Well, what do you know – there’s more to the Somalian piracy stories than meets the eye. Far from being the eye-patched privateer chancers that the term ‘pirate’ conjures up, they’re desperate people trying to make a living and protect their homeland from exploitation by more developed nations who’ve seen fit to take advantage of the political instability of the area.
Sure, their methods are rough (and definitely illegal), but what are a people without a government to defend them supposed to do when foreigners start trawling their waters for fish and dumping nuclear waste?
This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence”.
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 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.”
There are two sides to every story, as the old saying goes. That said, it’s interesting to note that this article is by the same guy who did the hatchet-job on Dubai the other day… [via BoingBoing; image by Paul Keleher]
34 thoughts on “The truth about Somali pirates”
I knew there was some way that this was totally the West’s fault. Those poor oppressed pirates. If the West would just appreciate their culture, they could go back to stoning adolescent girls for adultry after being gang-raped.
you mean if the west would stop gang-raping their natural resources . .
what the heck does this have to do with Islam?
Ah, the good ol’ “defense of necessity”. “We had to kidnap them and extort millions from them and maybe kill them, because they were fishing ‘our’ water and dumping nuclear waste”. Even when (as with 99.9% of the ships seized) they were neither fishing boats nor nuclear waste disposal ships.
What a load of goatcrap.
News to some: *every* nation on earth has people of *other* nations trawling “their” fish. Strangely, few of them kidnap, ransom and kill over it, no matter how hungry they get. Funny thing is that the fish don’t seem to think that they belong to Somalia, or any other nation.
Likewise, *every* nation has to put up with the toxic crap spewed by other nations, if not their own as well. The truly amusing thing about your angle is that there’s no way in hell that illiterate Somali fishermen have the slightest clue what nuclear waste is, or the capacity to recognize its effects (even if the claims are true).
As for “ordinary Somalis agree” — well, no shit! And “ordinary Americans” overwhelmingly “agreed” that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, and that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were bosom buddies. If only majority public opinion translated into reality, you might have something there.
@Robert: You’re completely wrong in your sentiments.
Yes. But in most cases there is the opportunity for the locals to negotiate with those who do the fishing. In this case it is a question of huge trawlers coming in and taking everything and leaving the local fishermen with precisely nothing, and with no legal recourse.
Huh? But they don’t go hungry because in developed countries/actual countries the locals can buy in food from elsewhere or sue those who are overfishing their waters.
Yeah, well we’re working on that aren’t we?
I don’t know what the Somali for “stuff that makes people sick and kills babies” is. Maybe we can look it up?
As to the veracity of the claims: I doubt very much that the UN envoy to Somalia is an illiterate dope in the habit of making unfounded accusations.
The point of the article is that Western companies are behaving in a disgusting manner towards the people of Somalia, and as such the emergence of the pirates is not a straightforward case of good vs. evil.
So Americans have a right to democracy and Somalis don’t?
“@Robert: You’re completely wrong in your sentiments.”
*Y a w n*
“But in most cases there is the opportunity for the locals to negotiate with those who do the fishing.”
What “opportunity for the locals to negotiate” has there been vis-a-vis Russian and Norwegian trawlers that have, for the past 60 years, fished each others’ disputed territorial waters? What has there been between Argentina and the British trawlers that have fished the Argentine coast? Or the ever-intractable Japanese, who have fished almost everything within 1,000nm of their own coast? What “opportunity” has there been to negotiate with them regarding them essentially “fishing” whales off the coast of Australia? Zero. Unless you have the political and military might to prevent it, you can expect to have your waters fished by foreigners. That’s a rule as old as the history of territory.
“But they don’t go hungry because in developed countries/actual countries the locals can buy in food from elsewhere or sue those who are overfishing their waters.”
The entire Somali fishing “industry” until the mid-’70s, consisted of about 800 small (20-30 foot) wooden boats, vastly incapable of feeding a nation of 9 million, even if Somalis wanted to eat fish, which they don’t. The Somali diet largely ignores fish, preferring goat, lamb, beef and pasta. And fishermen have long been required by their own government to sell their fish to government collectives for export since, once again, fish plays a trivial role in the Somali diet. Your notion of Somalis being deprived of “their” fish is nonsense.
