By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Graham takes Keller’s bait

Jon Keller calls out “knee-jerk critics” of President Obama following the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips. Right on cue, Michael Graham rips Obama for not unleashing the Navy to have at the pirates until Phillips was in “imminent danger.”

Does Graham not understand that the Navy sharpshooters easily could have blown Phillips’ head off by mistake? What they did was incredibly risky — which is why they couldn’t do it until they were convinced the pirates were about to kill their hostage.

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  1. lkcape

    Dan, you too could well be wrong.Most operations such as this don’t proceed until all the pieces are in place and the chances of success for the mission are reasonable.It could be that the risk to Phillips was “imminent”, but it is more likely that the right opportunity came along, and they took it.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Ikcape: If media coverage has it right, then so do I. From today’s New York Times:At dusk, a single tracer bullet was seen fired from the lifeboat. The intent was unclear, but it ratcheted up the tension and Seal snipers at the stern rail of the Bainbridge fixed night-vision scopes to their high-powered rifles, getting ready for action.What they saw was the head and shoulders of two of the pirates emerging from the rear hatch of the lifeboat. Through the window of the front hatch they saw the third pirate, pointing his AK-47 at the back of Captain Phillips, who was seen to be tied up.

  3. lkcape

    Do you always believe what the media writes from third-hand information?

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Ikcape: Of course not. But I’ll use reports from credible news orgs any day of the week. If they’re proven wrong, I’ll revise and update. It’s called blogging.

  5. mike_b1

    Only the GOP apologists could find fault with what was a perfectly executed rescue.The good guys are all safe. The bad guys are dead or captured. What else, precisely, did you want to happen?

  6. Peter Porcupine

    DK – Graham was wrong to jump at the bair, but I gotta say, the desire to WRITE has overtaken journalists, even as the desire for dramtic descriptions has ovetaken television ones. Case(s) in point – the sniper fire was repeatedly described as being at ‘incredible distances’ on ‘bobbing seas’. Every exasperated expert who came on said the same thing – that the waters in that area were usually dead calm, making the shots feasible, and the range was about 1/3 what SEALs were trained to hit. The TV reporters (CNN, FOX, etc.) would all go – Uh-huh, uh-huh, and revert to previous descripttions of bobbing seas in about 2 minutes. I heard about the bobbing on WBZ this morning.I’d be sceptical of the giddy first reports, no matter how sere the organ.And good job all around for the rescuers and administration.

  7. mike_b1

    For what it’s worth, here’s what the vice admiral who oversees that region said (per CNN; the quotes are Vice Admiral Gortney’s): Even with the small boat “moving up and down a couple of feet,” the SEALs hit their targets. “Remarkable marksmanship.”

  8. NewsHound

    Extraordinarily remarkable. No doubt danger was accelerating as these pirates were most likely becoming annoyed by constant helicopter noise and cranky from lack of sleep and the way things were going. When comparing a large crew of well trained personnel to three, tired, cranky, bothered pirates the final outcome is predictable. Regardless, there was a frighteningly small window of opportunity which they had been watching for no doubt, and fortunately our very well trained Seals were 100% successful. I hope all pirates everywhere take notice and pursue a new, more honest livelihood, such as agriculture, retail, medical and maybe newspaper publishing, but not pirating.

  9. acf

    Not excusing the pirates, more honest livelihoods, such as agriculture, retail, medical and maybe newspaper publishing are not available in the environment they inhabit. There is little or no government, and less economy. Even if they had a mind to pursue honest work, it’s neither safe nor possible to live on.

  10. NewsHound

    acf – yes, you make a valid point. But, so far, going after U. S. staffed ships doesn’t look promising for piracy, either. Civilization and agriculture is more than 10,000 years old and maybe it’s time they caught on how to obtain wealth. Some people historically have done very well in the evolution of civilization, agriculture and industrialization. I wonder, can’t they even do anything to contribute to an honest well-being?

  11. Bill H.

    Great job by the Navy and well handled by the Obama Administration, but let’s not consider these Somalis either “pirates” or “terrorists.” They’re Third World, impoverished opportunists, and we’ll definitely be hearing more from them. They’re highwaymen; apolitical robbers. Their waters are overfished and their lands not especially arable, so they steal, albeit on a larger and far more public stage. To me, a terrorist tries, by slaughtering innocent people, to alter a country’s national policy. That’s not what these guys are up to, but I’m fine with how this episode ended.

  12. L.K.

    And yes, Dan, it is a blog, and it is a blog about journalism.I think Peter Porcupine has said it best:”[T}he desire to WRITE has overtaken journalism.”I would think that comments on reports of reports of reports have moved a ways from good journalistic practice.

  13. Aaron Read

    Well I’m not a SEAL, nor ever a part of any branch of the military. But I know how to sail and used to do it competitively as a kid. And I lettered twice in rifle shooting in high school. So I think I can opine with some accuracy about trying to hit a target with a rifle bullet while on a boat.I won’t bother explaining it for a moron like Graham. I’ll just say it: Graham doesn’t know a goddamn thing about this, and should shut the hell up.It was not only a “skilled” shot, it was a damn LUCKY shot. It doesn’t matter how smooth the sea is, little boats like that 28ft lifeboat move around quite a bit, as Mike_B1 notes. So much could’ve happened that was entirely outside the snipers’ ability to compensate for that Phillips is damn lucky to be alive; even the best snipers in the world could’ve easily blown the hostage away in that situation. Anything but the best snipers in the world (which SEALs usually are) almost certainly WOULD have shot Phillips. So while skill played a role, Phillips is still a very, very lucky man.

  14. O'Rion

    More trouble ahead as WNBC is reporting a NY based ship has been taken. Graham and others might have more worthy criticism if they focus on the worlds ridiculous adherence to the pay-to-sail Somali shakedown. Another problem dumped on the new President.

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