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Archive for the tag “piracy”

Civilized and uncivilized responses to pirates

For some years now piracy has been endemic off the Horn of Africa and one of the strange cultural phenomena of our day, which probably deserves some anthropological study, is the ambivalent Western response to piracy, which ranges from the romanticism of International Talk-like-a-pirate Day to the crude vengefulness described by The Western Confucian: The Republic of Korea’s Civilized Response to Somali Piracy:

Pirates though they may be (or have been), they are worthy of the dignified treatment these stories report is being afforded to the dead — S. Korea to Hand Bodies of Pirates Over to Somalia — and to the living — Pirates may be flown to Korea for punishment. ‘Piracy is an issue where universal jurisdiction is applied,’ said a government official, quoted in the second article. ‘There will be no legal barriers to punish them because it is an international crime against the Korean people.’

Compare that manly, civilized response to the barbarism of the cheering when suspected pirates ‘were ‘set free’ in a tiny inflatable raft, with no navigation equipment, 350 miles off the coast of Yemen’ (to agonizingly die of thirst) by one of the blogosphere’s more annoying personalities — Rod Dreher Supports Extra-Judicial Execution. ‘Off you go, lads! Enjoy the sailing!’ he lisped.

And one could say that the Somali pirates are simply exercising their right to a non-statist freemarket dream.

Turkish autopsies reveal aid workers shot from behind

Turkish autopsies reveal aid activists shot from behind:

On Friday, the Turkish Council of Forensic Medicine released preliminary autopsy results for the nine Turkish men killed in the Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara. The findings have generated almost as much controversy as has Israel’s actions. The results show five of the dead were shot in the back of the head or in the back, reported the Guardian. They were all shot at close range, and most were shot multiple times, with 30 bullets found in the bodies of the nine men. A British citizen who witnessed the raid first hand told the Guardian Israel appeared to have a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy.

The British government’s response to this has been muted, perhaps because of the behaviour of British police in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Violence and values

All yesterday Sky News was still full of the Cumbria shootings. They seem obsessed with them, to the exclusion of all other news. Now they are interviewing survivors and witnesses. A fellow taxi driver who was shot, a little boy who witnessed the man on a bicycle being shot. They tell their stories calmly and matter-of-factly, in contrast to the breathless hype of the interviewers, going on about how terrible it is for such events to take place in a small and close-knit community in a beautiful part of England.

And then there are the expert counsellors, talking about the lasting trauma of those who witnessed these things, and how long it will take the community to get over it, and it is all so over-the-top. British soldiers have been doing such things as Derrick Bird did every week for the last few years in Iraq and Afghanistan, but nobody talks about the trauma they have caused in the small closs-knit communities there. Nothing about the trauma of the people on the ships taking aid to Gaza, hijacked on the high seas by Israeli pirates. There is something hugely disproportionate about it somehow.

I suppose it is understandable that Israel wants to impose a blockade on Gaza. Bombs are expensive, and running an air force to deliver them is expensive. So when you use bombs to break things you want them to stay broken. When you bomb people out of house and home you want them to stay homeless. If people bring aid to help people to rebuild their homes, then you are going to have to go to all the effort and expense of bombing them again to make them homeless again. It’s cheaper to stop them from rebuilding their homes.

When I was a child at school we used to amuse ourselves by kicking holes in anthills, and watching the termites scurrying around to repair the damage. And when they had just about repaired it we would kick holes in it again, easier the second time, because the mud was still damp and hadn’t hardened yet.

And it seems that grown-ups are no different, and just as cruel. It’s just that they can afford bigger bombs, and attack their own species. And no, I’m not overlooking Hamas as some have accused me of doing. Hamas and Likud are both terrorist organisations, playing a zero-sum game[1]. As my former blogging friend Facebook | Simon Hewitt says, “in spite of being utterly opposed to the attack on the Flotilla, will not be demonstrating tomorrow. Reason? : I’m just sick of marching alongside Hamas supporters and people chanting ‘we are all Hezbollah’. My enemy’s enemy is not my friend. My enemy’s enemy is an authoritarian, misogynistic, murdering bastard.” And they continue playing zero-sum games because it suits the more influential spectators for them to go on doing so.

So when it happens in Cumbria, Shock! Shock! Horror! Horror! from the Brit media. But when British soldiers do it elsewhere, they are heroes. Perhaps they should take Derrick Bird’s coffin in procession through Wootton Bassett.


[1] terrorist n. one who favours or uses terror-inspiring methods of governing or of coercing government or community (from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current English, Fifth Edition).

Piracy spreads — first Somalia, now Israel

t r u t h o u t | Israeli Commandos Kill Gaza Aid Volunteers:

At around 5 a.m. this morning, the live feed on the IHH ship showed helicopters floating above the desk of the Mavi Manara, and paratroopers rappelling onto the decks. Israeli army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibowitz claimed that the navy confiscated light weapons and handguns from the flotilla. ‘We basically encountered a lynch,’ she said. ‘We had to control this violence.’ All evidence suggests that Leibowitz is lying. The boats and passengers were rigorously checked for guns by international monitors before leaving the port. According to FGM, the commandoes opened fire from their machine guns practically as soon as they hit the deck.

