Letters of Marque and Reprisal

Greetings loyal minions! Your Maximum Leader promised many days ago that he had been planning to write blog concerning Letters of Marque and Reprisal. He feels the time for this post might as well be now.

Your Maximum Leader, in a scotch whisky induced fog, asked rhetorically if the US was better off (from an overall security standpoint) as a result of the 9/11 attacks. The AirMarshal (his Minister for Air and Space - who is a rocket scientist by the way, really he has the sheepskin to prove it!) posted a clear and succinct blog saying, hey don’t sweat the “what if’s” focus on the real world and get rid of the terrorists.

our Maximum Leader believes that we are more secure as a result of many things since 9/11/01. Not the least of the factors contributing to US security is our presence in Iraq. Your Maximum Leader believes, and has stated before, that the Hussein regime was a threat to US (and frankly global) security. While they may not have had WMD ready to use against the US or our allies at a moments notice; the regime’s past history of developing and using these weapons is clear. The Hussein regime threatened to develop and use WMD in the future, and those types of threats cannot go unanswered. The proper action, given the long history of the Iraqi problem, was a regime change. By removing Saddam and the Ba’ath party, the US has taken away one state supporter of terror; and sent a signal that further support of terror by an established state would not be tolerated. Our security (and that of many other nations) is enhanced.

But now, terrorist groups and those states/people who support them are not likely to be so bold as announcing their intentions on the world stage. Syria and Iran (as state supporters of terror) and other nations (like our good friends the Saudi’s) will become more sophisticated in hiding their support for terror groups. And those groups will go further underground. Your Maximum Leader believes the US needs to redouble its efforts in human intelligence gathering and analysis. And perhaps we should also take the additional step of issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal to individual citizens to take action on behalf of the US against terror groups.

Where did all this Letter of Marque stuff come from you ask? Well, Your Maximum Leader has read the US Constitution and is familar with Article One, Section 8, Clause 10 of that document which states that the Congress of the US shall have the power to: “To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water”.

What is a Letter of Marque and Reprisal you ask? Put simply, it is a Letter granted to a private citizen to outfit a paramilitary group and use that group against the enemies of his country. Letters of Marque and Reprisal had their heyday in the 16th-17th Centuries, and were primarially given to individuals who would engage in privateering on the high seas.

Now, as a severely overeducated man, your Maximum Leader is familar with the Declaration of Paris of 1856, which stated that the signatories would no longer engage in privateering. Your Maximum Leader also knows that the US signed the Declaration of Paris of 1856. Perhaps we should read the Declaration very literally and not give a Letter of Marque for actions on the high seas. But, nothing would preclude the US from issuing a Letter of Marque and Reprisal for non-naval actions abroad.

Why use Letters of Marque and Reprisal you ask? Well, your Maximum Leader has been reading the papers, blogs, and journals and taking in all of the commentary concerning our situation in Iraq. It seems to the Maximum Leader that many Americans would like to avoid putting our servicemen at risk. Would the American people rather allow people to outfit themselves and put themselves at risk? If a rich person, like Ross Perot for example, would want to outfit a squad or platoon of his own commandos and go after terrorists on behalf of the government of the US - is that better than deploying troops?

Allow your Maximum Leader to digress for a moment… Your Maximum Leader has read a lot recently about how “the American people” are concerned about he mounting casualties in Iraq. These articles always seem to feature some naive someone who says that we shouldn’t be endangering our soliders. Once in a while you even get lucky and have Peter Jennings interview a solider who says that they didn’t sign up for this (war, that is). Is it not as shocking to you as it is to your Maximum Leader to hear this? As the US has an all volunteer military; and the last time your Maximum Leader checked the military are the ones who fight wars; what did these people sign up fr? If you want to go to college, but don’t want to take the chance that you might have to invade another country, your Maximum Leader suggests a loan. If you want a job that is steady, but don’t want to have to kill someone, the military is not for you. If you don’t want to take the chance that you will be deployed to combat, do not join the military. But, I digress…

Your Maximum Leader suggests that Letters of Marque and Reprisal might be useful in combating terror. As terrorist groups are extraterritorial, it is unlikely that the US military will be able to deploy in a country (Syria?, Iran?) and “look around” for the terrorists that might be residing there. But, private citizens might be better equiped to get near the terrorists and take whatever action is needed.

You Maximum Leader realizes this issue is rife with difficulties. First, traditionally if you had a Letter of Marque you were “paid” in loot. You captured a ship, you could sell it (or outfit it to join your own). How would one compensate someone operating under a Letter of Marque? Allow them to take control of terrorist assets? Sell them? Perhaps. If there are significant assets that might work. Usama Bin Laden appears to have money. The 9/11 terrorists had a steady supply of money. If you can take out the terrorists and find their money - it is yours to keep. (Tax free?)

Secondly, what is the downside for the US? Would we need to give a certain degree of protection to those operating with a Letter of Marque? Your Maximum Leader thinks not. If, in the olden days, you were captured - you were pretty much on your own. But, with bodies like the International Criminal Court, etc. would the US have to do something to protect its citizens operating on its behalf?

Thirdly, would we be stooping to their level? In so much as those with a Letter of Marque would not be blowing up pizza parlours, restaurants, discos, office buildings, and airplanes filled with non-combantant/non-terrorists (i.e.: innocent people), we would not be stooping to their level. But, your Maximum Leader is sure that France would object.

Finally, would anyone really do it? Your Maximum Leader thinks so. Really, when one stops to think about it, we (the US) already invites such activity. We put rewards out on people. Some lucky Iraqi is $30,000,000.00 richer for giving us the locale of Uday and Qusay. Would the US government have paid the bounty to a group of US citizens, acting on their own without military assistance, who killed/captured the two Hussein boys? Your Maximum Leader believes that answer to be yes. So perhaps we are already issuing Letters of Marque against terrorists.

Alas, the hour is late and your Maximum Leader needs his rest. Feel free to send your comments on this matter (or others) to me at: nakedvillainy@yahoo.com

Carry on my minions.

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