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I will make you fishers of men
April 13, 2009 2:56 AM   Subscribe

"What began as a defensive movement by local fishermen has evolved into a complex amalgamation of banditry, organized crime, freebooting, and insurgency targeting all types of vessels from fishing trawlers to oil tankers." Somali pirates holding an American captain hostage were killed during a rescue yesterday. The lack of effective governance in Somalia allows massive vessels from Europe and Asia to decimate the local fish population, which may have forced Somali fisherman into piracy. Other ships use the Somali coast as a toxic waste dump. [previously]
posted by benzenedream (188 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The pirates could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had watched Dog Day Afternoon beforehand. To the FBI, "hostage negotiation" means "waiting for a clean headshot".
posted by Optamystic at 3:35 AM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


So some people may have done bad things, so now they kidnap and murder innocent people. Noted.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:48 AM on April 13, 2009


Somali pirates spreading wealth in an unusual manner.
posted by adamvasco at 3:52 AM on April 13, 2009


Nobody is "forced into piracy". Being poor, even desperately poor and exploited, is not a license to rape, pillage, and murder. I am certain that there are good, honest people in Somalia who are struggling to survive without becoming thieves and kidnappers.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:55 AM on April 13, 2009 [13 favorites]


Does anyone know why shipping companies don't employ armed guards as a deterrent? It seems like the most logical solution to me.
posted by Optamystic at 3:58 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nobody is "forced into piracy". Being poor, even desperately poor and exploited, is not a license to rape, pillage, and murder. I am certain that there are good, honest people in Somalia who are struggling to survive without becoming thieves and kidnappers.

This is where there seems to be a lot of willful blindness about the state of Somalia, particularly the protection of its coasts. This article explains a lot of the background of piracy, which started as a self-defense action – basically the same thing the first article in the FPP says, but Hari's article is more pointed and I agree with its conclusion. The response to piracy is not more security, but stopping criminal activity that is happening on the Somali coast.

Fundamentally, the Somali pirates are petty criminals brought about by large-scale, unrepentant criminals. As long as the West is giving the big criminals a pass, it has no right to pontificate on the small ones.
posted by graymouser at 4:08 AM on April 13, 2009 [22 favorites]


Re: Armed guards on ships,
See this recent AskMe question.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:10 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Navy SEALS are awesome.
posted by caddis at 4:12 AM on April 13, 2009


What graymouser said, and I'll add that there's a difference between an explanation and an excuse. The economic and social hardships that these men are experiencing do not excuse their behavior, but it's reasonable to see piracy as a likely consequence and try to identify ways that we could address the problem at its source.

It's lazy, but easy to see the world as good-and-evil and snarkily try to shut down any nuanced discussion. Just ask the Bush administration.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:23 AM on April 13, 2009 [15 favorites]


We should send some Black Hawks over there to sort that country out.
posted by Optamystic at 4:24 AM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Nobody is "forced into piracy". Being poor, even desperately poor and exploited, is not a license to rape, pillage, and murder. I am certain that there are good, honest people in Somalia who are struggling to survive without becoming thieves and kidnappers.

On the flip side nobody made America invade Iraq. I trust you will be bearing your portion of responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of deaths. Oh wait. The hard line on individual responsibility seems to end when you can get what you want by commissioning third parties, be they states or corporations, to act on your behalf while keeping you out of the accountablity loop.
posted by srboisvert at 4:28 AM on April 13, 2009 [13 favorites]


Huh? srboisvert, my people did not do anything in Iraq. I am all up for a nuanced discussion, but starting from the point that Somali fishermen were "forced" to become thieves removes their own personal responsibility. Each man makes an individual choice to pick up a gun and get into a boat with the intent to steal and kidnap.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:42 AM on April 13, 2009


On the flip side nobody made America invade Iraq. I trust you will be bearing your portion of responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of deaths. Oh wait. The hard line on individual responsibility seems to end when you can get what you want by commissioning third parties, be they states or corporations, to act on your behalf while keeping you out of the accountablity loop.

I thought Meatbomb was Canadian?
posted by atrazine at 4:43 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems that part of the nuanced discussion here, atrazine, is that anyone who doesn't weep for the poor pirate victims of oppression is a George Bush supporter.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:46 AM on April 13, 2009


Meatbomb, it only reads that way if you aggressively ignore where I said their circumstances don't excuse their behavior.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:54 AM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


On the flip side nobody made America invade Iraq. I trust you will be bearing your portion of responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of deaths. Oh wait. The hard line on individual responsibility seems to end when you can get what you want by commissioning third parties, be they states or corporations, to act on your behalf while keeping you out of the accountablity loop.

I don't think I understand your point. Seriously. Can you be a bit more clear about the relation you see between Somali piracy and the war in Iraq?
posted by OmieWise at 4:58 AM on April 13, 2009


People do what they gotta do to survive.
posted by etaoin at 5:09 AM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Or perhaps the real cause of piracy is that responsible nations haven't been defending thier merchant vessles aggressively, killing and incarcerating pirates in the process.
posted by metaplectic at 5:14 AM on April 13, 2009


Or perhaps the real cause of piracy is that responsible nations haven't been defending thier merchant vessles aggressively, killing and incarcerating pirates in the process. booty. Lots of booty.
posted by billysumday at 5:25 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think I understand your point. Seriously. Can you be a bit more clear about the relation you see between Somali piracy and the war in Iraq?

Other people are responsible for what the choices they make no matter what their situation is but you and I are not responsible for our choices because the situations we find ourselves in are not our doing and they constrain us.

I use a disproportionate amount of resources because I am in the Western world. It is not my fault I am a winner in the zero-sum distribution of resources that has been enforced by aggressive colonialism, militarism and trade regulation. I didn't ask anyone to make sure I won and other people lost. That is just the way it is.

When people in poor countries do stuff you and I don't like though, it is reflection of their weak morality, poor character and lack of responsibility and they should be killed for it.

Only fools could see it any other way.
posted by srboisvert at 5:28 AM on April 13, 2009 [27 favorites]


The pirates could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had watched Dog Day Afternoon beforehand. To the FBI, "hostage negotiation" means "waiting for a clean headshot".

First off, it wasn't the FBI on the Navy ship. Secondly, did you even see that movie? Sonny spends the entire movie telling the cops that Sal, the "killer," the "Vietnam vet" will start killing hostages at any moment.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:32 AM on April 13, 2009


When people in poor countries threaten to murder Americans for not paying a ransom, they should be killed for it.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:36 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Or perhaps the real cause of piracy is that responsible nations haven't been defending thier merchant vessles aggressively, killing and incarcerating pirates in the process.
Wrong, they have. US, France, UK, Germany, and so on, have a task force on site, protecting their merchant shipping.
OTOH, it seems that Liberia or Panama Navy are nowhere to be seen, go figure?
posted by vivelame at 5:38 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nobody is "forced into piracy". Being poor, even desperately poor and exploited, is not a license to rape, pillage, and murder.

In a civilized world, when one has a an issue with another, one can bring it to a court of law (or some forum) and have the matter decided upon by a 3rd party.

Where, exactly, can these poor and exploited folk have this forum that would result in an effective solution to, say the issue, of toxic waste being dumped?

At the point where one denies a place for a peaceful solution, violence will be the outcome.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:40 AM on April 13, 2009 [13 favorites]


I always wanted to be a pirate when I was little. Now after hearing what happened to them.... not so much. It does however make for an interesting story: Forced into piracy by big corporations. Now I'm sure that big douche bag businesses are not doing anything morally and/or legally wrong there. Remember there is a bit of truth on each side.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:48 AM on April 13, 2009


Saying Somalis have turned to piracy as a result of toxic dumping is like saying some farmer in Nebraska started robbing banks because of pesticide use. Because there is no government in Somalia, lots of bad things happen, like other countries using their waters as a dumping ground. Another bad thing that happens is crime gets out of control, and pirates cannot be held accountable. The correlation is no government = toxic waste, or no government = pirates. The correlation is not toxic waste = pirates.
posted by billysumday at 5:55 AM on April 13, 2009 [15 favorites]


The illegal dumping and fishing are wrong and should be stopped, and for these two things, I can find some sympathy for the people of Somalia wanting to take matters into their own hands to stop it, but of the ships currently under the control of pirates, there are only a couple which may have been illegally fishing. The vast majority of them were just trying to get from point A to point B. I find it a little more difficult to feel sympathy for the Somalian pirates when they are attacking ships carrying food aid for Somalia and Uganda, yachts manned by families, scientific research vessels, and cruise ships.

If they want to call attention to the toxic waste dumping and illegal fishing, then attack those vessels and only those vessels, which might call attention to the issues, and not just any vessel that happens to be passing through, which only calls attention to the fact they are lawless pirates and a danger to anyone, no matter how innocent or harmless, who happens to be in the area.
posted by Orb at 5:55 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


First off, it wasn't the FBI on the Navy ship.

The FBI was negotiating with the pirates.
posted by Optamystic at 6:00 AM on April 13, 2009


While it's laudable to attempt to understand what led to the booming pirate trade off the coast of Somalia, as that is the best way to find effective means of preventing further growth, the notion that the pirates themselves are anything but scum is nonsense. Kidnappers do not get a pass because they're hungry. One crime doesn't become okay because another crime was committed first.
posted by paperzach at 6:04 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


What a clusterfuck.
posted by kldickson at 6:08 AM on April 13, 2009


The correlation is not toxic waste = pirates.

I don't know about you, but that's not what my Saturday Morning cartoons taught me! I just want to know what the supersecret underground base is like, and whether or not this whole thing hinges on control of mystical crystals held by blue rabbits that live in underwater domes.

Timmy says the rabbits will turn out to be the bad guys next year, but I don't think so. I think it's the Kenyans.
posted by aramaic at 6:10 AM on April 13, 2009


I always wanted to be a pirate when I was little. Now after hearing what happened to them.... not so much

Perhaps you would have not made the error of being Out of ammunition and food? So a pirate life still may be for thee!
(And the successful pirates of old were government backed. Call your ship 'Hedge Fund', have CDOs ready to fire, staff with out of work bankers and you'll make a killing across the wide accountancy

Most of the pirates sitting in front of their computers have ample cheeze curls while transiting in and out of The Pirate Bay.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:13 AM on April 13, 2009


Wrong, they have. US, France, UK, Germany, and so on, have a task force on site, protecting their merchant shipping.
OTOH, it seems that Liberia or Panama Navy are nowhere to be seen, go figure?
My understanding is that the task force (with the exception of France) has been practicing catch-and-release of the pirates.

Without any real deterrent, it is understandable that the pirates will steal and ransom whatever they can get away with,
like how looting invariably occurs during blackouts/wars/natural disasters, when the police presence is inadequate.
posted by metaplectic at 6:15 AM on April 13, 2009


Other people are responsible for what the choices they make no matter what their situation is but you and I are not responsible for our choices because the situations we find ourselves in are not our doing and they constrain us.
[...]
When people in poor countries do stuff you and I don't like though, it is reflection of their weak morality, poor character and lack of responsibility and they should be killed for it.