According to Wikipedia, “Somalia received aid from Denmark, Great Britain, Iraq, Japan, Sweden, USSR and West Germany to develop their fishing industry. The fishing industry comprised either cooperatives which had fixed prices for the catch, *which was often exported due to the low demand for seafood in Somalia*. Aid money improved the ships and supported the construction of maintenance facilities. After the Barre regime the income from fishing decreased due to the civil war…Millions of Somalis depend on food aid and in 2008, according to the World Bank, as much as 73% of the population lived on a daily income below $2. These factors and the lucrative success of many hijacking operations have drawn a number of young men toward gangs of pirates whose wealth and strength often make them part of the local social and economic elite. Abdi Farah Juha who lives in Garoowe (100 miles from the sea) told the BBC ‘They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day. They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns.'”
THAT is the story behind the story, not “poor Somalis, oppressed by foreigners”, but rather, poor Somalis, oppressing each other through 18 years of tribal warfare (killing 300-400,000 of their own) and ruthless personal socio-economic climbing. Piracy is just the latest vehicle for that.
“As to the veracity of the claims: I doubt very much that the UN envoy to Somalia is an illiterate dope in the habit of making unfounded accusations.”
Indeed. And here is what he said: “Piracy will not prevent waste dumping. The intentions of these pirates are not concerned with protecting their environment.” (interview in Al-Jazeera, Nov. 11, 2008)
I wrote “If only majority public opinion translated into reality, you might have something there”, to which you replied “So Americans have a right to democracy and Somalis don’t?”
Who said anything about “democracy”?! Do you really believe that “majority public opinion” equals “democracy”? And yes, I believe that Somalis have a right to democracy. But the fact that they have instead chosen socialist despots like Siad Barre, tribalism, balkanization and civil war suggests that democracy is low on their list of values.
Oh — and I forgot to mention that, of the 106 ships that Somali pirates have taken hostage in the past 5 years, exactly 11 of them have been fishing boats, and exactly _none_ of them have been ships suspected of dumping toxic waste. If Somali pirates’ main motivation was to stop foreigners from fishing their waters and from dumping toxic waste, it’s curious that only 1 in 10 of the ships they’ve intercepted have had anything to do with those two problems. Clearly, their motivation is profit, and those profits are in no way spread throughout Somali society; the hundreds of millions in ransom money has remain consolidated in the hands of a few hundred pirates and corrupt government officials.
Furthermore, many of the ships that the pirates have attacked have been carrying foreign aid to famine-stricken Somalis. What have these “freedom fighters” done with the food, clothing, blankets, medicine and other aid supplies? Distribute them at aid centers? Give them to the 3.25 million Somalis who rely entirely on foreign food aid for their survival? Hardly. They sell them on the black market, thus inflating their profits.
Only recently I said there must be more to all this, and then the nuclear waste dumping comes up. Fishing, will not be an issue in years to come, once we’ve poisoned our sea’s.
Nobody has confirmed nor denied whether or not Nuclear Waste has been dumped in the waters off the African coast.
If nuclear waste have been dumped, then whether or not the pirates are really gangster pirate or the Somalia Volunteer Coast Guard doesn’t matter, what matters is that such dumping is taking place. If so, why not off our own shores, or those of the other countries involved? What would we do? If we even thought somebody was threatening our security, our national health? Just ask Saddam. That’s right.
Are our soldiers considered Liberators of the Oppressed? Our Imperialist Militants? It’s all depends on our point of view.
But facts are facts. Is there nuclear waste being dumped off the coast of Somalia? yes or no, and where’s the documentation?
Ross Howard wrote “If nuclear waste have been dumped, then whether or not the pirates are really gangster pirate or the Somalia Volunteer Coast Guard doesn’t matter, what matters is that such dumping is taking place. If so, why not off our own shores, or those of the other countries involved?”
It doesn’t matter? I assure you that it matters to the hundreds of innocent people being held hostage (and those who care about them), especially since several pirates have said that they will now start executing hostages. It matters also to those who rely upon aid for their survival, aid that is now being delayed due to piracy.
The piracy issue and the toxic waste dumping issue are two totally separate matters. They are both important, but they are not mutually dependent. And some of the nations who have been accused of dumping waste include land-locked nations like Switzerland.
yes sure there is no link between toxic waste dumping and piracy just like all BBC and CNN watching good little citizens of the Brave New World know that there is no link between the US war to bring democracy to Iraq and oil
“yes sure there is no link between toxic waste dumping and piracy just like all BBC and CNN watching good little citizens of the Brave New World know that there is no link between the US war to bring democracy to Iraq and oil”
That’s a particularly pathetic false equivalency. How about you actually SHOW the connection, instead of just resorting to handwaving? The UN’s own Ambassador to Somalia says that there isn’t a connection (see his quote above).
If the pirates were so concerned about toxic waste dumping, why aren’t (1) they targeting the ships allegedly dumping it?, (2) they using the profits from their millions in ransom money to clean up the waste, treat the victims, etc.?
