pirates of penitence: country on the bounty

Perhaps its all about confused notions of moral superiority. A convenient enough illusion to shackle democracy in Africa or the Middle East that uses Islamic extremism as a wedge. Would democracy imperil the imperial project? In the West’s attack on Somali piracy, are the pirate leaders martinets or martyrs? The contradictory accounts seem perplexing.

Its not exactly Mr. Roberts or the HMS Pinafore, more like Captain Bligh…How about those Somali pirates.They refer to themselves as saviors of the sea.  Although it would serve our interests to connect them with an opposing ideology to our own choice of brands, and preach the rhetoric that they are linked with radical islam the truth on deck is that for a pirate there is no ideology. Its all about the cash. Even if the waters were clean and territorial waters respected, they no longer care about fishing. Fishing is a convenient pretext and animated the initial movement of piracy but now its strictly dogma.

---Eric Prince, the controversial founder of the even more controversial mercenary firm Blackwater (now called “Xe”) has a new gig … chasing pirates in Somalia. From Wired: The New York Times cites a confidential African Union report claiming Prince is “at the top of the management chain” of Saracen International, a South African security company that’s trying to work with both the embattled Somali government and the breakaway region of Puntland. In Puntland, Saracen is putting together a 1050-strong anti-pirate militia, something the international community has greeted with caution. And in Mogadishu, it wants to do what western militaries don’t: protect government officials, train the rump Somali army to fight the Qaeda-aligned al-Shebaab insurgency — and maybe do a little Shebaab-fighting of their own.---Read More:http://blog.reidreport.com/2011/01/blackwater-founder-has-alleged-role-in-pirate-hunting-militia-in-somalia/ image:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/26cttheater.html

Jeff Jetton: I’m also curious about your views on Somali piracy. I imagine that in Somalia [the pirates] are hailed as heroes, kind of modern day Robin Hoods. In your view can we really blame these rogue warriors for developing out of the ashes of failed states.

Noam Chomsky: You can understand what they’re doing. I’m not in favor of piracy, the acts of violence. But the source of the piracy is in the West, actually Europe more than the United States. First of all the waters near Somalia were used for fishing. Well, they’ve been heavily polluted, mostly by Europe, Saudi Arabia, and the United States marginally. The toxic waste has destroyed the waters there. They can’t fish. The state itself had a function — I mean, it has a long complicated history but just recently there was a sort of functioning government, the Islamic Courts, a couple years ago. The U.S. ran through a Security Council resolution calling on all states not to interfere in Somalia and it immediately violated it by supporting an Ethiopian invasion, which just tore the place to shreds….

Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. Fess Parker. Chomsky:But there's a further background. During the so-called War on Terror, the Treasury department found a charity -- a big charity, which they claimed was funding terrorists. So that was their big triumph. They closed down this charity. I mean, they later conceded that they were wrong, they weren't doing anything, but it turned out that this charity they helped close down was keeping Somalia alive. It was a major source of income for Somalia, and it even was developing banks, and businesses, and so on. So when they pulled the rug out from under them, that really shafted the economy, not much of an economy to begin with, but when you pull out a big segment like that, it's harmful. Read More:http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20090513.htm image:http://www.reporternews.com/photos/galleries/2010/mar/18/fess-parker-abilene/15692/

…Now it’s a collection of raging militias. So yeah, they have a lot of problems and we have a big hand. One of the consequences of that is piracy. I don’t like piracy but if anybody’s concerned about piracy, why don’t they pay attention to our role in it? Just two nights ago in New York I was at an event about the Mali Marmara. Now that’s international piracy, and the U.S. is all over it. It’s very serious and it’s been going on for thirty years. For thirty years, Isreal has been highjacking ships in international waters, killing people, taking hostages, bringing them to Israel, putting them in secret prisons, all with the help of the United States. That’s serious piracy.Read More: http://chomsky.info/interviews/20110309.htma

---What did you find about the connection between the Shabab (the Somali-based group with links to Al Qaeda and designated a terrorist organization in Canada) and Puntland’s pirates? This was high on my agenda as obviously everyone wants to know about the Islamists. Immediately I was going and asking every pirate, ‘Do you give money to Islamists?Do you give money to Islamists?’ and the answer was always, ‘No.’ Really, I didn’t see that much of a reason of why they would lie to me. Southern Somalia where (the Shabab) was operating really is another world, different clan, they spoke derisively of the Shabab and thought they were lunatics and had no political consciousness of their cause. . . . Another reason is that the Shabab doesn’t control any of the areas where the pirates are operating out of so why would you pay (the Shabab) protection money? Read More:http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1038907--riding-with-the-pirates-in-somalia?bn=1 image:http://www.doctormacro.com/Movie%20Summaries/M/Mutiny%20on%20the%20Bounty%20%281962%29.htm

The Somali pirate story does not seem that inherently different than the London rioters. A spontaneous reaction to diminished fishing leading to looting on the sea. Both are a deep convulsion in the very bowels of society, an outburst of anguish and despair with economics as a root cause. And riots and piracy work far more often than not. Some get caught and face justice, but the vast bulk go scot-free, with loot and win immediate short-term aims. Another gain for both groups is the release of social emotion: revenge as well as windfall. The looting of shops and the sacking of vessels and hostages is an almost orgiastic release of hatred and frustration.

