Who’s the real pirate?

As a firm believer in root cause analysis and objectivity I’m troubled to learn I may have jumped too quickly in some previous posts.

I’ve complained about Somalian piracy here and there along with what looked like a halfhearted effort at dealing with it.  I was definitely outraged that the world was apparently allowing a ragtag assembly of hoodlums to control the Gulf of Aden.

But now I read a piece in The Independent by Johann Hari that goes deeper than its siblings on CNN.  Hari claims to have access to evidence of nuclear waste dumping and overfishing by Europeans off the coast of Somalia, and that the recent spate of john boat piracy (at least in large part) is a furious response to those egregious affronts.

If Hari’s allegations are correct, I’m truly appalled, embarrassed and outraged myself.  What’s broadly labelled as piracy may well have originated as freedom-fighter style defensive measures to rid a troubled nation of unwelcome intruders.

So where is the United Nations in all of this?  If the origins of the piracy are as deliberately shrouded by media as Hari asserts, can we even trust the UN anyway?

It’s not easy to admit that I may have been wrong, but I’m certainly not opining further until I am more sure one way or the other what is going on in East Africa…


6 responses to “Who’s the real pirate?

  1. allnameswereout

    One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.

    [Google this. The first hit is funky (k12.us link).]

    It just depends on your viewpoint.

    If I look from a pirates viewpoint, as little as I know about it, I imagine they’re an autonomous community and souvereign country on the verge of an incoming invasion. An invasion is an offense; not a defense. Whether the invasion is justified or not is a related albeit different issue. What do we know about the people though? Why do they behave like this? What is their drive? I have no idea, but the fact that I have no idea does not mean that the other side (the UN) is automagically right. And, remember piracy (allegedly) has never gone away either just like (allegedly) terrorism has been existant in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, and the 90s. Allegedly because I don’t know about all the legal cases; just know it from media.

    Your point proves why audi alteram partem is important. Its funny though. The Dutch wikipedia page http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoor_en_wederhoor has a lot more information about this than the English one and includes that audi alteram partem is important for media as well (both do report about justice system; but even in there fallacies exist while Lady Justice is supposed to be blind). Now, the English Wikipedia page on this subject http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audi_alteram_partem does not mention this. Something similar is true for the entries of journalism.

    Now, I’m not claiming the journalism in my country is top notch. I know damn well it ain’t.

    Still, it is important for media to report accurately (hence objectively). In case of conflict, one has to report both sides of the story. Else, it becomes more propaganda than journalism. Aspects like fanboyism, zealotry, religion and other extreme forms of cultism blur this but even self-interests might blur such. Often, people are not aware of their lack of objectivity.

    So all in all, you would be fit as journalist based on your goal of root cause of analysis (looking into, researching), and wanting to be objective (accurate) as well as your writing skills 🙂

  2. Thanks for that insightful feedback! Hopefully I will keep the important aspects in mind as this blog continues…

  3. I think there’s a danger here of justified actions in the past being used to justify actions in the present.

    The BBC and others very widely report that the origins of Somali piracy are indeed in things like violations of fishing rights, they have reported this for quite a while now. These origins certainly haven’t been “shrouded”.

    Violent fishing disputes sound ridiculous but they’re not an uncommon thing to happen, especially when so many people depend on fishing for their livelihoods. Britain and Iceland nearly came to blows over similar disputes for decades in the so called “Cod Wars”.

    The problem is when people then justify practically anything further on that same basis. A lot of the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia were people killing based on folk memories of past atrocities from previous generations, so they felt it was somehow self-defence (or reasonable retribution) to slaughter a village full of innocents.

    Another common phenomenon is the transformation of people who fight for a cause into people who fight for their own personal benefit. In Northern Ireland, when the troubles were at their worst in the 1970s and 1980s, a lot of the killings weren’t between communities but within communities, usually turf wars between rival gangs fighting over money and power. They’d broken the taboo of using violence for political reasons, and that made it a lot easier to break the taboo of stealing and killing simply to fund their activities, or even killing to silence critics (including journalists). Instead of just being servants of a cause, they gradually became the cause themselves, and any action became acceptable as long as it helped them personally. It became less like a civil war and more like rival mafia gangs (interestingly some genuine mafia gangs have used political or social goals to try and justify their actions too).

    Power corrupts, whether it’s at the top of society or the bottom, and if people get a taste of using violence without consequences, then they start to lose their grip on morality.

    The Somali pirates used to hijack foreign fishing boats stealing their fish, which sort of makes sense, but they’re now hijacking supertankers of oil and ships full of armaments. Whatever it used to be, it has become piracy.

    Having said that, the international community do of course have to address the root causes of piracy to stop it happening again, but that’s a much bigger problem (sending troops to Somalia didn’t work for Bush Senior, distributing aid without a working government is next to impossible, and inaction isn’t an option either).

  4. Randall Arnold

    Some things I feel I must point out, krisse:

    1) I am writing from a US perspective. Most of the news I encounter originates here. In that context, yes, many details HAVE most certainly been covered up. It was only when I broadened my scope on this subject, ie, reading sources outside my nation’s borders, that I encountered the probable root cause of the piracy.

    2) Did you bother reading the article I linked? It very clearly explains the complexities of the issue. What began as a defense of Somalia’s waters was co-opted by some into sheer freebooting. So it isn’t as black-and-white as you suggest. There is very likely a full gradient of motives running from honest defense to greedy opportunism.

    Given the broad context, it does not make sense to label every incident the same. That is where I acknowledged erring in my first articles. I failed to dig deep enough.

    Regardless of how many current pirates are disconnected from any original goals, solving this takes more than a reflex approach. Root cause MUST be addressed. If someone was dumping nuclear waste on MY shore, you had better believe I would not be willing to turn the other cheek. I would hope you would not, either.

  5. Thanks for this article; I like news that opens me up to the other side of things loudly spoken.

  6. You’re welcome, and thanks for commenting! That’s what makes this all worthwhile.

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