Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Somalia

Ah, Somalia. Some of us remember the Clinton years and the losses the US took in that country. Some people remember the movie Black Hawk Down. Some laughed over the last year at the number of stories of ships and crews taken hostage. Then it all became all so serious when an American crew was threatened (I would note that there are American hostages in a number of places today that just aren't as interesting to the US press.).

So now that we had a bit of military efficiency and victory, it seems we want more. Bomb them. Shell them. Show them what for.

This piracy is and has been for a while now a problem, and it needs to be dealt with. But it seems important to know the history and why we are here. If not to aid it expediting and end, to not let this fucking happen again.

Crooks and Liars:

Johann Hari from The Independent:

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and 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 Mr 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 overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now 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 waters."
This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. ...

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