Thanks for responding. Your sarcasm aside, I think I understand your point a little bit better.

However, our own culpability for personal bad actions (not connected to Somali piracuy) does not excuse the culpability of Somali pirates. It's not even clear to me that it should have a bearing on how we view the situation. If you're arguing for a world community shouldn't part of that argument be that we all, Somali pirates included, have to do our best?
posted by OmieWise at 6:16 AM on April 13, 2009


Does anyone know why shipping companies don't employ armed guards as a deterrent? It seems like the most logical solution to me.

1. The risk of crew members in an highly stressful working environment having quick access to firearms to use against each other.

2. The risk of retribution from pirates if they are injured/fired upon in a takeover situation.

3. The risk of pirates not only taking over your boat, but now taking over your boat AND your weapons on it.

4. The massive insurance costs the shipping companies would have to endure to hire private security staff and/or because of 1 through 3.

5. The need to keep guns and ammo and equipment separated to avoid #1, thus negating their effective use in a surprise pirate attack.

6. The fact that if you keep a few guns on your boat, the pirates will simply bring more guns. Or more pirates.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:17 AM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Any of these theories for the cause of Somali piracy must be compared with Asian piracy, which has begun to abate under better enforcement.
posted by metaplectic at 6:18 AM on April 13, 2009


As long as the West is giving the big criminals a pass, it has no right to pontificate on the small ones.

False.
posted by oaf at 6:23 AM on April 13, 2009


One crime doesn't become okay because another crime was committed first.

And what venue do these people have where the original crime can be addressed?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:24 AM on April 13, 2009


Huh? srboisvert, my people did not do anything in Iraq.

uhhh... I believe Bulgaria was a member of the coalition of the willing.

Triumpth of the Will!
posted by geos at 6:25 AM on April 13, 2009


Okay, all you, "Think of the piiiiirates!!" people who believe the big bad West is somehow completely responsible for Somalian pirates - just what exactly would you do to establish a functioning government in what is considered to be the world's least-functioning failed state? Any ideas? And don't say "foreign aid" for chrissakes, that's obviously been tried and has not worked.
posted by billysumday at 6:29 AM on April 13, 2009


No, see, you people don't get it. Since the pretend president of Somalia said some stuff was happening and some freelancer repeated it in a long rambling stream of consciousness op-ed, George Bush is bad and we got what we deserved. QED.
posted by electroboy at 6:30 AM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Perhaps we are being lied to about pirates.
posted by Minus215Cee at 6:30 AM on April 13, 2009


My lord, I never thought someone would be able to spin this into a sob story for the pirates. There's no double standard here - if unemployed auto workers in Detroit started carjacking & holding for ransom people going from Chicago to New York, there'd be no one here arguing that the worker weren't really responsible for what they were doing. If we wanted to end it, we'd have to combine enforcement with economic initiatives and greater political stability, but no one would have much pity for the pirates.
posted by echo target at 6:46 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


just what exactly would you do to establish a functioning government in what is considered to be the world's least-functioning failed state?

Magic. *poof* There is a state. And it functions.

Now where, exactly, can the claims of harm of toxic dumping and long line fishing be addressed?

If you'd like, we can toss in AGW effects on rainfall in the area...just to add another layer of 'who's to blame'. Rising CO2 levels in ocean may have also effected the fish catch level - someones to blame for that I'm sure.

(Given the debt being run up by the US government an argument can be made that the US Government is a failed state. So I'd also like to see what is defined as a functioning state - just so you can have an answer that is workable.)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:47 AM on April 13, 2009


As long as the West is giving the big criminals a pass, it has no right to pontificate on the small ones.

This attitude tends to last about as long as those holding it are not the victims of crime themselves. Seriously, what a load of bullshit. Since you're so concerned with these kidnappers, why not go live amongst them? I assure you that these noble people will not kidnap you and hold you for ransom.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:49 AM on April 13, 2009


Given the debt being run up by the US government an argument can be made that the US Government is a failed state.

That's got very little to do with what a failed state is.
posted by oaf at 6:51 AM on April 13, 2009


XQUZYPHYR, add this:
7. If there are guns on board, both sides will use them, or the pirates will use them first to show they mean business. The end result will be the same, but in addition to paying the ransom, the insurance companies will now have to pay death benefits for crews and multi-million dollar repairs to the boat. The boats may be the most expensive part of the equation and probably what the insurance companies are most worried about.
posted by ShadowCrash at 6:56 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My lord, I never thought someone would be able to spin this into a sob story for the pirates.

Nothing about a sob story for pirates from me.

If one does not have an effective venue that works for addressing grievances, violence will be the outcome.

So far, I've not seen a refutation of that statement/position.

Failed states are a rather serious business.

(and once again Mr. Robb/his readers has an answer to address the piracy)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:56 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The raid was a colossal mistake that will only destroy the gentleman's agreement between the pirates and their captives.
"In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "We will retaliate for the killings of our men."
Great, that's just fucking great.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:57 AM on April 13, 2009


Jesus Christ, are you people all trying to be stupid? You took one comment about attempting to understand the corollary between economic and social poverty and crime rates in that area and turned it into whinging about "feeling bad for the pirates." Good lord, you sound as retarded as the "so you HATE America"? fuckshits on September 12, 2001. "Why don't you go live with the pirates then?" Ho-lee- shit.

This isn't sympathy about the pirates, let alone specifically these pirates- it's sympathy about Somalia. And maybe if you gave a shit about the conditions in that country too there wouldn't have been pirate attacks to begin with. Have you been fucking listening to anything said during the last seven or so years?

Whatever. I'm sure we'll be wiping out the Palestinian terrorists any day now too, just in time for the parade of rose petals on the streets of a liberated Baghdad. Jackasses.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:59 AM on April 13, 2009 [30 favorites]



if unemployed auto workers in Detroit started carjacking & holding for ransom...

Sacked French workers take to 'boss-napping'
posted by R. Mutt at 7:00 AM on April 13, 2009


I knew western white males were responsible for this somehow, just like all the rest of the world's ails. I just could never figure out the nuances of precisely how. Thanks.
posted by rocket88 at 7:00 AM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Fundamentally, the Somali pirates are petty criminals brought about by large-scale, unrepentant criminals. As long as the West is giving the big criminals a pass, it has no right to pontificate on the small ones.

Oh right, it was the fault of the West all along. How could I have missed that? I suppose it's also the West's fault that Somalia is a failed state crushed by anarchy. Or that neighboring Kenya (not too long ago heralded a model country) is about to fail as well.

But here are some interesting quotes from Adamvasco's link upthread:

“You have hungry people who don’t have any legitimate way to make money,” she says. “They think, ‘We want a piece of this pie’.”

Sure, who doesn't want a piece of the pie? And the same article also tells us how Somali people get a piece of the pie:

Pirates also pay other, more senior members of their clans and local political and military groups, according to Roger Middleton, a researcher in the Africa programme at the UK’s Chatham House. “Money goes to the senior members of your clan, in much the same way that if you were a successful businessman you would be expected to help those people out,” he says.

Think about this for a second. If you are a successful businessman in Somalia, you are not only expected to help you own clan, which I presume may number a quite considerable number of people, but also local politicians and militiamen.

Frankly, I'm a bit sick of the "it's ultimately all the fault of the white man" argument. Countries in Asia were in not much better shape than many African countries 50 years ago, yet they managed to develop into (by comparison) wealthy societies. Why can't we expect the same of African countries? Come to think of it, why are there no products "made in Africa" available anywhere outside of Africa? Actually, I think it is ultimately racist to have lower expectations for African countries. Why are there no African radios or plastic toys in our department stores? If your answer is "trade barriers", why don't African leaders work to lower those trade barriers instead of lining their pockets with our money?

Maybe the answer is that that there is a continent-wide I'll-just-go-mooch-off-the-local-successful-businessman mentality that makes it virtually impossible to start a successful business. And all those saying "It's OK, you don't have to be successful, it's all the fault of the white man. Here, have another 100 t of grains" are only perpetuating the problem.

Sorry, I don't have any recipes for bringing order back to Somalia either. But the reflex-like "It's the white man's fault and he should sort it out" argument is a bit tiring.
posted by sour cream at 7:01 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pirates. Let me tell you a experience with pirates. In a misguided attempt to let my sister have a break from her children I convinced her to come with me to Monterey and to spend time on the summer beach. As the day passed she avoided looking at the sea. I thought that was pretty strange and dragged her to one of my favorite beaches in the hopes of her relaxing. It was there as we were watching the beginning of the declining sun that she told me about her boat journey fleeing Viet Nam. All I will say is this, kill them all. Kill all the pirates. You have a choice. I have a choice. They have a choice. My choice would be to kill every pirate. Every single one.
posted by jadepearl at 7:01 AM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


The raid Pointing an assault rifle at the back of a hostage was a colossal mistake that will only destroy the gentleman's agreement between the pirates and their captives.
posted by oaf at 7:01 AM on April 13, 2009


if unemployed auto workers in Detroit started carjacking & holding for ransom people going from Chicago to New York, there'd be no one here arguing that the worker weren't really responsible for what they were doing.

Assuming conditions in Detroit sank to that level, yeah, I would certainly stop and wonder why they had to resort to that, and why the government wasn't able to help them before they resorted to carjacking, and what we could do on a systemic level to help the citizens of Detroit and prevent them from ever turning to carjacking. (Not to say I wouldn't also want them stopped and prosecuted.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:03 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The circumstances in Somalia should not be used to assign or excuse blame. They should be used as motivation to find a peaceful solution to the problem. Blame in cases like this is a petty and privileged game of the short-sighted.
posted by effwerd at 7:05 AM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


If one does not have an effective venue that works for addressing grievances, violence will be the outcome.

I certainly won't refute that point, but you're talking only about long-term solutions. You're right about what would provide the best results ten years down the road. But what do you want to do now? Let them run wild?
posted by echo target at 7:05 AM on April 13, 2009


I was kind of expecting to hear the SEALs swam underwater to the life boat, pulled the pirates overboard, then slit their throats.

But headshots work too. Job well done.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:07 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Countries in Asia were in not much better shape than many African countries 50 years ago, yet they managed to develop into (by comparison) wealthy societies. Why can't we expect the same of African countries? Come to think of it, why are there no products "made in Africa" available anywhere outside of Africa? Actually, I think it is ultimately racist to have lower expectations for African countries.

LOL. Westerners own most of the means of production in Africa. Most wealth produced there goes stright into the pockets of, yep, Westerners. Short of a violent uprising, I'm not sure your fantasy scenario is possible.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:07 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, all you, "Think of the piiiiirates!!" people - billsumday

someone would be able to spin this into a sob story for the pirates - echo target

Who are you talking about?

Saying that bad situations increase the likelihood of bad behavior is not exactly hippie granola stuff, guys. You're welcome to argue the semantics of whether they were "forced" into it or not, but don't operate under the illusion that anyone here is defending pirates or piracy. What is being said is:

(1) It's evident that collapsed, lawless societies will have an increased rate of lawless behavior, having everything to do with statistics and sociology and nothing to do with the ethics or justification of any particular action.

