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Pirate Stories

The Somali pirate problem looks like a trigger for some much bigger operation that involves our good friend, Israel. The piracy problem has been simmering along for some time now, so people are aware of it as background noise. Chances are most people don't pay any attention because it's only Africa, right? Well, it's setting up good like a Hegelian jello mold. You will see the area militarized with international forces soon, the US Navy leading the way. Cui bono? Israel.

Back in December I came across this post, which links to this article in Al-Ahram Weekly. Something about this went sticky in my brain.
The piracy off the coast of Somalia is certain to be seized upon as legal and moral grounds for the internationalization of those waterways.

Somalia perches on the most important maritime channels in the world. Through this passageway passes Arab oil on its way to European and American markets.
The maritime channel has special strategic significance for Washington and Israel.

For the former, it serves as the vital link between the US's Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and its Fifth Fleet stationed off the coast of Bahrain and its Seventh Fleet in the Indian Ocean.

Tel Aviv, meanwhile, has not forgotten that Egypt together with Yemen closed the Bab Al-Mandeb upon the outbreak of the 1973 October War, which came as an additional blow to Israeli and international shipping with the closure of the Suez Canal following the Israeli occupation of Sinai in 1967. Israel has been pressing for the internationalisation of the Red Sea.
Right. And like Moses parted the Red Sea, so it happens. Look at this story from yesterday.
Somali Piracy Exposes Weakness in UN Law of the Sea

Ships from NATO, European Union member states, and others have been dispatched there in recent months to fight a sharp upsurge in the hijacking of vessels and crew for ransom. The United Nations says the 111 pirate attacks that took place last year in the sea corridor linking the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean represent an increase of nearly 200 percent over 2007.

Operating from remote fishing communities in northeastern and central Somalia, pirates have earned tens - perhaps even hundreds - of millions of dollars in ransom. They have disrupted global trade and have caused untold damage to the world's economy.

Horn of Africa analyst at Chatham House in London, Roger Middleton, says the international community must take some of the blame for the calamity.

"Part of the thing is that people looked at Somalia and said, 'This country is so messed up, there is no point in worrying about it. They will just fight among themselves and there will be no consequences for the rest of the world.' And actually there are consequences for the rest of the world, which we are beginning to see now," Middleton said.

I will just skim over the top of this, but of course there's much more. Location, location, location. And natural resources. And lots of brown people fighting and making a confusing mess so there's nothing to see here, except look! They have captured an American Captain!!! Somebody Do Something!!!
The U.S. Navy and the FBI say they are working to free the American captain of a cargo ship being held hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The pirates briefly hijacked the container ship Maersk Alabama on Wednesday, and then took Captain Richard Phillips captive as they escaped aboard a lifeboat after the ship's crew re-took control of the vessel.

A U.S. warship, the USS Bainbridge, arrived at the scene early Thursday. Officials will not say exactly how close it is to the lifeboat, but several sources say it is close enough to see the small craft drifting in the Indian Ocean.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters the lifeboat appears to have run out of fuel and "the Navy is there." An FBI spokesman said a hostage negotiation team is "fully engaged" with the military in trying to free Phillips.
Obviously this is Very Serious. It has bumped up to a Top Story on CNN, ABC, NBC, blah blah blah. But Galal Nassar at Al-Ahram foresaw it all back in December.
There is also something difficult to believe in the train of events. Suddenly, gangs of pirates have evolved into a standing army with tactics, strategies and plans of offence. From isolated reports of the capture of some small ships of varying ownership, we suddenly have the hijacking of a Ukrainian vessel bearing heavy arms and, more recently, the hijacking of a gargantuan oil tanker! What is happening? Are we to believe that those pirates have suddenly developed all that organisation and combat skill? Is it not more rational, in light of previous experience, to believe that certain powers have plans to establish control over the area and that magnifying the "piracy peril" is one of the means towards this end? Does it not also make sense that this falls in line with a tangential plan to end opposition to the presence of foreign military forces in the Gulf of Aden by twisting the economic screws? Is this not a likely interpretation of the sounding of the alarm that "piracy" will force commercial naval traffic to make the detour around the tip of Africa?
This is the Hegelian Dialectic in action. Problem: Somali pirates. Reaction: economic consequences for the rest of the world. Solution: the US military.

