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anti-racism | imperialism & war

Obama ordered cold-blooded murder off the Somali coast…

... and according to wsws.org, he personally ordered it... twice! Sure, for some time Somali pirates have been shaking down ship crews for cash, but until now no one has been killed, or apparently even injured. And they certainly did not deserve this.
But there's more to the story of the pirates than their shaking down ship crews. A good number of them originally got organized to defend Somali waters from the depletion of fish stocks by overseas trawlers, and the dumping of hazardous wastes, including NUCLEAR wastes, off shore. Below is part of an article that's been going around on Myspace that deals with this. The links are to hip-hop artist K'naan talking about the issue.




European Companies Dumping Toxic Wastes Off Somalia Coast And Stealing African Resources

Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a
new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed
by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China - is
sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as
parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting
Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the
most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness
of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments
are labeling as "one of the great menace of our times" have an
extraordinary story to tell -- and some justice on their side.
... ..

On Aug. 19, 2008, a Panamanian-flagged ship owned by a Greek firm and chartered by a leading Dutch commodities broker docked in Abidjan, the country's commercial capital. The ship unloaded between 400 tons and 600 tons of toxic petrochemical waste, which was summarily dumped in open-air sites around the city and poured into the sewer system.

Within days, people began to show up in hospitals complaining of symptoms ranging from nosebleeds, diarrhea, and nausea to eye irritation and breathing difficulties. So far, 50,000 people have sought medical attention, seven people have died, and dozens more have been hospitalized after being poisoned by the fumes.
.... .

In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed.
Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since -
and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a
great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our
nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious
European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast
barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At
first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then,
after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels
washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and
more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia,
tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also
lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much
of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem
to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When
I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he
said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no
compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas
of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own
fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs.
More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is
being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into
Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost
their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman
in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If
nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal

This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have
emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at
first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or
at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer
Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal
telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their
motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We
don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be]
those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our
seas and carry weapons in our seas." William Scott would understand
those words.

No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are
clearly just gangsters - especially those who have held up World Food
Programme supplies. But the "pirates" have the overwhelming support of
the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site
Wardher News conducted the best research we have into what ordinary
Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent "strongly supported the
piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial
waters." During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and
America's founding fathers paid pirates to protect America's
territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their
own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different?

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches,
paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in
restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes
- but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the
transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to
shriek about "evil." If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to
stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gun-boats to
root out Somalia's criminals.

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another
pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured
and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant
by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded:
"What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a
petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great
fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail
in today - but who is the robber?

Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent newspaper.

POSTSCRIPT: Some commenters seem bemused by the fact that both toxic
dumping and the theft of fish are happening in the same place -
wouldn't this make the fish contaminated? In fact, Somalia's coastline
is vast, stretching to 3300km.Imagine how easy it would be - without
any coastguard or army - to steal fish from Florida and dump nuclear
waste on California, and you get the idea. These events are happening
in different places - but with the same horrible effect: death for the
locals, and stirred-up piracy. There's no contradiction.