Monday, April 7, 2008

Global Patriot Incident: No News, But Lots of Opinions

It's been about a dozen days since one of three small boats made a suicide run at the Global Patriot. An Egyptian man got killed, and that's when stuff hit the fan.

American Navy, About the Global Patriot Incident

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet Public Affairs issued a press release that read,
  • "MANAMA, Bahrain–The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet expressed regret for the death of an Egyptian citizen who died Monday night, an apparent result from warning shots fired at a small boat approaching a ship chartered by the U.S. Navy.

    " 'We express our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased,' said Vice Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff, Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet. 'We are greatly saddened by events that apparently resulted in this accidental death. This situation is tragic, and we will do our utmost to help take care of the family of the deceased.'

    "The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet Command continues to work cooperatively with Egyptian authorities, including the Suez Canal Authority through the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. A full investigation into this incident is underway.

    " 'We will work through the investigation very thoroughly, coordinating with authorities and the Embassy, to get a full account of what happened,' Cosgriff stated.

    "An embarked U.S. security team on board the Navy’s MSC ship Global Patriot fired warning shots at a small boat approaching the ship as it was preparing to transit the Suez Canal Monday night, March 24, at approximately 8:00 p.m. Two other boats had also approached the chartered ship but turned away following warnings from Global Patriot."
It looks like the investigation is still going on. I haven't posted about the Global Patriot incident since "Global Patriot Reporting: Anti-American Bias? Could Be" (March 25, 2008), since there didn't seem to be significant new developments.

There are, however, lots of opinions.

Journalists and Columnists, About the Global Patriot Incident

There still aren't new facts, but it's interesting to see what the press is saying about the Global Patriot incident, in the absence of substantial developments:
  1. "US admits killing Egyptian in Suez Canal"
    Middle East Online (March 26, 2008):

    "The US embassy in Cairo admitted on Wednesday that a US navy-chartered boat killed an Egyptian when it fired warning shots at a small boat plying its trade near the Suez Canal two days ago.

  2. "All men are not equal" (April 1, 2008)

    "Here's a scenario. A Russian cargo ship fires at an approaching small boat flying the Union Jack in the British Channel with the result one man dies and others are injured.

    "The captain of the cargo ship initially denies the fatal incident and is allowed to sail on unencumbered towards his scheduled destination. No-one is arrested; no-one is questioned; no-one is held accountable.

    "An unlikely story you might think. What cargo ship crew would have the audacity to shoot at unarmed boatmen in their own waters and continue merrily on their way without fear of repercussions? Answer: an American one.

    "Earlier this month, the MV Global Patriot, a roll-on-roll off merchant ship sailing under US naval contract through the Suez Canal, shot and killed Mohammad Fouad a 27-year-old Egyptian cigarette vendor who regularly plied his trade in the narrow strip of water."

    This column is explicitly op-ed, and my hat's off to for presenting it as such, and not as 'news.' I'm not at all sure that the implication that those Americans over there always get preferential treatment is true, but as I said: it's op-ed.

    ( is a very ethical publication: "The goal of Al Nisr Publishing LLc and Al Nisr Media FZ LLc is to produce media of the highest quality to the highest ethical standards." That's UAE Journalism Code of Ethics - an interesting read.)

  3. "In the name of national security"
    The Daily of the University of Washington (April 2, 2008):

    "The United States has always been seen, or has aspired to be seen, as the land of freedom and opportunity. Over the years, the constitution has protected freedom and civil liberty for its citizens in many ways. Yet post Sept. 11, 2001, that freedom has been rationed. While freedom is being tightened for citizens, the freedom of the government to do whatever it pleases, without real consequences, has been exercised over and over again. The justification for the U.S.'s actions has been that it is for security purposes and the protection of its citizens. As the country is still under reign of fear (the threat being terrorism), many citizens accept such policies as the Patriot Act, or rendition (the practice of sending captured terrorist suspects to other countries for interrogation, in order to avoid the torture laws in the United States). A climate of fear has stifled questioning, and has even supported heinous acts, like those committed at Guantanamo Bay.

    "Just recently, a ship called the Global Patriot fired warning shots at a small, approaching vessel on the entrance to the Suez Canal. The U.S. ship had sounded a warning in Arabic for several vessels not to approach any closer, yet one vessel continued to approach. The ship fired 'warning shots' at the vessel, killing one man and wounding two others."

    News, or op-ed? Considering the "climate of fear" and "heinous acts, like those committed at Guantanamo Bay," I'd say op-ed. I'm moderately surprised that Abu Ghraib wasn't mentioned in the lead paragraph.

  4. "Trigger-Happy"
    Al-Ahram (April 3, 2008): "Why did a ship chartered by the US navy open fire on a small Egyptian motorboat, killing one peddler and injuring two, as it was transiting the Suez Canal? Reem Leila investigates"

    Strictly speaking, this is another op-ed piece, not news.
It's understandable that the Global Patriot incident isn't getting much attention outside the Middle East. It's not that Americans and others don't care: There just isn't anything new to report. No new facts, at least. The Egyptian and American governments are working out the diplomatic mess, and investigators from both nations are trying to sort out what actually happened.

Or, in some people's minds, concealing the truth.

My Take on Global Patriot Media Coverage

  1. I'll grant "US admits killing Egyptian in Suez Canal" the use of 'admit' in their copy, describing the American statement. Initial American reports had been that nobody was known to have been killed. Understandable, given that the Global Patriot's deck isn't the best observing position, at night. When it became apparent that someone had been killed, American authorities "admitted" the new finding.
  2. "All men are not equal" is rather clearly marked as a column, so I can't complain: Linda S. Heard believes that American shipping gets preferential treatment, and wrote about her belief. I'd be willing to give a ship under any flag a pass in a case like this: a probable suicide attack, at night, virtually in a war zone. A captain would be nuts to hang around, waiting for a second attack.
  3. "In the name of national security" is, for me, one more drearily familiar treatise from academia, about how debased America is. I recognize that writing things like that is rather expected of people in the American academic sub-culture: but as an escapee, such things bring back memories.
  4. "Trigger-happy," despite the title and lead paragraph, is a surprisingly even-handed recap of the Global Patriot incident, and what's happened since. It also cites the USS Cole experience in connection with last month's shooting. The more academic author of "In the name of national security" either considered that detail irrelevant - or was unaware of it.


Anonymous said...

As the father of one of the sailors murdered on the USS Cole on 10/12/00 I have to agree with the action taken by the navy. I only wish that at the time of the Cole attack that such procedures would have been allowed. Our son would still be alive today. but the Clinton administration had ordered that the machine guns not be loaded, and or no patrol boats to be launched to protect the Cole as she layed helpless while refueling. Insane. Large Ships of war are nearly defenseless when the attacker gets up close. They are under the guns. They have only so long to take action.
So they are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. I would rather American sailors to be saved than a potential terrorist.

Brian H. Gill said...

Gary G. Swenchonis,

Thank you for your comment.

And, I am very sorry to hear of your loss.

I'm inclined to think that your evaluation of the policy which "ordered that the machine guns not be loaded, ... no patrol boats to be launched to protect the Cole ...." as "Insane" is among the kindest possible.

The attack on the Cole, and the appalling lack of reasonable precautions required by the 'peace loving' American policies of the time represent, I think, a pathologically optimistic view of world affairs, and human nature.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.