(2) Point 1 can be exacerbated by external factors such as fucking with the food supply of an already-beleaguered country.

(3) Insofar as Point 2 is within our control, we are not entirely without sin ourselves if we turn a blind eye to the problem. This is not to say that we are to blame for the piracy, nor by extension does this absolve the pirates of their crimes. It is nuance, it is realizing that the issue is not as simple as good and evil, us versus them.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:07 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I am glad to hear Captain Phillips is ok. Now to get the media to leave his wife alone...
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2009


The raid was a colossal mistake that will only destroy the gentleman's agreement between the pirates and their captives.
"In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "We will retaliate for the killings of our men."
Great, that's just fucking great.
Those Somali gentelmen can go hang themselves. Non-sarcastically, it truly will be great, if it means the US Navy can finally get serious about ending the piracy.
posted by metaplectic at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2009


And maybe if you gave a shit about the conditions in that country too there wouldn't have been pirate attacks to begin with. Have you been fucking listening to anything said during the last seven or so years?

Just to be fair, there's a lot of things I don't give a shit about that seem to get along fine. There a a lot of things I do give a shit about that seemed mired in failure. Somalia is one of those things.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:12 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My lord, I never thought someone would be able to spin this into a sob story for the pirates.

Being realistic and nuanced about the causes of a situation or a crime is not a "sob story". Nobody has yet said "Pirates are stickin' it to the man, sweet!"

Why do I get the distinct feeling that the outrage about "defending" the pirates is really irritation--because taking the nuanced view harshes the adrenaline high we're getting from the way our dudes TOTALLY killed those dudes and wasn't that AWESOME?? USA! USA!!

Life in Somalia is pretty much unrelived misery, unless you can get out; just as in Palestine, or numerous other places, this makes recruitment for criminal enterprises, which may be the only livelihood going at all, unsurprising to the nth degree. I feel not so much compassion for the pirates as sadness and frustration at their potential contributions as human beings being wasted and lost, and the cost of that waste being other innocent lives. It's an ugly business to create piracy and criminal anarchy, and an ugly business to clean it up.
posted by emjaybee at 7:12 AM on April 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


Non-sarcastically, it truly will be great, if it means the US Navy can finally get serious about ending the piracy.

The U.S. Military couldn't end conflict from small infiltration groups on a defined landmass with 150,000 soldiers. You honestly think that we can have the same "success" against insurgent groups across the... umm... ocean?

Please feel free to continue with this chain of thought, only this time include the manpower and equipment requirements and exactly how much my share of taxes to pay for that will be.

This is astounding. Truly, unbelievably astounding. It's like we just forgot every single debate about this shit from 9/11 to three hours ago.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:17 AM on April 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm not defending pirates. I'm saying that there are much bigger criminals in this story, and they're getting a free pass because of the kind of bullshit manufactured outrage over "ZOMG PIRATES R EVIL" that is going on here. It's fucking endemic in American culture to get outraged about the criminals – especially but not always ones with black skin – at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and not about the criminals – usually but not always with white skin – at the top. It disgusts me. But pontificate away.
posted by graymouser at 7:19 AM on April 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


Actually, a lot of the means of production in Africa is Chinese owned.
posted by billysumday at 7:20 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think we all agree more than we let on here. Lack of effective government in Somalia has allowed all kinds of shittiness to happen, including illegal fishing, waste dumping, and piracy. The long-term solution to all of this is to have an effective and legitimate government. Lots of actors in this realm are being shitty, and us folks here are playing up the shittiness of our favorite enemies.
posted by echo target at 7:23 AM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know why shipping companies don't employ armed guards as a deterrent? It seems like the most logical solution to me.

It increases, rather than decreases insurance rates. Having guns on a boat means arguments on that boat can turn deadly. And there's the international law aspect as well. I've read that a lot of places require firearms to be disassembled and the pieces stored in different safes. So if you went by that standard, you would never be able to get the guns assembled quickly enough to fend off the pirates.

When people in poor countries threaten to murder Americans for not paying a ransom, they should be killed for it.

Of course, if they had been captured, they would never have been put to death simply for threatening to kill someone.

All I will say is this, kill them all. Kill all the pirates. You have a choice. I have a choice. They have a choice. My choice would be to kill every pirate. Every single one.

What the hell?
posted by delmoi at 7:23 AM on April 13, 2009


The U.S. Military couldn't end conflict from small infiltration groups on a defined landmass with 150,000 soldiers. You honestly think that we can have the same "success" against insurgent groups across the... umm... ocean?
I think the pirates will be quite easy to spot in the ocean. Send in the Predator drones!
posted by metaplectic at 7:24 AM on April 13, 2009


Those Somali gentelmen can go hang themselves. Non-sarcastically, it truly will be great, if it means the US Navy can finally get serious about ending the piracy.

Yeah, except they won't, no matter how much of a hard-on it would give you. They'll keep doing what they've been doing, because frankly we're in no position to stop them. Only next time, maybe they'll just kill the American hostages outright because they're more trouble than they're worth alive.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:27 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think we all agree more than we let on here. Lack of effective government in Somalia has allowed all kinds of shittiness to happen, including illegal fishing, waste dumping, and piracy. The long-term solution to all of this is to have an effective and legitimate government. Lots of actors in this realm are being shitty, and us folks here are playing up the shittiness of our favorite enemies.

I agree with this in general, although I think that reversing the systematic underdevelopment of Africa – which would be necessary for stable governments – is going to be tremendously difficult, and unfortunately many of the big corporate bad actors really don't want to do anything about it.

Piracy sucks, but I really think that going on about how evil it is (as seen in this thread) won't do a damn thing as far as leading to a solution.
posted by graymouser at 7:27 AM on April 13, 2009


They'll keep doing what they've been doing, because frankly we're in no position to stop them.

We are in a position to make them realize that they won't live long enough to harm American hostages or American vessels more than once.
posted by oaf at 7:31 AM on April 13, 2009


If one does not have an effective venue that works for addressing grievances, violence will be the outcome.

Clearly they need a better PR campaign. Doing the yo ho ho routine and leaving the subtle explanations to others is no way to promote sympathy to your cause. With all the money they've pulled in, you think they could spare a bit of it for Young and Rubicam. Or at least give a call to Greenpeace.

Failure to do so encourages bystanders to think of you as a bunch of filthy pirates.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:31 AM on April 13, 2009


Please just nuke this fucking thread from orbit.
posted by fleacircus at 7:31 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Piracy sucks, but I really think that going on about how evil it is (as seen in this thread) won't do a damn thing as far as leading to a solution.

To be fair, none of the bitching in this thread is going to lead to a solution.
posted by electroboy at 7:32 AM on April 13, 2009


We should send some Black Hawks over there to sort that country out.

Well, Somalis do really, really love hockey, so you might be on to something there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:35 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


We are in a position to make them realize that they won't live long enough to harm American hostages or American vessels more than once.

The Somalis will greet us as liberators
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:36 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nobody is "forced into piracy".

I would be very, very surprised if none of the pirates were kids forced into service.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:36 AM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


We should send some Black Hawks over there to sort that country out.
posted by Optamystic at 7:24 AM on April 13 [1 favorite +] [!]


I think you need to read a bit of history. The UN mission to Somalia was attacked by various clan leaders who were hijacking food and aid shipments. After US forces pulled out of the food delivery business the UN soldiers from Canada and Pakistan were regularly attacked while trying to deliver aid. The US forces went in to seize one of the head clan leaders and members of his staff. There were two Blackhawks shot down, 18 soldiers killed. Two were killed , mutilated and dragged through the streets. But the Rangers succeeded in snatching and imprisoning the two Somali clan officials they were after, but not the leader Aideed. So that snark may not be all that you think it is.
posted by Gungho at 7:42 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


That sounds like a fascinating story. Someone should make a movie about it.
posted by electroboy at 7:44 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think that snark is more than you think it is.
posted by echo target at 7:44 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


People should keep in mind that Somalia did briefly have an effective government. It wasn't perfect, but it had brought about the end of warlordism, civil war, and famine. Then the U.S. backed the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia (financially and militarily), which led to a propped-up Ethiopian puppet-state and renewed civil war and famine. Seriously think for a moment. If all you'd known your entire life was war and starvation, how far would you go to feed your family? If a bunch of rich westerners had plotted with your enemies to destroy the only peace you'd ever known, how much sympathy would you have for them? About as much as we have for pirates, I'd guess. It's not an excuse, but golly, it seems to follow almost automatically. And yet we act surprised, EVERY TIME we invade or destabilize a country "for its own good", or to fight "global terrorism". If you want to know why Africa and the middle east is so backward, there's your answer. Centuries of a policy of destabilization. Eventually all the "civilized" people are dead, and only the ruthless people are left in charge. Then we can start criticizing the inherent barbarism of their culture.
posted by Humanzee at 7:45 AM on April 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


To be fair, none of the bitching in this thread is going to lead to a solution.

Metafilter: Do feel free to show where bitching in any thread has led to a solution.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:49 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Non-sarcastically, it truly will be great, if it means the US Navy can finally get serious about ending the piracy.

Unfortunately, the US Navy is not at all ready for asymmetrical war , nor can our nation sustain yet another endless, pointless conflict with an irregular force.

It's kind of aggravating to see that attempts to understand the motivations of these man are greeted with accusations of "pirate lover!" - understanding and acting to correct the underlying causes of piracy is a method that stands a chance of ending it. Deciding they're all criminals fit for the cannons and sending our galumphing, obsolete Navy into the snakepit that the Somali coast has become is a recipe for further disaster and bloodshed. Considering the military experience of the United States in the last half of the twentieth century and the earliest years of the twenty-first, I think it's safe to say that we aren't all that good at waging irregular war.

Is it too much to ask that one of these terrorist outfits buys up a bunch of surplus T-34s or something so we can have a proper slugfest with some tanks? And maybe whip up some uniforms, while they're at it? All this AK-47/RPG/melting into the crushingly poor civilian population business is getting to be a real drag.

Now, all that said, I'd love to hear more about how the SEAL team pulled off their attack. Three headshots, fired from a ship at guys bobbing around on a lifeboat? Goddamn but that's some skillz.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:50 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was wondering the other day why the US doesn't go after the kingpins here. They're running OPs in Pakistan, so why not Somalia? What would be the legal ramifications of targeting a known pirate mastermind and sending some Predators to blow up his mansion? It's not enough to just fight the gunmen, and seeing how poorly it ended with the French last week it doesn't seem worth risking innocent lives. Mind you, I'm not espousing escalation, but what sort of blowback would there be if the US did decide to conduct raids? Surely that's being discussed in the White House now.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:52 AM on April 13, 2009


If all you'd known your entire life was war and starvation, how far would you go to feed your family? If a bunch of rich westerners had plotted with your enemies to destroy the only peace you'd ever known, how much sympathy would you have for them?

