Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Terrorists as Pirates?

Douglas Burgess has this take in Legal Affairs. He argues the Declaration of Paris offers a good model for a potential international treaty defining the crime of terrorism:

TO UNDERSTAND THE POTENTIAL OF DEFINING TERRORISM as a species of piracy, consider the words of the 16th-century jurist Alberico Gentili's De jure belli: "Pirates are common enemies, and they are attacked with impunity by all, because they are without the pale of the law. They are scorners of the law of nations; hence they find no protection in that law." Gentili, and many people who came after him, recognized piracy as a threat, not merely to the state but to the idea of statehood itself. All states were equally obligated to stamp out this menace, whether or not they had been a victim of piracy. This was codified explicitly in the 1856 Declaration of Paris, and it has been reiterated as a guiding principle of piracy law ever since. Ironically, it is the very effectiveness of this criminalization that has marginalized piracy and made it seem an arcane and almost romantic offense. Pirates no longer terrorize the seas because a concerted effort among the European states in the 19th century almost eradicated them. It is just such a concerted effort that all states must now undertake against terrorists, until the crime of terrorism becomes as remote and obsolete as piracy.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the "pirate model" will not work due to the ideological difference between piracy and terrorism. Pirates (although sometimes collaterally aiding political outcomes) are essentially criminals without political motivation. Terrorists are essential politcal operatives who resort to criminal tactics. Take the "political" out of terrorists, and yes you have criminals, and yes have "pirates", but no, you no longer have "terrorists." Criminals are universally opposed anyway, terrorists have support from some political factions and regimes.

7/27/2005 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

b

7/27/2005 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gerry Simpson's been looking at the ideas underlying the piracy/terrorism analogy from a critical theoretical perspective. See: www.ccels.cardiff.ac.uk/pubs/simpsonpaper.html/

7/27/2005 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Tom Doyle said...

Burgess writes:

"[T]he Declaration of Paris in 1856, signed by England, France, Spain, and most other European nations, which abolished the use of piracy for state purposes. Piracy became and remained beyond the pale of legitimate state behavior. "

"The 18th-century English legal scholar William Blackstone defined a pirate as someone who has "reduced himself afresh to the savage state of nature by declaring war against all mankind," while another account tells of one Edward Low, common seaman, who "took a small vessel, [hoisted] a Black Flag, and declared War against all the World."

"The myth of the romantic buccaneer, perpetuated by such diverse artists as Robert Louis Stevenson and Johnny Depp, must be set aside. The pirates of the so-called golden age, as historian Hugh Rankin described them, were "a sorry lot of human trash."


So what do we make of this?


King: Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart.
Away to the cheating world go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do;
But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King.

Chorus:
King: For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!
For I am a Pirate King!
Crew: You are! Hurrah for our Pirate King!
King: And it is, it is a glorious thing To be a Pirate King.
Chorus: It is! Hurrah for our Pirate King!


King: When I sally forth to seek my prey
I help myself in a royal way.
I sink a few more ships, it’s true,
Than a well-bred monarch ought to do;
But many a king on a first-class throne,
If he wants to call his crown his own,
Must manage somehow to get through
More dirty work than ever I do,


The "Pirate King" song from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. Is this not a sort of "moral equivalence" argument? It was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.


"The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty simultaneously in England and America. The opera premiered on December 31, 1879 at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York [and] ... on April 3, 1880, at the Opera Comique in London, where it ran for 363 performances, having already been playing successfully for over three months in New York."

http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/pirates/html/index.html

Were things quite as black and white as Burgess makes them out to be?

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