…At the age of 24, bored with his job in market research and fascinated by Somalia’s pirates, aspiring journalist Jay Bahadur packed his bags and left Toronto for the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, in northern Somalia, to live among the pirates.

He arrived after the kidnapping of another Canadian, Amanda Lindout, and British journalist Colin Freeman, who was snatched in the very region whe

ahadur was headed. But with some prep work, and a lot of good fortune, Bahadur managed to stay safe and gain the trust of the fabled pirates — romanticized by many Somalis as the guardians of the sea, fighting illegal fishing off their shore, and by the international community as a deadly and expensive scourge from a country plagued with problems.

Over a period of two six-week trips, starting at the beginning of 2009, Bahadur immersed himself in their world. He tells much of the story in his book The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World through Boyah, one of the “old boys,” an original Puntland buccaneer. After Bahadur left Somalia, Boyah became sort of a media darling and pirate spokesman. In May 2010, he was arrested and remains in a Somali prison.Read More:http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1038907–riding-with-the-pirates-in-somalia?bn=1

Sheppard: You bust a lot of myths about piracy. One in particular that money goes into the Kenyan neighbourhood of Eastleigh (known as Little Mogadishu)

I just think from a numerical point of view it’s impossible. Eastleigh has been growing since the Kenyan government started liberalizing foreign ownership of land five or 10 years ago.

… or the international links to Somali piracy …

---So the reports of sharing training or weapons? It’s an absurd picture because every Somali knows how to use a gun and if not, there are plenty of other places you could get training to be become an adequate enough marksman to become a pirate . . . There’s no ideology to pirates. It’s just about the money. Read More:http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1038907--riding-with-the-pirates-in-somalia?bn=1

I think part of the confusion with that is that I’ve seen lists that put the number of local investors at 30, roughly. That’s key people on the ground. These local business owners running these endeavours tend to hold foreign passports, so you probably have a number of them holding Canadian passports so people take that to mean, oh there’s an international connection. Yes, but not really … if you want to call that international crime, OK I guess, but conceptually it’s not like that they’re running transnational crime syndicate with money crossing borders all the time, going toward some central organization in the country. Read More:http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1038907–riding-with-the-pirates-in-somalia?bn=1

---You spend a lot of time in the book on the leafy narcotic khat. What’s its importance to the piracy story? Outside of cars, it’s their No. 1 purchase. Maybe it is their No. 1 purchase. . . half of the gang’s operating expenses went to khat. They drove the prices up ... Their money is almost literally chewed up and spit out ... There were stories of them running into the khat market and trying to spend their $100 bills like they were 1,000 shilling notes. I’m sure the mistake was quickly realized, what they were doing but just the fact that this was a widely reported anecdote was indicative that the concept of money wasn’t understood and they didn’t know where it went and in a week or month they’d be broke.---Read More:http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1038907--riding-with-the-pirates-in-somalia?bn=1 image:http://www.moviepostershop.com/guns-of-the-black-witch-movie-poster-1961/


One thing you have to keep is any foreign presence off the ground . . . I’m even skeptical of private security going in. In really weak states like Puntland, you can’t sell off a function of the state before there really is even a state . . . You need actual support and infrastructure. Another idea I like and proposed in the book is a pirate tip hotline . . . (Pirates are) absolutely hated on land. They drive up local prices, they steal women away from their families, they don’t share the wealth; they consume alcohol and khat and piss people off. Read More:http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1038907–riding-with-the-pirates-in-somalia?bn=1

Read More:http://alternativeculture.com/pirates.htm
Pirates hold more than 660 hostages and some 30 ships. Hostages are held in hot, austere conditions in Somalia — typically for many months — before a ransom is agreed on and paid, and the hijacked ships and crew are released.

Last year a British sailing couple were released after 388 days in captivity. Reports indicated that a ransom in the region of $1 million was paid for their release. Somalia hasn’t had a functioning government since 1991, one of the reasons the piracy trade has flourished. Read More:http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2011/03/02/somalia_pirates_danish_hostages_landfall

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