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April 13, 2009


I have no idea whether Western countries have or have not overfished or polluted Somali waters and I have no idea whether most of the pirates are out-of-work Somali fishermen. But are you or Hari seriously trying to justify criminal behavior? Unlike pirates of old, the Somali pirates are not after merchandise; rather they are kidnappers; they are boarding ships to hold the crews hostage in exchange for ransom.

It may be true that Somalis who previously earned their living as fishermen are now in dire economic straits. But so are almost all Somalis. Somalia has been a failed state with no functioning government since 1991. Most of this is the fault of the Somalis themselves (although some U.S. actions have exacerbated the problem). But whatever the causes of Somalia's anarchy and poverty and even if some Western countries have engaged in criminal behavior in Somali waters (dumping of nuclear waste) nothing justifies Somalis or anyone else taking innocent people hostage for ransom, especially the crew of a merchant ship that was trying to bring food and other goods to African countries, including Somalia, for humanitarian purposes.

I'm not justifying anything. I'm asking for a solution to the problem of piracy off the Somalian coast. No reasonable solution can possibly be arrived at without addressing the underlying --and quite obvious-- question:

Why have Somalis suddenly turned to piracy?

Unless you think, along with the rest of the mainstream media, that all we need to deter pirates are brave ship captains and three Navy SEAL sharpshooters.

Number one, well-documented cause, as Craig points out: the failed state in Somalia. I suspect high-seas piracy is one of the largest industries in Somalia today.

We won't be able to dispose of the illicit economy until a legitimate government and economy exist to displace it. Even if the Italian Mafia has been dumping nuclear waste there, we still have to address the failed state in order to stop the piracy.

Meanwhile, sharpshooters are the best thing we've got. You know I'm no militarist, but I thought that was a better ending than the usual delivery of hard cash (which encourages and prolongs the business).

Re: "We won't be able to dispose of the illicit economy until a legitimate government and economy exist to displace it."

Why do WE have the right to DISPOSE of anything in Somalia, Steve? If you want to know why most of the world considers us to be imperialists, examine your own words.

"Until a legitimate government and economy exist" in the U.S., our primary responsibility should be to replace what we've got.

Ron Kuby has been referring to the Somalis in question as "volunteer Coast Guard" and Somali women are lining up to marry their heroes. We must stop accepting the terms used by the Britneystream media, and we must apply the same standards of behavior to ourselves that we apply to others (that's if we want to be taken seriously as moral actors).

The community of nations has a responsibility to address a failed state. The US bears a certain amount of responsibility in its failure, and should not lead the effort.

But a lawless state, especially one that threatens people outside its borders, needs to be addressed.

That's not imperialism, that's civilization.

That's "civilization" as defined by the mafia dons of the world. (Ghandi, asked what he thought of Western Civilization, answered, "I think it would be a good idea.")

The article by Johann Hari is worth reading: You Are Being Lied to About Pirates.

"Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was 'to 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.'"

Furthermore, WE are a country that is imploding economically, politically, morally and spiritually. Who is the Failed State?

Why We Don't Condemn Our Pirates in Somalia:

"We do not want the EU and NATO serving as a shield for these nuclear waste-dumping hoodlums. It seems to me that this new modern crisis is a question of justice, but also a question of whose justice. As is apparent these days, one man's pirate is another man's coast guard."

Last I heard, these incidents are occurring in international waters. How do you propose we deal with that?

My proposal is international support for economic development and democracy in Somalia. Until there's a functional economy and state there, there's no way to address the pirate economy that has filled the power vacuum.

Call me an imperialist if you want, but I'm not hearing any solutions from those defending this ad hoc "coast guard" that's hijacking merchant ships in international waters.

Only a functional Somali state will be able to deal with illegal dumping and fishing in Somali waters... isn't that what you want?

Steve: How do you propose that we deal with the many far more serious crimes that WE are committing daily? It's rank hyprocrisy for us to point fingers at, much less threaten, anyone who is less responsible for criminal behavior than ourselves.

In most of the world, the U.S. is regarded as the leading rogue state and the greatest threat to their existence. Only a functional U.S. state, one that is guided by democratic principles, will be able to deal with the slaughter, torture, ethnic cleansing and economic exploitation for which we are responsible.

My proposals (and those of the majority of Americans, i.e., the American political center):

Accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court; sign the Kyoto protocols on global warming; let the United Nations take the lead in international crises; rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror; and sharply reduce military spending and sharply increase social spending.