I was under the impression that the Pirates were opposed to the Islamic Courts Unions, or at least not on the same side. I don't know that the people who became pirates really enjoyed life under the ICU or anything like that.
posted by delmoi at 7:54 AM on April 13, 2009


What would be the legal ramifications of targeting a known pirate mastermind and sending some Predators to blow up his mansion?

Legal ramifications? Wouldn't it make more sense to be worried about them hating us and making it more difficult engage in the region? I mean do you seriously believe you can solve problems like this just by blowing people up?

Or do you seriously think it takes a few single "masterminds" in order to send small groups of people out in a motorboat to hijacks ships?
posted by delmoi at 7:57 AM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think you need to read a bit of history.

I think you need to realize that Optamystic was kidding. Everyone knows at least the basics of that "Black Hawk Down" stuff.
posted by pracowity at 7:59 AM on April 13, 2009


Or do you seriously think it takes a few single "masterminds" in order to send small groups of people out in a motorboat to hijacks ships?

Seriouslyness aside. There are people on top making more money than the people on the gunboats. There are indeed mansions springing up due entirely to ransom money. I was just positing questions. Relax.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:59 AM on April 13, 2009


The U.S. Military couldn't end conflict from small infiltration groups on a defined landmass with 150,000 soldiers. You honestly think that we can have the same "success" against insurgent groups across the... umm... ocean?

one could pretty much bomb the crap out of anything that looked like a boat or a dock on the coastline - although something that extreme probably wouldn't be necessary

they can't hide on the ocean - and there are not a multitude of places they can get support on shore - you don't need to control or occupy those places - selective destruction of them combined with a naval blockade would probably work

as would a convoy system - any non-authorized boats who come too close to the convoy get shot at

this really isn't equivalent to a land insurgency
posted by pyramid termite at 8:04 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


one could pretty much bomb the crap out of anything that looked like a boat or a dock on the coastline

Now that's just stupid. How do you tell pirates from fisherman? You don't, you make mistakes, you kill innocent people, and you get everyone in the region pissed off, rather than just a subset.
posted by echo target at 8:07 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it too much to ask that one of these terrorist outfits buys up a bunch of surplus T-34s or something so we can have a proper slugfest with some tanks?

Be careful what you wish for.
posted by electroboy at 8:07 AM on April 13, 2009


If all you'd known your entire life was war and starvation, how far would you go to feed your family?

Do you honestly think these guys are doing this to feed their families?
posted by rocket88 at 8:12 AM on April 13, 2009


one could pretty much bomb the crap out of anything that looked like a boat or a dock on the coastline - although something that extreme probably wouldn't be necessary

they can't hide on the ocean - and there are not a multitude of places they can get support on shore - you don't need to control or occupy those places - selective destruction of them combined with a naval blockade would probably work


It takes two minutes on Google to learn that the Somali coastline-the largest of any African country- is roughly the same length as the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, and the area between the Somali and Kenyan coastal regions where the attacks are taking place cover almost a million square miles- roughly four times the surface area of Texas. I mention that only to express how "pretty much bomb the crap out of anything" somehow found a way to not be the stupidest part of that idea.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:16 AM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wow so, apparently this isn't even a big enough deal to bother arming people on boats in the region, and people here are ready to start bombing every fishing village along hundreds of miles of the African coastline, killing (I would imagine) thousands of people even though, what, one person has been killed during a botched rescue attempt?

A little perspective is needed, I think.
posted by delmoi at 8:16 AM on April 13, 2009


Mortar shells fired at US congressman in Somalia
posted by effwerd at 8:17 AM on April 13, 2009


delmoi, drone attacks of select targets is not the same as bombing an entire coastline. That's the perspective.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:18 AM on April 13, 2009


delmoi, drone attacks of select targets is not the same as bombing an entire coastline. That's the perspective.

No, but this is:

one could pretty much bomb the crap out of anything that looked like a boat or a dock on the coastline - although something that extreme probably wouldn't be necessary

Try reading the thread next time.
posted by delmoi at 8:21 AM on April 13, 2009


one could pretty much bomb the crap out of anything that looked like a boat or a dock on the coastline

I really hope you're kidding. I can't imagine anything more counter-productive.

Now, the convoy idea has some merit.

rocket88 - Oh man. Well, if they ever use them, then we'd finally have the kind of fight that makes sense to our kind of military.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:22 AM on April 13, 2009


delmoi wrote: I was under the impression that the Pirates were opposed to the Islamic Courts Unions, or at least not on the same side. I don't know that the people who became pirates really enjoyed life under the ICU or anything like that.
I was not aware of this. However, my point wasn't that these are disaffected ICU guys. It's that stability in Somalia has been actively opposed by powerful nations (the U.S. included) and the result is predictably, the same mess that has occurred in other places where destabilization was the preferred policy. The ICU sucked, and even many of the people who supported it did so reluctantly. However, it was better than the mess that exists now, and I suspect (although I can't prove) that the piracy problem would have been dramatically lessened if the government hadn't been overthrown. Again: by external forces, not by Somalis themselves. The problem in Somalia isn't the result of the cultural inferiority of Somalis, it's because the situation they've been put in is so terrible. If we want to end the piracy, we're going to have to alter our Somalia policy.

rocket88 wrote: Do you honestly think these guys are doing this to feed their families?
I'm sure some of them are. Do you really think none of these guys have families? Some of them just want to make money, and don't care how they do it. But when the only central government is a puppet state propped up by your regional enemies, and famine and warfare are everywhere, it kind of limits your opportunities in that regard. Somalis can't open up a used bookstore, they can't sell computers, they can't trade stocks, they can't even do really basic stuff, like farm. In the kind of environment that exists in Somalia, farmers get attacked by every side in the conflict. So if you want to make money, you're going to be doing it by holding a gun.
posted by Humanzee at 8:23 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


It takes two minutes on Google to learn that the Somali coastline-the largest of any African country- is roughly the same length as the entire eastern seaboard of the United States

and there's STILL only a limited set of areas where pirates can effectively launch their crafts - does the eastern seaboard have docks every 100 feet?

and the area between the Somali and Kenyan coastal regions where the attacks are taking place cover almost a million square miles- roughly four times the surface area of Texas.

the coast is not a million square miles - and that's what we're concerned with

I mention that only to express how "pretty much bomb the crap out of anything" somehow found a way to not be the stupidest part of that idea.

i said that was extreme - but as usual people will reply to the voices in their head a lot more readily than they will the actual person they're talking to
posted by pyramid termite at 8:28 AM on April 13, 2009


Of course, if they had been captured, they would never have been put to death simply for threatening to kill someone.

That's a weird way of putting it.
posted by the other side at 8:33 AM on April 13, 2009


EatTheWeak - The shots were taken at 25-35 metres range from the fantail of the Navy ship. There is no definitive info as yet to whether is was Navy Special Warfare or Marine snipers who took the shots so far as I can tell. Many of the SOF forums are ablaze with jingoisitic crap right now but more info will no doubt emerge over the next 24-48 hrs. Many folks in the military are now watching for some commentators to focus on Obama's masterful use of the military as a result of this successful action. They really don't like him.
posted by longbaugh at 8:37 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair, none of the bitching in this thread is going to lead to a solution.

Metafilter: None of our bitching has lead to a solution since 1999.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 AM on April 13, 2009


and there's STILL only a limited set of areas where pirates can effectively launch their crafts - does the eastern seaboard have docks every 100 feet?

How limited is limited? How many places do you actually think there are that they could dock their boats? I mean, what's the actual number? Do you know? Because it just seems like you're someone who simply lacks even the most basic sense of scale. I don't mean scale in terms of human suffering or whatever (but that too), but you sound like the kind of person who literally can't comprehend the difference between ten miles and a thousand miles.

i said that was extreme - but as usual people will reply to the voices in their head a lot more readily than they will the actual person they're talking to

What exactly is the alternative you had in mind besides bombing? "taking control" of the ports? As in putting troops at each one and examining every boat that leaves the shore for guns How many troops do you that would take?

And for what, exactly? Preventing a handful of hijackings that haven't even caused enough trouble for insurance companies and local governments to change the rules about having guns on ships?
posted by delmoi at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2009


Of course, if they had been captured, they would never have been put to death simply for threatening to kill someone.
That's a weird way of putting it.
How so? Threatening someone to kill someone is a crime but it's not a capital offense.
posted by delmoi at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2009


Though I will defend those serving who respect the position of POTUS regardless of who is in office - my previous comment makes it seem like there is some sort of coup planned which could not be further from the truth. I thought I'd add this as barring maybe a dozen folks on MeFi, many members have little to no experience with the military and have little idea about the work they do.
posted by longbaugh at 8:45 AM on April 13, 2009


How SEALs Carried Out Their Mission
posted by Liver at 8:45 AM on April 13, 2009


Non-sarcastically, it truly will be great, if it means the US Navy can finally get serious about ending the piracy.

About ten years ago, the Chinese very publicly executed (bullet to the head) a crap load of pirates. They videotaped it and broadcast it. That didn't seem to end the piracy. The Navy killing a few more very publicly probably won't end it either. If the freakin Mogadishu operation failed so miserably, how is on raid on a pirate ship gonna end piracy?
posted by spicynuts at 8:46 AM on April 13, 2009


It seems that the most likely outcome here is that the next American ship to be hijacked will be returned with a crew that was tortured and killed before the ransom was even demanded. Americans at sea in the Gulf of Aden should probably consider themselves an endangered species. But hey, we sure blew away those three dirt-poor Somali bastards huh? Much more satisfying that waiting for the standoff to end without anyone being hurt.

Unless you're an American merchant marine.
posted by rusty at 8:46 AM on April 13, 2009


longbaugh - Thank you. I heard on the radio last night that it was SEALS who took the shot, but that might have been some hasty reporting.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:47 AM on April 13, 2009


I'd love to hear more about how the SEAL team pulled off their attack.

From the Washington Post: How SEALs Carried Out Their Mission:
SEAL snipers, who were positioned on a deck at the stern of the Bainbridge, an area known as the fantail, had the three pirates in their sights. The on-scene commander gave the snipers authority to fire.
On a completely different note, there is a jurisdiction aspect of this event that I haven't seen discussed yet. It's buried down in the seventeenth 'graf of the CNN article:
Federal prosecutors would be "reviewing the evidence and other issues" to determine whether that pirate would be prosecuted in the United States, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.

It's the first time in modern history that the United States has in custody a pirate who carried out an attack on a U.S. citizen, said a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the situation. The source said figuring out what to do with the pirate is a sensitive issue.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:52 AM on April 13, 2009


How limited is limited?

fairly limited - i counted 10 ports of course, that's not all the places one could dock a boat but my point is that not ALL of that coastline is usable for mariners

What exactly is the alternative you had in mind besides bombing?

i listed several in my initial post

As in putting troops at each one and examining every boat that leaves the shore for guns How many troops do you that would take?

not that many - the boats wait in line to get inspected - or else

Preventing a handful of hijackings that haven't even caused enough trouble for insurance companies and local governments to change the rules about having guns on ships?

the reason they don't allow guns on oil tankers is that they could blow up
posted by pyramid termite at 8:53 AM on April 13, 2009


Being realistic and nuanced about the causes of a situation or a crime is not a "sob story". Nobody has yet said "Pirates are stickin' it to the man, sweet!"

