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Apr-10-2009 23:30printcomments

Matt Lauer Lies: Somalia's Pirates Aren't Just 'Criminals With Guns'

A surprising portrayal of pirates by a host of The Today Show helps spread ignorance about serious problems on the high seas.
Where in the world did Matt Lauer's brain go?

Pirates
Matt Lauer thinks the Somali pirates aren't real pirates. He said on The Today Show Friday that they're just "criminals with guns"

(SALEM, Ore.) - Americans have found it more important in recent years to care about pirates. You know, the ones played by actors like Johnny Depp. That's certainly more important to the Britney Spears generation than the real thing. Surely that 'pirate stuff' is just from old novels and Errol Flynn movies, right?

The recent overtaking of an American freighter by Somali pirates has brought the issue to the forefront but still media jackasses like Matt Lauer go on TV and say things like, "Hey let's get this straight, these aren't pirates, they're criminals with guns."

That screwy sentiment by somebody at the highest end of morning media food chain perpetuates the ignorance. I hate to say it, but it's almost like Lauer doesn't want Depp to have to share the media spotlight.

It isn't a stretch to say these pirates today are extremely similar to the bloodthirsty buccaneers of hundreds of years ago. In some cases, today's pirates are cruel and they are always out for the booty. Matt Lauer doesn't think they're pirates, though they are guilty of "pirating vessels on the high seas", taking a ship's captain away in a lifeboat, and the very pirates in question are being pursued by the British Royal Navy and the French Navy.

If that doesn't have a parallel with Captain Kidd, then nothing does.

American Ship Pirated

The American container vessel, Maersk Alabama, was seized in the Indian Ocean April 8th, about 400 miles (645 km) east of the Mogadishu by Somali pirates.

Captain Richard Phillips of Vermont
is the captain of the U.S.-flagged
Maersk Alabama, hijacked last week
by Somali pirates.

In a classic example of endless movies and books; the crew retook the ship by repelling pirates. In this case the crew and ship freed themselves, but the captain was taken hostage and loaded aboard a small vessel.

This is the vessel currently surrounded by the US Navy and SEAL teams who are in all likelihood, preparing to conduct a hostage rescue operation. Families and elders of the pirates are asking for a peaceful resolution.

The international group EcoTerra is at the forefront of the pirate issues of Africa and they update Salem-News.com frequently on all of the current active piracy cases.

They report that Somali elders and parents of the four pirates, who are holding the captain of a American merchant vessel hostage in a life-boat entangled in the stand-off with the U.S. Navy, have vowed to solve the problem peacefully.

These elders and family members have travelled from inland Galkayo to Garacad at the seashore, and they say they are ready to travel at first light by boat towards the scene. "The group of respected local leader Abdi Ali Mohamed is determined and promised that they will be able 'without any guns or ransom' to hand over the American captain of MV ALABAMA safely to the nearby USS Bainbridge," Ecoterra reports.

"The elders demand only that they get a written guarantee for their safe and free return to Somalia together with the young pirate-boys hailing from their community."

Is this making deals with terrorists? Hardly it seems.

Ecoterra hopes desperately that the situation can be resolved without bloodshed. Articles in some publications are suggesting that the Somali pirate situation is an Islamic-Christian issue; that is not true. The people of Somalia have been dealing with murderous bloodshed for decades with no relief. They don't have the ability to consider the notion of world terrorism. But the CIA says they have "ties to al Queda" but don't they always say that?

In fact, it may be eco-terrorists who caused the pirate problem in this broken African nation to spiral out of control in the first place.

Environmental and Fishing Problems

In July 2008, the United Nations special envoy for Somalia sounded the alarm about rampant illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste off the Somali coast.

A montage of Somali pirates, armed with AKM assault
rifles, RPG-7 rocket launchers and semi-automatic pistols
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

"Because there is no (effective) government, there is so much irregular fishing from European and Asian countries," Ahmedou Ould Abdallah told reporters.

He said at the time that he had asked several international non-governmental organizations, including Global Witness, which works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide, "to trace this illegal fishing, illegal dumping of waste."

"It is a disaster off the Somali coast, a disaster (for) the Somali environment, the Somali population," he added. Ould Abdallah said the phenomenon helps fuel the endless civil war in Somalia as the illegal fishermen are paying corrupt Somali ministers or warlords for protection or to secure fake licenses.

AFP reported that East African waters, particularly off Somalia, have huge numbers of commercial fish species, including the prized yellowfin tuna. Foreign trawlers reportedly use prohibited fishing equipment, including nets with very small mesh sizes and sophisticated underwater lighting systems, to lure fish to their traps.

Somali piracy dates back to roughly 1991 and the period of their civil war, but some sources still tie that initial high seas crime to retaliation against all the toxic waste being dumped offshore. Depleted schools of fish that Somali people counted on were another factor.

The number of ships that have been taken off the Somali coast is larger than people realize. In 2008 alone, there were 111 attacks which included 42 successful hijackings.

