In 1991 the government of Somalia collapsed. Since then its nine million people have been wavering on the brink of starvation. Like vultures circling a potential carcass, the World–particularly the Western powers–swooped in to feed off her vast African resources. When the feeble woman dying a slow, agonizing death attempted to ward off the merciless birds, they had the audacity to cry â€œfoul!â€ So far, the jury in the court of public opinion has heard only one side of the issue. But the Good Book says that â€œThe person who tells one side of a story seems right, until someone else comes and asks questions.â€ (Prov. 18:17; New Century Version) Or, as another translation puts it: â€œThe first speech in a court case is always convincing–until the cross-examination starts!â€ (Prov. 18:17; The Message) After a brief review of the history of piracy, letâ€™s consider the other side.
Pirate History: During the â€œgolden age of piracyâ€ from 1650-1730 the British government spread propaganda that pirates were savages of the seas when in reality they were young, poor, hungry, White males from Londonâ€™s East End who were recruited by the Royal Navy and were savagely beaten, inhumanely mistreated, and grossly cheated while at sea.Â â€œPirates were the first people to rebel against this world,â€ states Johann Hari in the January 5, 2009, issue of The Independent, a British newspaper. â€œThey mutinied against their tyrannical captains, and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively.â€ Interestingly, â€œThey even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals,â€ and â€œwere often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds.â€ In his book Villains of All Nations historian Marcus Rediker noted that â€œthey were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.â€
Americaâ€™s Pirates: Before you shine that holier-than-thou halo hanging over your head, you may be surprised to know that good old George Washington, Americaâ€™s first president, and the revolutionary leadership employed the use of pirates to protect the territorial waters of the America of 1776. â€œDespite that Britain dismissed the commissioned pirates as banditry and criminals,â€ states independent Somalia news Web site Wardheernews.com, â€œAmericans in general viewed their pirate militia as volunteer sons and daughters responding to a call for a higher purpose.â€ This is not too dissimilar from how Somalis feel about their â€œpirates.â€ According to a survey taken by Wardheernews.com, 70 percent of Somalis â€œstrongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the countryâ€™s territorial waters.â€ They see their â€œpiratesâ€ as â€œâ€˜people defending their God-givenâ€™ natural marine resources.â€Â
Europeâ€™s â€˜Fishyâ€™ Business: European countries have decimated their own fish-stocks by massive exploitation. So, to meet the demand for seafood, they are raping the coastal waters of Somalia. â€œMore 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,â€ says The Independent. The affect on local fisherman? With their livelihood hijacked, theyâ€™re starving. Mohammed Hussein, from Marka, south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: â€œIf nothing is done, there soon wonâ€™t be much fish left in our coastal waters.â€
Europeâ€™s Nuclear Wastes: Since 2000 commercial ships from the European Union have dumped nuclear waste and radioactive materials from European hospitals and factories off the shores of Somalia. In an effort to save money and circumvent international laws on the illegal dumping of nuclear wastes certain European countries have even employed the Italian Mafia to do the dirty work of ridding themselves of urban refuse. The Independent reports: â€œAfter 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.â€
The coastal population broke out in strange rashes, became nauseated, and had malformed babies. The UN envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, is quoted as saying: â€œSomebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury–you name it.â€ When asked what European governments were doing about it he sighed: â€œNothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.â€ So, on one end theyâ€™re illegally dumping waste, and on the other end theyâ€™re illicitly collecting seafood.
Somaliaâ€™s â€œPiratesâ€: According to sources inside Somalia, most of the countries so-called â€œpiratesâ€ were â€œdoctors, engineers, pilots, computer scientists, professors and so on.â€ One â€œpirateâ€ leader, Sugule Ali, said their motive was â€œto 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.â€ Somali fishermen banded together and called themselves the â€œVolunteer Coastguard of Somalia.â€ Are there actual Somali criminals among those patrolling coastal waters? Absolutely. Theyâ€™re exploiting the situation along with the China, the US, the French, and the rest of the EU. And, though this might be a bit simplistic: I havenâ€™t seen any Somali pirate ships off the coast of California lately. Neither have I heard that theyâ€™ve been off any other part of the east or west coasts of our nation. Have you?
No, itâ€™s not â€œSomalia vs. the World.â€ Itâ€™s â€œThe World vs. Somalia.â€ Writer Hari of The Independent put it best when he concluded: â€œThe 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 â€˜what he meant by keeping possession of the sea.â€™ The pirate smiled, and responded: â€˜What do you mean by seizing the whole earth? 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.â€™ Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today, but who is the robber?â€ Peace. Out.