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Apr-10-2009 23:30TweetFollow @OregonNews
Matt Lauer Lies: Somalia's Pirates Aren't Just 'Criminals With Guns'Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
A surprising portrayal of pirates by a host of The Today Show helps spread ignorance about serious problems on the high seas.
(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.
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.
"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:
Articles for April 9, 2009 | Articles for April 10, 2009 | Articles for April 11, 2009