I think saying that they "may have been forced into piracy" was just that.

Why do I get the distinct feeling that the outrage about "defending" the pirates is really irritation--because taking the nuanced view harshes the adrenaline high we're getting from the way our dudes TOTALLY killed those dudes and wasn't that AWESOME??

Usually the human psyche does feel elation when people who are committing crimes against fellow human beings get their comuppance.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:55 AM on April 13, 2009


How so? Threatening someone to kill someone is a crime but it's not a capital offense.

Sure, but characterizing it as "simply" threatening to kill someone still strikes me as a kind of strangely flippant way to say it. In a situation like that, between attempting a capture and taking a clean shot, the latter seems like the more reasonable choice.
posted by the other side at 8:56 AM on April 13, 2009


the coast is not a million square miles - and that's what we're concerned with

You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I guess the "voices in my head" didn't have the ability to draw you a goddamn map, so here you go. You do understand that vessels don't hug the coastline, right? They have to sail anywhere from 50-200 miles or so out. A 1,200-mile coastline, with attack areas reaching as far as 400 nautical miles out from that coast, is a fucking large area, especially when commercial shippers are specifically instructed to sail far from the coastline to (gasp!) avoid pirate attacks. The 1 million square mile area I mentioned earlier is the area that is currently being patrolled by U.S. and NATO forces, so if you're so convinced that's wrong you should bitch to them and not me.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:00 AM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I was so happy to hear this.

SEALS kick ass.
posted by kbanas at 9:03 AM on April 13, 2009


fairly limited - i counted 10 ports

Those are major commercial ports. You don't need a major commercial shipping port to take out a motorboat, hijack a ship, and demand ransom. Which is what the Somali pirates are doing.

I looked back at what you wrote and you call for "selective destruction" along with a "naval blockade". But it's not just major ports, it would be every single fishing village along the coast. Equivalent to not just the major shipping ports in the U.S. but also every marina and dock. It would be completely impossible without immense cost, thousands of boats, troops, etc. Not to mention crazy, because the pirates are not doing all that much damage at all.
posted by delmoi at 9:12 AM on April 13, 2009


Usually the human psyche does feel elation when people who are committing crimes against fellow human beings get their comuppance.

I don't know about that. The pirate in custody is said to be between 16 and 20 years old, and I wouldn't be surprised if the three killed are of similar age. I think back to young criminals I knew growing up in the "inner city," and how the community would react when one of them suffered the nearly inevitable consequences of walking the path they decided to walk: it was usually something along the lines of "Yeah, he got what we all knew what was coming to him, and, yeah, even he woulda said he probably deserved it for some of the shit he did, but still...damn shame he ended up that way, so young."

I'm divided over this. Part of me is like "fuck yeah, SEALS are badass and these pirate mofos did NOT know who they were fucking with!" but another part has the reaction I described above. I'd be willing to bet most people are similarly conflicted.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:14 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You do understand that vessels don't hug the coastline, right?

i understand that they START from the coastline, which is more than you seem to be able to comprehend

you observe the coastline, especially the ports and you escort ships in convoys

the british navy eliminated piracy in the atlantic without our technology in an area that dwarfs the one we're talking about
posted by pyramid termite at 9:16 AM on April 13, 2009


Yeah, pyramid termite, you sound like someone who has never even seen the ocean here. You should probably stop now. Your "They can't hide on the ocean" made me literally laugh out loud. There is no better or easier place on earth to hide than the ocean.

The pirates also seem to mainly be using small outboard boats. You can drive those right up onto a beach. They don't need ports (pirates have never needed ports). So, conservatively, figure that 30% of the Somali coastline is available for landing small outboards. Good luck stationing troops at every place you can run a flat-bottomed outboard up onto shore.
posted by rusty at 9:18 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


the british navy eliminated piracy in the atlantic without our technology in an area that dwarfs the one we're talking about

When was this?
posted by delmoi at 9:19 AM on April 13, 2009


When was this?

Between the time when there was piracy and now?
posted by oaf at 9:23 AM on April 13, 2009


You don't need a major commercial shipping port to take out a motorboat, hijack a ship, and demand ransom. Which is what the Somali pirates are doing.

I looked back at what you wrote and you call for "selective destruction" along with a "naval blockade". But it's not just major ports, it would be every single fishing village along the coast.


and where are they getting the gas for the motorboats? not "every single fishing village along the coast"

you don't have to break every link in the chain, just the weakest one
posted by pyramid termite at 9:24 AM on April 13, 2009


and where are they getting the gas for the motorboats? not "every single fishing village along the coast"

Same place anyone gets gas for anything in Somalia -- from some guy on the side of any road, packaged in two liter soda bottles. You don't even need a whole village.
posted by rusty at 9:28 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


But seriously, piracy stopped when effective governments agreed not to allow pirates to operate out of their ports. We stopped the Barbary pirates from attacking U.S. flagged "on the shores of Tripoli" not the ocean. And it was done by forcing the government there to rescind the license of pirates to attack U.S. ships.

Piracy in the old days was done when countries were at war with each other, and would license piracy against their enemies. Other then that, it was done when lawless regions on land could be used, just as the Somali coast is used today. Pirates don't need industrial shipping ports to operate, and fishing village or beach will do.

and where are they getting the gas for the motorboats? not "every single fishing village along the coast"

Presumably at gas stations? (or wherever they get gas for their cars) I mean you don't think these pirates can figure out how to use gas cans to move fuel around? It's not a "chain" it's more like a web. Break the weakest link in a web and... you still have a web.

Obviously, if you have an effective government, such that every village and dock is secured against lawlessness, as you do in the U.S. and most of the world, it would be easy to prevent people from being pirates, just as you prevent other crimes. But without an effective government there is no way to do it. The only thing you could do would be to import a government, which would result in an insurgency and a much worse problem. Trying to blow up "every port on the coastline" is just absurd, as would be trying to control the entire costline.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 AM on April 13, 2009


the reason they don't allow guns on oil tankers is that they could blow up

I won't engage the rest of the silly things you're saying (blow up every single dock? seriously?), as others seem to have that covered, but the arm-the-merchantmen angle was covered and linked to several times, prominently, in this very thread. You have no idea what you're talking about.

It seems that in your case the amount of knowledge and thoughtfulness you bring to this discussion is directly proportionate to the amount of puncuation that you use.
posted by ScotchRox at 9:32 AM on April 13, 2009


"the british navy eliminated piracy in the atlantic without our technology in an area that dwarfs the one we're talking about"

Well...sorta. It was technology that ended piracy, not force of arms. Steam power put an effective end to the golden age of piracy. And the Brits started using that for anti-slaving operations.
The pirates couldn't catch the new steam ships, and it was cost prohibitive to do on a larger scale. Plus they co-opted a lot of pirates as privateers. Sort of legalized piracy.
But piracy never really went away.
And modern technology has somewhat equalized the playing field again, so it's possible to use speed and surprise to ambush ships.
That and the laws on merchant vessels carrying armaments or even firearms.

"I was so happy to hear this."
I disagree. It would have been better to end this peacefully. They never had a chance. It's a stupid waste of human life. If they had any basic knowledge at all they would have known how vulnerable they were. SEALs do indeed kick ass, but snipers have been a key part of maritime operations for hundreds of years. Shots over the water can be tough, but with enough training, can be pretty reliably executed. And that's anyone with a decent navy. They're going to have snipers that can do this, SEALs, the Indian MARCOS, anyone.
That the pirates didn't know this - or that they for some reason chose, or thought of themselves as safe - is just plain delusional. Shame they didn't know it (or chose to die). I guess the point being they didn't *have* to die, they forced the situation.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:35 AM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I can barely throw a ball of trash into a wastebasket without falling over. I can't imagine the skill it would take for three nigh-simultaneous headshots through open portholes on an open, rolling sea.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:37 AM on April 13, 2009


We could certainly patrol shipping lanes with Predator drone aircraft 24 hours a day, raining Hellfire missiles on any small craft which approach merchant ships.
We could also station an aircraft carrier in the vicinity, and scramble fighters whenever merchant ships spot approaching enemies and radio for help.
posted by metaplectic at 9:39 AM on April 13, 2009


I mean you don't think these pirates can figure out how to use gas cans to move fuel around?

my whole point is that it could be made a lot tougher for them - in fact, it seems as though the navies of the world are starting to do that

if they have to go to more remote places and carry their gas further, that cuts into their operational ability

we have satellites, drones and as long as that coastline is, the country's only got 9-10 million people in it - there are certain areas that can be watched so they won't be able to use them - doing that and putting ships in convoys would make life a lot tougher for those pirates

you isolate the major onshore support areas and the targets - if they have to be supplied in the middle of nowhere that's tougher for them - and if the targets are bunched together with naval ships guarding them, that makes it a lot less likely they'll get anyone

it's probably a lot easier than trying to make sure they get an effective government, which is a task we should not be attempting
posted by pyramid termite at 9:46 AM on April 13, 2009


I think PT is talking about the decline of piracy in the Caribbean after 1720 or so, which is a bit early for steam. Apart from increased naval pressure, what really managed it was the elimination of pirate havens like Nassau - what we'd probably refer to today as a "failed state". You may draw your own parallels.
posted by zamboni at 9:46 AM on April 13, 2009


We could also drop a few hundred dump truck loads of US currency in front of the major shipping companies headquarters and tell them to enjoy it Scrooge McDuck style. We could even give me a pony. Why on earth would we do any of those things?
posted by rusty at 9:48 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


PS: PT, don't convince us, give the Navy a call! Clearly, the Brits don't know what they're doing.
posted by zamboni at 9:50 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Derrick Jensen's Premise 5:

"Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice."
posted by symbioid at 9:53 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm just here to compliment the tactical brilliance of leaving one pirate alive. In my relative naivety about killing, I would have assumed that taking all of them out was the way to go. Now the possibility of bargaining with the Navy for survival totally undermines whatever unit cohesion the pirates had in the first place. Great job, SEALS.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:58 AM on April 13, 2009


We could also drop a few hundred dump truck loads of US currency in front of the major shipping companies headquarters and tell them to enjoy it Scrooge McDuck style. We could even give me a pony. Why on earth would we do any of those things?

we need the oil and other things they carry?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:04 AM on April 13, 2009


I'm just here to compliment the tactical brilliance of leaving one pirate alive. In my relative naivety about killing

I don't think that one was on the boat. Also why should have to bargain with the US navy for "Survival"? Are you saying we should threaten to kill him? How would that make us any better then them?
posted by delmoi at 10:08 AM on April 13, 2009


I don't think that one was on the boat. Also why should have to bargain with the US navy for "Survival"? Are you saying we should threaten to kill him? How would that make us any better then them?

