Don't Panic! February 12 2003

Your war questions answered

What's Next in the War on Terror, Part II?

Once Saddam Hussein is rotting in the Hitler Wing of Hell's Ninth Circle, President Bush is gonna need a new War On Terror(TM) venue to distract us from the growing deficit and the worst hiring slump in 20 years. Before we get into Part II though, let's review Part I.

Let's see ... al-Qaeda operating in Liberia, blah, blah, blah, in Burkina Faso too, blah, blah, blah, Liberian President Charles Taylor not the same as the Chuck Taylor shoe guy blah, blah, blah, al-Qaeda recruits a lot in Algeria cuz it's a rotten place, blah, blah, blah.

That brings us to Part II's topic, sea piracy.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, over the past several years the frequency of ship piracy attacks is up sharply. The number of piracy attacks rose about 10 percent last year, bringing the total number to an arrggh-inducing 370.

If you think about it, piracy is really a natural fit for Muslim terrorists. They already possess several of the traits we usually associate with pirates. Pirates and Muslim terrorists tend to be men with facial hair who hang out almost exclusively with other men (a trait they also share with The Village People, but that's for another column). Pirates are often short a working eye or two. Well, it just so happens that the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar only has one eye. Sheikh Abdel-Rahman, the Egyptian who supposedly masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, is blind! British-based Muslim cleric and al-Qaeda supporter Abu Hamza is not only optically odd-numbered, but when his right hand was blown off while clearing mines in Afghanistan, he replaced it the ultimate in pirate-chic, a metal hook! And, rumor has it that Osama bin Laden played Maj. Gen. Stanley in his boarding school's production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance.

While the bulk of pirate attacks are motivated by robbery, the bureau's recent report about piracy calls special attention to a disturbing new piracy trend — suicide attacks on big ships with explosives-laden little boats. Such an attack took place in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, in October 2000 against the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole, killing 17 sailors. Last October, off the coast of Yemen, the French oil tanker Limburg was attacked the same way, killing one crew member and spilling 90,000 gallons of oil. By the way, when I say French oil tanker, I don't mean that the oil was French. The tanker is French. The oil was that Arab stuff.

Yemen is the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and a frequent stop for Western shipping, so the link between al-Qaeda and piracy there is clear. The report also shows that, even when a link to al-Qaeda is not direct, that countries that are home to a lot of pirates are also known terrorist hotspots. Indonesia is the world's sea piracy capital and site of the deadliest post-9-11 terror attack, last October's Bali nightclub bombing. The lawless East African nation of Somalia (motto: Government-Free For 10 Years!) is a terrorist haven that the IMB warns all merchants to avoid entirely. And the Red Sea, a funnel for shipping between Europe and Asia, is also increasingly dangerous for ships. Not coincidentally perhaps, the Red Sea is surrounded by Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all popular hangouts for Muslim terrorists.

The above isn't a prediction about where we're going to war next, rather it's to point out that if our Navy has a go at cracking down on piracy that we could end up in a scuffle with one or several more Muslim nations in the near future. Oh, joy!


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