Monday, 18 January 2010


     Once more we ignorant Westerners are spending scarce resources going after symptoms while ignoring root causes.  Europeans and North American navies are now hunting Somali pirates, known to Somalis as their Coast Guard.  This desperately poor nation of 9 million relied heavily on its fisheries.
     When the country collapsed in 1991, European trawlers moved in to steal some $300 million per year in tuna, having denuded their own seas.  Then elements of the Italian Mafia, hired by European hospitals and factories to dispose of hazardous waste cheaply, dumped it into the unguarded Somali waters.  When a tsunami hit, hundreds of barrels of nuclear waste washed ashore, killing over 300 Somalis with radiation.  Having no strong government to speak for them, the pleas of Somalis went unheeded.
     This scribe has long argued that force begets force and injustice begets injustice.  In the heyday of piracy in the 1600s and 1700s pirates had glamour and sympathy from the common folk and some pirates were actually saved from the gallows by throngs of supporters.  Pirates were boys who who had been seized by press gangs to serve for long years at sea on naval and merchant ships.  Treatment varied with captains but too often it was long and arduous work on poor food, little shore time, and the frequent, painful lashes of the cat o' nine tails, and keel hauling.  When mutinees succeeded the liberated crews resorted to piracy to survive.  Usually they elected their own captains and shared the spoils equally.  They also welcomed and treated as equals escaped slaves.
   With their fish vanishing, young Somali fishermen started seizing, and holding for ransom, foreign fishing boats.  A ransoms mounted they were able to afford better boats and weapons.  It was not until they began seizing oil tankers and ships carrying relief supplies that Western navies got involved.  Ransoms, now in the millions of dollars, also were a factor. 
     Piracy, of course, must be stopped but is it not a crime for us to be selective?  We can never justify hunting Somali pirates without hunting those who started it all by stealing fish and dumping wastes.
     Someday, Hollywood will make a movie glorifying Somali Pirates.