Pirates: Living the High Life

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think pirate? Well I definitely don’t think rich or well off. However, this article I found on the Internet begs to differ. According to this article, pirates “…have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day.” Not only that, but they marry the most beautiful girls and have the most lavish houses, cars, and of course, guns. Apparently, being a pirate is fashionable! One good thing is that they really don’t want to harm anyone, they just want money. And since they want a lot of money, they really shouldn’t kill anybody. That’s why they treat their hostages so well! So it was interesting for some to hear that there were deadly gunshots fired on a Ukrainian ship held hostage. What we did not know then but found out later is that they were actually firing guns off to celebrate Eid, fabulous!


Maybe these are the guns they were firing to celebrate Eid?

Maybe these are the guns they were firing to celebrate Eid?


Hollywood’s ‘Pirate Hero’

Talk about dramatizing the issue: it turns out Samuel L. Jackson’s company has secured the rights to the story of Andrew Mwangura, a local negotiator who “heads the non-profit East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, which works to free ships held by Somali sea raiders.” I don’t know about you, but personally I’m fascinated to see what kind of representation they produce. I guess it’s not surprising that Hollywood is seizing on the dramatic potential of the Somali Pirate situation, although to be honest I thought the recent hostage situation with Captain Richard Phillips would be the first story translated to the big screen. One more interesting note – “He was arrested at the time of the hijacking for suggesting the arms on board were bound for South Sudan, something the Kenyan government denied.” This movie just might be a platform for a more truthful account of piracy in Somalia

Barbary Corsairs

sorry  for the late-nesss—I fell asleep mid-post. I  hope some of you still get to see it before class. 


Apparently this guy was called a "Barbarossa." Sound familiar?

When I heard about the Somalian pirates, I felt like I had heard about something similiar before. I had, in US History class, heard about the BARBARY CORSAIRS. 

Like the Somalian pirates, the Barbary Corsairs were an international problem for ships around Africa (though around North Africa, near Algiers) before they became a US problem. The US fought the first and second Barbary Wars against the pirates (the second with foreign help) to protect their commercial interests. I believe that the first war,was the first time that the very young U.S. fought in an international conflict ( it took place 1801-1805, under Thomas Jefferson).  According to my research on wikipedia, the second war brought the end of the US paying ransom. Another interesting tidbit (from wikipedia again), is that they say: 


There some important difference between the Barbary Corsairs and the Somalian Pirates:

1.) They were from different places (and an obviously different time periods).

2.) Barbary Corsairs were privateers, and so sanctioned by the State. 

3.) The Barbary Corsairs opperated for 8 centuries. 

4.) They attacked other countries directly and pillaged. 

5.) The primary goal of the Corsairs was to capture slaves. 

6.) The Corsairs (as part of a state system) had ambassadors, and a whole structure of power supporting them.


It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once. [2] [3]

This is what one of the ambassadors said to Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1786. However, the Somalian Pirates are opposed by the Islamist fighters in their state because they attack Muslim ships. Somalia Pirates are also opposed by the Arab League of nations for attacking their properties. 

what i don’t get about pirates

When the class first started talking about African/Somalian pirates I honestly had no idea what was going on or why we were considering changing around our syllabus to fit in a discussion on the topic. I went home and google’d “pirates” didn’t get me very far. so I google’d “African pirates”. My first hit was a USA Today article Off Africa’s coast, pirates ‘out of control’. Immediately I was struck by the sensationalism of the whole event and how what we were discussing in class is certainly not how the rest of the US is thinking about this issue. The article goes out of its way to describe these hijackers as crazed pirates, emerging from the dark waters with hooks and AK-47s.

In addition, wikipedia describes the long history of piracy off the Somali coast since the early 1990’s. So why the sudden surge in coverage/commentary/sensationalism in the US?

I think this song I found on YouTube captures the sentiment quite well ;).

Questions from class: Somali Pirates

So this is kind of late but I thought I should still put them up. Here are the questions from the discussion on Tuesday:

1) Why are the pirates still at it, if they are supposed to be well off?
2) Who is responsible? Who legislates this far out at sea?
3) What is the Somali Government doing?
4)Why the term ‘pirates’? Why not ‘boat hijackers’ or ‘water thieves’ or anything else?
5) This has been going on for a while now so why the sudden furore over pirates? At what point did the knowing affect us? When and why did we decide to take action?

6) We also talked about the generalization of terms so that they are sometimes refered to as African pirates as if they are as partolling the entire continents coast.