Number of pirates killed by each president.

Pirates Killed

We’re fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here.

(Via Reddit I wish I knew who to credit this to, but I do not.)

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

32 replies on “Number of pirates killed by each president.”

  1. Well, now, a graph of pirate-killing presidents that does not extend back to our own Mr. Jefferson is hardly a graph of pirate-killing presidents, is it?

  2. The power of statistics! Somali pirates can be forgiven for betting against America, what excuse do Newt, Beck and the Fox News bubbleheads have? Could a new Axis of Evil be forming?

  3. Well, aside from “credit,” how many American ships have been seized by pirates in the last, say, two hundred years?

    My recollection is NONE! At least, at least one news report stated that there have been no acts of piracy against American-flagged vessels since the days of Jefferson. I’d certainly be willing to be corrected on this.

    If true, it might just raise a question as to what, if anything, about the Obamessiah made these pirates think they could get away with it?

  4. Well, aside from “credit,” how many American buildings have been demolished by terrorists in the last, say, two hundred years?

    My recollection is NONE! At least, at least one news report stated that there have been no acts of foreign terrorism against American buildings since the days of Madison. I’d certainly be willing to be corrected on this.

    If true, it might just raise a question as to what, if anything, about the Bushmessiah made these terrorists think they could get away with it?

    (I can play this game all day long!)

  5. @James Young

    What about Bush made the 9/11 hijackers think they could get away with it? Because, ya know, they did get away with it.

    I would have expected an accomplished attorney like yourself to know that not many American-flagged ships venture into that region. I wonder why not…

  6. “one news report stated that there have been no acts of piracy against American-flagged vessels since the days of Jefferson.”

    Even if that’s so (until last week), I’m not sure that’s very significant–aren’t most American companies these days running ships flying under the flags of other countries, for economic reasons?

    What made the pirates think “they could get away with it” has nothing whatsoever to do with whether Bush or Obama was president, and everything to do with the fact that Somali pirates over the last couple years have successully taken dozens of hostages and in many cases received large ransoms.

  7. JamesYoung.txt [culled from five minutes with Google]:



    Her Thighness [referring to Hillary Clinton]

    And then there was the time he suggested Waldo might be “fundamentally evil.”

    This is all from the guy who, in the last couple days, wrote:

    It’s not surprising to see Krugman use insulting, belittling rhetoric, Waldo… but I had heretofore thought you above it.

    I guess that’s easier than addressing arguments or debating ideas.

    James is acting like a petulant child, trying to stir up shit and incite people to flame him. He’s acting in bad faith on this blog, and it’s unfortunate, because actual, honest, good faith debate between people of different political beliefs can be both interesting and powerful. Sadly, it’s a lot easier to stick your fingers in your ears and shriek “Obamessiah” or “Osama bin Biden” or whatever else passes for humor in ultra-right-wing circles.

  8. Somali pirates have been getting away with piracy for 1000 years. The East India company was paying to have them hunted down 300 years ago.

    Piracy is a common and ongoing threat. The Somali coast and Gulf of Aden was a den of piracy before there was a USA, and even today circumnavigating sailors travel the area in convoy and regularly fight off attacks, and some have their vessels seized. There are currently 200 hostages in Somalia. There are numerous areas of the globe where piracy is common – Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Philippines to name a few.

    Here in the Western hemisphere a number of hot spots exist – Guatemala, Brazil, Venezuela, St. Vincent, and the south coast of Puerto Rico. Many of the remote fishing villages along the lee coast of common tourist areas in St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada are known dangerous anchorages. The situation is made more risky by strict exclusion of firearms by transiting cruisers, and the skill and ubiquity of cutlass wielding locals. The rule is give them what they want, and hope that it isn’t your girlfriend.