The situation with the American sea captain hangs in the balance. It is reported that the Somali pirate's elders and family members want a signed guarantee that the four teenage pirates will be freed, and they reportedly lost faith after a mobile phone call from a Somali - presumably aboard a naval destroyer that arrived on the scene earlier Thursday. The elders said the person spoke a very poor, Americanized Somali language and they do not trust him.

"Already earlier in the day it was reported that first negotiations by the FBI - presumably with the help of this Somali translator - failed miserably," EcoTerra said.

"Thereafter an escape attempt by the captain was quickly averted by the Somali youngsters, who recaptured him and still hold him on the lifeboat, reportedly unharmed. The elder are reachable by their mobile phone and only await the consent and go-ahead from the Americans."

Weather in the area was expected to be sunny with calm winds over the next few days, said Josh Newhard, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com, the global weather service that provides Salem-News.com video weather reports. Waves were expected to average between 2 and 4 feet, which is relatively calm, he said.

EcoTerra reports that the MV Alabama began sailing toward the Kenyan port of Mombasa - its original destination - where it was expected to arrive Saturday night, according to Joseph Murphy, a professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. His son, Shane Murphy, is second-in-command of the vessel.

A chance to avoid bloodshed exists, but it probably won't come to pass. It isn't every day that the families of kidnappers from extremely different cultures offer to give up a victim at no cost to either party.

The United Nations is not offering to get to the root of the problem, only promising force and retaliation.

"The response must be clear and firm condemnation in words and in action against this pandemic," said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia.

"These acts of criminality must not be allowed to follow the same path of impunity of the past," he added.

Impunity? That may not necessarily describe the counter attacks that have taken place. We have written about this before and the problems are not, as our article suggests, related only to Somalia. (What About Real Bloodthirsty Pirates? - Tim King Salem-News.com)

Kevin Spears, a Maersk shipping company spokesman, told The AP that the lifeboat was out of fuel and "dead in the water." The U.S. Navy sent up P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft and had video of the scene.

Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, said more ships would be sent to the area because "we want to ensure that we have all the capability that might be needed over the course of the coming days."

U.S. officials said the guided-missile frigate USS Haliburton was among the ships en route.

To take on four teenage Somalian boys whose families are waving the white flag on their behalf.

I think Matt Lauer's lame assessment of the Somali pirate situation is another sign of the general decline in global news coverage that has done our population so little good. His international coverage takes him to places like Angkor Wat, Easter Island and Machu Picchu. Interesting, but not work that tends to bring resolution to world problems.

Maybe Matt Lauer should head to Somalia and do some real reporting, the kind where he might get his hands dirty. I can't find any record of him spending time in Afghanistan. I know he recorded a Today Show in Iraq in 2005 at Camp Victory in Baghdad. Soldiers remember him for the statement, "I think you guys are PROBABLY telling me the truth".

HERE ARE ARTICLES ON PIRACY THAT HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED ON SALEM-NEWS.COM:

Sea Pirates Rampage Along Somali Coast on New Year's Day - Tim King Salem-News.com

Fate of Ukrainian Ship Captured by Pirates Hangs in the Balance

Piracy in the Red Sea: Saudi Points Towards Israel - By Habib Trabelsi Middle East Online Special to Salem-News.com

Conference will Address Modern Day Piracy at Sea - Salem-News.com

-----------------------------------------------------
-----------------------------------------------------
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. Tim recently returned from Iraq where he covered the war there while embedded with an Oregon Guard aviation unit. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Matt Lauer May 8, 2009 3:07 am (Pacific time)

I'm gay.


J April 19, 2009 9:41 am (Pacific time)

I appreciate your article. It seems fair enough - unlike what we are so used to getting in media.


Vic April 14, 2009 7:27 am (Pacific time)

Well, Kurt..good thing the snipers and the officer who ordered the shootings, and the president who authorized deadly force were not in any way Christians, or they wouldnt have done it. You know, that whole annoying "thou shalt not kill" thing. Good thing all the people involved were God-haters....right?


Henry Ruark April 13, 2009 12:02 pm (Pacific time)

KURT: "Been there, done that" twice as bystander. Policeman killed in first hostage shootout reported; second one settled peacefully, two hostages released, perp apprehended.Much better story! We honor officer on site, as do you. BUT Tim's new report shows malign future forced by facts of how "take-out" had to be accomplished. Piracy is surely criminal -- but so is world neglect of any action to isolate, remedy and reform Somalia situation until this-one focused world's full attention. That's WHY world-agency is demanded NOW more than ever, neglected and allowed by same forces sabotaging UN from day it was formed by FDR-era leaders of world, prescient to what's happening now due to its failures, forced by malign actions defending status of those who gain greatly by it.


