The Real Scamps Behind the Skull and Crossbones in the Indian Ocean

Published on Dissident Voice, by E.R. Bills, December 7th, 2009.

A couple of weeks back, I saw that the United States was now sending remote-controlled MQ-9 Reaper planes to patrol the Indian Ocean in search of Somali pirates. Apparently the destitute Somalis have “Kick Me” signs attached to their backs and the United States is down their to tee them up.

We weren’t sending Reapers to patrol the area when the Italians, Germans or Swiss were dumping toxic waste off the coast of Somalia. We had no intentions of getting involved when the dumping we ignored was stirred up by the tsunami of 2004 and toxic waste tanks began washing up on Somali beaches and fouling the coastal ecosystem. And we weren’t bothered when Somalis in the area began suffering from radiation sickness, cancer outbreaks and harrowing birth defects. It wasn’t our problem, and it wasn’t any of our business. 

We also didn’t care that even before the dumping, several of our Asian and European cohorts were illegally exhausting Somali fisheries, leaving hundreds of thousands of Somali fisherman without livelihoods. Somalia had no functional government much less Coast Guard, so the entire state was an easy mark. When Somalis were being put upon, they were just a nameless, faceless multitude whose fate was none of our concern. But when bands of nameless, faceless Somali fisherman began resorting to piracy because they no longer had any viable means of supporting their families, then we started paying attention. And when First World cargo ships were seized and British jet-setters got kidnapped from their yachts, well, that was too much. America had to step up …

… Advocates of Capitalism and Social Darwinism say that it’s just the Third World’s lot in life. Too bad, so sad. And as we grow fat in our LazyBoys, listening to our flat screen TVs to remind us how great we are, we sometimes almost care about those less fortunate than us. But then Tiger sinks a 25-foot put or a couple on Dancing with the Stars receives a perfect score. And the Somalis have no right to piracy.

We don’t mind them being treated like animals as long as they refrain from retaliatory wherewithal. That’s where we draw the line.

In the old world, the skull and crossbones symbolized piracy. In the modern world, the skull and crossbones are the internationally recognized symbol for poison. How is utilizing the former worse than destroying a people’s habitat or way of life with the latter? I don’t condone piracy or violence, but I’m appalled that my country is taking the side of the malefactors in this matter. And if I was a Somali living along the Indian Ocean instead of a dupe atrophying in front of a flatscreen, I don’t think I’d take losing my livelihood or watching my children suffer from radiation poisoning lightly. In fact, I’d probably join the bad guys. Especially the ones on my side. (full text). (E. Bills is a writer from Ft. Worth, Texas. His work appears regularly in The Paper of South Texas, Fort Worth Weekly, etc. He can be reached by e-mail. Read other articles by E.R.).

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