Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pirate Info

My buddy Gabe sent me a link to this story about the so-called Somali pirates. It's a thought-provoking piece, and well worth reading (plus, it's really short). Here's a brief excerpt:

...in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas."

Obviously, hijacking a ship is stupid and wrong, doubly so when that ship is full of relief supplies. But I think it's worth taking a moment to understand the origins of this current pirate activity.

10 comments:

Kimmer said...

Thanks for sharing, Dan. Very interesting article!

Mark said...

Yeah, we should stop calling them pirates. They're just Non-Traditional Independent Marine Entreprenuers. Trying to make an honest living like any of us. Perhaps we could send them a few more AK-47's and RPG's as a gesture of goodwill? After all, it's not their fault that they are so poor that they can't afford to capture more commercial or humanitarian-aid ships. It's our fault for oppressing them in the first place. Especially with all those top-secret mysterious nuclear waste dumping ships that are targeting them (heh - in the same waters that we are apparently overfishing - now that would make sense).

The Somali pirates are not freedom fighters, patriots, or egalitarian utopists. (Is utopists a word?) They are driven by greed, as evidenced by the mansions and millionaire lifestyle that is funded by the ransoms they demand from their kidnapping and violence.

By the way - check out some of the other articles by this guy. Needless to say, I'm not a fan of his worldview. Here's a quote I'll leave you with:

All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don't respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don't respect the idea that we should follow a "Prophet" who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn't follow him. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-why-should-i-respect-these-oppressive-religions-1517789.html)

The Dan Ward said...

@Mark - I think that calling these thugs "pirates" is an insult to the *real* pirates from the 18th Century.

More to the point, in all the excitement about how awesome the Navy Seals are (and yes, they are completely awesome), we seem to have lost sight of the fact that a) the people hijacking these ships are often teenagers and b) they used to be fishermen. Nobody is saying they were trying to make an honest living, or that we should give them weapons, but maybe we could stop dumping waste on them.

I'm not saying foreign pollution & overfishing was the single and direct cause for the current situation, but it probably isn't helping things.

You're right that there's a lot of greed happening here. My only point is that it's not a one-sided issue. Sure, just because people from other countries are overfishing and/or polluting the waters off the coast of Somalia does not excuse them for hijacking relief supplies (although i'm quite sure the pirates had no idea what cargo they'd captured). Somalia is a mess, and rather than helping, the world seems to prefer taking their fish, polluting their water and portraying them as pirates. That's a bummer.

And of course I'm not going to agree with the reporter's view that religion is oppressive...

RhetTbull said...

Overfishing and dumping are NOT the origins of this current pirate activity. Sure, those are bad things and don't help they situation but the pirates are thugs and criminals, driven by greed and the promise of a quick buck, which until now, they've been able to make. The pirates (yes, that is what they are, and there's nothing glorious about the pirates of yesteryear--they too were thugs) aren't pirating fishing ships and toxic waste barges. They're pirating high value commercial ships--for money.
They're further enabled by the completely and utter failure of the state in which they live which further contributes to the conditions which permit dumping of toxic waste and overfishing. We need to make sure pirating doesn't pay (thank goodness for the Navy SEALs) but we also need figure out how to fix the failed state of Somalia in order to eliminate the conditions which lead to piracy, an intractable task at best.
Anyone who thinks these pirates deserve respect, as the author of the article you linked to does, has absolutely no grip on reality.

Kimmer said...

Some very cynical views on these pirates.

I heard this morning that the captured pirate is just 16? 16 - wow.

Here in Vermont there is a population of Somali Bantu refugees. I'm surprised at the lack of dialogue with them, esp considering that the ship captain is from here.

I imagine that we'll be hearing a lot about piracy in the near future.

Mark said...

Cynical, sure. But well-deserved IMHO. Pirates, drug lords, child- and spouse-abusers, mobsters, terrorists, etc.... all have a common thread. They choose violence against innocents to achieve their self-centered goals.

I don't care if he's 16. I don't care if he's been dealt a terrible hand in life. Those things make the situation sad, for sure, but c'mon - there are plenty of 16 year olds in tough circumstances who don't choose to pick up an AK-47 and hold it to the head of someone's daddy, someone's husband, someone's child.

I think it would be very interesting to hear from the refugees in Vermont - they may still be struggling, but at least on the surface it seems as though they have sought to make positive choices for themselves and their families.

Dick Field said...

Let's face it - in today's America (or at least amongst its influence peddlers), the Stockholm Syndrome has evolved to a cultural disease that distorts our view of those who assault us, defy our laws, and otherwise recognize us for the big patsies we are. Why else do you think the pirate "captain" had a big smile on his face when entering our New York courtroom. Was it because he was contrite? Hey! - He's now a celebrity who'll get a least his 15 minutes of fame and maybe even a book deal. Why, he's the latest flavor of victim - and a pirate to boot! Retro, dude!

Our once proud and productive values and virtues have turned to moronic putrescence. We deserve whatever fate awaits us.

Cynicism? Blame it on a plague of PC. I'm just another victim, after all.

Gabe said...

I believe the point Dan was making has been lost. It may sound easy to simply state "we won't tolerate", but that won't make the problem go away....and apparently neither will sheer American power.

As a dutiful military officer, I am progressing through the cultural studies portion of my professional military education. These studies make it very clear that the failings in Iraq stem from a ignorance of cultural undestanding and an over reliance on force.

To be sure, these particular pirates are thugs, but without understanding the culture in which they live and what root causes might be causing this problem, we can't begin to stem it. Consider this alternative article to the one posted:Arks and Pirates!.

If you were to dig into US counter insurgency efforts, you'd quickly uncover teams of people seeking out all anthropological angles like this to figure out how to deal with such decentralized opponent groups.

JafaBrit's Art said...

I think yes understanding how criminal elements exploit an unstable government and disenfranchised youth is essential. As seen in Ireland when poverty/disenfranchisement starts to set in so does the increase in IRA recruits.

I don't see it as an excuse, but understanding why is crucial in figuring out how to fight it in the long term.

The Dan Ward said...

@Jafa and Gabe - Thanks much! Your comments were thoughtful and very much in line with my intent with this posting.

It seems to me that making an attempt to understand one's opponent is not a sign of weakness. It's wisdom (and, frankly, it's also good strategy). Acknowledging the complexities and various causes behind someone's bad behavior is an important step towards stopping that behavior.

And in the case of these somali's, the roots of their behavior are complex indeed.