"The problems of nuclear war, environmental disaster, those are issues of survival, the top issues and the highest priority for anyone sensible. Third issue is that the U.S. government is enhancing those threats. And a fourth issue is that the U.S. population is opposed, but is excluded from the political system. That’s a democratic deficit." (Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy)

Harry, you've got a knee jerk reaction to what I'm saying. You're preaching (screeching?) to the choir, and man, does it get tedious.

I do not speak on behalf of the US government when I say this: The lack of a functioning government and legitimate economy in Somalia must be addressed, or piracy around the horn of Africa will continue.

Leave Somalia as it is, and we'll continue to have a piracy problem.

I explicitly said the US shouldn't take a lead in this, so the world's opinion of the US is not germane to the discussion.


It appears that you are attempting the impossible -- to talk some sense into someone to whom sense and reality is always filtered through an ultra-extremist ideology.

My humble advice to you is to do what I have done starting many months ago. Ignore him.

Humble advice? No one is less humble than you, Craig, and it's that complete inability to see oneself in context that distorts your (and Steve's) perspective.

And let's be honest for once: Your "advice" to Steve is not "ignoring me". It's passive aggression.

My "ultra-extremist ideology" is justice, democracy and peace. I understand why you Democrats see that as extreme.

Kayse Jama, a Somalian American who founded Portland's Center for INtercultural Organizing has a good essay about the conditions in Somalia and piracy, in Sunday's 4-26 Oregonian.
Here's a quote from Jama:
"If we want to resolve piracy at sea, the international community has to employ approaches that resolve the destitute situation on land. Far less time and money could be spent on this effort if the focus was put on helping the current Somali unity government develop its security forces. Instead of militarizing Somali waters with foreign ships, let's train and equip local police and a functioning navy, and sailors who can at the same time take home a paycheck and proudly defend their country.

At the same time, the international community needs to provide resources and technical assistance for the Somali government to take full control of the country, enabling it to provide basic services to its citizens and opportunities for youth to find alternative ways of earning income.

To build trust among the Somali people and the world they feel abandoned them, open an international criminal investigation to identify and punish corporations and governments that dumped their waste in Somali coastal waters. Stop illegal fishing and help local fishermen to re-establish their industry.

In return, the Somali government and its people must help the international community to completely eliminate piracy and hold offenders accountable. If done in a transparent manner, these solutions can finally create sustainable peace in Somalia. Without these basic steps, no international force will be able to put an end to Somali piracy."


Kasme Jama has it mostly right. As Steve and I have been pointing out, the problems that have given rise to Somali piracy have their origins mostly on land, not at sea. Until the economic and political problems in Somalia are addressed, criminal behavior, including piracy, will not be abated.

Where Jama misleads, however, is when he says that "the Somali government...must help..." The problem is that there is no government in Somalia and there has not been one since 1991. There have been semblances of government -- the Islamic Courts in the early part of this decade, the "provisional government" established by the Western powers and supported by Ethiopia mid-decade, and now another weak government that took over after the Ethiopians withdrew. None of these "governments" have been capable or are now capable of helping "the international community to completely eliminate piracy and hold offenders accountable."

Somalia must first resolve its internal problems of governance. The international community can help but international aid can only be effective within the context of a functioning government and only the Somalis themselves can produce this. Until then, Somalia will remain what it is today -- a failed state.

A bulletin from the Memory Hole (12/24/07):

"The renewed torture of Somalia falls within the context of US efforts to gain firm control over the Horn of Africa, where the United States is launching a new Africa command and extending naval operations in crucial shipping lanes, part of the broader campaign to ensure its domination of the world’s primary energy resources in the Gulf region and in Africa as well.

"Just after World War II, when State Department planners were assigning each part of the world its 'function' within the overall system of US domination, Africa was considered unimportant. George Kennan, head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, advised that Africa should be handed over to Europe to 'exploit' for its reconstruction. No longer. The resources of Africa are too valuable to be left to others, particularly with China extending its commercial reach.

"If poor Somalia collapses in starvation and misery, that is merely a sideshow of grand geopolitical designs, and of little moment."

(The Somalia Syndrome)

That is understandable that cash makes people autonomous. But how to act when someone doesn't have cash? The one way only is to try to get the loan and collateral loan.

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