As fun as shooting pirates is, it may not be smart
BY ALLISON KILKENNY
It seems like only yesterday when Ron Paul was nearly guillotined on live television for suggesting that 9/11 was caused by this thing called “blowback.” It was 2007, and the Republicans were jockeying for the position of frontrunner during the national debate season. Rudy “9/11” Guliani, never one to pass up reminding everyone of a national tragedy so we’ll forget what a horrible, little human being he really is, lept for Paul’s jugular.
Salivating, Rudy made a series of unchallenging, commonplace remarks: “That’s really an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attacks of September 11th…” (Pause for awed silence…two…three…four) “..that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq.”
Of course, Paul was right. The attacks on September 11, 2001 were carried out by a group of 19 hijackers (15 of whom were Saudi Arabian), and Al-Qaeda clearly cited their principal grievances as:
1. America’s unwavering support of Israel.
2. America’s military presence in the Middle East, particularly near holy landmarks.
Instead of learning a valuable lesson from 9/11, America (led by its mainstream media, political hawks, and overinflated military) seems hellbent on inviting more cases of blowback. As Paul mentioned way back in 2007, America has built an embassy in Iraq that is bigger than the Vatican. But that probably won’t piss anyone off. …Right?
Now, certain hawks, led by the ever vivacious John Bolton, are discussing a ground invasion into Somalia as retaliation for the kidnapping of Richard Phillips. Bolton wants to do this with – I shit you not – “a coalition of the willing.”
Can I pay someone to beat John Bolton with the 9/11 Commission Report?
“We need to look at what we do from the perspective if someone did it to us,” Ron Paul said that fateful night. This simply beautiful sentiment, called the principle of universality, often invites the sneering rebuttal: “So you’re saying we (or the victims) deserved this?” That was the question the moderator posed to Paul during the debate.
Paul’s response: “I’m suggesting we listen to the people who attacked us.”
Surely, this is the only way to break the cycle of violence. If we refuse to listen to our enemies, then we don’t know their grievances, and we can never make amends. We’ve learned that bombing and bullying alone cannot build bridges between us. Iraq taught us this, and Afghanistan will teach us the same lesson.
Somalia waits to offer us the same lesson (yet again.) As anyone with even a basic understanding of history could have predicted, the killing of the three pirates may set off a domino effect of retaliations. Waiting to reinforce the message are a slew of angry Somali pirates, who vowed to avenge their fallen comrades. “This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it,” said Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, the commander of United States Naval Forces Central Command. The New Zealand Herald reports Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, said: “Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying. We will retaliate [for] the killings of our men.” To put it another way: Blowback.
On Tuesday, armed pirates attacked an American cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. The Times article concludes with a quote from John Wick, the director of International Security Solutions, a maritime security firm in London: “Somali pirates have typically not mistreated their captives.” Of course, now we’ve killed three of their guys. That may change their policy toward American hostages. Such is the danger of letting men eager to make war make our policy decisions.
A recent piece I wrote, in which I sought to explain the causes of Somali piracy, inspired some colorful hate mail. Americans seem comfortable with the mainstream media’s cartoonish depiction of villainous pirates, and they aren’t interested in humanizing the three men who were just executed by Navy snipers.
The media certainly isn’t helping to explain the Somali situation. Apart from Democracy Now, most newscasters and journalists seem comfortable with recycling the old explanation for these acts of aggression: terrorists hate our freedom, brown people are incapable of running a functioning state, etc.
Determined to repeat the same sick exercise that led the American citizenry, blind, into an illegal war, the mainstream media spent the day after the pirate executions drooling over the awesome awesomeness of the US military. Aren’t they great, everyone? Those bullets just pierce flesh so wonderfully!
Even the progressive messiah, Rachel Maddow, called the spectacle of the US Navy shakily standing-off against four poorly armed pirates “riveting.” Maddow further commented that the Navy-Somali standoff had Americans brushing up on their, “How freaking impressive are Navy Seals-ology?”
(Really glad that 9PM slot on “liberal” MSNBC went to someone aggressively challenging America’s bloated military. Oh well, what can one expect when Ms. Maddow operates on a network owned by GE, which manufactures some of the very weapons used by the navy?)
I explained in my previous article that Somali pirates claim their motives stem from the West overfishing in their seas, and then dumping nuclear waste in their waters. Unable to sustain themselves with traditional modes of employment, they have turned to acts of piracy out of desperation. The nuclear waste dumping charges have been confirmed by the United Nations envoy for Somalia.
Though the mainstream newspapers have documented the Somali’s qualms with western powers, they have not gone the extra step to link these grievances with acts of piracy. Furthermore, most of the major network conversations about Somalia are worryingly moving toward a place of militarism. I always grow concerned when news networks break out their extra spiffy graphics during War Game time: showing Navy snipers shooting faceless bad guys, troop deployments in a “theoretical” ground invasion of Somalia, etc.
It reminds me of the lead-up to Iraq. The chatter starts to sound like war drums.
Everyone needs to take a deep breath. If Americans can collectively act like adults and think past the next thirty seconds, they’ll see that a ground invasion into Somalia is an awful idea. Another awful idea would be bombing Somalia’s coastline, which is roughly as long as the eastern seaboard of the United States. Imagine blanketing such a huge swath of land with bombs. Imagine how many innocent women, children, and young men will die. Yet another terrible, terrible idea would be to harass innocent fisherman and profile all citizens because of the acts of a minority of young men.
All of the above terrible, terrible, terrible ideas breed blowback. The opposite of these mind-numbingly stupid plans comes from addressing the Somalis’ grievances and offering them aid and support as they try to rebuild their country. Western states need to end their overfishing and the dumping of hazardous waste.
If America fails to understand the world’s grievances with its militaristic, imperialist agenda, then it is destined for decades (maybe centuries) of blowback. America must break this endless cycle of blowback if only to finally (please God) stop the pirate puns.