Pirates have been on everyone’s mind lately after the saga of Captain Richard Phillips reminded millions here in the US and around the globe of the reality that is piracy. No longer are pirates a colorful band of rowdy, run-filled, swashbuckling thieves as depicted by Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, but are real, flesh-and-blood, brutal hijackers who make their living through kidnapping, theft and murder. These pirates don’t bury their treasure in chests under a lone palm marked by an “X” but wire them to Swiss bank accounts or trade their loot for weapons and tools of the trade. They are, as were their predecessors, a scourge to international trade and a danger to peaceful sea-goers and trade-ships. Captain Phillip’s vessel wasn’t carrying treasure, or weapons or contraband of any kind — it carried aid for the countrymen of the very Somalian pirates’ who took him captive and threatened his life. These people are just as random in their terror tactics as are the terrestrial miscreants we seek in Afghanistan, and just as dangerous. So, what to do?
While others waste time hand-wringing and talking about “peaceful negotiations,” one lone congressman from Texas has looked to the Constitution for a solution to the pirate problem. His name is Ron Paul, and in recent days his crazy-enough-to-work idea has begun attracting the attention of the intelligence intelligentsia. Our foremost founding document contains within it’s weathers pages a power granted to Congress to issue “letters of marque and reprisal” — certificates that grant the holder license to hunt down, prosecute and destroy, if necessary, pirates and other saboteurs of the high seas. These letters would essentially “privatize” the hunting, prosecution and elimination of said pirates by any individual willing to sign a bond requiring them to adhere to international laws of combat while in international waters. Such letters were used extensively during the War for Independence and the War of 1812, when a majority of our fighting men were, in fact, private citizens and the fledgling nation found it more expedient and less expensive to privatize the activity rather than charge the standing US Navy with the task. Such is the case now. With our military spread painfully thin around the globe, still involved in Afghanistan and Iraq and facing massive budget cuts by newly-minted President Obama, Congressman Paul’s plan to invoke a Constitutional solution might just be exactly what we seek.
And therein lies my question. Why is it that turning to the Constitution is (1.) not the first place our leaders look when faced with a pressing issue at home or abroad, and (2.) viewed with such perplexity and apprehension when they do? As Americans, shouldn’t we look first to the pages of our founding documents and the words of our Founders when we seek guidance? It is a sad day when one lonely obstetrician from the Lone Star State is the only voice reminding Congress, our fair leader, the American intelligence community and general public to look to the Constitution for answers!
But so it has become in recent, and not so recent, years. The documents that forged this nation are rarely referred to and the only time they are is when Senator Robert Byrd wags his pocket version for the C-SPAN cameras to see before returning to his chambers for a diaper change and nap.
Is this what we’ve been reduced to; a nation with no memory, no historical recollection and no desire to even explore the solutions contained in our founding documents and the wise words of the men who lifted the United States on their collective shoulders?
Sadly, it is. And if it weren’t for men like Dr. Paul and a scant few others, the wisdom found in those pages would have turned to dust years ago.
As is true of so many other of their unconstitutional, over-reaching, deficit-spending, imbecilic undertakings, it’s time for the federal government to get out the pirate-hunting business and turn it over to the private sector. And it’s high time that we return our national attention back to the wisdom contained in those seven articles and 27 amendments.