.  Our warriors performed magnificently, just as we have come to expect from the greatest military that ever existed in the history of the world.

America looked good throughout this particular crisis.  The American crew of the US-flagged ship Maersk Alabama were heroic in their role in the pirates away.  Captain Richard Phillips was clearly heroic in offering himself as hostage in exchange for his crew.  The US Navy certainly was heroic in steaming to the rescue and executing the rescue of Captain Phillips so brilliantly.

The Navy SEALs and (quite possibly) the Marine Scout Snipers are the kind of men for whom excellence is its own reward.  Hopefully they will receive the utmost in commendations for their skill and valor, anyway.  And as an American I personally thank and congratulate them.

Barack Obama deserves credit, also.  I suppose he could have given an order for the rescuers to stand down and insist that negotiations win the day.  He could have told the snipers to hold their fire even as they cried, “But, sir!  They’re preparing to kill the hostage!”

I’m glad that the president authorized the Navy to perform its mission.

But let’s simply realize that, had this been George Bush instead of Barack Obama, the presidential role would have at best been completely ignored, and at worst utterly disparaged.

But let’s recognize that this crisis will likely morph into another.  The pirates are vowing revenge, and warning that the US and France “will encounter unforgettable lessons” as a result of the rescues of their citizens.

And “Somali pirates captured an Italian-flagged US tug and its 16-strong crew on Saturday, an official with Kenya’s East African Seafarers Assistance Programme told AFP.”  Given that reports indicate that at least several of the crew are American, the pirates already have opportunity to teach some “unforgettable lessons.”

The head of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command warned that the rescue could escalate violence in that part of the world.

Will the media be as quick to assign Obama condemnation as they clearly were to give him credit?

We’re at a point of ideologically-controlled media propaganda where American servicemen can literally kill a thousand of the enemy, but lose one American, and still be portrayed as the losers.  We saw that in Iraq under President Bush.

I think we should celebrate the rescue of Captain Phillips, and celebrate the heroism and skill of our incredible warriors.  But let’s not celebrate by way of political spin out of Washington and picked up by the media establishment, because it’s an incredibly dangerous game.  If Obama deserves credit for the rescue yesterday, then he will therefore fully deserve to be excoriated if any Americans are killed in future reprisals.

On a final note, a Democrat member of Congress, Donald Payne from New Jersey, went on a “fact-finding” tour of Somalia that was itself very likely an act of political grandstanding.  His airplane was attacked (unsuccessfully) with mortars as it was preparing to take off.  The al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the mortar attack.

Barack Obama may want to end the “war on terror” by assigning it the incredibly euphemistically-named “overseas contingency operation,” but it is a war on terror nevertheless – a war that demands the total participation of our military, and a war that will necessarily require both courage and sacrifice from the United States if we have any hope to prevail.  I hope President Obama will abandon this incredibly foolish politically-correct re-labeling and treat this war with the seriousness that it deserves.

2 Responses to “Politicizing Captain Phillips’ Rescue From Somali Pirates”

  1. harold smith Says:

    So, our president leaves the rescue to the right people, shows confidence in the ones who are trained for this kind of situation, and you still find fault… I hope you like sour grapes…….

  2. Michael Eden Says:

    I didn’t find fault with the rescue, you bozo. I found fault with Obama’s POLITICIZING of it.

    If “the right people” did all the right things, and all Obama did was “leave the rescue to the right people,” then why is HE taking credit for it?

    Of course, we all know that absolutely no Democrats complained even once when Bush had his “mission accomplished” banner. And since Democrats cheered Bush for that, you clearly have an extremely valid point. Oh, wait. NOT.

    I love the way people like you wallowed in your sour grapes for eight bitter years, and – after successfully dragging a Republican president into the mud – you suddenly “realize” that it’s wrong to harbor sour grapes for a president. You hypocrites truly inspire me to keep my efforts.

    What goes around comes around. And its coming for your side.

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