    Generally a decent lot, some of these people are desperate, not unlike I suppose, the Somalis. And the flaunting of wealth and plenty sometimes tempts them to criminal acts. Just a couple of years ago, a vacationing Swedish couple were hacked to pieces on the beach in Carriacou and an American lost part of hand in Chateaubelair Bay in St.Vincent trying to fend off boarding pirates. Sir Peter Blake tried to defend himself and came up short…and dead. Usually its just your dingy motor and your money, but not always.

    Bottom line, lots of American flagged vessels are attacked by pirates, several every year. Most aren’t reported beyond the cruisers net due to reluctance to damage the tourism industry. They don’t get the kind of attention the Maersk Alabama got, and they often don’t get the good outcome of Phillip’s crew. Seeing a Navy destroyer or armed patrol boat can feel like a visit from an angel, but a rare one at that.

    List of Pirate Attacks

  9. Uh, Waldo, when you add that many qualifiers, you really reveal yourself as a partisan hack.

    And I responded to your initial comment, which made the mistake of basing itself on moonbat parodies. “If George Bush gets credit for capturing and killing ‘terrorists,'” etc. Does he? From whom? You?!?!?! Doubtful. Nor from me.

    And I guess you just threw the 1993 attack on the WTC down the old memory hole, huh? If you want to play the blame game, it wasn’t anything about Bush that made them think they could get away with it; it was the fact that they DID get away with it — absent such spectacular results — when Bill Clinton was on the watch.

    And you clearly weren’t paying attention to my point. I don’t give credit to Obama for the rescue; neither do I blame him for the attack. But if you want to play the game of crediting him for the former, it can just as easily be turned around to blame him for the latter, as I did, much to the apparent chagrin of you and a number of your readers.

  10. James, I simply copied and pasted your own post and replaced every instance of “pirate” with “terrorist.” So you are, in fact, criticizing yourself as “a partisan hack” and for “playing the blame game.” :)

  11. Man, the takedown was like a read from one of the Naval warefare fiction books I love to read… SEALS do a HALO jump from like 50,000+ feet, home in on an infra-red beacon on the Bainbridge, pop chutes silently at 1,000 ft. or so, land either on the Bainbridge or close, set up shop and a few hours later, mission complete. I personally think the USS Jimmy Carter (or any of the 3 Seawolf subs) should set up shop with a contingent of SEALS near there equipped with sleepy gas and gas masks, and whenever another incident occurs they use a SDV docked to the sub to sneak up close, gas the area, don masks, board the vessel and mop up. Case closed. Any interfering vessels? How about a precision missle or torpedo? One unseen protector boat and a lot of dead pirates.

    This was what the US Navy was originally established for – pirates.

    Also would help get funding for more Virginia-class subs that can do the same tasks and are sorely needed for just these sorts of missions as well as countering the Chinese build-up.

  12. Seriously, Jefferson was a pirate ending president. Also if anyone thinks those pirates got taken out without a direct President Obama go ahead is just plain wrong. If it had been botched if would have been on his head as well.

    The bad news is this is not going to be the last we hear from the somali pirates.

  13. Where’s Jefferson on this list?

    And does sending a squadron to take on the Barbary Pirates before a declaration of war count as “pre-emptive”?

  14. Submarines don’t make good escorts, which is supposed to be the SOP for both EU NAVFOR and CTF 151. Current policy is, in theory, to project strategic presence within the Gulf of Aden in a sphere of influence surrounding civilian merchantmen to deter piracy. Because Navy SEALs are awesome, and they can do wonders when the President greenlights an ROE change that allows them to open fire at any point when the Navy’s able to gain control of the situation on the judgement of the local CO, but ideally we’d like not to have any more hostage situations off the coast of Africa if we can help it. Moreover, a submarine’s weapon systems are a tremendous misapplication of resources in this situation: pirates are operating using leaky, worm-ridden skiffs powered by 20-year-old Yamaha outboard motors. Each boat would cost something like $200 on an open market. Using a million dollar weapon system to destroy a boat you could break up with a baseball bat is like the textbook example of what’s strategically wrong with assymetrical warfare from the large actor’s standpoint. We wouldn’t be able to sustain that operation long-term–and since piracy is a sea-born symptom of the problems Somalia’s experiencing on-land, this is actually an issue that’s going to be with us until there’s finally a credible Somali government able to exercise some rule of law.

