April 13, 2009

Somali Piracy


After a weekend of moderating comments on a previous entry on the Pirates of Somalia, I felt compelled to run this photograph. A huge number of comments came into that earlier entry with attempts to explain, justify, cheer or laud these Somali men who are seizing ships and boats at gunpoint (various claims about toxic waste dumping, illegal fishing, unfair treatment by western nations, somalis defending their coast). I usually make a point not to editorialize, so forgive the indulgence here - but what possible justification could there be for what is seen in this photograph? All of the above rationalizations ring terribly hollow.

In this photo are three of the five armed Somalis who captured the private yacht "Tanit" on April 4, off the coast of Somalia, and four of the five French hostages, including the 28-year-old skipper Florent Lemacon (sunglasses), his wife Chloe, and - barely visible - their 3-year-old son Colin.

On Friday, April 10th, with the captors sailing the yacht toward land, French special forces stormed the boat, killing two of the pirates and capturing three others. Florent Lemacon was killed in the crossfire, an investigation is underway to determine exactly whose bullet killed the man. (1 photo total)

An armed pirate stands over French hostages aboard the yacht 'Tanit' off the coast of Somalia in this undated handout picture released by the French Ministry of Defence April 11, 2009. French special forces stormed the yacht held by pirates in an assault that killed one hostage, but freed four. (REUTERS/ECPAD-French Ministry of Defence) (click to enlarge)


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I have to admite it, until now I had a romanticized view of these acts of piracy. Until now...

Thank you Alan for your excellent and non-stopping work!

Posted by Tiago Salgado April 13, 09 05:29 PM

That is what we face daily in Colombian fields, troops of criminals self named "guerrillas" kidnapping our people under the threat of a gun. And many europeans and "leftish" militants think that those criminals, like the ones in this picture, are freedom fighters. Sorry for the people that have been kept in captivity when those terrorists ask for a ransom. Nobody in the world deserve that terrible treatment.

Posted by Mauricio Duque Arrubla April 13, 09 06:06 PM

Alan, I totally agree with your sentiments. I'll resist from stoking the fires here, but I am afraid things are about to get worse before they get better.

Posted by SimonB April 13, 09 07:14 PM

@ Mauricius
It is true that European militants of the far left think of kidnappers in South America as freedom fighters but I can assure you that those militants are far from being numerous.
Kidnappers are criminal. That's it.

Posted by Paolo April 14, 09 03:24 AM

I agree with your post. There is not justification of such actions.

I can't say I sympathize with the somali pirats (because obviously I'm not in their shoes). Plus the french were warned four times by the coast guards not to sail in the area.

It's a terrible situation where there is not right or wrong but only lost people taken in tourments.

Posted by _rem April 14, 09 04:14 AM

But you did editorialize by not having this picture up on Boston. In fact, that whole series of pictures was the embodiment of the poor-oppressed-black-freedomfigters vs. nasty-imperialist-white-stormtroopers meme. Publishing this here, now, way after the fact and in a venue that is only going to interest a very few of the BP readers won't make up for the fact that you've already spun it the way most of your readers - ever adept at catching that sort of thing - could pick up and run with. In fact, I wish I didn't have to be suspicious of the coincidence of this being published now, just after Obama finally found enough spine to order what should have been done from day one...

Posted by Hon Wei April 14, 09 04:34 AM

@Hon Wei - thanks for your input, here are two responses:
1) The previous entry I ran was back in March 16th, nearly a month before the "Tanit" above was even captured, so how could I have run this photo?
2) A month ago, I honestly had no idea that there existed (or would exist) such a chorus of voices determined to legitimize or rationalize what seemed to me fairly obvious acts of base violence.

Posted by alan taylor April 14, 09 07:03 AM

It's the way things are, you may have a reason to do things, but they will go out of control, eventually. On the other hand, the reason is possibly still there, mixed with all the mess.

There's no point in "romanticize" before and realize now just how crude the whole thing is. It's wrong, it's plainly wrong, we know it from the start. But it's still delightfully /romanticizeable/. Oh, come on.

Posted by Rafael April 14, 09 12:41 PM

It is possible we will have pirates or terrorist on our horizon once they learn to do it unnoticed and realize what they can do.

