America is an outlaw nation

Each day the US descends further into a moral abyss. Today we read that the US government has begun engaging in piracy, stealing Iranian gasoline shipments on the high seas. Here’s Bloomberg:

It was definitely the 21st century when I went to sleep Thursday night, but by Friday morning it was starting to feel as though I’d slipped back in time a few hundred years, to an age of state-sponsored piracy.

News that the U.S. had seized the cargoes of four oil tankers, allegedly carrying Iranian gasoline from the Persian Gulf to Venezuela, conjured images of British privateers — in essence, state-sponsored pirates — attacking Spanish treasure fleets carrying gold, silver and precious stones from the New World back to Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.

What the excuse?

The funds realized from the sale of the cargoes will in part be directed to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. Almost 80% of the claims on that fund are related to the heinous attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Yet Iran was not implicated in that event.

Yes, it was Saudi’s that committed that atrocity. But nationalists don’t care about historical truth.

At this rate, four years from today America will be so far down in the gutter the country will be almost unrecognizable.

PS. And people say “China must be stopped.” But who will stop America?



17 Responses to “America is an outlaw nation”

  1. Gravatar of Variant Variant
    16. August 2020 at 10:31

    The breathless moral outrage certainly makes for a more dramatic story, but the reality is that the private owners of the ships re-routed them to the US to avert potential side-effects from sanctions and lawsuits. No one from the US, civilian or military were present, and there was certainly no ‘boarding’.

    Pontificate as much as you like on the US policies on Iran, but please don’t act like this is some new-fangled evolution of statecraft not already practiced for centuries.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. August 2020 at 11:20

    Variant, Make all the excuses you want, it’s still piracy.

  3. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    16. August 2020 at 13:10

    This looks more like retaliation for Iran trying to seize a Liberian-flagged tanker a few days ago than piracy to me. I highly doubt we will sell off the tankers.
    This does not make the act any less consequential. It highlights a simmering and escalating conflict with Iran.

  4. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. August 2020 at 13:34


    According to Bloomberg, the actions are based on a bill that was passed by the Senate with no opposition in May 2016. And then, in September 2016, it was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives. On September 28, 2016, both houses of Congress passed the bill into law after overriding a veto from President Obama, who did not want to upset Saudi Arabia. According to this information, an action can hardly be any more democratic and law-abiding.

    And in the explanatory notes to the law, it expressly states that the USVSST fund may compensate persons who were taken and held hostage in the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iran, during the period beginning November 4, 1979, and ending January 20, 1981. I think the current regime in Iran might remember this incident.

    Scott, your comments on certain political issues are just eye-rolling. You have lost your moral compass in this matter.

    And the commentary by Julian Klein is so embarrassing on so many levels. He obviously has no idea about the 16th century, nor the 21st century. It’s also not clear what he has against Elizabeth I, who is highly regarded by historians. She was one of the best (if not the best) British rulers ever, and even her critics admit that her foreign policy was cautious and defensive – even too cautious and too defensive according to her critics.

    Klein also seems to have no idea whatsoever how important pirates were for the British, and later for the American development. He tried an insulting comparison out of historical ignorance, but the comparison is actually a compliment.

  5. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    16. August 2020 at 16:06

    Yeah seems Dr. Sumner wiffs on this one, as (1) the action was not done directly by the US military, (2) it was legal as per US law (btw under the US Foreign Torts Act you can sue foreign governments in US court for human rights violations overseas, so this is analogous to that law), and (3) as List says, this kind of piracy is almost historically sacrosanct. If the Iranians could, they would do the same thing, and no need to be extra nice to a group of Muslims hell bent on developing nuclear weapons.

  6. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    16. August 2020 at 16:06

    Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

    US foreign, trade, and military policy is conducted at the behest of multinationals.

    Multinationals do not do business in Venezuela or Iran.

    Iranian-Venezuelan tankers pirated to the US? They asked for it.

  7. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    16. August 2020 at 17:00

    OT, but there are bigger issues afoot:

    Interesting article in the Daily Mail. L.A. is dying. Meanwhile, New York City has blocks and blocks boarded up.

    Seems to me US macroeconomists should be obsessed with getting the economy up and running again. And then fixing our biggest cities.

    Tyler Cowen is a very smart and aware fellow. He says he supports lockdowns, and says economists have the intellectual tools to think about epidemiology, do the cost-benefits.

    Where is his plan out of this morass? Anybody’s plan? The AEA’s plan? Cato’s plan?

    I said all along with lockdowns would be the public health sector’s Vietnam. ‘Six week” lockdowns have led to six-months of lockdowns and no end in sight. You can go in, but you cannot get out.

    There is no exit strategy from a lockdown.

  8. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    17. August 2020 at 02:18

    The funniest thing about these news is that a country like Venezuela imports oil and gasoline from Iran. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, even before Saudi Arabia:

    If Venezuelan communists controlled the Sahara desert, they’d run out of sand.

    There is no such thing as too much “piracy” against these fanatics. The more they get hurt, the better.

    Thanks, Ray.

  9. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    17. August 2020 at 03:28


    “But who will stop America”.

    What will stop America is everyone else, when (if) the Chinese consumer imports more goods from abroad than American consumer. America can only afford these shenanigans because everyone else wants access to their domestic market. China can drop the US quite easily simply by becoming a larger domestic market than the US. This will require more than sheer economic size though, it will require a China that imports goods to a significant extent. But the size of the US market is pretty much the only source of US power today. The military is far less important IMO, witness the oversized Russian military, and no one listens to Russia really.


    will you justify any absurdity just to be contrarian? Though you’re right on one thing, not all absurdities were passed into law under Trump. The largest international overreach of US power is probably FACTCA, which is Obama era.

  10. Gravatar of rayward rayward
    17. August 2020 at 05:47

    The Israel-UAE accord is nothing more than Pompeo moving us one step closer to war against Iran, shifting the focus among our Arab “allies” away from the Palestinians and toward our common “enemy” Iran.

  11. Gravatar of JC1 JC1
    17. August 2020 at 06:27

    Scott, are these Trump supporters doing this?

  12. Gravatar of Ed Zimmer Ed Zimmer
    17. August 2020 at 07:40

    “four years from today America will be so far down in the gutter the country will be almost unrecognizable.”

    And yet you continue to not recognize that you and your ilk are the cause – blinded by economic beliefs that should have have been discarded 50 years ago.

  13. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    17. August 2020 at 10:13

    ‘St. Augustine tells the story of a pirate captured by Alexander the Great, who asked him “how he dares molest the sea.” “How dare you molest the whole world?” the pirate replied: “Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an Emperor.” ‘

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. August 2020 at 15:11

    Christian, You said:

    “According to this information, an action can hardly be any more democratic and law-abiding.”

    Domestic law is not the issue. Which international law allows us to steal shipments from foreign nations? If the Chinese passed a law allowing them to steal ships would you regard it as “lawful”?

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. August 2020 at 15:12

    JC1, They do similar things. So what’s your point?

  16. Gravatar of JC1 JC1
    17. August 2020 at 22:16

    No, they don’t do similar things. Trump supporters are not taking over downtown areas and then beating up passers-by. They’re not looting stores and their leaders are not saying it’s a summer of love nor stating that looting is a form of compensation. No, they’re not similar.

  17. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    19. August 2020 at 11:45

    Who will stop America? Biden and Harris

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