Saturday, November 22, 2008

There is a battlefield in the War on Terror that Western powers are studiously ignoring- especially the Bush administration.
Many ships, including huge tankers have been hijacked off the Horn of Africa by alleged Somali pirates- in polite company they are Frenchified and called corsairs, but not in Swahili.
So, why are these pirates ignored, not attacked or threatened? Is it because they are sort of kindred souls to the robber barons of the current administration? They are a sort of free market supply-siders, these pirates who are not really new. I recall my late father telling us long ago, when we were children on the northwestern shores of the Gulf, old tales about Somali pirates' misdeeds. At that time, even my child's wandering mind wondered if there was, right then but far away, some old Somali father telling his Somali children old tales about the fearsome pirates of the Gulf states.

Perhaps their ideology fits in perfectly with the idea of unregulated, the current word is deregulated, markets. Piracy on the high seas is the ultimate unregulated/deregulated market, the better test tube for Commercial Darwinism- better even than some corporate headquarters.
Actually I have heard reports of the Indian navy confronting some pirates, but nothing about others. Who else can confront them? The Somalis have no navy, don't even have a defined state. The Yemenis across the gateway to the Red Sea can't do much: they can't send a flotilla because they don't have a flotilla: camels don't float, not even Yemeni camels.

But help is on the way: alarabiya and other media report that Islamist militias, the al-Qaeda type Salafi groups that the US earlier urged Ethiopia to send troops into Somalia to destroy, have intervened on the side of the good guys. The network reports that the Islamists are searching for the pirates who hijacked a ship owned by an "Islamic" state, i.e Saudi Arabia. Maybe it is a turf war: maybe they want that $100 million tanker and all those Ukrainian tanks on the other freighter for themselves. Maybe they have heard that the pirates are demanding $25 million for the oil tanker.

Meanwhile, even more help is on the way, but of the dubious kind: representatives from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan and other Arab countries have met in Cairo and announced that they will increase cooperation among them to deal with the matter and to prevent piracy from spreading into the Red Sea. King Abdul of Jordan may even send units of his crack security agents in rubber dinghies, once they learn how to swim, just to frighten the pirates away from the Red Sea. But they won't spread into the Red Sea: they'll have strong navies waiting there, including the US Navy and others.
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