In Defense of Pirates

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Sun, 04/12/2009 - 20:05.

In Defense of Pirates
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-kilkenny/in-defense-of-pirates_b_\
185450.html
> 4-10-09 Huffington Post by Allison Kilkenny
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-kilkenny/in-defense-of-pirates_b_1\
85450.html

<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-kilkenny/in-defense-of-pirates_b_\
185450.html
>

If I'm to believe the mainstream press
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/09/2540458.htm?section=world\
> and pundits (most disappointingly, Rachel Maddow
<http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#30145589> ,) there are bands of
inexplicably evil men sailing around the Horn of Africa, pillaging
ships and terrorizing sailors simply because they are pirates. And
pirates are evil. End of story.

Except, that's a rather shallow interpretation of what's happening in
the Somalian waters. Acts of piracy are acts of desperation, and not
the acts of evil men. Of course, terrorizing civilians is never
acceptable, though I would like to point out my own government is guilty
of crimes against humanity that far exceed any acts of Somalian piracy.

In his excellent article
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/you-are-being-lied-to-abo_b_1\
55147.html
> , Johann Hari writes of a fascinating exchange between
Alexander the Great and a pirate. The pirate was captured and brought
before Alexander.

[Alexander] demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of
the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing
the whole earth; but 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."
Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today - but who is the
robber? Hari went into further detail about Somalian pirates when I
interviewed him for my show Citizen Radio
<http://wearecitizenradio.com/> . During the interview, he explained
that Somalian pirates are actually poor fishermen. It was only after
Somalian waters were poisoned by western nations, and the livelihoods of
Somalian fisherman were destroyed, that civilians turned to acts of
piracy as means of survival.
What happened in Somalia is that in 1991, the Somalian government
collapsed and the country imploded. Two processes began in different
parts of Somalia; bearing in mind it has a 3000 km coastline. A
European shipping fleet, mostly Spanish, Italian and some British came
along and basically started industrially fishing Somalian fish, which
is one of the main sources of food in a starving country. Suddenly
these tiny little fishermen with nets were being out fished by these
industrial trawlers and the fish started just disappearing, so there
was a massive increase in hunger in Somalia.

In another part of Somalia, industrial waste from Europe begun to being
dumped just off the coast, because it's expensive to get rid of waste
in Europe [whilst] it costs nothing to take it in a boat and dump it
outside Somalia. The most incredible thing that was dumped was literally
nuclear waste. So after the tsunami, barrels of all sorts of random
shit started to wash up on the coast of Somalia, including nuclear
waste that we now know [as a result] radiation sickness killed around
300 people but no ones bothering to count or check. That's [what] the
UN special envoys estimate to me was, 300 died, could be far more, no
one's looking, cleaning or doing anything.

Imagine if this happened in Florida, imagine if the government of
Florida didn't have any resources and suddenly Italians came, stole all
the fish and everyone was going bust in Florida, and they started
dumping nuclear waste. People of Florida would be calling for the
nuking of Italy.

The Somalians with very limited resources sent what they called the
'National Volunteer Coast Guard' to try and stop these people, and the
people we call pirates call themselves the coast guard. This is not that
implausible when you bear in mind the context. It's absolutely true that
the some pirates have committed unacceptable acts, I don't believe it's
ever right to take a hostage, [but] they haven't killed anyone, harmed
anyone, but they have taken hostages. That's not right, they do it to
get money but they then in some cases give it back to [their]
communities, which have been desecrated in several instances. So it's a
good example of how something is presented as mindless insanity when
actually it's actually completely different.
Pundits (even our beloved Progressive pundits) adore simplicity, and
the pirate coverage off the coast of Somalia presented to them an
orgasmic, cartoonish stand-off between "noble seamen," and "evil
pirates."
The truth is more complicated than that.
Somalians live in a shockingly volatile environment complete with stark
poverty and religious fundamentalism. Their environment has been
poisoned by the west, their source of food and income destroyed, and now
desperate men are resorting to desperate acts.

To stress again: it's never acceptable to harm civilians, and
hostage-taking is never a valid means of negotiation. Still, when
considering the stress placed upon Somalia's civilians, it's actually
pretty surprising that there hasn't been more violence, and that most
nautical conflicts with pirates have been resolved peacefully. (Bryan
Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, even admitted
<http://www.defenselink.mil/News/newsarticle.aspx?id=52969> that "in
most of these cases to date, [the] crews have ultimately been released
unharmed.")

It's important not to demonize Somalians, even the Somalian pirates.
When we demonize our enemies, they become less than human, and it
becomes easy to apply such blanket rhetoric as "terrorists."
Demonization (particularly by our media) allows hawkish figures an
excuse to say that Somalia "must be invaded," that poor fisherman AKA
pirates "must be destroyed," and that the "axis of evil" has a new peg.
Johann Hari's official website: http://www.johannhari.com/
<http://www.johannhari.com/> Allison Kilkenny's official website is
here: allisonkilkenny.com <http://allisonkilkenny.wordpress.com/> .
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