Ike Skelton, Chairman
April 22, 2009
Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following speech in support of H. Res. 339, expressing the sense of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, the kidnapping of Captain Richard Phillips by Somali pirates, the rescue of Captain Phillips by United States Navy SEALs and the crews of the USS Bainbridge, USS Boxer, USS Halyburton and Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, and for other purposes. H. Res. 339 was approved in the House by voice vote.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H. Res 339 and want to thank my friends Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) for introducing this bill.
“Captain Phillips’ brave leadership in the defense of his crew and ship, along with the outstanding service of the men and women in the U.S. Navy, allowed for the safe return of the crew of the Motor Vessel MAERSK Alabama. Both Captain Phillips’ and his crew’s actions clearly demonstrate the bravery that is present in our American merchant marines. I want to commend the sailors on the USS Bainbridge and the USS Halyburton, as well as the Navy SEALs who were involved in the lengthy standoff with the Somali pirates. On Easter Sunday, every American could be proud and thankful for the commitment and excellence of our service members. The actions of our men and women in uniform highlight the professionalism and dedication present in our Navy service members. This event also demonstrates the critical need for the high-level training these sailors are given, which allowed them to successfully conduct such a high-risk and complicated operation.
“I have long warned of the dangers associated with international piracy. Just last month, I called for and chaired a full Armed Services Committee hearing on international piracy on the high seas. The inherent danger in allowing these types of criminal activities to go unchecked is evident throughout our history. We see prime examples of this when we look as far back as the days of the Barbary Pirates, where the pirates were eventually defeated ashore in Algiers, or the recent example in the Straits of Malacca, where it took the combined forces of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore working together to secure their waters.
“In both of these instances, the international community was dealing with criminals whose sole objective was monetary gain and, when faced with a superior force, they retreated. The pirates off the coast of Somalia are no different; however, like the pirates of the past, they will only retreat as far as they are pushed. Establishing a working government in Somalia is the best solution, but this is the long term solution. In the short term, it is imperative that the international coalition, already operating in the area, uses its superior force to continue to pursue these pirates into the safe havens where they are operating. This will be the only way to convince these criminals that the risks now outweigh the rewards. The authorities needed to conduct such operations have already been provided in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1846 and 1851.
“I applaud the commitment of the international community to solve this problem, but additional work must be done to advance the current international coalitions operating in the region. Just this weekend, we were reminded of the imminence of this ongoing problem: hostages were freed by Dutch forces, but the gang of pirates responsible were subsequently released due to the lack of a detainment policy within the NATO task force.
“The United States must encourage all of our coalition partners to adopt a single set of rules of engagement and authorities. I am encouraged by Secretary Clinton’s call on the international community to hold these criminals accountable and agree with her comments about pursuing the pirate sanctuaries along the Somali coast. Denying the ability of the pirates to operate ashore is the best solution for stopping these attacks in the short term.
“Until the international community decides that it will no longer tolerate piracy in any way, we will continue to see history repeat itself and the merchants operating in the surrounding waters of Somalia will continue to be at risk.
“Mr. Speaker, we will not forget the heroic actions of our U.S. Navy, the U.S. Navy SEALs, and the brave men aboard the MAERSK Alabama. We sent a clear signal to the pirates that such a brazen attack on the American people will not be tolerated. I look forward to working with my colleagues and friends in the administration to find a short-term solution to the ongoing piracy problem, and I am hopeful that we can work with our international partners to find a permanent solution to this issue.”
HASC (House Armed Services Committee)