THE BAD GUYS
Sunday brought the good news that Richard Phillips, captain of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama, had been rescued by the U.S. Navy after several perilous days spent as a captive of Somali pirates. Phillips is pictured above on the right shaking hands with Cmdr. Frank Castellano of the Navy destroyer Bainbridge. Phillips was brought aboard the Bainbridge after three Navy SEAL snipers did exactly what they'd been trained to do: they picked off the pirates with three amazing shots from specially equipped rifles. It was a mission accomplished, in the best sense of the term.
At least it was in my eyes and, I believe, in the eyes of millions around the world.
But Monday saw the naysayers crowding in to take their armchair quarterback potshots at what should have been an event to celebrate. Some journalists took umbrage with the way the rescue was carried out. One in particular claimed we didn't understand the pirates and why they take over ships sailing past Somalia. The pirates weren't in the wrong; the rest of the world was. Another writer claimed the press was exaggerating the nastiness of pirates past and present. Instead of being cutthroats who stole and killed at will, they were actually good guys just trying to make a living in a hard world.
Well, I have something to tell you, folks. Johnny Depp was a damn good pirate in the movies, but Capt. Jack Sparrow was a saint compared to the real pirates of his time -- or of this time, if truth be told.
For years now the Somali pirates have been hijacking ships sailing past their coast. They hold the ships and their crews for ransom, and have received millions and millions of dollars from shipping companies as a result. Supposedly they're doing this because two European companies -- the Italian Swiss firm Achair Partners and the Italian waste broker Progresso -- have dumped toxic waste along their coastline. By hijacking cargo ships, the pirates supposedly hope to make those companies go away.
It all sounds very altruistic -- until you consider "the rest of the story". Those companies paid $80 million to Somalia's supposed "President", Ali Mahdi Mohamed, back in the 1980's for the right to dump toxic waste in Somalian waters. It was a terrible deal for the people of Somalia, but old Ali Mahdi Mohamed came out of it a very wealthy man. He betrayed his people out of greed.
Now the pirates are doing the same thing. Using the toxic waste story as a cover, they've been getting rich on other people's misery for years. They currently hold 245 crewmen and their ships hostage for ransom, 245 men whose families worry about them just as much as Capt. Phillips' family worried about him. And that's only the men they now have in captivity.
Where has the money gone that's already been paid to the pirates? The millions spent by shipping companies to rescue their crews and ships? I can tell you one place it hasn't gone: to the poor people of Somalia. No, folks, these pirates are no Robin Hoods. They haven't used one cent of the ransoms to legally fight the companies dumping waste along their shores. They haven't built homes or schools or hospitals with the money, or helped to build a more stable government in their country. The fact is, they haven't done ANYTHING AT ALL to benefit the people of Somalia. What they've done is grown rich, living off the world like the leeches they are. The pirates had a choice to make, and they made the wrong one. They lived by the sword, and they died by the sword. It was SEALS 3, pirates O. No apologies are in order.