T Nation

Ron Paul and Letters of Marque


After 9/11 Ron Paul suggested the US issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal. This allows privateers to practice legalized piracy against enemy shipping.

Since the 9/11 attacks were planned and funded by a group based in Afghanistan I assumed he meant to issue these against Afghan shipping. Of course Afghanistan is landlocked so I am not sure how many ships fly that flag.

Perhaps he meant that these could be used on land as well and private armies could invade, rape and rob Afghanistan in their search for Bin Laden.

In the latest debate he tried to make a point that 9/11 was the responsibility of 19 people and we should not be involved in Afghanistan at all.

I have been trying to reconcile all this in my head and I can see no rational explanation for his thinking on the subject.

The idea of Letter of Marque against a land locked country seems ludicrous on it's face.

If it is expanded to include private armies on Afghan land it seems pretty harsh to condone that type of indiscriminate rape, murder and theft against the population of any nation. Very harsh.

Now his stance seems to be that the atrocity was committed by 19 individuals who are now dead and we should take no action.

How can he do this flip flop? Why isn't he called out on it?


Ron Paul

September25, 2001

The founders and authors of our Constitution provided an answer for the difficult tasks that we now face. When a precise declaration of war was impossible due to the vagueness of our enemy, the Congress was expected to take it upon themselves to direct the reprisal against an enemy not recognized as a government. In the early days the concern was piracy on the high seas. Piracy was one of only three federal crimes named in the original Constitution.

Today, we have a new type of deadly piracy, in the high sky over our country. The solution the founders came up with under these circumstances was for Congress to grant letters of marque and reprisal. This puts the responsibility in the hands of Congress to direct the President to perform a task with permission to use and reward private sources to carry out the task, such as the elimination of Osama bin Laden and his key supporters. This allows narrow targeting of the enemy. This effort would not preclude the president's other efforts to resolve the crisis, but if successful would preclude a foolish invasion of a remote country with a forbidding terrain like Afghanistan- a country that no foreign power has ever conquered throughout all of history.

Lives could be saved, billions of dollars could be saved, and escalation due to needless and senseless killing could be prevented. Mr. Speaker, we must seriously consider this option. This answer is a world apart from the potential disaster of launching nuclear weapons or endless bombing of an unseen target. "Marque and reprisal" demands the enemy be seen and precisely targeted with minimal danger to others. It should be considered and, for various reasons, is far superior to any effort that could be carried out by the CIA.

We must not sacrifice the civil liberties that generations of Americans have enjoyed and fought for over the past 225 years. Unwise decisions in response to the terror inflicted on us may well fail to destroy our enemy, while undermining our liberties here at home. That will not be a victory worth celebrating. The wise use of marque and reprisal would negate the need to undermine the privacy and rights of our citizens.



I think you are reaching the incorrect conclusion. He never stated nothing should be done. In fact he was the first to suggest a LMR in 2001 and still suggests it is the only viable solution when asked about it.

Here is a better explanation of how Marque and Reprisal is supposed to work:


Ross Perot was granted one of these when some of his employees were kidnapped in Iran. He hired some private mercenaries to go rescue them:


I think the free market could do a much better job at fighting terrorism than any military -- just for the fact that private mercenaries can evolve to changing situations much quicker.


So explain to me how sanctioned piracy would have any effect.

He seems a doddering old fool to make this kind of argument. What am I missing?


It isn't piracy. You are trying to instigate a semantical argument here. Piracy is a criminal act of theft and destruction at sea. Hunting down criminals is not piracy.


A dictionary.


I posted what he said.

Misquoting someone though his words are on the same page is kind of strange.


Just read the links and it makes even less sense. It appears he wants bounty hunters to chase AQ leadership. We already have
$ 25 million bounties on their heads.


From the lewrockwell.com link

Uhhhh, the Letter of Marque issued by the US would provoke the international crisis the same as if it were US soldiers.


Of course that solution would have been much better.
In Rightwingoverse, Al-Quaida has underground bunkers, a tight commando structure and is busy commanding their soldiers through satellite communication.

However, in reality they ride on donkeys. They don't use Cellphones and they are practically uncentralized so that that trying to find a HQ Cave and bombing the shit out of it is futile.
Big scale military solutions are out of the question.

Higly motivated professionals who know the land would be an excellent choice for combating muslimic extremists.


And he came up with the idea and the Bush administration implemented it.

Will he get mad probs if Bin Laden is caught because of this, or will he still be a lunatic?


I think he was suggesting that's ALL we should have done.


The market would dictate that this is not enough. It would have to be about $1 billion to be attractive to outfits like Blackwater. The cost of this kind of enterprise alone could be much larger than $25 million.

Why bother with $25 million when our gov't will just pay them to shoot at Iraqis and collect $150k per year per person?


I don't think so. Its all about getting permission first. What is less threatening to a nation's sovereignty -- sending in a full scale military operation or asking permission to allow a few mercenaries entry into a specific region? Think this thru a little bit.


He came up with the idea of putting a bounty on OBL's head? Since every thinking human being had the same thought I am not sure if crediting him with this age old idea is your wisest train of thought.

In fact Bush could hang a medal around Paul's neck for coming up with this idea and I would know it is political theater and not grounded in reality.

No one had to come up with this idea. Everyone thought of it.


I have thought it through. Most nations think mercenaries are the lowest form of life and would rather have foreign troops in their nation. Witness what is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq today. They are trying to kick out the mercenaries and keep the professional foreign soldiers.

Perhaps if Pakistan wanted to hire mercenaries to go after OBL it would be different but there is nothing stopping them from doing that.


Without backing the mercenaries logistically and providing them with intelligence, 25Mio is too less.
Your military escapades eat the dollars so fast away, you barely manage to print new monopoly money. As an american development aid clerk in Afghanistan gets 900$ a day, why should PMCs, who get A LOT MORE in Iraq, try to find Osama for peanuts?


As Lift pointed out we would need a billion dollar bounty to get Blackwater chasing the guy. Unfortunately they would need most of it in advance to gear up for the hunt.

Doesn't make too much sense, does it?


I think it sounds like it's a lot. Then again, given your recent military budget explosion, perhaps it's not?
Hell, it's your money, if you think that instead, the 200 Billions (for Iraq and 'stan 2008) are sensibly invested, then please, you're free to cheer and feel safer now.


What if America paid Pakistan to hire the mercenaries in question? It would work out more like "You kill us, we kill you." instead of "You kill us, we bomb the living hell out of every country where you might be." Armies are great for fighting other armies, but I'm not so sure that they are great for fighting small groups of determined resistance.

In the long run, Paul's idea may have worked out to be much more efficient, and with fewer negative side effects. It may be too late to find out for sure now, but I don't think it's an inherently bad idea.