America seizing cargoes from four oil tankers conjures images of British privateers attacking Spanish treasure fleets in the late 1500s.
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. […]
The U.S. isn’t licensing acts of piracy by private individuals. Nor, in this case, has it resorted to military action. A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press that no military force was used in the seizures. Instead, threats of potentially crippling sanctions against the owners, insurers and captains of the vessels persuaded them to hand over the cargoes.
But the concept has altered little in 440 years — we still have one of the world’s preeminent naval powers passing its own laws allowing it to seize treasure from its enemies in the ocean. […]
Senior Trump administration officials are expected to hold an event to mark the docking of the ships in Houston. I couldn’t help but think of Queen Elizabeth I staging a banquet for Francis Drake in Deptford on the River Thames in 1581, and knighting him on the main deck of his ship, the Golden Hind, that had just returned full of Spanish treasure. Läs artikel