    The ship in the 5th Fleet’s AO best suited for this task, in my opinion, is actually their smallest ship: the Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship, with a crew compliment under 30, capable of 35 knots, sporting smaller-calibre auto-cannons and grenade launchers. You can operate several of them in one area for less than it would cost to keep a destroyer supplied and on-station, they’d have a larger strategic footprint for this sort of operation by virtue of being able to split up and cover more area, and they have a shallow draft so they can operate very close in to shore if we ever get to the point where we’re sailing into Somali harbors and destroying boats tied up to a quay. We currently have five in the Persian gulf protecting oil platforms; the sooner we get the Iraqi Navy stepped up, the sooner we can work out a basing deal near the Gulf of Aden or in Kenya to establish regular patrols.


    I think it’s funny that James thinks he knows stuff about security policy.

  15. Jimbo should be added to the RPV Chairman roster. He’s got all the right attributes:
    Inflated Self Worth
    Obama envy
    Shriveled Sense of Humor
    Advanced Dissembling Skills
    Violence Voyeurism

    The Seven Characteristics of Successful Republicans.

  16. Sam:

    “I think it’s funny that James thinks he knows stuff about security policy.”

    I think it’s funny that you felt the need to keep writing after the word “stuff.”

  17. Waldo,
    I was actually thinking of Joe Buff, H. Jay Riker, Patrick Robinson and Micheal DiMercurio.

    Regarding the excellent assessment of the proper use of naval assets in the Gulf of Aden – kudos! I was just indulging my fiction-fed fantasy. And I think a sparrow-missle from a helo would take out any interfering boat quite nicely though.

  18. Oh yes, and regarding the sub as escort scenario, that would be totally unworkable with a fleet of less than 54 boats (SSN subs) to work with. But think about it as an adjunct to escorts and/or armed security teams aboard each merchant vessel for when things really turn ugly.

    Just as we saw with that cluster-fuck between the USS Hartford and the USS New Orleans, we are very capable of keeping a sub on station such as we do non-stop in the Straits of Hormuz, which is shallow water (120 feet or so on average) and not traditionally thought to be ideal operating depths for a sub. But the USS Hartford is an older Los Angeles class boat that was not designed for shallow aka “littoral” or close-to-shore operations. The Seawolfs, and even more so the Virginia-class subs are. and,14790,Buff_072705-P1,00.html If we were to position one or two Seawolf and/or Virginia-class subs with SEALs aboard and an ASDS (Advanced SEAL Delivery System) in the Gulf of Aden that could quickly respond at flank speed to the site of an incident (up to 40 knots, better than most surface ships but officially listed as >25 knots…), then we could get on station faster than the Bainbridge and unknown to the pirates and media. SEALs arrive with tricks-a-plenty out of nowhere and start a quick and dirty “pin the laser on the pirate” party. Do it at night with black body paint and without speaking to the rescued crew and nobody can go to the media with anything but, “These invisible angels came in from nowhere and killed all the bad guys and set us free then disappeared in under an hour!”

    If additional pirate boats come on over to join the party then an Apache helicopter flies on in from any of a dozen strategic ship locations in the gulf at 200 MPH with 1180 mile range and shoots a Hydra 70 or Hellfire missile (cheap at $68K a pop) at the party crashers and ruins their day as well, or just use the 30mm cannon if they can get close enough. They could shoot AK-47 rounds all day at an Apache and not even scratch the windshield – Wikipedia Quote:

    “The AH-64 is powered by two General Electric T700 turboshaft engines with high-mounted exhausts on either side of the rotor shaft. The Apache has a four-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor. The crew sits in tandem, with the pilot sitting behind and above the copilot-gunner in an armored crew compartment. The crew compartment and fuel tanks are armored such that the aircraft will remain flyable even after sustaining hits from 23 mm gunfire.[11][12]

