Saeed Shabazz | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.
President Barack Obama reassured the American people on April 13 that his administration was on top of the Somali piracy issue when he said, "We are resolved to halt the rise of piracy in that region," adding that the pirates must be "held accountable for their actions."
However, there are some American politicians, analysts and activists who while saying the piracy cannot be allowed to flourish, want to know when the Western world will be held accountable for dumping of nuclear toxic waste and illegal fishing that has all but destroyed the capability of some nine million Somalis to sustain their families.
According to Reuters, over "$300 million" worth of tuna, shrimp and lobster are stolen every year by illegal trawlers that fish off the Somali coasts. The New York Times acknowledged in a September 2008 story that the Somali piracy industry started around 10 to 15 years ago as a response to the illegal fishing.
It is being reported that Obama gave the go-ahead for Navy Seals to take out the four pirates who were holding the captain of the Norfolk, Virginia-based Maersk Alabama hostage. Three of the pirates, reportedly teenagers who were out to get some fast cash, were killed; the fourth is in custody. The captain is alive and well.
The youthful, would-be pirates attempted their hijacking of the American ship on April 6, but the crew of 20 Americans fought back. The captain, in order to save the lives of his crew, offered to become the sole hostage.
The LA Times said the last time African pirates attacked a ship flying an American flag was in 1804 off the Libyan coast. The International Shipping News said that pirates hold some 250-270 captives and 18 vessels in various coves off the 4,000-kilometer Somali coastline.
The International Maritime Bureau reported that the Maersk Alabama was carrying food aid bound for Kenya that was to be distributed, ironically, in Somalia. The Associated Press reported that the ship belongs to Maersk Ltd, a U.S. subsidiary of the Denmark firm A.P. Moller-Maersk. The AP said the company has top security clearance and does a half billion dollars a year in business with the U.S. government.
The headlines in the Western media heralded the rescue of the American captain while high-level officials such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Australian counterpart proclaimed "these people are nothing more than criminals." While everyone was basking in the glow of praise for killing three teenagers, the plane carrying New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne was fired upon by al-Shabaab, the militant youth arm of the Union of Islamic Courts at the airport in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, on April 13. Payne, who chairs the House Sub-committee on Africa and Global Health in the Committee for Foreign Affairs, had just held a press conference at the presidential palace after a meeting with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, according to the BBC. Payne said they talked about a myriad of things.