He wasn't on the boat. He was on a Navy ship receiving medical treatment for stab wounds he had received when the Maersk Alabama was being hijacked.

I think what Inspector.Gadget meant was being able to negotiate the release of Captain Phillips after being treated by Navy medical staff. That went to shit, however, when one of the pirates on the lifeboat decided to level his weapon at the Captain's back.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 10:14 AM on April 13, 2009


The cost of piracy (currently) isn't high enough to justify a major shore-bombardment operation, let alone any sort of invasion or blockade. However satisfying it might be to the American public, and however useful that might be to the administration, the cost/benefit is just not there.

What will probably happen is that the Navy will park a few vessels -- maybe a CBG, probably not -- off the coast, and US-flagged mariners will get escorts. Some adventurous pirates might get shot and end up being fap material for the right wing here at home, but for the most part they'll just avoid escorted ships in favor of easier prey.

Since there aren't that many US-flagged merchant ships in the world, this isn't too impractical (most merchant ships have flags of convenience, which perhaps they'll rethink). Non-US-flagged ships will continue to get attacked, and the shipowners will continue to pay ransom, but because Americans are by and large not involved, the public here -- and by extension the leadership, civilian and military -- will cease to give a shit, except as an occasional curiosity.

The world will go on. Poor people will die, rich people will get cheap consumer goods and oil, and a small number of people at the very top of the criminal hierarchy in Somalia will make a killing, demonstrating to everyone around them that crime really does pay, at least occasionally.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:24 AM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Longbaugh: Many folks in the military are now watching for some commentators to focus on Obama's masterful use of the military as a result of this successful action. They really don't like him.

Sounds more like a couple dozen far right-wing ex military types on a private website, than an widespread attitude in the military. Though given that the military tends to recruit more from rural areas than urban, and the existence of the "Southern Milititary tradition", I'm not surprised there's a fair number of off the scale to the right types in the military. I'm also fairly amused at the frustration moderators have in getting people to do their profiles properly.


delmoi: Obviously, if you have an effective government, such that every village and dock is secured against lawlessness, as you do in the U.S. and most of the world, it would be easy to prevent people from being pirates, just as you prevent other crimes. But without an effective government there is no way to do it. The only thing you could do would be to import a government, which would result in an insurgency and a much worse problem.

And, leaving aside pointing fingers of blame at people, this is the crux of the problem. Given the fiascoes that the last couple attempts at nation building in the region were, no government is interested in doing a multinational effort at nation building in the region.

I note that even Christopher Jasparro merely pointed out the problem, without trying to come up with a solution, other than complaining about a military response. Even he is uninterested in concrete solutions, such nation building, since it's going to end up framed in the terms of "How many of our soldier and aid workers would you like to see killed in helpingSomalia?"
posted by happyroach at 10:32 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


we need the oil and other things they carry?

Take for a f'rinstance the very high-profile Sirius Star hijacking. The SS was carrying 2 million barrels of oil worth upwards of $100 million. That is, 2 million barrels at $50 a barrel. The ransom paid for the release of the ship (and all its cargo and crew) was $3 million. This made the oil on that one ship worth about $50.67 a barrel. This 2 million barrels represented about 25% of the Saudi crude output for one day. (All numbers from Wikipedia).

I don't think it's a stretch to say that piracy has yet to threaten the very Fabric of American Life.
posted by rusty at 10:34 AM on April 13, 2009


Who is selling weapons to Somalis, and how are they paying for them?
posted by halogen at 10:35 AM on April 13, 2009


God bless the soldiers who saved Capt. Phillips. Now let us turn our attention to rescuing the hundreds of remaining hostages still being held by other pirates in Somalia.
posted by jsonic at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2009


“The cost of piracy (currently) isn't high enough to justify a major shore-bombardment operation, let alone any sort of invasion or blockade. However satisfying it might be to the American public, and however useful that might be to the administration, the cost/benefit is just not there.”
Bingo. And, like piracy in the old days – they’re all just ripping off the insurance companies.

“my whole point is that it could be made a lot tougher for them”

We could. But it’s a proposition similar to arming merchant ships. It’s not worth the dedication in resources. On top of that you can’t (and I’m reticent to broach this topic since I recently got in an argument about it and people seem to have a hard time comprehending it) use too much firepower assaulting what you think is a pirate position. You could have a lot of collateral damage in a port - innocent people and legitimate shipping operations.
And then there aren’t a lot of cost effective options for disabling small boats non-lethally (other than snipers, and that still requires training). Which is probably the biggest challenge, because a lot of boats operate under flags of convenience, so you’ve got problems IDing them anyway and you don’t want to blow up some guy who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So it’s mostly interdiction, which means manpower, because restricting movement isn’t practical and you’re dealing with an adaptive enemy.
I’m not saying maritime security has to always be reactive. But you’d typically want low intensity operation to be your primary activity, especially in the littoral waters. Mostly because of logistics. You’d be spending a LOT of money moving a lot beef around trying to catch pirates. And with active or passive systems you’ve got plenty of false positives (or failures to detect the genuine article).
And there are limits to what satellites can do. We’re still using sonobouys to detect small boats (anti-smuggling operatons, etc) but there’s still hefty manpower (technical and monitoring) and costs associated with that as well.

Back in 2002 The Base took out a super tanker (the Limburg…which, ok, some black humor there ‘cos of office space ….yeeahhh, I’m going to have to go ahead and explode spilling 50,000 barrels of oil on the coast. Ok? Grrreat) off the coast of Yemen.
But, in terms of devotion of resources, the U.S. gets shipping disrupted equivalent to this kind of small scale attack every month- boating problems, industrial accidents, etc. etc. – hundreds or even thousands of lives at risk and millions of dollars in property and infrastructure damage.

This type of thing (piracy, terrorism, etc.) gets more play because it’s man-made and deliberate. But generally, you’re better off focusing on fire safety, drills, disaster preparedness, all that. It’s just a better use of resources and energy.
I mean, we’ve got tons of undeclared entries by small craft every day on the U.S. coastline, between the U.S. and Canada, the Bahamas, Mexico, South America, and they all operate near high value ships and ports with no restrictions and indeed, only minimal training.

So some dufus on jerkohol could do more damage and kill more people in the port of L.A. than any number of pirates, or terrorists for that matter.

Not that I don’t think , say, the coast guard shouldn’t get more money (cutters are so sweet) but the mission has to be balanced – the (U.S.) navy (although we could work with others on joint operations) can provide intelligence support, pirate threat interdiction is a whole other job that should be run like counterterrorism operations.
I don’t much like spending money on this, but on the other hand 1/3 of the U.S. economy comes from the shipping trade, so I suppose we have to do it.
And I do agree it’s not the job of private companies to do security work (we’ve seen where that sort of happened with the East India Company and uh…yeah, not good as foreign policy). But vessels under, say, 500 tons could pick up some freaking transponders to make the job of the nations a bit easier. They could pick up the radio and talk to each other and patrol vessels if they see something (although a lot of them do do that).

“Who is selling weapons to Somalis, and how are they paying for them?”

Given we’re the largest arms seller in the world – we probably supply at least some of them. But it’s damned easy to get weapons in the 3rd world from anywhere if you’ve got money. Although I s'pose that's true anywhere relatively.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:51 AM on April 13, 2009


Arms monitors say the guns come from a surreal mix of sources that includes China, the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Ukraine, Finland and North Korea.

Some of the weapons are bought legally but change hands rapidly, managed by dealers who steer them to illegal destinations, often with the use of phony end-user certificates that make their transport appear legitimate.

One alleged dealer, Victor Bout, is suspected of running an arms network from the former Soviet Union to Africa and the Middle East. Another, Syrian-born Monzer al-Kasser, was last week sentenced to 30 years by a U.S. court for conspiring to sell weapons to Colombian militants.

Phoenix, Ariz., gun store owner George Iknadosian is accused of selling hundreds of rifles to smugglers who delivered them to a Mexican drug cartel.

posted by zamboni at 10:54 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reading this thread is, in large part, like reading an argument between a retard and a moron. A whole lot of know-nothing bloviating and guesswork.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:12 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only effective way to totally eliminate Somalia piracy in the long run is to have a stable, effective government, to not only crack down on piracy but the illegal overfishing and toxic dumping. This is a rare case where I wish some limited form of imperialism remained, not to disenfranchise the population, but to establish effective institutions that then could be transferred to the local population.
Until there is such a thing, there will likely have to be convoys and increased attention paid to this area. There is also going to have to be some legal framework devised for dealing with those that are captured. The terrain is difficult, but given that the crew of this ship effectively beat back the attempt, except for the capture of the captain, I would think there has to be some ways to beef up the individual ships, to make them more resistant to attack, even if they don't want to add armed guards. Make it increasingly difficult to board the ships, add things like sandbags that can be dropped by hand, one of those hitting a motorboat from the deck of a cargo ship would do significant damage.

Like the hijacking of planes, I tend to think that effective design would make things a lot harder for the pirates/whomever to accomplish their goals. (with planes, if they had reinforced bulkheads and no access from the cockpit to the general cabin, something like boxcutters or small caliber guns would be near pointless to take over the plane)
posted by edgeways at 11:23 AM on April 13, 2009


Somalis can't open up a used bookstore, they can't sell computers, they can't trade stocks, they can't even do really basic stuff, like farm.

If life is so bad in Somalia, why don't they just post stridently to MeFi to show their frustration with their conditions? Oh, right.

Seriously though, I agree that the pirates have moral responsibility for their evil actions. I also believe that ignoring the conditions that breed this sort of thing is likely to result in more of the same. You can't be tough on crime without caring about social justice without seeming selfish and clueless. Of course in U.S. politics and media we like to paint the two as incompatible opposites. I'm happy to see some of the people here resisting the urge to make it black and white.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:28 AM on April 13, 2009


It's not really a question of the legality of dealing with pirates. The legal framework is there, and has been for a long time. But the practicalities of capturing, transporting and putting pirates on trial are problematic and not a lot of countries want to deal with the hassle.
posted by electroboy at 11:29 AM on April 13, 2009


(and to clarify – this was a tactical interdiction, I’m speaking of strategic interdiction suggested by pyramid termite’s comments which takes a lot of resources – however PT - point taken on close shore and in-shore interdiction being a worthwhile strategy as a strategy. Cmdr. Lippold (former commander of the USS Cole) had the same thing to say about littoral combat ships. Still could get really messy. I understand the South Africans have a dedicated reaction force with shallow draft boats that can run through vegetation and over sand bars. But – it’s not the U.S.’s mission modules that’s a problem. This is about the priority: is it worth doing? I notice Lippold is of the opinion that the world is watching, and some folks have commented that the 3rd world loves an underdog (but who doesn’t?) and yet, just ‘cos someone wants to engage you – do you have to oblige them? Is it worth spending $30 million a day on one operation to take out one guy with an assault rifle? And hell, if they really are media savvy and into being underdogs, who’s to say you won’t wind up shooting a boatload of “innocents” whether you actually did or not – given that course of engagement. Right now it’s just patrols. But even if the pirates tripled their assaults from last year, it still wouldn’t really hurt shipping. Internationally we spend, what, $300 million a year patrolling the Gulf of Aden?

