Off Somalia, We Get A Dutch Navy Escort
Since leaving the Kenyan port of Mombasa last night, the Holland-America liner M.S. Prinsendam, upon which I've been circumventing Africa, has had a military escort. She is HMS Everestyn, a 6,000-ton Dutch frigate carrying missiles, a complement of 202 men and 10 Dutch Marines, plus a helicopter which could land on this ship, is just a mile off our stern as I write.
It's a certain comfort to passengers, because there have been several instances of Islamic pirates off Somalia in recent weeks. A French yacht was seized, as was a Spanish cargo ship, and a missile was fired at an oil tanker. Several Western navies are now in the Gulf of Aden, further north of where we are, to fend off pirates. A couple of weeks ago, French commandos captured six pirates and found some of the $4 million in ransom which had been paid for release of the crew of the French yacht.
Just this morning, news comes that U.S. warplanes or cruise missiles have attacked again in Somalia, this time reportedly killing the Al-Qaeda commander there, Aden Hashi Ayso. As this is being written, our captain, Christopher Turner, has just announced that the Dutch ship will launch its helicopter in a few minutes to make a sweep of waters ahead of our ship.
Our ship has taken other security measures during the wide berth we are giving the Somali coast. Most exterior lights on the ship are being kept off at night. Curtains have been drawn around the dining room. Two acoustic guns have been mounted on the ship's bow, capable of firing such loud charges that they are supposed to split the ear drums of any attackers.
Even in Mombasa, where I saw a contingent of U.S. Marines at an outlying hotel Monday, security around the ship was tight, with armed guards at dockside, a police boat constantly going back and forth beside the ship, and all vehicles kept well away from the ship. We had to walk to our tour buses a quarter mile away. Mombasa was the site of an al-Qaeda attack a few years ago against hotels housing Israeli tourists, and is about 500 miles from the Somali border.
This is the War on Terror as seen in East Africa, just one of its many locales.
A New York Times-CBS poll this morning reflects some of the damage that has been done to the Obama campaign by his fanatic, treasonous former pastor, James Wright. For instance, the number of Democrats expecting Sen. Barack Obama to win the Democratic nomination has slipped from 69 to 51%.
It is worth noting, I think, that Obama is not the only candidate to have been betrayed by dishonest, or fanatic associates or supporters. Sen. Hillary Clinton demoted her chief strategist, Mzrk Penn, when it was divulged that he was taking money from the Columbian government to support its trade treaty with the U.S. at a time when Clinton opposed the treaty. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, was betrayed by a "supportive" Protestant minister from Texas who made embarrassing anti-Catholic remarks.
Even Jesus had his Judas. But it is distressing that these low-lifes surface in modern campaigns. And the betrayal may have been particularly devastating to Obama, who had a long, close relationship to his pastor before he fully appreciating that the man was a violent, America-hating extremist and virulent anti-Semite. Although Obama has now responded forcefully, cutting all ties, the sordid episode has raised questions about his judgment and political seasoning.
The 2008 campaign has been dramatic and often uplifting, largely because of the inspirational messages of Obama. If he were to falter now, and we will know more after next week's Indiana and North Carolina primaries, millions of Americans would lose their hope for something immediately better in our politics than retreads of the Bush-Clinton failures of the past two decades.