YARR! The Truth About Pirates

Ahoy, matey! So, I’m sure you’ve heard about all the hubbub around the ragged band of sea bandits that have been harassing ships in Somalian waters. My framework of reference is Pirates of the Caribbean – which shows just how cliche and outdated the stereotype of a pirate has become. And yet, here in real life, the world’s superpowers have put together a navy to take out this small group of rebels. What’s the real story behind Somalia and it’s pirates?

YARR!

I’ve pasted excerpts from a really good article below, but I would also encourage you read a post by a Somali-Muslim brother, giving his analysis of the situation. Eye-opening stuff.

Try to peruse Johann Hari’s entire article, but in case you can’t – here are some relevant excerpts:

Who imagined that in 2009, the world’s governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy – backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the U.S. to China – is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth…

[ ... ]

In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed. Its 9 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…

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 $300 million worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia’s unprotected seas.

[...]

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 Coast Guard 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.”

No, this doesn’t make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Program supplies. But the “pirates” have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason…

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 coast guard 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?…If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause – our crimes – before we send in the gunboats to root out Somalia’s criminals.

  1. #1 by sanjeevbery on April 15, 2009 - 11:36 pm

    It’s a tough mental process — simultaneously criticizing those Somali pirates who threaten life, while also recognizing the role of Western companies in plundering Somali waters. Far easier to take the CNN path of focusing on the former while ignoring the latter.

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