‘Under darkness of night, Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck,’ the FGM report says. Some of those they shot were asleep.

Critics of violent and aggressive actions by the Israeli military are often told that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” It seems, from this action, that Israel’s claim to a a “right to defend itself” is the same right claimed by a rapist to justify attacking those who try to help his victims.

And piracy on the high seas seems to have spread from the south to the north of the Suez Canal. Any lingering doubts that Israel is a rogue and terrorist state should now be dispelled completely.

Some other bloggers’ responses:

Neil Clark: Israeli forces ‘kill up to 19 people’ in raid on Gaza aid ship: “can you imagine Hague and co’s response if Iran had violently stormed ships in international waters on which there were 28 British civilians?”

would it have been like this?

CalumCarr on …. Whatever: Israel: Hague’s, UK Government’s Weasel Words: “The Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the Government of Israel to open all crossings for aid to enter Gaza and deplored the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla.

In a statement this morning the Foreign Secretary said:
‘ I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.

We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries.”

Tell Obama: free the human rights activists, conduct an impartial investigation: A Jewish Voice for Peace.

Piracy – the libertarian dream?

Since the collapse of the Somali government in the 1990s Somalia has been effectively without a government. According to what I hear American libertarians saying, this should be the fulfilment of a dream.

But then Somali pirates attack shipping in the neighbourhood. Well, that’s a libertarian dream too — after all, they are only exercising their natural human right to bear arms, and what’s the point of bearing arms if you don’t use them for fun and profit?

What about the people who are robbed by the pirates? Well that’s easy enough — they have the right to bear arms too, so let them do so and fight it out. As one American libertarian blogger puts it: A conservative blog for peace:

A free-market solution to piracy. With the rest of the world I’m happy that Captain Phillips is free and salute the US Navy for their work. But like companies have private armies in Iraq, why not rent a private navy (seagoing security guards) for your company’s ships? (Because in a truly free society like that the state would lose power and we mustn’t have that, oh no.)

So what have we here?

It seems to me very like a hankering for the kind of society that prevailed in Western Europe after AD 476. The collapse of civil authority, the Pax Romana and rule by feudal warlords who gave themelves titles like Duke, Count, Baron etc., and of course gave themselves the right to bear arms. In fact something very similar to the state of Somalia today.

The proposal for armed security guards on ships, a private army, is, of course exactly the same solution as was adopted by the feudal warlords in Western Europe in the “Dark Ages”, and by those in Somalia in the 21st century.

And how did the Somali pirates get going?

Well, in a very similar way to the private security guards on ships — if they ever do get going. By exercising their right to bear arms, that’s how.

The Mahatma X Files: K’naan sez

Already by this time, local fishermen in the coastline of Somalia have been complaining of illegal vessels coming to Somali waters and stealing all the fish. And since there was no government to report it to, and since the severity of the violence clumsily overshadowed every other problem, the fishermen went completely unheard.

But it was around this same time that a more sinister, a more patronizing practice was being put in motion. A Swiss firm called Achair Parterns, and an Italian waste company called Achair Parterns, made a deal with Ali Mahdi, that they were to dump containers of waste material in Somali waters. These European companies were said to be paying Warlords about $3 a ton, whereas to properly dispose of waste in Europe costs about $1000 a ton.

In 2004, after a tsunami washed ashore several leaking containers, thousand of locals in the Puntland region of Somalia started to complain of severe and previously unreported ailments, such as abdominal bleeding, skin melting off and a lot of immediate cancer-like symptoms. Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the United Nations Environmental Program, says that the containers had many different kinds of waste, including “Uranium, radioactive waste, lead, Cadmium, Mercury and chemical waste.” But this wasn’t just a passing evil from one or two groups taking advantage of our unprotected waters. The UN envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, says that the practice still continues to this day. It was months after those initial reports that local fishermen mobilized themselves, along with street militias, to go into the waters and deter the Westerners from having a free pass at completely destroying Somalia’s aquatic life. Now years later, the deterring has become less noble, and the ex-fishermen with their militias have begun to develop a taste for ransom at sea. This form of piracy is now a major contributor to the Somali economy, especially in the very region that private toxic waste companies first began to [bury] our nation’s death trap.

So the Somali pirates are simply following the free market solution advocated by American libertarians.

Wicked evil governments should not exceed their powers by trying to restrict good honest capitalists from dumping toxic waste. Let the people who are poisoned by it act themselves to stop it, and exact compensation from any other passing vessels trespassing on their waters. An ideal libertarian solution.

But I think libertarians like A conservative blog for peace might just possibly be missing something, somewhere.

See also SAFCEI: Somali piracy and toxic waste

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