The real problem is refugees. Ok – yeah, how many aid workers you want killed – yeah, fair point. But Kenya already has three camps (and the U.N. is pushing them to make a fourth) with a quarter of a million Somalis. When are the going to start shooting to stop them? The equivalent of 10 Americans could be killed this year alone. :-p And there are Somali … criminals? Anarchists? Warlords? Using the camps as hideouts. Most of the food that goes to Somalia is foreign aid and the power of the TNG rests on the fact that they gain control of it. Al Shabaab feels the same way. So there’s some, y’know, friction. With bullets. The fun part is they both provide “protection” for foreign aid workers. Protection from the other outfit. Who are, y’know, the bad guys.
This is a huge shit sandwich and the pirate thing is such a minor symptom, but it’s getting all the play. I mean, it’s a shame this guy got taken hostage. But this is way out of proportion to the complete clusterfuck the international community has made of the situation. When's the last time you even heard "Somalia" in the news except for the pirate thing?)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:50 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


edgeways: This is a rare case where I wish some limited form of imperialism remained, not to disenfranchise the population, but to establish effective institutions that then could be transferred to the local population.

This is a case where an aggressive form of imperialism (Somalia was conquered by Ethiopia, with U.S. backing as part of the "war on terror"), has exacerbated the problem greatly. After reading the article more carefully, the ICU cracked down on piracy and decreased it. Then they were defeated militarily, and piracy increased. The puppet regime (TFG) that was put in place was greeted pretty much the way that one would expect: resistance from the previous power-holders and their allies, acting from within the population. The TFG response was to shell the capital and terrorize the countryside. And of course the ICU holdouts undoubtedly ran their own terror campaign. From what I can tell, there are no effective institutions in Somalia.

I haven't followed the Somalian conflict too closely, and it's almost never reported on in the news in the U.S., and always passively, like this stuff just happened. Anyway, looking around the web, it appears that Ethiopia withdrew its forces in January 2009, and that's good news. Things aren't going to magically get better, but imperialists always screw things up because they have no idea what the local politics are. Somalian politics look crazy complicated to me, because they involve large national groups (secular and religious) as well as local clans. People have divided loyalties. Some of the Islamist groups are more fundamentalist than others, and they aren't necessarily allies. We should let the Somalis sort out who's going to be in charge, and then we should help them, no matter who wins.
posted by Humanzee at 12:35 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dead pirates (CNN):
Pirates in Somalia identified the slain men as Mohamed Ahmed Adawe, Nur Dalabey and Khalif Guled. Two of them -- Dalabey and Guled -- were among the "most experienced men" in a group that has hijacked seagoing vessels for money, Ahmed said.
Anyone seen any other information about them?
posted by pracowity at 12:43 PM on April 13, 2009


Well, at the very least we got the whole ninja vs. pirate thing sorted out.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:13 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think ninjas versus pirates is still up in the air. We have only resolved the issue of SEALs versus pirates.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:18 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not really a question of the legality of dealing with pirates. The legal framework is there, and has been for a long time. But the practicalities of capturing, transporting and putting pirates on trial are problematic and not a lot of countries want to deal with the hassle.

I think that framework allows any nation to arrest and prosecute them in international waters, and pretty much only for the host country to do it for acts within its territorial waters. Most of these acts are occurring in Somali territorial waters and they are a failed government.
posted by caddis at 1:28 PM on April 13, 2009


SEALs are the Navy's ninjas.
posted by metaplectic at 1:41 PM on April 13, 2009


Anyone seen any other information about them?

Reuters interview with pirate first published in January -- "I'm a successful Somali pirate" - Yassin's story

"I have employees doing the business for me now. I am a financier. I get my money and I don't have to leave Eyl. I have not gone to sea to hijack in recent months."

"Piracy will not stop unless we get a government."
posted by e-state 4.0 at 1:59 PM on April 13, 2009


Most of these acts are occurring in Somali territorial waters and they are a failed government.

According to the graphic that XQUZYPHYR linked to early that is incorrect. The Somali territorial waters extend 12 nm out, these attacks are quite a bit further out, in international waters.
posted by Big_B at 2:28 PM on April 13, 2009


SEALs are the Navy's ninjas.

NINJAs are the Navy's ninjas. Just because you haven't seen or heard them does not mean they are not there. Indeed, it could be reasonably argued that once their existence is confirmed, they have failed to be ninja.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:20 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Could be worse. Could have happened while you know who was still in office.
posted by notreally at 3:45 PM on April 13, 2009


Yeah, I wouldn't have trusted John Tyler to handle this properly at all.
posted by oaf at 3:57 PM on April 13, 2009


When will the politicians figure out that to get the original source of this mess they'll have to rustle up everyone who's been retired 20 years and living like a king in Patagonia?
posted by inigo2 at 4:08 PM on April 13, 2009


Things get complicated when there are other Somali ships out there who are trying to protect Somali waters from illegal dumping and fishing. Is these foreign navies going to help out with that? Doubtful. Before the pirating trend began, complaints of illegal dumping and fishing fell on deaf ears around the world.

The xTrumanx Show... a Western educated Redditor rejoins his family in Somaliland.
posted by Huplescat at 7:40 PM on April 13, 2009


Is these foreign navies going to help out with that? Doubtful. Before the pirating trend began, complaints of illegal dumping and fishing fell on deaf ears around the world.

If the problem is foreign ships in their waters, why aren't the pirates sending foreign trawlers to the bottom? Their motto should be, "Fish in our waters and you'll sleep with the fishes."

Protecting the local fishing industry from international corporate pirates would be the right thing to do and it might prevent some Somalis from becoming pirates, but how much money does a Somalian fisherman make? Now that they've seen Paree, how many young Somalis are going to go back to (or take up) simple fishing when they think they can pull in hundreds of thousands of dollars each just for helping with one kidnapping? You don't get Al Capone and his boys to go into honest trades by offering them vocational educations and union jobs.
posted by pracowity at 12:05 AM on April 14, 2009


OK, this thread is beyond salvation, but I'll attempt to bring some reason into it.

Re. waste dumping: these allegations are apparently just based on unconfirmed sightings of "toxic containers" on Somali beaches after the tsunami. They are, of course, unconfirmed, because the number of reliable sources in Somalia trends towards zero. Journalists are killed, period. And, think of it: in case of having (quite literally) a shitload of toxic waste to dump, and the whole fucking ocean to dump it in it, not even the crassest asshole would deliberately choose a coastline, Somali or otherwise.

Re. overfishing: there's no doubt that some trawlers have taken advantage of the mayhem in Somalia to fish in Somalia's EEZ without a permit (who should they get that permit from, anyway?). However, most ships seized by the pirates, trawlers included, were well outside the EEZ. And even admitting that their fishing had a noticeable impact in Somalia's fish stocks (which is a very big if), it is completely disingeneous to compare the protein "lifted" by the trawlers (which is, moreover, a very difficult guess), with the food aid. First of all, even if the foreign trawlers weren't fishing that fish, it would not be easy for the Somalis to catch it in their place, considering that they only have light skiffs. Moreover, while I certainly wouldn't exchange my life with any Somali's, it isn't the fishermen who have it worse: it's the pastoralist tribes in the interior who have suffered the most from famine. I'm not sure those shepherds would know what to do with a fish if you gave it to them. Moreover, you'd have to bring it to them, quite a tall order in a country without decent roads or (hint, hint) refrigeration.

Re. the UCI: the UCI never had much of a grip on the Puntland region where most of the piracy apparently comes from. Moreover, I don't think that many of those who deplore the sad lot of the Somali pirates would be very supportive of a government so keen on lapidation. Anyway, if a naval force with ships from half the world's navies can't reasonably eradicate piracy in the region, I don't see how a "Somali Coast Guard" could solve that (never mind the overfishing).

Re. the "catch and release" policies of the international naval task force patrolling the area: those navies have their hands bound by national and international law. You can't simply fire on a ship because you think it may be a pirate ship (and thankfully so). Moreover, even when you are certain, there's the matter of the eventual hostages: the Indian Navy proudly announced the sinking of a "pirate mother ship", only to end up considerably embarrassed when it turned out that the ship was a captured Korean trawler, which sank with its entire original crew on board. This American operation was a one-off situation.

Re. bombing the whole lot: let's not forget that the first victims of the pillaging thugs on both Somali sea and land are the Somalis themselves.

In short: it isn't going to be simple, or easy.
posted by Skeptic at 12:19 AM on April 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


Derrick Jensen's Premise 5:

"Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice."
posted by symbioid at 10:53 AM on April 13 [1 favorite +] [!]


That's a stupid comment. Good or bad, the pirates were shot because they were threatening to kill a hostage, not because of piracy or to make money for The Man or whatever.
posted by Snyder at 12:19 AM on April 14, 2009


Protecting the local fishing industry from international corporate pirates would be the right thing to do

Supporting such a position clashes with the 'no excuse for violence' and supports the 'need to have a forum for adjudication else you get violence' position.

not even the crassest asshole would deliberately choose a coastline, Somali or otherwise.

What about state VS state or tribe VS tribe warfare or how about a corporation?

If you are illegally dumping - why would one assume you have fuel, sea worthiness and knowledge of the deep sea currents to pick a 'safe' "the solution to pollution is dilution" dumping spot?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:28 AM on April 14, 2009


Supporting such a position clashes with the 'no excuse for violence'

There is no excuse for violence (except when life is directly threatened, such as when you shoot kidnappers who are holding innocents at gunpoint). I meant that the various navies policing the area ought to also protect the local fishing industry (if the local fishing people are being harmed by illegal foreign trawlers, and if that is indeed a contributing factor to Somalis becoming pirates). To stop piracy, stop the pirates in the act, but also reduce their inclination to become pirates. I'm sure it's a thousand times harder to do than it sounds, especially if Somalian government departments are selling fishing rights to foreigners when Somalis need that fishing business, but it's at least worth consideration.
posted by pracowity at 6:48 AM on April 14, 2009


If you are illegally dumping - why would one assume you have fuel, sea worthiness and knowledge of the deep sea currents to pick a 'safe' "the solution to pollution is dilution" dumping spot?

By the same token, if these ships have no fuel or sea worthiness, then they're most likely coming from Somalia. There's not much nearby that doesn't involve coming through the Suez.
posted by electroboy at 7:58 AM on April 14, 2009


The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other?