I have read everything that the Somalia’s envoy to the UN has said about
the problem, here is the link from Aljazeera where u can read it as well
if u r really interested in the issue that is, but of course ur approach
is a typical Bush Blair one isnt it, who cares about the Somalis, poor
land locked Switzerland! lets go kick the ass of those sand niggers
its quite amazing, the Somalis practically dont have a government,
the Somali people are afflicted with radiation disease and poverty,
the fishermen have been deprived of their livelihood but God forbid
that any one cleans up their act, no better go and bomb the shit
out of anyone who simply got tired of taking crap, lets just
concentrate on those pirates and ignore the real problems like nuclear
waste, afterall its not our shores is it!
1. Al-Jazeera isn’t the most unbiased source on such matters, being an Islamist news service, reporting on Muslims v/s non-Muslims. The author of that piece is also a Muslim. No, that doesn’t prove that the article is biased, but it raises the possibility.
2. The UN Ambassador to Somalia, whose credibility is quite good, has explicitly stated that the pirates are not motivated by ecological concerns. Read his quote, above.
3. So far, the pirates have extorted more than $166 million JUST IN THE PAST 18 MONTHS. How much of that money has been spent on cleaning up the toxic waste? NOT ONE DIME, as near as I can tell. Know otherwise? Post information here. Surely $166 million could bankroll a massive clean-up effort. AFAIK, it has never been undertaken. But many pirates _are_ now living in luxury unknown to them before their piracy.
4. “but of course ur approach is a typical Bush Blair one isnt it”
What utter tripe. I’ve been a member of the Greens for over 20 years, I volunteered on Obama’s campaign, I’m a vegan and an animal rights activist. I have zero in common with Bush or Blair. But unlike you and some others here, I recognize that spouting nonsense like this article does, causes more harm to progressives’ credibility than it does good. You’re being just as knee-jerk reactionary as the most strident right-wing Bible-thumping Bushites.
The allegations have been made by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
i suppose u find them a biased source as well
and the link u r looking for between waste dumping and piracy is called
btw why do people think that Obama is better than Bush and Blair,
nothing has changed except skin colour and ok i have to admit the
literacy and alcohol levels in the case of Bush
@Robert, your knowledge is very clearly based on assumptions and misunderstood facts. We’re grown ups, there’s no need to start putting people down with your attempted insults. Do your research, you yourself are being bias, what does it matter if a source is Muslim? If the information is good then it doesn’t matter, otherwise you’re basing the possibility of truth soley on a persons religious background. (which means you’re being bias and a hypocrite incase you didn’t catch that)
I agree that this whole “pirate” issue is not justified, but I also believe there has been foul play on both sides. The U.S has a lot of bad karma as much as it has good karma.
saman wrote “The allegations have been made by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) i suppose u find them a biased source as well”
The allegations of what? That other countries have been dumping toxic waste in Somali waters? That may very well be true, but it affects the legitimacy or illegitimacy of piracy by Somalis not one whit. Again, see the statement of the U.N.’s own envoy to Somalia: “Piracy will not prevent waste dumping. The intentions of these pirates are not concerned with protecting their environment”.
saman wrote “and the link u r looking for between waste dumping and piracy is called poverty”
More codswallop. If waste dumping justified piracy, then any American individual, group or state would be justified in kidnapping members of the Federal Government, if that government had dumped toxic waste in their backyard. No, I take that back: the more accurate analogy would be for those individuals, groups or states to kidnap totally random individuals and hold them for ransom, since the victims of the Somali pirates have NOTHING to do with the waste-dumping.
And poverty justifies kidnapping, being shot at, etc.? You’re delusional, and very likely dangerous. So if I’m poor enough, I should be able to kidnap you and hold you ransom until your family can cough up the money. Makes perfect sense.
vee wrote “Robert, your knowledge is very clearly based on assumptions and misunderstood facts.”
Actually, I’m the only one here citing facts, rather than just trotting out the same tired Lefty talking points. Has anyone provided facts regarding a connection between piracy and toxic waste dumping? Nope. How about facts regarding a connection between piracy and foreign fishing boats? Nope. Facts about where the pirates are spending the money (e.g., on cleaning up the dumping)? Nope. This article and its cheering section have very few facts to offer, so they employ hand-waving, weasel words and appeals to sympathy (those poor Somalis!)
“We’re grown ups, there’s no need to start putting people down with your attempted insults.”
“Attempted insults”? I presume you’re referring to “knee-jerk reactionary”, since that’s the most insulting thing I’ve said here. And I stand by it.
