For the past few days, everything has taken a back seat to the pirate drama playing out off the coast of Somalia. With no televised exceptions that I've seen (including the normally earnestly-open-to-both-sides Rachel Maddow), the pirates have been dismissed as "criminals" at best, "terrorists" at worst.
As usual, the American press is missing the substance of this story entirely. American main stream media: "Context? What context?"
K'Naan fled Somalia on the last commercial flight out of the country, in 1991. Here's his take on the situation:
"It’s like America needs an enemy. It’s like we’re in a dramatic soap opera and every once in a while there’s gotta be something to get the attention of the people and to point to. I would encourage people to investigate further why they are pirates and why this is happening."
What he's being too polite to say explicitly is that Somalia is a hell-hole, and the Western countries have a lot to do with it. The following is from Britain's The Independent, in an article headlined, You are being lied to about pirates:
"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. While primarily European countries drag-net Somalia's territorial fishing waters (there's no central government to protest about it), they also dump radioactive industrial and medical waste into those waters, thus expressing contempt not just for the Somalis, but for their own children, who ultimately eat those stolen fish-sticks.
Think about that next time there's a telegenic pirate drama playing out on network TV, distracting our attention from the plundered common-wealth of the world. These "pirates" aren't swashbuckling for the fun of it. Their kids are born deformed by the rich world's trash and starving due to the lifeless waters left behind.
Update: Here's a bit more of the Somali's perspective from The New York Times.
Update 2: Here's K'Naan with more on why Somalis don't necessarily condemn the pirates.