    The helicopter is armed with a 30 mm M230 Chain Gun that can be slaved to the gunner’s Helmet mounted display, fixed to a locked forward firing position, or controlled via the Target Acquisition and Designation System (TADS). The AH-64 carries a range of external stores on its stub-wing pylons, typically a mixture of AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, Hydra 70 general-purpose unguided 70 mm (2.75 in) rockets, and AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles for defense. In case of emergency the pylons also have mounting points for personnel transfer (mounting points are handles normally used by maintenance personnel).[13]

    The AH-64 is designed to endure front-line environments and to operate during the day or night and in adverse weather using avionics and electronics, such as the Target Acquisition and Designation System, Pilot Night Vision System (TADS/PNVS), passive infrared countermeasures, Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Integrated Helmet And Display Sight System (IHADSS).”

    Make it quick and coordinated and with, dare I use the expression “Shock and awe” and the situation ends ASAP. Do this right a few dozen times and no more hijackings. I might add that the US needs to respond to any hijacked vessel, not just a US-crewed ship for the proper deterrent effect. Perhaps some Russian Naval Spetsnaz can join the fun and the French can keep up the good work and we’ll all enjoy the friendship that comes with the glee of defeating a common enemy.

  19. And I also forgot to mention that the Hydra 70 missles are only $10K each, but not guided so you may need two or three – this is getting cheaper every posting!

  20. Couple points:

    1. The goal with escorting off the Horn isn’t having a nearby reactive force, but a visible deterent force. Think of it with a law enforcement analogy — Navy SEALs are a SWAT team, and submarines are a plain-clothes detectives (you never know they’re around until they flash a gun and a badge). Now, SWAT teams and detectives are great at responding to crime in progress or after the fact, but if you want to actual deter and prevent crime, what you actually need are a lot of uniformed cops working a regular beat. Likewise what we want to do off Somalia in the near term is work a regular beat to protect US-flagged carriers (which isn’t hard, there are less than 350 US-flagged commercial carriers world-wide).

    2. The Maersk Alabama incident aside, this isn’t an American problem–this is a European problem. The economic impact of piracy is felt much more significantly in Europe, whereas the cost here is negligible (have you noticed how much more expensive gasoline got after the Sirius Star was taken in the Gulf of Aden? Yeah, I didn’t either–the price of fuel rose about 1 cent per six gallons). There’s a false notion that we absolutely have to do something about piracy in Somalia right this red hot second. Don’t buy into it. Protect American interests, but let the problem itself fester until there’s political will in Europe to address it directly so we’re not paying for yet another unilateral military operation.

    3. The real problem in Somalia isn’t piracy–it’s terrorism broadly and Al Qaeda specifically. Piracy is a sea-borne free market capitalistic expression of the country’s problems on-shore, specifically a failed economy, abject poverty, famine, and a total disregard for rule of law. Only 50% of the populace is literate, and the average Somali makes about $400 annually while the average pirate pulls in $10 per diem on top of his share of any ransom. The end-game to piracy in Somalia involves addressing the societal issues that give rise to piracy, and it will have the added benefit of hampering Al Qaeda’s ability to use the country as a haven, as well.

    And if we take our time to let political will build up on this matter in the EU, we can get the French, the Spanish, the Greeks and the Germans to do most of the heavy lifting for us there while we remain focused on improving security conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The cheapest of all possible solutions for Somalia within the contexts of American strategy is the one where the European Union is footing the bill.

  21. “The cheapest of all possible solutions for Somalia within the contexts of American strategy is the one where the European Union is footing the bill.”

    I’m not sure if you were being flippant or not, but you just made Richard Holbrooke cry, I’m sure. In the long run, having the EU foot the bill (which would in turn result in EU demands for primacy in leadership, decision making and control), will be more costly to the United States and to civilians impacted by piracy. See, e.g, Bosnia.

