Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yo Ho Ho, It’s the Pirates’ Life for … Them

It seems every time you turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper, a pirate story is right there, front and center, like a “Ho Train” at a Bret Michaels’ concert. Used to be when you thought of pirates you thought of Johnny Depp and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Or, if you’re old, you thought of the actual Disneyland ride. If you’re just plan goofy, you thought of September 19, international “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” All those good times are ruined for now, for these days when you hear or see the word “pirate,” you likely think of one other word: Somalia.

The pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama this month was a good, old fashioned pirate tale – forceful takeover of a vessel, a crew versus crew throw down, and hasty retreat with a hostage. Just like the Blackbeard era, only with automatic weapons, diesel engines, and a heretofore unheard of and almost inconceivable complete lack of rum. Drama galore on the high seas, the final act of which saw 80 meters of night time rolling seas, three US Navy Seals, three Somali pirates, three shots, and three kills. A quick heads up to bad guys everywhere: You don’t want to mess with the US Military. You don’t want there to even be rumors of you thinking about it in passing.

Last week, papers around the world showed one Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse. Not familiar with him? Well, he’s the sole surviving knucklehead of the pirate crew that took on the Maersk Alabama and barked at the big dog on the porch. Catch his picture, below:

As a picture is worth 1000 words, or so they say, it seems most of those words are forming themselves into questions. Questions like, what’s Abdiwali’s age? [His parents claim he’s only 16] Why is his name spelled sometimes Abdiwali, sometimes Abdewali? Isn’t piracy the same as terrorism? Good questions all, but, to me, this picture speaks one question in particular - Why is this jackass smiling like that? Me, I think it’s because he wants to show the world that despite being dirt freakin’ poor, Somalis have better teeth than the English.

I’m kidding.

You think.

No really, the real reason Abdiwali is smiling is because he’s about to enjoy a number of years living the high life of the US penal system. Oh sure, there’s a dark side of the federally- and state- funded gladiator schools that are in session every hour of every day – of which constant danger of getting shanked for a pack of smokes and having to put out to another dude to get your own copy of Barron’s are the least of one’s worries. You see, for no matter how tough life is behind bars, it sure beats the crap out of living in Somalia. If you’re down and out, and feeling a bit blue, just thank your lucky stars you weren’t such a miserable bastard as to be born in Somalia.

If you don’t know much about Somalia, go check it out on the CIA website and it’s World Fact Book. Some lowlights for you to consider:
- No real, viable government since the authoritarian, socialist regime of Mahamed Siad Barre collapsed in early 1991. That’s 18 years of the wild, wild West.
- As there’s no real government, there’s no real surprise that Somalia does not have a national legal system.
- Not a whole lot of domestic issues, that is if you don’t count famine, contaminated water eroding human health, deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, and desertification.
- Speaking of desertification, arable land makes up just 1.64% of Somalia’s territory.
- But, even with that, permanent crops make up only 0.04% of land use.
- Median age of the Somalia population is 17.5 years. Said differently, over half of all Somalis have never known a viable, national government.
- 45% of the population is 14 or under, making one wonder what you call a Pirate ROTC program.
- Of course, you need schools to have an ROTC program, and something tells me there aren’t a lot of schools when the national literacy rate is 37.8% (only 25.8% for women). Good thing it isn’t particularly difficult to spell “AK-47.”
- Life expectancy is only 50.
- The Gross Domestic Product of the entire country is $5.5 billion ($600 per capita), or roughly the amount Oracle’s Larry Ellison spends annually on polishing his ego.

An increasing number of Somalis take to the open seas and piracy for two reasons. One, it’s pretty lucractive, acccounting for somewhere upwards of $150 million in 2008. Secondly, there’s not a whole lot of alternatives, save knocking off an occasional aid truck stocked with food. But, if you do that, where’s the money in it – who’s going to pay for stolen food and medical supplies in a country with no economy?

Of course, we can’t just have pirates frollicking on the oceans and disrupting our shipping, which if you consider what’s carried in cargo holds every day, is really messing with the very fabric of our civilized society. But, arming ships to the teeth and siccing the US Navy Seals on pirates is not the answer. No, the fight against piracy starts on land. Fix Somalia, you fix the Somalia pirate problem.

Ah, but fixing Somalia. Now, that could be tough. But, here’s an idea. While the water is polluted and over-fished, it’s a helluva lot less polluted than the water off Dubai. Additionally, the beautiful coast of Somalia stretches as far as the eastern seaboard of the Unitied States. You thinking what I’m thinking? We annex that bad boy. Bring in truckloads of sandwiches, water, and construction supplies. Build us another vacation paradise.

We did it once in Nevada, and if you can do it there, you can do it anywhere.

Just this guy’s opinion.

Tweet up my bad self on Twitter @RayHartjen.

1 comment:

  1. I think they use the word "pirate" to make people reporting the news snicker. How fun (yet challenging) is it to say the word "pirate" with a straight face. Other titles in the running for the Somalian Thieves were other descriptive nouns that would make newspeople snicker: Vaginas, Boogars, DoucheBags and Scrotum Sacks...