Vol. 1, Issue 6, June 17, 2003
Bush Administration issues Letters of Marque to Airlines
President Bush announced today that the administration had decided on a cost-effective way to assist the nation's flagging airlines, most of whom have suffered from declining ticket sales in the past two years.
"We believe that issuing Letters of Marque to our airlines will enable them to recoup a substantial percentage of their losses at virtually no expense to the American taxpayer," Bush said in a Rose Garden ceremony yesterday afternoon. "This is, to my mind, a win-win situation."
Letters of marque are documents providing authority to fit out an armed ship and use it to attack, capture, and plunder enemy merchant ships in time of war. They were used extensively by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th and early 17th centuries, producing some notable privateers such as Sir Francis Drake. To date, they have only been used for sailing vessels, but government analysts see "no reason" why a Boeing jumbo jet wouldn't qualify as a suitable vessel.
"We are very excited about this proposal," said Gerard Arpey, the newly appointed CEO of the embattled American airlines. "The windows in a 747 already look like portholes; all we have to do is stick some cannons out of them, and we're ready to go." Logistics are still being worked out, but it is likely that passengers sitting in a cannon row will have similar obligations and restrictions as those sitting in an exit row.
Traditionally, letters of marque provide authority to plunder ships from a specific nation. President Bush was somewhat vague about the target countries, saying only that "well, if you need a translator to talk to them, odds are they could be fair game."
The United Nations Security Council expressed deep concern over the President's plan, noting that letters of marque have not been valid under international law for several centuries. "Frankly, the last thing we need is for jumbo jets full of American tourists to be hoisting the Jolly Roger and firing broadsides at any Airbus that comes across their path," said an anonymous diplomat from the United Kingdom. "I mean, we had our fun and all with Drake; but let's not get carried away."
Administration officials stressed that the letters only provided for "opportunistic plundering" and that flight plans would not be changed to increase the odds of better prey. "However, if someone goes a little out of their way to get their hands on an Iberia flight packed with gold bullion, well, that's their affair."
Human rights groups were outraged, but not surprised, at the developments.
"It's really just a hop, skip and a jump away from allowing handguns in the cockpit," said Amnesty International spokesperson Brianna Ghent. "Hopefully passengers will get tired of sharing cabin space with giant smoking cannons and the delays caused by all this privateering."
To complete the signing ceremony, Air Force One flew overhead and fired off a broadside at a passing Air France jet. "Yo ho ho," said Bush.