Ron Radosh

The Left Explains Piracy: It's Our Fault!

While the rest of the world celebrates the Navy Seals’ killing of the Somalia pirates, and the freedom of Captain Richard Phillips, there is one group of writers who want to alert us all to the real message of this incident on the high seas: it’s the fault of the United States!

First comes Matthew Yglesias, who departs his usual perch at The Center for American Progress  to offer his words of wisdom to the readers of Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast. He tells us that “the ocean is extremely large.” Amazing that he noticed what so many others have failed to observe. I’m being sarcastic, but he explains that  the Indian Ocean alone is too large for foreign navies to patrol it.

And, he adds that sometimes rescues don’t work. The French, he tells us,  killed one of the people they were seeking to rescue in a military action. Of course he neglects to mention that four others were freed, while without the rescue, all of them might have perished. But his real point is to blast those awful Bush era neo-cons who want to see, as John Bolton does, a “coalition of the willing” to storm Somalia and crush the pirate bases.  Indeed, Yglesias goes on to argue that the “broader context” of piracy is the 15 years of anarchy that took place after an early American peacekeeping attempt in the 1990s. Now Somalia is fragmented, due to “a situation to which recent U.S. military intervention has contributed. Things got worse, he claims, when the Bush administration saw the pirates as a “threat to American national security.”  I guess this sentence means Yglesias thinks interference with free shipping of American merchant ships is not a threat, which means that since he wrote this blog, Barack Obama’s tough talk also displeases him.

When Bush backed an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006, Yglesias says, it sought a “puppet regime” backed by Ethiopian troops. Instead of restraining Ethiopia, which he acknowledges wanted to invade anyway, we egged the Ethiopians on.  Conservatives cheered (of course no one else did) and hence the US produced “a popular backlash and a violent Islamist insurgency.”

His assumption is that the backlash would have been avoided had we let the radical Islamists take over in the first place. That, he seems to think, would have satisfied them, and there would have been no piracy. After all, we have seen from history that appeasement works. Hence the only intervention Yglesias supports is one that “helps resolve the underlying chaos.” Evidently killing the pirates and destroying their bases won’t do that. Quoting the words of New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman, he agrees with his judgment that America’s foreign policy blunders have served to radicalize the Somali population. There would have been no pirate action the past few days, he argues, had “not past meddling [by the USA] knocked the country off the path to stability.” His solution: accept a radical Islamist government, probably there and elsewhere. Or as the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick once said: “blame America first.”

The second pearl of wisdom comes from Johann Hari writing on The Huffington Post website. The Somali pirates, he writes, have “some justice on their side.”Historically, he writes, pirates were always the good guys, rebelling against the horrendous conditions in which British seamen worked during the mid 1600s to the early 1730s. They were oppressed by brutal captains working for the government and the companies, and hence British royal propaganda painted the pirates in a bad light. They always got a bad break publicity wise. That’s why plebian crowds cheered and supported them. (Americans know that average folks cheered Bonnie and Clyde also, which I don’t think proves their murder and robberies were righteous actions.)

On to the present. Once Somalia’s government collapsed, rapacious Western powers, according to Hari, moved into the country to steal “its food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.”  The population got sick, with radiation poisoning among other things. And then other Western ships were looting Somalia’s seas of seafood, which they need to get since our sources were over exploited. (Why we would take radiated seafood is something he fails to explain.)

Hari writes: “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.” These regular fishermen took small boats to dissuade dumpers and trawlers, and to try and get a “tax” from them for fishing in Somali waters. Quoting a pirate, Hari is told that their motive is “to stop illegal fishing and dumping…we don’t consider ourselves sea bandits.”

Of course, the pirates are attacking Western merchant ships, not trawlers and dumpers. Hari acknowledges that “some are clearly just gangsters.” Yes, they have even held up World food Programme supplies. Hari does not understand that this fact flies in the face of his good pirate theory, which is that all the pirates are engaged in “national defense of the country’s territorial waters.”

Just as the early opponents of the war in Vietnam called Ho Chi Minh Vietnam’s George Washington, Hari calls the pirates a group doing nothing less than following George Washington’s use of pirates to patrol America’s coasts before the US had a navy.  Hari’s most outrageous sentence follows:

“Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, padding 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 began to think 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.” (my emphasis)

So America and the West is to blame for the pirates recent terror! Who knew?  The pirates, like those of old, are citizens who take to arms as petty robbers responding to the greater robbery inflicted on them by Western and American imperialism. How comforting it must be to the Left, who continue to have one explanation for every sin in the world: it’s our fault!