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Nice Shooting

Editorial for April 23, 2009

Nice shooting

Sunday, April 11, represented a proud day for our nation. That was the day we heard the "breaking news" that U.S. Navy SEALS had shot and killed three Somali pirates who had been holding an American -- the captain of a container ship -- hostage on a small boat.

The expertise displayed by the SEALS was amazing. Firing from a moving ship at small targets on another ship bobbing on the waves was no easy assignment. The fact that all three connected was a tribute to their long months of training and discipline.

This was a situation where if even one of the three had missed, the hostage -- Capt. Richard Phillips -- likely would have been killed. There was absolutely no room for error, and the fact the rescue mission went off perfectly is amazing.

Most of us remember going through the long months of having 52 Americans held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Iran, and the powerlessness we felt as a people. Then-President Carter was in a terrible position at that time. If he tried a rescue, it was likely most, if not all, of the hostages would be slain before the rescuers could overpower the well-armed militants holding them.

When a rescue was finally attempted in April 1980, it ended in disaster when American military aircraft encountered a sandstorm in the desert. A helicopter and a cargo plane collided, killing eight Americans. It was one of our nation's darkest, saddest hours, and the hostages remained captive for a total of 444 days.

Although this was a very different situation, we want to express strong praise for the professionalism displayed by our military.

We're also proud of President Barack Obama. Despite the jibes of critics who questioned his ability to handle "the 3 a.m. telephone call," he quietly and without bluster authorized the military to take lethal action to save Phillips if the opportunity presented itself.

As an American, that's the kind of quiet decisiveness I want to see. Tough talk usually gets us nowhere. We need a president president who -- through his decisions, not his talk -- lets the world know that if you mess with us, you will pay a heavy price.

Perhaps our new president represents a return to the proud era when President Theodore Roosevelt represented an America that "spoke quietly but carried a big stick."

However, we are not fooled into believing that this wonderful and courageous hostage rescue solves the ongoing -- and indeed escalating -- acts of piracy in this area of the world. Yet it sends a strong signal that we have had enough.

Indeed, in response to the rescue of Capt. Phillips, the pirates have already threatened to attack and kill crew members of American-registered vessels. We trust those threats will be met with an appropriately forceful response.

It's highly likely that our Navy and other armed forces will be engaging pirates more frequently now, and that is a good thing -- it's probably the best way to eliminate this scourge of the high seas.

And "bravo!" to our local company Insitu for its role in the positive outcome of this hostage situation. Insitu built the ScanEagle aerial drone that provided highly detailed video, day and night, of the boat carrying Phillips. That information was a significant part of the rescue effort, and indirectly helped the Navy's marksmen to find their mark when the time to act came.

JB

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