Saturday, September 27, 2008

American Destroyer USS Howard Watching Ukrainian Ship With Belize Flag and Russian Tanks Taken by Somali Pirates: Nothing's Simple, These Days

Here's what we know so far: A Ukrainian ship, sailing under a Belize flag, carrying Russian Tanks to Kenya, was seized by Somali pirates. Now an American destroyer, the USS Howard DDG 83, is near the Somali coast, keeping an eye on the ship.

And the pirates want ransom for their captives and booty.

"It's déjà vu all over again." I've written about the Barbary pirates before. Follow the links if you're interested.

In the news:
Update (October 7, 2008)
This particular example of Somali piracy is still in the news. I'm planning another post, soon.

Meanwhile, I received a comment which starts with "It is not necessary to lie!"

So, a little clarification: The tanks were, apparently, manufactured in Russia, sold by a Ukrainian entity, and were to be received by the Kenyan government.

And, before someone assumes that I'm accusing the Somali government of piracy: The Somali pirates are, to all indications, acting independently of, and in defiance of the government of Somalia. I do not believe that the Somali leader(s) are complicit in this piracy. In fact, it sounds like Transitional Federal President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Prime Minister Nur "Adde" Hassan Hussein and the rest of the Mogadishu government, would be only too happy for the pirates to stop giving Somalia a bad name.


Yuriy said...

It is not necessary to lie! These tanks are produced in Russia, but belong Ukraine. Ukraine sold these tanks, but not Russia!

Brian H. Gill said...


I agree, it is not necessary to lie. And it's not a particularly good idea, either.

And, you're quite right. The tanks were manufactured in Russia. And, "belong [to] Ukraine." Actually, to Ukrspetzexport.

More specifically, Ukrspetzexport was in the process of selling them to the Kenyan government. I don't know international law well enough to know exactly when the transfer of ownership was supposed to take place. Right now, in brutally practical terms, the pirates 'own' the tanks: but can't do much with them.

I think you believe that I was lying.

I see how you came to that conclusion.

I speak, and write in, American English. I referred to "Russian tanks" in the first paragraph of this post.

In American English, that can mean 'tanks belonging to Russia,' 'tanks manufactured in Russia,' 'tanks designed in Russia,' or even 'tanks built someplace, based on designs that originated in Russia.' This sort of linguistic flexibility is one reason why it takes lawyers over here years to learn how to express ideas precisely.

I see, now, how it might be possible to read that paragraph as an assertion that the tanks were sold by Russia, or by an entity connected with Russia.

My intent, in this post, was to point out:


How complex situations usually are, with the Somali piracy incident as an example.


How the Somali piracy situation, and the war on terror in general, have parallels to the era of the Barbary pirates.

Before going on, I should probably clarify that when I write, "Somali pirates," I am referring to persons conducting piratical activities in and around Somalia, not connected with the Somali government but operating independently of said government.

Writing "Somali pirates" is much shorter, and a clear enough statement for this post's purposes.

This blog is a collection of my observations and opinions regarding the war on terror and related subjects. I use a level of detail which is (I hope) enough to put my remarks in context.

I tend to write at (too) great length as it is. If I included every detail, and wrote with the precision of a corporate contract, these posts would be so long, even I wouldn't feel like reading them.

Now, about those tanks.

One reason I provide 'in the news' links in these posts is to give readers an opportunity to learn detail that I do not include in the posts.

For example, a link to CNN in this post includes this paragraph:

"The weapons were sold to Kenya by the Ukraine, said Ukraine Defense Minister Yuri Yekhanurov, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. He said that the entire shipment was contracted and carried out by Ukrspetzexport, Ukraine's state arms exports monopoly, and that it would know better exactly what was on board."

The New York Times provided this information:

"On Friday, Kenyan and Ukrainian officials disclosed that the ship was loaded with 2,320 tons of weapons. Many diplomats in Kenya are concerned that the arms could fall into the hands of insurgents fighting Somalia’s transitional government and pitch the country deeper into chaos.

"The pirates, however, are not expected to be able to do much with the T-72 tanks because each weighs more than 80,000 pounds. Western diplomats have said that the pirates do not have the special equipment or the skill to get the tanks ashore."

Finally, I get the impression that you may be calling me a liar.

I don't like that, but under the circumstances I believe I understand how you came to that conclusion.

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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.