    Now, clearly Bosnia is,on the ground, very different, but I’m arguing that in terms of EU/UN involvement, what you suggest would turn into a pirate version of the Bosnian crisis*. Recall in Bosnia, the whole Jacques Poos, “Europe’s hour has come,” and Holbrooke being all, “Um, not really.” The UN messed things up horribly in Bosnia, for a wide variety of reasons, most of which had to do with what they were allowed to do on the ground and corruption w/in the UN (see, eg, Srebrenica and the Dutch). Europe simply needed American leadership (I simplify immensely; I’ve left out the aid of the Contact Group, the absolute necessity of NATO which is not purely American, my own bias towards Richard Holbrooke and his book “To End a War,” etc).

    * I also argue this because I spent my entire spring semester studying the Bosnian conflict so I haven’t much else on the mind. Hey, a girl’s gotta learn how to resolve armed conflicts sometime, and it’s one of those things that looks real good on a Navy JAG application. ;)

  22. Well, okay: by “foot the bill” I really meant “difuse the costs.” And actually it’s going to spread beyond the EU if done right–a lot of other nations also stand to gain by improving maritime security in the Gulf of Aden. Foremost on that list is Egypt; the British established Somaliland as their protectorate in the latter half of the 19th Century in order to control access to the Gulf because it was in support of their interests viz the Suez Canal. Much like the UK saw maritime Security in British Somaliland as an investment in improved global commerce (for which they were getting a huge cut in canal tolls), it’s time for Egypt to start making some investments. The Indians are looking to establish themselves as a regional naval power, and the Chinese want a piece of the action as one of their first serious military expeditions to the region since Zheng He and the Ming Dynasties.

    Seriously, the Chinese are so high on this expedition that they consider it newsworthy everytime one of their destroyers in the Indian Ocean is refueled at-sea by a replenishment ship. It’s kind of cute.

    I have little concern at this point that the EU’s going to try and exert policy leadership at this point — the EU doesn’t have a coherent policy for dealing with piracy as an organization. Each memberstate is pursuing a different policy right now. Witness the French, who respond militarily with ships and commandos every time a French-flagged ship is taken. Witness the Greeks (who currently hold the rotating command in EU NAVFOR) who are committed as far as deterence goes but always pay the ransom whenever one of their ships ends up being taken.

    At this point, all we need to do is buy the President and Secretary of State time so they can engage with the policy makers of other affected nations. As we start building broad concensus taht something needs to be done, we can bring people on board to our policy on our terms. Until that happens, we have about 340 US-flagged commercial carriers and a ship-building plan that calls for 313 naval ships. Protecting American maritime interests in the region shouldn’t be too much a stretch for the United States Navy until the countries that *can’t* protect their interests buy into our long-term strategy.

  23. Reality check – Asian shipping to the east coast of the US goes through the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal to minimize transit times and costs. I found this presentation that nicely summarizes the cost annually for the various options to accomplish the transport of these bulk cargoes:

    Summary – 7.5 to 22.5 billion annual additional shipping costs to US.

    So it DOES impact the cost of goods to the US. Not everything goes via the Port of Los Angeles.

    As far as armed military escorts being practical – I understand that the only way to match the # of cargo ships (~2,000 per month) to military escorts (only ~300 ships available to US Navy in its entirety!), let us say we could afford to put 40 ships there (a hugely optimistic number given other obligations!) – with rotations/repair that makes 20 usable ships at any point in time, is to make ships bunch together convoy-style and escort a bunch at a time. Shippers have said that they would rather risk paying ransoms then have to wait and go at the speed of the slowest boat for 2,500 miles. Also the efficiently scheduled use of the Suez Canal would be exponentially slowed down, creating more back-ups.

    And as far as what ships other navies could afford to send over – it’s a joke. The US Navy dwarfs the number of ships of the rest of the western world put together. China is another option with a large navy, but their assets are still largely designed to protect their coast and perhaps invade Taiwan. They have very limited reliable force projection and support capabilities.

