Monday, April 12, 2010

On Piracy

I have no love for pirates, but this is an interesting article in the Nairobi Daily Jump Up And Hallelujah. Actually, it's in Time magazine, but I thank Molly Ivins for her lovely description of the New York Times in a letter to a friend.

Good information on the inner workings of the piracy trade is hard to come by, but evidence from out of Somalia indicates that criminal syndicates with financiers and investors based in Dubai and London and Mombasa, Kenya, have taken over piracy in Somalia, which got its start in the early 1990s as a way to mete out retribution on ships that fished illegally or dumped toxic waste in Somali waters. Now the warlords at the top take almost all the money and pay the men at the bottom next to nothing. The pirates caught on camera bobbing in their skiffs are the high-sea equivalent of the Cosa Nostra's lowliest associates. "The people being arrested are actually foot soldiers. They are not the real pirates," says Dickson Oruku Nyawinda, a lawyer who represents accused Somali pirates in Kenya's jails. "We are dealing with people who have no idea where the ransoms are going."

According to the report, rank-and-file militiamen receive $15,000 for their role in hijacking a ship. They get much more if they bring their own weapons or a boat. But pirates who have fled Somalia for Nairobi say that figure is much inflated. Ahmad, for example, says he might get a $10,000 share but his bosses would withhold as much as half of that to pay for his expenses. "The big fish are the guys who lead us, the ones who invest in the equipment, the boat, those things," he says. "Whether we die or not, they don't care." (my em)

The Somali pirates seem to have a lot in common with American coal miners.

Also, what is it with these Somali yay-hoos firing on warships? In the third incident of late, the other day they fired on USS Ashland (LSD 48) and were captured.

Just as an aside, I got all excited when I saw Ashland. She was in the flotilla that accompanied me on my Med cruise. I thought she must be getting a little long in the tooth so I looked her up. Turns out the ship that went with me on LanForMed 2-65 (First up at Google! - G) was USS Ashland (LSD 1) which served in WWII and was broken for scrap over forty years ago. Just another in a long line of constant reminders that I'm old. Waaaah.

Anyway, the pirates can't be attacking warships for ransom. The drugs can't be that good. Can they?

Are they hoping to be taken to America where they will get a book deal and get rich? Unlikely.

I get the feeling that someone among them heard about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and, in a complete misunderstanding of the results of that more or less made-up justification for the Vietnam war, think that's the way to get the United States to invade Somalia, install a weak, corrupt government (which the Somalis are quite used to), drop untold billions of dollars trying to do the undoable, and leave in ten years with their tails between their legs.

Hey, it worked in Vietnam and it's working in Iraq and Afghanistan, so why not in Somalia?

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