Congress will not act until the public becomes aware of the enormous threat that ballast systems provide for terrorist, pirates or foreign sea captains, who do not like our country, to use ships flying under foreign flags with foreign crewmen, to contaminate and pollute our waters. Until we demand protection by exposing this threat, lobbyist will push the senate to consider it a states rights issue. Virus and invasive s in water do not recognize the lines man has drawn on maps. Industry knows that log books and record keeping, are mere paper work that dose not prove procedures were followed. It is time protect our country and our waters by screening all problems of shipping offshore. Maybe if we were to build up our neglected Coast Guard to be capable of this mission we could create some jobs Sincerely
Don Mitchel

Posted by Don Mitchel April 14, 09 04:14 PM

@Alan Taylor: I sincerely apologize - the lead in led me to think not publishing this picture was an editorial decision way back when. Still, I maintain that your other choice of motifs was in the predictable woe-be-the-poor-oppressed-masses of the third world genre to such an extent that it amazes me that you could not predict the amount of pirate well-wishing that was going to happen. After all, there was absolutely no counterbalance of the type at display here to the scrawny minority vs. beefy, well-equipped white police type imagery that instantly triggers the violent riot support reflex honed by years of "globalization" protests at WTO meetings in large parts of the blogosphere.

Posted by Hon Wei April 15, 09 12:37 PM

Is someone really trying to justify these acts of piracy? Are we blaming the victim for standing in front of an AK-47? The piracy continues because it's profitable with the results outweighing the risks. Like investing in subprime mortgages used to be.

Posted by Al Veerhoff April 15, 09 09:58 PM

The Coast does not belong to the USA. It is none of the USA's business unless they capture a United States Ship.
Our coast gard has nothing to do down there.
Unless they capture a ship registered in the USA.

Kidnap the damn kidnapers. Hold them for the same amount of ransom. \
Then put there sorry asses in a cannon and blow them back to there country from international waters.

Posted by Kermit April 15, 09 11:35 PM

@ Kermit - don't worry about the ransom (who'd pay it?) just do the latter .....

Posted by Growingupcreepy April 16, 09 08:29 AM

But there wasn't any harm done to these people until the French forces showed up and opened fire, in face most hostages report being treated well while under capture. Somali Pirate's rhetoric is increasingly leaning towards defense of their borders from all the toxic waste dumping and overfishing that's happening in their seas.

Obviously it is bad to capture people, but the way that you have framed it is exactly how the problem continues to not be solved, if we meet violence with violence, nothing will be accomplished, only more hostages will be taken and more people will be killed (as evidenced by the day after we killed 3 pirates to get that one captain back.) We need a strategy that deals with the problems in Somalia, not one that simply protects our economic interests.

Posted by Vinny Spotleson April 16, 09 01:59 PM

the french have special forces???????

Posted by Sid Breem April 16, 09 06:48 PM

@14 "Vinny Spotleson"

You're completely right, a humanitarian.

Posted by Growingupcreepy April 16, 09 09:37 PM

No way to justify what these people are doing. This is such a sad story.

Posted by Frederik April 18, 09 08:15 AM

"Is someone really trying to justify these acts of piracy? Are we blaming the victim for standing in front of an AK-47? The piracy continues because it's profitable with the results outweighing the risks. Like investing in subprime mortgages used to be."

Yes. Maybe justification isn't the right word here, but the reason behind all of it is perfectly understandable, logic, rational behavior.

So am i blaming the victim for standing in front of an armed pirate? Yes i am. They knew the risks. They have been warned. It was there free choice to sail the Gulf of Aden, so be ready to deal with the consequences. It may sound harsh (and i nevertheless feel sorry for their loss), but that is the price you have to pay for dumbness.

I don't know all of the facts behind this uprising of piracy, but it is well know that Somalia is a failed state in almost every relevant aspect. So what do you think will happen if you allow that chaos spreads through this region? What is the reaction of many Somalis when there mere existence is threatened? What would you do if your existence was threatened that way?

This is not about justification, lawful or unlawful, right or wrong. All of this follows a very basic rule, which, unfortunately, many people have forgotten in the first world: actio e reactio, or the law of causality.

Remember: What you reap, is what you sow.

Posted by JKea April 18, 09 09:31 AM
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