    So there goes the viability of escorting all ships through with military escorts over 2,500 miles of affected seaway with an area 1/3 the size of the continental US.

    My idea for subs, SEALs and Apaches (or whatever aerial attack platform that could respond and project major firepower in a timely fashion) look any more workable now? The SEALs have been so overtaxed and mired down in Iraq and Afghanistan that I’m sure they would love to return to the “S” part of their name designation.

    But escorting all ships is not economically feasible. And doing it randomly would just result in more forays to check out whether an escort is present or not before launching attacks. I think the random but likely outcome of invisible and overwhelming chance of death via the plan I put forth would be more of a deterrent.

  24. This appears to be the original source for the graphic. It is presented without separate attribution there, and they seem to be good at citing the source for their material that has another source (and they’re the source cited by the two of four Diggs that cite a source.)

  25. Ron B.,

    There aren’t very many American-flagged shipping vessels left at all. Only 460-some merchant ships of 1,000 gross tons or more are still flying the stars and stripes. It’s actually a huge problem that I won’t get on too much of a soap-box about at the moment. Suffice to say that you could point to almost any place in the world and say that there aren’t that many American-flagged vessels trading on that route.

  26. Wow — the European Commission’s economic impact statement is largely generated from our DOT MARAD economic impact statement. Seems kind of sloppy, but okay. The key statistic the EC left out, which DOT MARAD thought was important enough that it should be the very first sentence in their economic impact primer:

    “Over 80% of international maritime trade moving through the Gulf of Aden is with Europe.”

    Translation: “Don’t Panic.”

  27. Sam,
    Am I to take it that you’re a bit of an isolationist? What affects Europe affects the US. For that matter what costs the Far East also costs us. Our economy and interests are global, like it or not.

    In addition, to avoid quashing piracy in the Gulf of Aden emboldens pirates on the eastern coast of Africa (Nigerian oil anyone?), the Malacca Straits (even more congested with goods than the Gulf of Aden), the Caribbean (not a joke, imagine Haitians, Dominicans, Trinidadians, etc. having a crack at the tourist trade!), and wherever else it seems like a good gamble to hit up a passing ship or private boat.

    I read the book “Dangerous Waters – Piracy and Terror on the High Seas” a few years back and highly recommend it. Author John Burnett, himself a victim of pirates, focuses on the Straits of Malacca (passage between Indonesia and Malaysia) and describes the rampant modern piracy ongoing there. Betcha hadn’t even heard of it, right? Well, no pressing US interests. But now we see what the dangers of allowing this to continue, as forewarned way back in 2003 by Burnett, result in. Burnett also describes the dilemma of private sailors who call on island ports as they deliberate keeping a weapon (gun) on-board for piracy defense when such a weapon would result in an automatic life sentence if discovered in many island nations. Man, what an analogy to gun rights advocates concerned with self-defense here in American. Just might turn me a bit towards the position of you and Mud Elephant Waldo. I’m surprised the NRA hasn’t started playing this angle yet – or have they?

  28. “Am I to take it that you’re a bit of an isolationist?”

    Nope, just a multilateralist who takes the issue seriously enough to want to look at the whole problem instead of just one symptom, and who remembers platitudes like “we’ll be greeted as liberators!” and “the reconstruction will pay for itself!” well enough to know that you should dismiss any argument that proposes meeting protracted low-intensity conflict with short-duration high-intensity warfare as a cheap, quick and easy fix.

    I’m seriously still stunned that you used the phrase “shock and awe” without trying to be ironic.

  29. Well a bit tongue-in-cheek anyway Sam. My point is that unless the pirates are met with overwhelming deterrence they will take the gamble to continue with fishing for dollars. I am all for people looking for creative ways out of hopeless poverty (any Mexicans care to look for work in America?), but piracy or any endeavor that takes away peoples freedom and threatens their lives is so unethical that it cannot be tolerated and must even be deterred by threat of imminent death. As citizens of a civilized world we all have a responsibility to keep civilization itself from sliding backwards.

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