Did Obama “order” the rescue of Captain Phillips?
(See Paul K.’s explanation
of why Phillips was recaptured when he tried to escape.)
The New York Times’ lead article of April 13 contains what appears to be an obvious lie told to make it appear that Obama gave the order for the shootings at the pirates who were holding Richard Phillips hostage. Focus on the bolded text and skip the rest:
The Defense Department twice sought Mr. Obama’s permission to use force to rescue Captain Phillips, most recently on Friday night, senior defense officials said. On Saturday morning, the president agreed, they said, if it appeared that the captain’s life was in imminent danger….
At dusk, a single tracer bullet was seen fired from the lifeboat. The intent was unclear, but it ratcheted up the tension and Seal snipers at the stern rail of the Bainbridge fixed night-vision scopes to their high-powered rifles, getting ready for action.
What they saw was the head and shoulders of two of the pirates emerging from the rear hatch of the lifeboat. Through the window of the front hatch they saw the third pirate, pointing his AK-47 at the back of Captain Phillips, who was seen to be tied up.
That was it: the provocation that fulfilled the president’s order to act only if the captain’s life was in imminent danger, and the opportunity of having clear shots at each captor. The order was given. Senior defense officials, themselves marveling at the skill of the snipers, said each took a target and fired one shot.
Now look again at the first two sentences:
The Defense Department twice sought Obama’s permission to use force to rescue captain Phillips, most recently on Friday night, senior defense officials said.
To use force to rescue Phillips, as the first sentence says the DoD was urging Obama to do, means to take pro-active measures to free him. The second sentence then begins with, “The president agreed,” suggesting that Obama gave his permission to use pro-active force to free Phillips. But in fact what Obama agreed to was only the use of force “if it appeared that the captain’s life was in imminent danger.” I don’t know, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that there is a standing protocol that you always use force if a hostage’s life is in imminent danger and the use of force can save him. So DoD didn’t need Obama to tell them that. The story is thus trying to make it appear that Obama ordered the taking of action, when in fact he rejected the taking of action.
On Saturday morning, the president agreed, they said, if it appeared that the captain’s life was in imminent danger.
The same lie is repeated in this sentence:
That was it: the provocation that fulfilled the president’s order to act only if the captain’s life was in imminent danger, and the opportunity of having clear shots at each captor.
If the president ordered that action be taken only if Phillips’s life was in danger, then the president in effect ordered that no action be taken, since action taken to prevent the imminent taking of Phillips’s life would not have required Obama’s order. There was no presidential order to act. Most likely, he signed off on the standard protocol of using force only if the hostage’s life was imminently in danger.
There may be other facts of which I’m not aware and that disprove my point. My analysis here is based solely on the Times article.
- end of initial entry -
Jeff S. writes:
Speaking for myself, the moment I’m taken hostage at gunpoint, I regard my life to be in “imminent danger.” If there’s another more reasonable standard to use at such a point, I’d like to hear it.
Paul K. writes:
There are at least two odd things about Obama’s role in this hostage incident. There is the one you have pointed out, regarding the phrase, “only if the captain’s life was in imminent danger,” and there is another, the statement, “The Defense Department twice sought Mr. Obama’s permission to use force to rescue Captain Phillips, most recently on Friday night, senior defense officials said. On Saturday morning, the president agreed … “
Why twice? Did the president reject the use of force the first time? If force was authorized upon the first request, why would the Defense Department have to ask him a second time? It doesn’t make sense. Once force is authorized, it would presumably be employed at the first opportune moment. [LA replies: Again, when the Times says, “On Saturday morning, the president agreed,” it appears to be lying, since Obama evidently did not agree to the use of force to rescue Phillips. But I don’t see a contradiction in the DoD’s asking twice. They kept trying to get his OK, and didn’t get it.]
This brings up the question of why the Navy didn’t fire upon the lifeboat when Capt. Phillips jumped from it earlier. Clearly, when Phillips jumped from the lifeboat on Friday, he must have assumed that he was giving the navy an ideal opportunity to fire upon it and kill his captors; he wasn’t planning on swimming to the destroyer. But oddly, the navy did nothing. It is likely that it didn’t act because it had not yet been given authorization—the NY Times article says the president gave his authorization Saturday morning.
While we don’t know the details of the incident in which Phillips leaped into the sea (how far was the destroyer from the life-boat at the time? how long did it take for the pirates to recapture him?), and therefore speculation is risky, you have provided a plausible theory. He was recaptured because Obama had refused to give the military authorization to take action to rescue him. Also, the situation did not come under the rubric of “imminent danger of death,” as shown by the fact that they recaptured him without killing him. So it was ok with Obama that he was recaptured.
Paul K. replies:
I understand your point, but I’m speculating that the first time the Defense Department requested authorization for the use of force, the president flatly denied it, and only the second time that he was asked did he authorize it with the proviso “only if the captain’s life was in imminent danger.” I don’t know, of course.
Another topic for speculation: in this recent incident, did Obama instinctively identify with the white captain of the American ship, or with the four young Somali pirates? There is a scene in “Dreams From My Father” in which Obama has a minor confrontation with four black teenagers, and feels inauthentic, “a figure of random authority,” who in fact identifies with the teens’ sullen anomie:
That night, well past midnight, a car pulls up in front of my apartment building, carrying a troop of teenage boys and a set of stereo speakers so loud that the floor of my apartment begins to shake. I’ve learned to ignore such disturbances—where else do they have to go? I say to myself. But on this particular evening I have someone staying over …
What greater image of the “knotted, howling assertion of self” can there be than those four black teenagers—not the Americans rudely blasting music from their car, but the Somalis taking on the U.S. Navy with AK-47s?
“Listen, people, are trying to sleep around here. Why don’t y’all take it someplace else?”
The four boys inside say nothing, don’t even move. The wind wipes away my drowsiness, and I feel suddenly exposed, standing in a pair of shorts on the sidewalk in the middle of the night…. One of them could be Kyle. One of them could be Roy. One of them could be Johnnie. [Here he refers to young black males he knows.]
I start picturing myself through the eyes of these boys, a figure of random authority, and know the calculations they might now be making, that if one of them can’t take me out, the four of them certainly can…
One of them could be me. Standing there, I try to remember days when I would have been sitting in a car like that, full of inarticulate resentments and desperate to prove my place in the world. … The blood rush of a high school brawl. The swagger that carries me into a classroom drunk or high … That knotted, howling assertion of self…
Steve Sailer discussed this incident (his confrontation with the black teenagers) here.
“The story is thus trying to make it appear that Obama ordered the taking of action, when in fact he rejected the taking of action.”
Let us, for argument’s sake, take the media’s version of the president’s heroic action at face value. Then we have to give Hussein some credit for an amazing achievement. What other president could have ordered three black African Muslim teenagers shot in the head to the cheers of the liberal media? The libs wouldn’t even have olet their onetime favorite Clinton get away with that. And just imagine if it had been Bush.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 14, 2009 01:27 PM | Send