The Somali Pirates: The rest of the story
April 13, 2009 2:25 am at 2:25 am #75881
Doug ZMemberLogin to Send PM
Johann Hari Columnist, London Independent
….In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.”
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia’s unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: “If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters.”
This is the context in which the men we are calling “pirates” have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a ‘tax’ on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and it’s not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was “to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters… We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas.” William Scott would understand those words.
No, this doesn’t make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But the “pirates” have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking – and it found 70 percent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country’s territorial waters.” During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America’s founding fathers paid pirates to protect America’s territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different?
Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn’t act on those crimes – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, we begin to shriek about “evil.” If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause – our crimes – before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia’s criminals.
The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know “what he meant by keeping possession of the sea.” The pirate smiled, and responded: “What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor.” Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today – but who is the robber?April 13, 2009 3:41 am at 3:41 am #266452
BearParticipantLogin to Send PM
So… European nations dump radioactive material into Somali waters and take fish from the same waters?
That doesn’t sound very bright.April 13, 2009 5:13 am at 5:13 am #266453
gramaryeParticipantLogin to Send PM
The “rest of the story” is that there were several minutes of gunfire before we got to the actual end of the story (three dead and one captured pirate; one rescued merchant ship captain). Therefore, the captain might well have been killed, in which case this story would be a lot less positive for Obama and the U.S. Navy at the moment. Nevertheless, I’m glad he allowed himself to be distracted by this little incident. Now we’ll just have to see if anything more permanent gets done about the scourge of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean.
A worthwhile footnote in that story is that the entire cargo of the container ship was food aid destined for starving Kenyans, who will now actually get that food, rather than it provisioning the militia of some Somali warlord, or ransomed off to arm that warlord for the next pirate raid.
P.S. I consider StrategyPage almost required reading on anything dealing with international armed conflict. Their analyses get much deeper into the nuts and bolts of the issues that typical MSM coverage.April 13, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am #266454
I think Doug is missing a big leap in the story (as is the H.P.), which is that these groups started as militia style coast guards, after learning how easy it was to seize or board vessels they stopped all charitable efforts in favor of profitable ones. There is no excuse for the nuclear dumping by European companies on the Somali shores, they should be identified and dealt with and forced to pay the clean up…but there’s also no excuse for the piracy going on now either.
Less opinion and more fact here:April 13, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am #266455
RockmastermikeParticipantLogin to Send PM
Nothing new here. This has been reported for a while now.
Far more interesting (and this keeps happening) is how columnists shilling for both sides of the big political fence INSIST that we’re all being “lied” to about stuff and that “THEY are the only ones who have the REAL story that THE MEDIA has been SUPPRESSING”.
Usually this can be answered with “Oh, you mean that story that was in the AP/reuters/whatever news and reprinted in hundreds of outlets? Yes, we saw that.”
Still, it’s really interesting from a psychological standpoint how both the right and left consistently ignore the news media reporting things that they agree with and then accuse the media of “suppressing their side”. Sorry, but just because you didn’t notice something doesn’t mean that there is a “vast conspiracy” to bury that thing.
If I had the time I would start keeping a log of these accusations and comparing it to stories on the subject to see if the bias holds up to statistical analysis. Since both sides consistently claim bias against them they can’t both be correct if even one of them is. But, no, I don’t have that kind of free time.April 13, 2009 2:02 pm at 2:02 pm #266456
HaelMemberLogin to Send PM
Headline: Pirates vow to avenge deaths after U.S. Navy Seals free Captain Richard Phillips
From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill [the hostages].April 13, 2009 4:50 pm at 4:50 pm #266457
Come on now H, you’re doing exactly what Limbaugh is doing on his show right now. If Obama had done nothing, you’d be calling for his head for inaction…he acts decisively and successfully, and he’s getting heat from conservatives who are picking up on this story.April 13, 2009 5:05 pm at 5:05 pm #266458
BearParticipantLogin to Send PM
Core_Models wrote >>
Come on now H, you’re doing exactly what Limbaugh is doing on his show right now. If Obama had done nothing, you’d be calling for his head for inaction…he acts decisively and successfully, and he’s getting heat from conservatives who are picking up on this story.
Which is just fine. I’d be a lot more worried if Limbaugh started sounding reasonable.
Interesting Krugman op-ed this morning about the state of the GOP is relevant, btw.April 13, 2009 5:08 pm at 5:08 pm #266459
catnfiddleParticipantLogin to Send PM
Personally, I’m amazed that Phillips survived. I was fully expecting him to get killed in some random crossfire. My hat is off to the sharpshooters who turned the mess into a much neater bloodbath than anticipated.April 13, 2009 5:19 pm at 5:19 pm #266460
I’m more amazed 1 pirate lived, with the training of SEAL snipers :OApril 13, 2009 5:21 pm at 5:21 pm #266461
drewParticipantLogin to Send PM
This is my biggest concern right now: Will the US attack pirate land bases?April 13, 2009 5:22 pm at 5:22 pm #266462
What’s interesting though, the offer to train a new Somali coast guard sounds like it would have solved this problem before it started.April 13, 2009 5:22 pm at 5:22 pm #266463
CookieMemberLogin to Send PM
Core_Models wrote >>
I’m more amazed 1 pirate lived, with the training of SEAL snipers :O
He had already surrended and wasn’t on the lifeboat. Although you’re right. He would have been way easier to shoot.April 13, 2009 5:25 pm at 5:25 pm #266464
AH, hadn’t seen that, had just seen the headlines of “3 die, one lives” type stuff. This was interesting though:
Gives a step by step kind of thing.April 13, 2009 5:26 pm at 5:26 pm #266465
SnarfParticipantLogin to Send PM
Is there video of the sniper action? I’d love to see some exploding somali heads. America, fuck yeah!