Henry Ruark April 13, 2009 11:50 am (Pacific time)

Vic: Frigate named Halliburton obviously celebrating fact we had failed CEO of H. as VP for eight years, controlling real massive no-bid contracts to old firm, badly in need of rescue long before "bailouts" we now challenge. Where was outrage-then ? WHO now seeking civil, criminal or Congressional action vs fully visible transgressions by both Bush and Cheney ? WHO seeking NOW to punish PNAC-perpetrators for obvious plot to pursue, force Iraq preemptive attack ? WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE ? WHY do we abandon Constitutional means for remedying longtime failure of elected "leaders" ? Until, unless we DO what the Constitution provides, we are CHOOSING to allow what has happened --with NO PENALTY, NO FORCE for motivating absolute denial of HAPPENING AGAIN !! Much more substance fully available on these points than on minor items now drawing heavy-handed emphasis on promoting "failures" in the very early days of Obama era. We MUST CHOOSE what we DO seek and HOW; if not done both wisely and well, we suffer the ongoing consequences in our democracy, about which so many complain so vociferously, but do nothing substantive to both protect, preserve,strengththen what we still control by our CHOICE and our VOTES.


Kurt April 13, 2009 11:21 am (Pacific time)

They took first blood. We took it to the final conclusion based on the behavior of these criminals. I expect that very few who post here have ever been in a life/death situation where you had to kill. The real hero in this situation is the officer on sight who gave the order to kill these thugs. There will be many more deaths before this is over and it will be brought on by criminal behavior.


Henry Ruark April 12, 2009 6:48 pm (Pacific time)

Eric: Nobody has called these pirates "freedom fighters" here, even by implication. But since you raise the point, British imperialists reacted same way to our gang in 1776. Facts re despoilation of ocean resources are facts, as Tim reported. Such desperation comes from understandable motivations, and will recur dangerously unless and until we CHOOSE to DO SOMEthing about these causes --as with world organization once aimed at precisely such problems. We can no longer act as if whole world was simply U.S. to seize by any means, and if we depend on force of arms we are now asking for final BIG BANG from others who also have at least some, with more soon arriving. You plan to remove those from the coming equation ? If so, how ? Six-gun solutions ended with Wyatt Earp:"Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything." What other ways do you now suggest, except effective new world-order agency, via real democratic means, under real democratic control, patterned on our remaining democracy ? Wise-cracks are cheap, easy, damaging to any real progress. What ELSE do you have on hand, from such obvious and intense cogitation ???


Eric April 12, 2009 3:35 pm (Pacific time)

I'm sure these honorable freedom fighters are just trying to keep their coasts clean and save the fishing stock, right? Well, 3 are on the road to hell and one will spend the rest of his life in prison before rejoining his comrades. God bless America.


ANGEL April 12, 2009 11:31 am (Pacific time)

Stand for socialism and gay rights!


Vic April 12, 2009 7:39 am (Pacific time)

We have a frigate named HALLIBURTON?? Thats it, Im on the pirates side.


Eco-terra? April 11, 2009 9:48 pm (Pacific time)

They are eco-terrorists then huh?


gp April 11, 2009 2:43 pm (Pacific time)

I am in the pirates corner quite frankly. The real pirates are the bankers, Wall Street crooks, corrupt politicians and the insurance and mortgage companies which have brought the ecconomic crisis on with their "savage capitalism". Had the world paid attention to the situation in Somalia years ago, these poor pitiful souls who have nothing left to loose might be tame beggers like the people of Mali. However, since they have no government and they are ruled by war lords and Magadishu is a Mad Max reality show, they are really Robin Hoods. They don't readily resort to murdering their kidnaped hostages and they use the technical wizardry of the western rich to bamboozle the oil rich pigs. Go Pirates!


qui vivi April 11, 2009 11:20 am (Pacific time)

What are we to think when the crew of the Alabama gave up its captive in a swap for the captain. It didn't work, Why not? Ransome is of little value if they are dead and the want their lives and the loot. So, one can see where Matt Lauer is coming from. I can, can't you? If there is a better way, take it. But how do you stop the piracy? Tim's article may set the stage. Let's hope so.


Kaiti April 11, 2009 9:57 am (Pacific time)

what are pirates if not 'criminals with guns'? Maybe if they just had swords...then Matt would understand!!


Mosher April 11, 2009 9:37 am (Pacific time)

King you really have a way of sending the message home.  Pirates living in this part of the world, they really get my attention.  I think I would enjoy co-habitating with these guys.  Seriously, is homosexuality accepted in this part of the world?  Well, back to the sauna, see you later.


Old Navy Chief April 11, 2009 9:17 am (Pacific time)

WHy anyone still watches the lame stream media is beyond my comprehension. Their lies and stupid statements make me sick to my stomach


Marianne April 11, 2009 7:46 am (Pacific time)

Matt Lauer, the liar, is just one of the many reasons that NBC, along with the so-called "MSM" are sinking to the bottom, soon to be flushed away into the ash heap of history, where they belong. Disgraceful "reporting" from the anti-American leftists on T.V. and "news outlets".


GetReal April 11, 2009 5:52 am (Pacific time)

Let's get THIS straight... Matt Lauer is a brainless idiot. Why do people watch those insipid morning shows?

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