Analysis: Somalia Piracy Began in Response to Illegal Fishing and Toxic Dumping by Western Ships off Somali Coast
posted by homunculus at 9:22 AM on April 14, 2009


Somali Pirates Hijack 4 More Ships
posted by gompa at 9:42 AM on April 14, 2009


Crap, that NYT link seems to be truncated for some reason. Here it is at Yahoo News.
posted by gompa at 9:45 AM on April 14, 2009


Undeterred by U.S. and French hostage rescues that killed five bandits, Somali pirates brazenly hijacked four more ships in the Gulf of Aden, the waterway at the center of the world's fight against piracy. Pirates have vowed to retaliate for deaths of their colleagues

Just great.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:38 AM on April 14, 2009


"And, think of it: in case of having (quite literally) a shitload of toxic waste to dump, and the whole fucking ocean to dump it in it, not even the crassest asshole would deliberately choose a coastline, Somali or otherwise"

Factually, I have no issue with your position. There isn't a lot of evidence and perhaps it's hard to come by. I dunno.
However, contemplating the 'if's' - companies, nations, etc., don't have the whole ocean to dump in. There are environmental rules to dumping at sea and those are enforced internationally. The U.S. Navy has some very strict rules about dumping. I believe they figure if they have to deal with it, so should everyone else (it's a matter of policy so it would be done anyway, but y'know, the sense from the ground). So, logically, you dump where the 'government' can be paid off or doesn't have the power to stop you.
And as mentioned above, there's a fuel/etc. profit margin to consider. So, yeah, 'if' it was done, they'd do it there.

What strikes me is the mentality of the pirates. I mean, you can almost set your watch by it. (And I mentioned above, they have the 'root for the underdog' mentality against the west - the U.S. in particular - or at least some folks have posited that)
What I don't get is, as a pirate, you're far better off writing off deaths caused by armed forces as the cost of doing business.
Undertaking this kind of challenge, they're choosing one of the few paths that would lead to their destruction (start costing the shipping industry more, being a REAL problem, and there could well be a targeted in-shore interdiction campaign).
Perhaps they subconsciously wish that? Pure speculation on my part there. But were it me, I'd much rather see my country stable and be able to live a nice regular lifestyle working for a cell phone company say, rather than as a pirate - no matter how many women and drugs and luxuries I had. And maybe they believe an invasion by western military forces could do that?
Dunno.
Or maybe it's just talk. Wouldn't cost them anything to say it and not do it really. And if they were able to keep operating they could pass themselves off as heroes standing up to the west.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:07 PM on April 14, 2009


Smedleyman, there is plenty of space in the high seas without a functional government. It's called international waters. As long as you dump the stuff more than 200 miles away from any coast, there's little anybody can do about it.
posted by Skeptic at 12:39 PM on April 14, 2009


I suspect the pirates will not want to ruin a good thing by killing their hostages. It's a lot more profitable to keep them alive, and profit appears to be the primary motivator here.
posted by electroboy at 2:34 PM on April 14, 2009


"Smedleyman, there is plenty of space in the high seas without a functional government. It's called international waters."

Y'know, even a cursory bit of research reveals why. There are conventions against dumping in international waters. Until the 1990s the Soviet Navy routinely dumped radioactive waste in Far Eastern and Arctic waters. Then they got into a whole beef with Japan. And in 1996 protocols on dumping in the sea were updated to be more restrictive - by the U.N. and enforced by the international maritime organization.
No one wants trouble with them.
And then too it matters what you're dumping - blacklisted elements like mercury and mercury compounds or cadmium, radioactive waste, organohalogens, etc. - yeah, they're going to take the time and effort necessary to track you down and plant their boots up your ass because that stuff is dangerous. Dump scrap metal, or lead, less so, and stuff that's biodegradable - meh - as long as you're not dumping it on, say, a protected area like a coral reef. In fact researchers have been looking at dumping crop waste in the ocean as a carbon sink.

I'll grant that it can be done surreptitiously, but it tends to float around and wash up in places where a given nation might have the power to do something about it. Plenty of deep currents.

But if you (surreptitiously) dump it in territorial waters, it's probably going to wash up on that nation's coast. And if that nation can't do anything about it, you pretty much get away with it. The Italians did a pretty big business in this in early 2000. Physicist Massimo Scalia was the investigator tasked by the Italian parliament.

And again - you're looking at a cost-benefit thing and matters of scale. You don't just load up some nuclear waste on a yacht and dump it. You go back and forth too much with little cargo and your fuel costs are going to price you out of business. So you need a bigger ship. So you need people to work with the stuff. And training in handling and protective equipment cost money - so you can't tell them what the stuff is. And payoffs and bribes are cheaper than the cost of the equipment and doing it right. Meanwhile whatever benefits there are in bulk (bigger ship) can be offset by the odds of getting spotted and boarded.
Without getting fully into method - suffice it to say method is a factor in cost.

As are fines. Back in early 2000 the Italian government just levied fines for dumping in coastal waters in Mozambique, Malawi, Zaire, etc and Somalia of course. They just got small fines.

So the treaties were stiffened, with penalties going to the host countries, and then dumpers went under flags of convenience and policing became the big issue.
So fines went up, and companies started getting fined for even minor infractions.

So it's not something you can simply just do in international waters because there's no law there. There is plenty of national policing overlap.

So it's a matter of *evading* the law. Which is certainly possible, but not so much when any nation with a decent navy is paying attention. From that last link - why didn't the French just sink the Clemenceau in international waters if there's no law there? Or indeed, just sink it, even if there is? Because there is law there. With the caveat that it's only really when someone's paying attention. And the Indians were paying attention.

But again - when it's the third world and their concerns, they don't pay so much attention.

It's funny - people seem to have some sort of knee jerk inability to understand that there is exploitation of the third world going on and that has a spillover effect in terms of instability, violence, terrorism, etc.

Criminal organizations routinely abduct young women and children for sex slavery and other kinds of worker exploitation. I understand (anecdotally from NPR) someone high up in the British government was being told about this and he asked why he should care when they were "just whores."
Meanwhile - same thing with drugs, guns, counterfeit money - which is more or less the 'natural' currency of the underworld - and international criminal organizations evade government control as easily as multinational corporations seem to.

Do people not get that at some point this is a universal human concern and eventually it's going to bite you on the ass too? Sure not in the same way, but a demon's a demon.

I mean, what, am I a genius that I get it or does one actually have to go out and kill people oneself to realize how fucking futile it is?
Every war scholar from Clausewitz to Sun Tsu extols the virtue of attacking the root cause - of destroying the enemies strategy rather than butchering personnel.

And again - factually, hey, maybe no one dumped anything on Somali. Fine.
Still doesn't mean we're blameless in the evolution of that situation there.
Our solution is to take out the pirates that bother us piecemeal. Maybe it's not our job to really put forth the money and effort to deal with the situation rather than the effects.

I have to ask - at what point does it get fixed though? 20 years? 100? Never? Does this just roll on and on and on and we keep those people trapped in that situation for as long as we maintain economic and military advantage? We just never devote the resources to find a solution?
Hell, I don't have any answers. I just don't like half-assing anything.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:24 PM on April 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Civil_Disobedient: Undeterred by U.S. and French hostage rescues that killed five bandits, Somali pirates brazenly hijacked four more ships in the Gulf of Aden, the waterway at the center of the world's fight against piracy. Pirates have vowed to retaliate for deaths of their colleagues

Just great.


Either the pirates are blustering or they're idiots. We have all kinds of technology designed to detect boats on the open ocean, and we can destroy any ship the Somalis have with no danger to our military whatsoever. If the pirates start to kill Americans, people will be pissed, and the Navy will be deployed in force. At that point, it will be completely impossible for them to operate, and any that try will be killed or captured.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:37 PM on April 14, 2009


Funniest thread I've read in awhile. Keep it coming!
posted by tehloki at 3:36 AM on April 15, 2009


Either the pirates are blustering or they're idiots.

Or both.

and any that try will be killed or captured.

Or both.

But remember that it didn't take much to blow a hole in the side of the Cole. That was 17 dead and 39 injured sailors. If a handful of Somalis in water wings and inner tubes send a billion-dollar ship to the bottom with lots of young American sailors, it's going to be harder to make attacking (rather than paying) the pirates look like it was the right thing to do.

Also, there are all kinds of people mixed up in this, from big fat bastard gangster chiefs who pick their teeth with the bones of kittens to skinny teenage boys trying to earn lunch money, and their "mother ships" may be hijacked boats full of innocent fishermen. Worse, if you try to take the battle to the shore (which I have read is in the works), it is almost a given that you will kill big-eyed toddlers and toothless old grannies on camera while Christiane Amanpour is interviewing them.
posted by pracowity at 3:44 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


pracowity: But remember that it didn't take much to blow a hole in the side of the Cole. That was 17 dead and 39 injured sailors. If a handful of Somalis in water wings and inner tubes send a billion-dollar ship to the bottom with lots of young American sailors, it's going to be harder to make attacking (rather than paying) the pirates look like it was the right thing to do.

What the hell? Since when did the strategy for crime fighting become 'Oh god we can't fight back, they might retaliate in some horrible way, so we just have to lay back and let the criminals get away with whatever they want.' Yeah, they might retaliate if we attack the organization. So might the mafia, or the drug gangs, or whoever.

In any case, I don't think we're in severe danger of losing a navy vessel to these guys. I think the navy learned their lesson with the Cole and won't let unknown vessels approach anymore... Not that anyone would in a part of the world crawling with pirates anyway.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:27 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


My prediction is that there's a temporary escalation on the part of the pirates. Not necessarily killing, but some higher intensity gunplay, more strident demands, threats of killing hostages, but ultimately they want to return to business as usual. They don't want a coalition navy protecting shipping lanes, they just want to pick off a ship now and again and collect the ransom. If they can keep it at "acceptable" levels, nations, insurance companies and shipping concerns won't want to escalate.
posted by electroboy at 7:40 AM on April 15, 2009


11 Pirates Are Seized in Raid by French Navy

Just great, now the pirates are really gonna retalliate. The French and US navies will be sunk off the horn of Africa.
posted by metaplectic at 11:16 AM on April 15, 2009


And if that nation can't do anything about it, you pretty much get away with it.

Doesn't matter if its a nation or a person - without some empowerment option for the victim - the offender will 'get away with it'.

Humanity has a great leveling tool with the Internet and software to manage the data the Internet allows to be passed about. The only effective vote one has is where one spends their dollars. The biggest hurdles to getting your choice noticed is to have others join you AND providing data to back up the boycott reason that is not full of noise.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:20 PM on April 15, 2009


Well, Clinton's sending an envoy. At least they're talking. Hopefully we can listen and discern the nature of the cause, figure out how to alleviate it short of another military campaign. Or at least using targeted interdiction.
We have to question our motives though. Piracy is merely getting a lot of attention. I don't like spending dump trucks full of money just to shoot some people. Like putting all the funding into building prisons instead of addressing the social concerns that give rise to crime.

Actually rough ashlar - there is a great deal of involvement and public watchdogging going on in the ocean. Greenpeace is just one example. Plenty of fishing outfits and other people who make their living from/in the ocean have a big gripe with folks who dump in the open seas. And yes, modern communications does make this even more effective.
Which, again, is why dumpers have to be stealthy about it. Look like they're headed for a port or something. Conduct business seemingly legitimately. Which gives plausible deniability to the company or people that hired you as well. So it can be tough to make that choice who to buy from.
And some (potential) victims are empowered, others aren't. It's easy to silence some folks.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:06 AM on April 16, 2009


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