Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

In Defense of Pirates

Posted in Citizen Radio, media, politics, terrorism by allisonkilkenny on April 10, 2009
Hazardous waste on Somalian shore (

Hazardous waste on Somalian shore (

If I’m to believe the mainstream press and pundits (most disappointingly, Rachel Maddow,) there are bands of inexplicably evil men sailing around the Horn of Africa, pillaging ships and terrorizing sailors simply because they are pirates. And pirates are evil. End of story.

Except, that’s a rather shallow interpretation of what’s happening in the Somalian waters. Acts of piracy are acts of desperation, and not the acts of evil men. Of course, terrorizing civilians is never acceptable, though I would like to point out my own government is guilty of crimes against humanity that far exceed any acts of Somalian piracy.

In his excellent article, Johann Hari writes of a fascinating exchange between Alexander the Great and a pirate. The pirate was captured and brought before Alexander.

[Alexander] demanded to know “what he meant by keeping possession of the sea.” The pirate smiled, and responded: “What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor.” Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today – but who is the robber?

Hari went into further detail about Somalian pirates when I interviewed him for my show Citizen Radio. During the interview, he explained that Somalian pirates are actually poor fishermen. It was only after Somalian waters were poisoned by western nations, and the livelihoods of Somalian fisherman were destroyed, that civilians turned to acts of piracy as means of survival.

What happened in Somalia is that in 1991, the Somalian government collapsed and the country imploded. Two processes began in different parts of Somalia; bearing in mind it has a 3000 km coastline. A European shipping fleet, mostly Spanish, Italian and some British came along and basically started industrially fishing Somalian fish, which is one of the main sources of food in a starving country. Suddenly these tiny little fishermen with nets were being out fished by these industrial trawlers and the fish started just disappearing, so there was a massive increase in hunger in Somalia.

In another part of Somalia, industrial waste from Europe begun to being dumped just off the coast, because it’s expensive to get rid of waste in Europe [whilst] it costs nothing to take it in a boat and dump it outside Somalia. The most incredible thing that was dumped was literally nuclear waste. So after the tsunami, barrels of all sorts of random shit started to wash up on the coast of Somalia, including nuclear waste that we now know [as a result] radiation sickness killed around 300 people but no ones bothering to count or check. That’s [what] the UN special envoys estimate to me was, 300 died, could be far more, no one’s looking, cleaning or doing anything.

Imagine if this happened in Florida, imagine if the government of Florida didn’t have any resources and suddenly Italians came, stole all the fish and everyone was going bust in Florida, and they started dumping nuclear waste. People of Florida would be calling for the nuking of Italy.

The Somalians with very limited resources sent what they called the ‘National Volunteer Coast Guard’ to try and stop these people, and the people we call pirates call themselves the coast guard. This is not that implausible when you bear in mind the context. It’s absolutely true that the some pirates have committed unacceptable acts, I don’t believe it’s ever right to take a hostage, [but] they haven’t killed anyone, harmed anyone, but they have taken hostages. That’s not right, they do it to get money but they then in some cases give it back to [their] communities, which have been desecrated in several instances. So it’s a good example of how something is presented as mindless insanity when actually it’s actually completely different.

Pundits (even our beloved Progressive pundits) adore simplicity, and the pirate coverage off the coast of Somalia presented to them an orgasmic, cartoonish stand-off between “noble seamen,” and “evil pirates.”

The truth is more complicated than that.

Somalians live in  a shockingly volatile environment complete with stark poverty and religious fundamentalism. Their environment has been poisoned by the west, their source of food and income destroyed, and now desperate men are resorting to desperate acts.

To stress again: it’s never acceptable to harm civilians, and hostage-taking is never a valid means of negotiation. Still, when considering the stress placed upon Somalia’s civilians, it’s actually pretty surprising that there hasn’t been more violence, and that most nautical conflicts with pirates have been resolved peacefully. (Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, even admitted that “in most of these cases to date, [the] crews have ultimately been released unharmed.”)

It’s important not to demonize Somalians, even the Somalian pirates. When we demonize our enemies, they become less than human, and it becomes easy to apply such blanket rhetoric as “terrorists.” Demonization (particularly by our media) allows hawkish figures an excuse to say that Somalia “must be invaded,” that poor fisherman AKA pirates “must be destroyed,” and that the “axis of evil” has a new peg.

Johann Hari’s official website:

Allison Kilkenny’s official website is here: Also available on Facebook and Twitter.

40 Responses

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  1. BB said, on April 10, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Your an idoit. Criminals are criminals. They are not fisherman they are criminals peroid. They are a plague and need a good cleansing. A few sunken ships with all hands would stop this crap.

  2. Professor Ed 1%er said, on April 10, 2009 at 9:34 am

    I kept waiting for the eye-wink at the end of your article, but it never came. I would ask the obvious question: are you delusional? It’s a rhetorical question since I can anticipate your answer. So let me answer my own question by pointing out that Somali pirates are in the hijacking business, and business is good. They aren’t practicing piracy as a prima facie form of protest about their fishing waters being destroyed by “western” interests. That’s nothing but a strawman argument. These types of attacks on the high seas will only stop against American flag ships when a team of SEALS retakes the Captain and sticks an MP3 up the anus of any pirate still onboard the craft and performs a “9mm colon-oscopy.” These crimes are being committed on the open ocean by criminals, not in the Somali territorial waters by protestors or jihadists.

  3. Jeff said, on April 10, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Good God, you are fucking pathetic…..

  4. Joe said, on April 10, 2009 at 10:20 am

    You are so out of reality that I really can`t think of what to say. There is no defence for illegal, immoral actions. These poor people have some really nice hardware to be just poor fishermen.
    Get help and for the love of reason and logic stay away from the computer. So reading the below that bad comments will be deleted, I`m sure this one will be. Your sense of fairness only extends to the poor pirates?

  5. allisonkilkenny said, on April 10, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Guns are fairly easy to get a hold of, and not just the hardware of rich men. If you read the article (which I’m sure you didn’t,) I said (twice) that taking hostages is never acceptable.

  6. allisonkilkenny said, on April 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    And you, sir, are a gentleman.

  7. allisonkilkenny said, on April 10, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    I’ll need you to show me where I said hijacking is a good business. You’ll also have to introduce me to your friends (the pirates,) since you seem so intimately acquainted with their motives.

    The point of my article is that we can’t look at the world as children do, where there are good guys (who we blindly defend,) and bad guys, (who we bomb off the face of the earth). Even pirates have motivations, and it’s important to understand those motives so we can reduce things like piracy.

    These types of attacks on the high seas will only stop against American flag ships when a team of SEALS retakes the Captain and sticks an MP3 up the anus of any pirate still onboard the craft and performs a “9mm colon-oscopy.”

    Grow. Up. If you could take a breath and think beyond the next 30 seconds, you’d see that overt acts of aggression only result in blowback that we’ll have to deal with a decade from now.

  8. allisonkilkenny said, on April 10, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Criminals have motives, and it’s important to understand them so we can stem acts of violence in the future. Otherwise, we’re children, who name call on the internet, and fail to think critically about the world we live in.

  9. allisonkilkenny said, on April 11, 2009 at 12:38 am

    I find it curious that you can’t take one more step back after “millions of dollars for pirates ships.” Why do they need this money? Why did incidents of piracy skyrocket only after western powers poisoned their water, and bombed their lands? You seem like a very angry, immature individual, who fails to grasp basic history.

    Sorry to shake up your world, but Somalians aren’t simply evil baddies crouched on the other side of the world, who are fodder for your “Get ‘dem terrorist” jack-off sessions. They’re human beings with motives, just like you and me.

  10. Andy said, on April 11, 2009 at 4:22 am

    This is far more complicated than a sole blog entry, even one as good as yours, Allison. I cant justify violence, and I think no one should, but I can (and obviously Professor can not) see the path to that situation (not the reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing), the reasons and actions that lead to current situation, so we can evaluate (or at least try to understand) current US policy on dealing with poor countries. I think Obama does, that’s why his posture is so… not coherent.

    And, Professor, MP5 colonoscopy is what french did in africa for decades (in most cases, literally), till africans did the same to french, but not in africa, but in france! it was the first time it was used the word “terrorism”. Incidentally, its the same the US (and UK, France, etc) has been doing in sixty something countries for two hundred years. What do you think could be the consecuences? you cant maintain control by force forever.

  11. allisonkilkenny said, on April 11, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Andy- Thanks for writing a thoughtful response. You can see (read) what I’ve been dealing with below. I totally agree with you that the topic is complicated, and that it deserves more discussion than one blog entry. Others on Huffington Post/the London Independent have written extensively about this topic (Johann Hari and Jeremy Scahill, to name a couple).

    However, some individuals approach the topic in an irrational fashion, quick to label desperate men “villains” without considering the possibility that they have been driven to acts of piracy as a way to survive. I stressed (repeatedly) that hostage-taking is never acceptable. BUT — it’s also essential to examine the motives of these men, something the MSM seems unwilling to do.

  12. Lamont Cranston said, on April 11, 2009 at 7:41 am

    The Australian ’60 Minutes’ program recently sent a news crew to Somalia to interview a pirate band. The report was pretty hokey and heavy handed, I don’t know about the American version but ours has been very tabloid-minded for a long time, but the core of the issue was able to get through despite it all and its exactly what Kilkenny says: they were fishermen, someones fouled their seas, they have communities to support. And they’d go back to fishing if they could.

  13. allisonkilkenny said, on April 11, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Interesting. Thanks for posting the link, Lamont!

  14. Joe said, on April 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Well, so if I take you hostage for a few weeks I have done you no real harm? Fine by me, where when do you want me to pick you up? It`ll keep you away from the computer for a few days. By the way, do you have any special food needs? ; )
    Of course there are reasons for all behavior, good and evil. There is never justification for the latter.
    I suggest you get with Obama, and the UN and go take care of these poor fishermen before somebody comes along and shows them what most of us learned before age 5, you actions have consequences, there are rules for conduct that must be obeyed. The James brothers had reasons, Bonnie and Clyde, Manson, and all the rest had reasons.
    You don`t negotiate with these types of people. You stop them. If there is an underlying problem, go fix it. They`ve taken money and property from people who had nothing to do with their problem.

  15. Kay Price said, on April 11, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    If that was one of your family members taken hostage I am sure that you would not be writing the things about the pirates that you have. BLess their hearts!!!! their childhood was bad, they dont have any money etc,etc,etc. There are nothing but excuses made for all of the criminals in the world these days. Of course with the new president that is all fluff and no stuff who knows what will be done. Heard that song WHY CANT WE BE FRIENDS, thats a joke and anybody with any common sense I said COMMON SENSE ,knows that this is the truth , you cannot be friends with pirates who are nothing more than terrorists, and remember that ship was carrying humanitarian aide. Amazing!! I thought that America was the downtrodder of all other countries, or so says the left wing
    machine.If we have any sense at all, we will arm each and every ship that goes out of our ports to anywhere in the world and if need be blow every pirate we see out of the water. The saying is for EVIL to prevail is for all good men to do nothing, or something to that effect. OH! and GOD Please bless America cause we are in a mess.

  16. Josh said, on April 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Allison, if your point is that we should look to their motivations as a means of determining how best to stop the problem in the long term, then I agree with you. But in the short term, there is only one way to respond: swiftly and with lethal force. Without strong deterrence, this problem will continue, guaranteed. One sniper for each pirate, all firing simultaneously. Problem solved. Captain saved.

    Overall, your logic seems to boil down to this: the poor, when wronged, are justified in using the threat of death to extract restitution from any wealthy (or seemingly wealthy) person that crosses their path.

    What bothers me about your approach is that surely you’d be unwilling to live with the consequences as applied to criminals in your own city. How would you feel, if walking down the streets of New York one day, you were taken hostage by a local poor person who’d recently lost his job and felt he had no means of making a living. Would you feel sympathy for him, as he pressed his pistol into your temple and demanded that you call your parents to pay a ransom? Who is at fault, in such a scenario? Would you blame the corporation that fired him, or the City for not providing enough municipal jobs? Or would you blame the educational system, for not giving him the creativity to imagine more than one career? Thoughts?

  17. Andy said, on April 11, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    hehe Joe should read the link Lamont posted.

    “You don`t negotiate with these types of people. You stop them. If there is an underlying problem, go fix it”

    These arent a few criminals you just can shoot and solve your problem, Joe. These are persons living in a deeply unfair society; so if you kill one, there are ten behind waiting for the opportunity to get money in numbers they cant even grasp with their minds. The inequities in the international system are the real cause, and the reason for pirates, illegal inmigrants, (and legal ones), gangs and other countless “underlying problems” to exist. You cant control your unfair world by force forever. You wish so you could simply shoot some criminals and return to your couch to get some fox shows, but that’s simply not the way the world is. We are rich because others are poor, and after a few decades, they begin to make anything to change that, even kidnapp others, or sell drugs to your children.

  18. allisonkilkenny said, on April 11, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Josh –

    if your point is that we should look to their motivations as a means of determining how best to stop the problem in the long term, then I agree with you. But in the short term, there is only one way to respond: swiftly and with lethal force.

    This is a pretty stunning remark, considering we’re dealing with four fishermen floating on a life raft. If we’re to take your model of “swift, merciless punishment for all those guilty parties,” then the planet would be a pretty stark place. We’d have to immediately execute all those guilty of war crimes, so there goes all of the modern leaders of western nations. We’d have to hunt down the men who poisoned Somali waters, kill them, and then find whoever distributed and made the weapons used in these hostage stand-offs, kill them, and so on. You see how this would never end. It seems the “Swift, lethal force” model is only applied to the poor, brown fisherman that have resorted to piracy as a means of survival.

    your logic seems to boil down to this: the poor, when wronged, are justified in using the threat of death to extract restitution from any wealthy (or seemingly wealthy) person that crosses their path.

    Josh, you appeared to have missed where I wrote (twice) in my piece, and have now reiterated a few more times in comments, that I believe it is never acceptable to take hostages. My logic is this: If we apply a model of law and justice to the poor, then we need to apply the same model to the rich, especially when they poison indigenous people’s land, which ultimately drives those indigenous people to acts of desperation that then endanger the lives of civilians.

    you’d be unwilling to live with the consequences as applied to criminals in your own city.

    The consequences of a fair, balances system of rewards and punishment? I’d love that! Example: New York State just repealed the arcane Rockefeller drug laws that have been overcrowding our prisons for decades. The Rockefeller laws were a blatant example of discrimination against poor and minority kids, who were saddled with draconian prison sentences after being tried for minor drug offenses. This is a great victory for the law and justice, but by your standards, I should be quaking in my boots because some poor kids have been released back into the wild of NYC. I’m actually just happy that the law has been applied fairly to our citizens.

    How would you feel, if walking down the streets of New York one day, you were taken hostage by a local poor person who’d recently lost his job and felt he had no means of making a living.

    Ah, the theoretical hypothetical. I love these. War hawks use the “ticking time bomb” hypothetical to legitimize torturing prisoners, and now we have arrived to the hypothetical hostage. Here’s my response: obviously, negotiations are always preferable. However, do I think the FBI should be called in to deal with this one hostage? No. Just as I don’t think we need an entire naval fleet to deal with four guys floating on a raft. In fact, large showcases of arms tends to get a lot of civilians killed. Small, concentrated forces get the job done just as well (if not better) than an entire armed forces unit.

    But back to your hypothetical: shoot to wound. That’s a pretty standard option in hostage situations. We have to stop responding to these scenarios with bloodlust, Josh. I would get zero satisfaction in seeing a gunman shot dead because you’re right — he probably has been driven to our pretend act out of desperation. Maybe our hypothetical gunman lost his job, or his wife left him, or his kid just died, or he’s mentally ill. Who knows, right? The point is, if we want to live in a more humane society, we have to start taking care of each other, and we have to stop behaving like little boys with toy soldiers, eager to kill everything that gets in our way.

    Also, thank you for taking the time to post this on my blog. As you can read, not everyone has been so polite, but I feel like you took the time to formulate your thoughts, and posted a very respectful reply, so I thank you for that.

  19. allisonkilkenny said, on April 11, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Kay — From what I can translate of your post (which isn’t much,) I gather you’re upset. I would ask you to revisit the last 8 years to see what happens when we adopt a childish attitude of revenge and bloodlust. Actually, I would ask you to revisit decades of American foreign policy. Spoiler alert: it ends in blowback, civilian deaths, and our army losing thousands of men and women.

    I have no idea what the rest of your post means, Kay. So…have a nice day.

  20. allisonkilkenny said, on April 11, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I’d expect the pirates to face a court of law, just as I’d expect the companies that poisoned their waters, and destroyed their only source of food, to face an international criminal court. I’m talking about two things:

    A) Understanding the motives of our enemies so that we can end the cyclical nature of victim-perpetrator, and:
    B) Creating an equal playing field in our courts of law, so that the poor and the rich (brown people and white people) are treated fairly.

    Apparently, this is a very radical idea.

  21. Josh said, on April 11, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Allison, thanks for replying. A couple things:

    1) Not all of the pirates are former fisherman. By characterizing them as such, you draw on the sympathies of the reader, so I understand why you would do that. But it seems a bit manipulative, considering a good number of these guys are just thugs and not the noble fisherman you seem to imagine. There is enough truth on your side to make the argument without weasel words.

    2) Speaking of argumentative techniques, I noticed you made fine use of one of my favorites – the strawman! I don’t think killing hostage takers in order to save a hostage is that outrageous. Obviously, you try everything else(short of paying them) before resorting to that, but at some point you’ve gotta act in a way that places priority on the life of the hostage. From a moral standpoint, it seems to me the hostage takers have in a sense forefitted their right to be treated as equals when they kidnap. If you threaten the life of another for pecuniary gain, I don’t think you’re entitled to the same consideration as the rest of us. Call me crazy.

    Anyway, I was a little surprised at the crazy conclusions “my logic” lead you too. I advocate “swift” justice here because it’s the prudent thing to do logistically, as it will deter furture hijackers and save lives down the road (not to mention the captain’s – shooting to wound might not). While it’s not a decision to be made lightly, those making it can be sure they’re not shooting innocent men – these guys are pointing guns at a dude as we speak!! In the case of war crimes, the evidentiary question is usually murkier, and there are legal justifications that can be used as defenses. So logistically speaking, “swift” justice is not possible there. As for the polluting CEO’s – their companies should pay restitution, even if it bankrupts them. Killing them seems a bit radical if you ask me, but considering 300 people died as a result of the toxic waste, manslaughter charges are certainly warranted if it can be shown they knew what they were doing (or should have know AKA legal “recklessness)

    Either way, we’re back to dealing with the hostage takers. If we continue appeasing them (paying them), the problem will only get worse. So what are we to do? It seems to me that deterrence is the only way to make it stop, at least in the short term. I’d say “give them aid”, but Jeff Sachs told me that was a bad idea and I’m too lazy to research whether he’s wrong about that)

    As for treating brown people fairly, I’m all for it. I love brown people. Probably because my mother is one. Or maybe it’s because I grew up surrounded by them in a small banana republic that the USA built a canal through.

    The Rockefeller laws were such a disgrace. So are all drug laws. Drugs are a public health issue, not a criminal issue. It’s too bad our politicians are such cowards and demagogues. My only consolation is that future generations will look back at these “drug warriors” with the scorn they deserve.

    “Over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”

  22. allisonkilkenny said, on April 11, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    1) All the ones interviewed by the major international/domestic newspapers (Guardian, Forbes, NYT, Sky News, Reuters, AP) claim they were formerly fishermen. But let’s consider that there are a handful that used to be other things: farmers, or something. That doesn’t erase the fact that their dire socio-economic circumstances have now driven them into a horrible profession: piracy. It’s not like these guys were stockbrokers on Wall Street, and they got bored, and gave it all up for the luxurious lives of pirates. 🙂

    2) I wasn’t making use of the strawman argument. You invented a theoretical hostage, and so I simply explored the universal truism that we are all results of our past experiences. Since we know nothing of your hypothetical hostage-taker (namely because he’s not real,) I said we must not act hastily precisely because (like in a real hostage situation,) we don’t know our pretend hostage-taker’s motives. That’s all.

