President Obama has made a statement on the piracy situation off the coast of Somalia:
Good evening. As you know, early yesterday, Somali-based pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama, a freighter carrying relief supplies to Kenya. While we do not yet know all the details, the Alabama’s crew re-took control of the vessel and forced the pirates off the ship.
Since the pirates are still holding the captain, I have sent FBI negotiators to facilitate his safe and speedy release. I assure his friends and family that I will not stop until this man-made disaster is resolved in a peaceful, tolerant and ecologically-sound manner.
Obviously, this incident has raised many concerns among Americans. There have been calls for justice and even violence against the misguided perpetrators. But such an emotional reaction has led to the disparagement of entire groups with which we are unfamiliar. We have seen this throughout history.
For too long, America has been too dismissive of the proud culture and invaluable contributions of the Pirate Community. Whether it is their pioneering work with prosthetics, husbandry of tropical birds or fanciful fashion sense, America owes a deep debt to Pirates.
The past eight years have shown a failure to appreciate the historic role of these noble seafarers. Instead of celebrating their entreprenuerial spirit and seeking to partner with them to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.
Some of us wonder if our current Overseas Contingency Operation would even be needed had the last administration not been so quick to label Pirates as “thieves,” “terrorists” and worse. Such swashbucklaphobia can lead to tragic results, as we have seen this week.
To address this issue, I have instructed Vice President Joe Biden to create a cabinet-level Czar of Pirate Outreach and Buccaneer Interrelation. In addition, June 1-7 has been designated as Pirate Awareness Week, during which all federal buildings will fly the Jolly Roger and sponsor sensitivity training. Thankfully, my American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will fund free grog and hard tack for all attendees.