And once that's set up, I would expect Israel to do whatever it is that they have planned.

UPDATE: The hijacked ship is owned by a major Pentagon contractor. Mm hmm. *Fortunately* (wink wink) the ship was only carrying food aid at the time. Whew. Lucky, huh? And those wily pirates tricked!! the American crew to hand over their captain. Tricksy pirates. So we better do something about this problem. It's getting Very, Very Serious, don't you agree?
The Somali pirates who took control of the 17,000-ton “Maersk Alabama” cargo-ship in the early hours of Wednesday morning probably were unaware [wink wink] that the ship they were boarding belonged to a US Department of Defense contractor with “top security clearance,” which does a half-billion dollars in annual business with the Pentagon, primarily the Navy. What’s more, the ship was being operated by an “all-American” crew—there were 20 US nationals on the ship. “Every indication is that this is the first time a U.S.-flagged ship has been successfully seized by pirates,” said Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesperson for for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The last documented pirate attack of a US vessel by African pirates was reported in 1804, off Libya, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The lede paragraph:
At least one nuclear-powered US warship is reportedly on its way to the scene of the hijacking off the coast of Somalia of a vessel owned by a major Pentagon contractor. A US official told the Associated Press the destroyer USS Bainbridge is en route while another official said six or seven ships are responding to the takeover of the "Maersk Alabama," which is part of a fleet of ships owned by Maersk Ltd., a US subsidiary of a Denmark firm, which does about a half-billion dollars in business with the US government a year.
And look, an opportunity for some enterprising private security companies! Notice the linkage between media coverage of the "problem" increasing and profits for Blackwater.
As the media coverage of the pirates has increased, private security companies like Xe/Blackwater have stepped in, seeing profits. A few months ago, Blackwater executives flew to London to meet with shipping company executives about protecting their ships from pirate attacks. In October, the company deployed the MacArthur, its “private sector warship equipped with helicopters” to the Gulf of Aden. “We have been contacted by shipowners who say they need our help in making sure goods get to their destination,” said the company’s executive vice-president, Bill Matthews. “The McArthur can help us accomplish that.”

According to an engineer aboard the MacArthur, the ship, whose crew includes former Navy SEALS, was at one point stationed in an area several hundred miles off the coast of Yemen. “Security teams will escort ships around both horns of Africa, Somalia and Yemen as they head to the Suez Canal… The McArthur will serve as a staging point for the SEALs and their smaller boats.”

All of this is important to keep in context any time you see a short blurb pop up about pirates attacking ships. “Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome?” Hari asked. “We won’t act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.”


malcontent said…
Perhaps this will make a great carrot for UN Resolutions compliance or nuclear non-proliferation treaty signing with our "friends" in Israel?

The stick doesn't seem to do anything for them.
A. Peasant said…
i don't know. it seems they get the milk for free to me.
Sis said…
We have been assisting the warlords in Somalia against the islamists for years. We helped to create the instability. Now that things are so very desperate, the USA will come in -knights in shining armour - and save the country from the bad pirates.

While we are at it, we will assist a few oil companies with contracts, since Somalia is literally floating on that black gold. Not the USA's intention in the first case, of course....but hey, those fields are ripe for the picken'.

So, who's the real pirates?
kenny said…
Bill Van Auken also confirmed your take on this.
A. Peasant said…
good one, thanks k.
Greg Bacon said…
Colin Freeman in Mogadishu and Justin Stares in Brussels October 17, 2006

SOMALIA'S new Islamic rulers have rid the country of the pirates who terrorised cruise ships and freighters off its shores.

Ever since the east African nation's collapse into lawlessness 15 years ago, its 4000-kilometre coast has provided a haven for armed buccaneers who use high-speed launches to rob passing craft.

But since Somalia's new Islamic Courts Union seized control of Mogadishu and much of the south of the country in June, piracy has been virtually wiped out under threat of tough sharia punishments.

The crackdown was highlighted in a recent report by the Merchant International Group, which specialises in advising companies on trading in hot spots around the world.

Piracy had virtually disappeared from Somalia until US supported and supplied Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia and kicked out the ICU.

Presto chango, the "pirates" returned.