Tuesday, April 14, 2009
PIRATE IMBROGLIOS AND MEDIA SALIVATIONS
The orchestra sat on its hands; there was no crescendo of Victory at Sea when three pirates were shot dead, in a combined operation of Navy Seals and the US ships and aircraft that supported the operation. One is breathless, nonetheless. And who isn't impressed at such a daunting rescue? And all snark and sarcasm aside, who is unmoved by a beaming, bearded American sea captain, who is relieved that his ordeal is over?-- not to mention the sight of his wife in tears, in the grips of laryngitis, barely able to speak, to stammer out her thankfulness to the heroes who saved her husband?-- and flanked by older children, a daughter and a son, with stunned expressions on their faces? And then the mood of grandeur, the pièce de resistance: to make it an affair of state, to ennoble it, the report cuts to the president of the USA, Barack Obama.
But what have we not been told? What is the backstory? What events preceded this week's episode of Heroes? Well it's only been a short while since the Bush administration basically hired the Ethiopian army to invade Somalia, and topple its Islamic government. The Ethiopians have withdrawn, leaving the nation prostrate and in the grip of political anarchy. Then there is the consideration of what so-called civilized nations have been doing in the waters off the coast of Somalia.
London Independent Columnist, Johann Hari, writes in Huffington Post that European nations have abused the fishing grounds off the coast of Somalia; and since an earlier collapse of government in that nation, have polluted its sea lanes and coast.
In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.To summarize this little pocket of history, it seems that at the very moment that the Islamic Courts government had brought some stability to Somalia, in the belly of the beast that was Bush/Cheney, was brought forth the cunning plan to push the people of that country back into chaos, using a little Ethiopian muscle. Most Americans are sadly unaware of the chain of events; and cable news and the big network establishments are nothing if not scrupulous at keeping them dumbed down and barefoot, as they stare vacantly at the latest action thriller, while Wolf Blitzer holds the simple script for simple minds. The power and majesty of the United States of America.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after 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. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More 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. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."
This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged.