Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mythology, Somali Pirates, and Gov. Kaine

The mythology of pirates has long fascinated Americans - their rogue spirits, wiley natures, and adventurous lifestyles - seen most recently in blockbuster movies. Yesterday and today's breaking news coverage of the pirates hijacking an American vessel and taking the captain prisoner is also a testament to this fascination. To me, it has been interesting to see what a modern pirate looks like, especially in contrast to pirate lore. Today's pirates are not English speaking, swash-buckling, middle-aged men - under the banner of the Skull and Bones - but are Somalian teenagers carrying RPGs and AK-47s. As such, pirates no longer need to overwhelm a ship by force, as a small group of bandits carrying heavy-damage weaponry can easily subdue an unarmed maritime craft. Also, according to my sense of the mythology, pirates preyed off the coast of richer nations increasing the likelihood of looting a ship with valuable cargo, but in today's context, the failed nation-state of Somalia incubates the lawless nature of these pirates. Finally, whether in gold coin or exotic bullion, or in parachuted ransom, piracy remains a lucrative business.

Tangentially speaking, the captured ship, the Maersk Alabama, was based in Norfolk, Virginia. As such, Gov. Kaine released a statement on the attack. Saith Kaine:
“The news this morning that the Maersk Alabama and its crew of twenty men and women were seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia is a sad and unsettling reminder of the precarious state of safety in the Indian Ocean. My thoughts and prayers are with the crew and their families today as we continue to receive news on this developing story.

“I’m thankful the crew may have been able to regain control of the ship. However the fact that the container ship was seized on waters that have experienced more than 50 other hijackings of a similar nature this year - all but 16 of the ships have safely returned home - calls for continued U.S. and international concern.

“I encourage my fellow Virginians - and Americans from coast to coast - to extend their sympathy and concern to the crewmen and their families in this difficult time.”


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