“Do your research”
I HAVE done the research. And I’m still awaiting anything resembling research from the other side (see my point above about the lack of any connections between toxic waste dumping, over-fishing by foreigners, piracy and where/how the pirates’ profits are spent).
“you yourself are being bias, what does it matter if a source is Muslim?”
What does it matter if a source is Republican? What does it matter if a source is Zionist? What does it matter if a source is Scientologist?
“If the information is good then it doesn’t matter, otherwise you’re basing the possibility of truth soley on a persons religious background. (which means you’re being bias and a hypocrite incase you didn’t catch that)”
News to you: Islam isn’t just a religion; it’s a culture. And I’m not implicating “a person”, but a news service that is outspokenly pro-Muslim. It was founded by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, a repressive Sunni Muslim monarchy where the majority of residents are foreign workers who live in circumstances tantamount to slavery. Al Jazeera shows an obvious pro-Muslim, anti-Israel/anti-West bias; I’m hardly the first person to suggest this.
“I agree that this whole ‘pirate’ issue is not justified, but I also believe there has been foul play on both sides. The U.S has a lot of bad karma as much as it has good karma.”
How does the US or its “karma” even tenuously figure in this story?!
God u really sound upset Robert! and a bit paranoid, nobody is saying
the priates are good for God’s sake, all that is being said is that
the situation got created because of the large scale destruction of the
coast of a country that is already a complete disaster zone and that
the problem cannot be fixed by going and gunning down the pirates
but by recognizing the entire problem which includes the waste dumping
not that there is any hope u will ever be able to see it that way
cause u r totally concentrated on those pirates, i am sensing a leaning
towards delusional paranoia, u think i am dangerous
Robert, I’m not saying you are incorrect in your assessments of the Somali
pirates. Some of what you write is true and makes sense. But the thought
of European (white) and their descendents passing judgement on others when
it comes to murder and robbery, is like Satan calling Hitler evil.
saman wrote “God u really sound upset Robert! and a bit paranoid…i am sensing a leaning towards delusional paranoia”
Oh, please — an amateur psychoanalysis from someone apparently incapable of spelling or using punctuation! Sorry, but I’m in no way upset, paranoid or delusional. At worst, I’m annoyed by bleeding-heart reactionary drivel.
“all that is being said is that the situation got created because of the large scale destruction of the coast of a country that is already a complete disaster zone and that the problem cannot be fixed by going and gunning down the pirates but by recognizing the entire problem which includes the waste dumping not that there is any hope u will ever be able to see it that way cause u r totally concentrated on those pirates”
No, the situation DID NOT get “created because of the large scale destruction of the coast”. That has NEVER been demonstrated. Indeed, for the reasons I’ve already cited many times, it’s clearly NOT connected. I’ll try one last time to see if it will finally sink in:
1. Since fishing has never been a major revenue or food source for the Somalis, why would the piracy be in response to foreigners over-fishing Somali waters and poisoning the fish with toxins?
2. IF the piracy were due to coastal destruction, why is it that the ships the pirates target are NOT those doing the destruction?
3. IF the piracy were actually due to coastal destruction, why is it that the hundreds of millions of dollars the pirates have taken in have NOT been spent on any restoration of that coast?
4. IF the piracy were actually due to coastal destruction, why is it that the UN’s Ambassador to Somalia says that the pirates have nothing to do with saving their environment?
If you can answer those 4 questions, maybe we can get somewhere. Otherwise, you’re just repeating the same tired old claims, contradicted by logic and evidence.
Paul Bennett wrote “But the thought of European (white) and their descendents passing judgement on others when it comes to murder and robbery, is like Satan calling Hitler evil.”
I disagree. Are you suggesting that NO group on earth has the right to criticize another, unless they have no history of doing bad things? If so, then no group can be exempt. HOWEVER, some groups/societies have learned from the past and are no longer committing the same injustices that others are.
I presume you are willing to agree that the Swedes are, at present, ethically superior in general to say, the Somalis. After all, Swedes respect the rule of law, they extend full human rights and full equality for people regardless of their gender, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual identity, etc. They provide full care for anyone needing it. They have not been the belligerent party in any conflict for many decades. There are OBJECTIVE metrics by which we can say that a society that practices tribalism, is lawless, that kills women for being “witches”, that practices genital mutilation on young girls, where rape is common, etc. — is ethically inferior to other nations. To claim that all nations occupy the same moral ground is a fiction; as much of a fiction as to say that Pol Pot and Mohandas Gandhi occupied the same moral ground. With that in mind, cultures who recognize that piracy and wholesale kidnapping are wrong are justified in condemning those cultures who do not recognize it.
