Enough Dead Teen Pirate Porn Already

I originally posted this on Facebook on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 10:20am.  But I thought I’d repost it here because I think it’s helpful in illustrating my perspective on social justice and compassion, especially when showing compassion would be most difficult, themes that I try to touch upon in my writing all the time.

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Yay! America wins! Obama’s got a bright new feather in his cap! It was an awesome feat on choppy seas. But, seriously, let’s have a little solemnity for the loss of life that occurred here… (Where are the Pro-lifers when you also need them?)This is from Lindsay Beyerstein, but I feel that I could have written it:

I’m relieved that the Navy SEALs rescued the American hostage from Somali pirates. Their skill and professionalism was indeed impressive.But really… Two days after the rescue, the banner headline on the front page of the Washington Post should not read “3 Rounds, 3 Dead Bodies.” And if that’s the front page headline, surely they don’t need a second story about pirate-shooting in the same edition.The American public is relishing the deaths of the pirates to a degree that’s downright unseemly…

Gates said the four pirates involved in taking Phillips hostage were 17 to 19 years old — “untrained teenagers with heavy weapons.” The pirate whom Reza wounded in the hand asked the USS Bainbridge for medical attention, effectively surrendering. [WaPo]The on-scene Navy commander aboard the USS Bainbridge reportedly gave the order to fire because the hostage’s life was suddenly in danger. If that’s true, then of course the SEALs did the right thing.

Despite the blanket coverage of the SEALs who fired the shots, very little has been reported about the evidence that moved the commander to order the shooting. So far, nobody has explained why the commander decided that the hostage was in jeopardy at that particular moment.

The standoff was dragging on and there was intense political pressure to resolve the situation. Maybe he just seized an opportunity to get three clean kills.

Given the international significance of this incident I hope that a full and impartial report will be made available to the public, in English and Arabic. When the police shoot hostage takers, they’re held accountable for their decisions. We need the same level of transparency when the military goes after criminals on the high seas.

Imagine if some American criminals were holding an innocent Somali hostage in international waters. We’d demand answers if the Somalis shot them. It would be the responsible thing to do and we’d feel entitled to a full accounting of what happened to our people.

But realistically, nobody’s going to ask the commander to justify his decision. He spared the politicians some difficult choices about whether to authorize lethal commando raids to liberate hostages, as the French have done.

It’s creepy to see so many Americans exulting over the fact that the United States military managed to shoot three teenagers, albeit three very dangerous teenagers who may have been about to kill an innocent hostage. Even if authorities did the right thing, it was a sad, sordid necessity, not a glorious adventure.

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