I presume you are willing to agree that it is justifiable for any nation on earth that has long abolished slavery, to criticize the practice of taking slaves that goes on in at least a half-dozen African nations today.
Well, yes; but if we’re talking history it’s worth remembering that the economics of slave trading was given a considerable boost by those Western nations that have now left it behind. Many countries in Africa are at a different stage of ethical development to the more fortunate countries that colonised and/or exploited them, and it wouldn’t be a massive logical leap to claim that many of the social and economic problems in the region are at least connected to interference and exploitation by developed nations in the comparatively recent past.
You’re arguing two polar opposites – that the pirates are blameless due to circumstance, or that the pirates are operating in isolation from external factors. As with most things, I suspect the reality lies somewhere along the spectrum of moral grey between the two; neither is a hard and verifiable truth.
Robert,are u genuinely unawre of the fact that making generalizations
about the collective ethical standards of any culture or group is called
prejudice, or when nobody is looking u love to take out that old KKK
outfit and have a little party
btw before u rush to take your high moral ground Robert why dont u read anis
article by Noam Chomsky called the Somalia Syndrome, i think it will
greatly improve ur information and mental health
US forces were immediately withdrawn in a manner that continued
the murderous ratio. “In the final stages of the troops’ retreat,
every bullet fired against them was answered, it seemed, by 100,” Los Angeles Times correspondent John Balzar reported.
As for the Somali casualties, Marine Lt. Gen. Anthony Zinni, who commanded the operation,
informed the Press that “I’m not counting bodies … I’m not interested.”
The above is one little bit from Chomsky’s article
here is another little bit
CIA officials privately conceded that during the US operations in Somalia, in which 34 US soldiers were lost, Somali casualties — militiamen and civilians — may have been 7,000 to 10,000, Charles William Maynes reported in Foreign Policy.
and a bit more:
The Ethiopian invasion, with US backing and direct participation, took place immediately after the U.N. Security Council, at U.S. initiative, passed Resolution 1725 for Somalia, which called upon all states “to refrain from action that could provoke or perpetuate violence and violations of human rights, contribute to unnecessary tension and mistrust, endanger the ceasefire and political process, or further damage the humanitarian situation.”
The invasion by Somalia’s historical enemy, Christian Ethiopia, soon elicited a bitter resistance, leading to the present crisis.
and here is what Ron Paul said:
But it’s also the whole mess over there is a reflection of our foreign policy as well because we’ve been involved in Somalia for a long time. You know, Clinton got in a mess over there and Bush hired out the Ethiopians to go in and try to settle the disputes and it was thought to be in our interest to maintain control of that area and I don’t think that is true.
In a December 17, 2008 “Fact Sheet” entitled “United States Actions on Somalia Piracy,” the Bush State Department declared:
The United States recognizes piracy is a symptom of the lack of stability, security, economic development, and rule of law on the ground. Addressing these deficits in Somalia. Therefore, the United States recognizes the need for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it Robert
Saman, you clearly have some valid points to make, but by framing them in ad hominem digs you’re actually making your arguments less powerful. Or to put it another way: accusing someone who doesn’t agree with you of being a member of the KKK is to act in exactly the same sweepingly prejudicial manner that you’re so opposed to.
To be clear: this site welcomes debate, and I’m glad you’re raising quoted items in support of your side of the story (though links to sources would be a great addition). But I would like to ask you to keep it civil and polite, please.
that wasnt an accusation, it was a reminder, cause
Robert is talking about the “moral superiority of cultures” that do not
endorse “kidnapping” over “cultures” that endorse it, these are exactly
the kind of faulty thinking and opinions because of which it is possible
to invent and sustain fictions such as the “war on terror” and kill over a
million people for oil with impunity, to send more weapons and soldiers to
Afghanistan to fight a war which is being funded by the heroin trade, the
same heroin by the way that ends up in the streets of Europe and the US
it is because of these seemingly respectable opinions which are in fact
based on prejudice that the mainstream media can sell lies again and
again, one day they will convince you that it is ok to go and bomb the
shit out of Serbs because of the Bosnian and Kosovo muslims for whom
Osama Bin Laden was working and the next day they will convince you
that it is ok to think of attacking Iran because they hang gays regardless
of the fact that USA’s own intelligence agencies do not consider Iran
Robert said at one point that i am dangerous, no man, i am not dangerous
prejudices are dangerous, it is dangerous not to recognize that
humanbeings are the same everywhere, they have the same rights and
responsibilities, that human rights cannot be protected by those who
think that some humans are “more equal than others”
and sure Paul i would like to keep things civil and polite, thanks for
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