    3) I think if we act flippantly in a hostage situation, we’re as bad as the hostage-taker. The reason we get to call ourselves a “society” is because we have laws, and we act rationally (supposedly.) Therefore, shooting indiscriminately, endangering civilians, and refusing to acknowledge that America’s imperialist attitude may have a causal relationship with increases in terrorism and piracy, is no better than the acts of terrorism we claim to loathe so greatly.

    4) Acts of aggression don’t stem hostage-taking, or terrorism. It actually creates more terrorists:, This is actually a sentiment most Americans agree with: This is basic common sense. Imagine if some state invaded America (let’s say China,) and killed a bunch of your friends in the interest of “keeping the world safe.” Would you shrug and say, “It’s cool, China. We’re square.” Or would you devote your life to overthrowing the evil empire to the east? You seem like a nice dude, but I think you would be pretty pissed off, particularly if China then poisoned your water.

    5) I’m glad to hear you would demand the CEOs be held accountable. I think killing 300 people warrants a life sentence.

    6) I agree the cycle needs to be broken. International trials would greatly help the healing process. Secondly, we need to rebuild the Somali communities and invest in social structures and infrastructure: government, schools, water irrigation, etc. Peace, unfortunately, is not as profitable as unfettered Capitalism and greed. However, the peace dividend far outweighs war’s future. If we pursue peace with as much enthusiasm as we now pursue imperialism, we’ll see a sharp drop-off in acts of terrorism and piracy.

    7) You, more than anyone, should know that American imperialism leaves a big, ugly footprint in many third world countries. Poor people have few means to fight back, and when they do, western civilians tend to throw up their hands, and wail, “What do these savages WANT from us?” Well, they mostly want to live in peace. They want food, jobs, and prosperous futures for their children. In summary, they want what we want. We just need to push aside the warmongers, and nefarious business tycoons, and work directly with the Somali people.

  23. Lamont Cranston said, on April 12, 2009 at 7:25 am

    “You’re an America hater”
    what exactly are you a professor of – Tactics of Commissars & Ultra-Nationalists?

  24. allisonkilkenny said, on April 12, 2009 at 8:18 am

    It’s not a strawman argument. It’s based on these things called “facts.” Facts that have been documented in several newspapers. I really don’t know how to converse with someone who dismisses documented cases of fishermen-turned-pirates. I know reality is a tough pill to swallow, but there it is. (You can find the documents in Johann Hari’s original piece, which I linked to at the end of my article, and documented in one of several replies to comments above). I’m not reposting them yet again.

  25. allisonkilkenny said, on April 12, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I think I’m going to add “American hater” to my official bio. 🙂

  26. Joe Estep said, on April 12, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Gee Whiz Josh the world is supposed to be fair? I missed that day at Sunday school I guess. What did the Easter Bunny bring you this morning? I really dislike your attitude, name calling and unfounded assumptions.
    The ones holding the hostage can and should be taken into custody, shot or whatever it takes to free the man. The others that are involved in lawless behavior should be dealt with. I don`t watch Fox. I`m not some ignorant redneck, I speak 2 languages fluently and can get by in a third, I`m not a racist. I live in the 3rd world, I don`t accept the “I`m a victim of (insert name)” mentality of a lot of Americans, and unlike you I live in reality. If they need help, I`m all for helping them, where do I send the check? . If they engage in unlawful behavior, they get what they deserve.
    The world`s problems are all the fault of the big mean nasty Americans? That is such nonsense. All nations/people will act in their own self interest, as is their right and duty. The only really altruistic person was nailed to a cross a couple of thousand years ago, if you believe that myth. The only altruistic acts in our lives might have come from our mothers, when they didn`t drown us at birth. There is no justification for causing harm to others; there is justification for self defense. Piracy is not self defense.
    Go read The Wealth of Nations, put down Marx.
    Allison, I don`t think you hate America, I do think you are a bit too nice of a person. Which is good since it offsets the ones on the other side. If they turned pirate then they will have to live with the consequences for their actions. Life is tough that way. Contrary to what Josh believes, there is no Santa Clause, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny etc. Instead of defending their actions, or searching for some justification for them, why don`t you try to find a way to aid them instead of falling into the same old “the evil rich, nasty American” is at fault for all the world`s ills? If they need help it`s not going to come from the poor, it`ll have to be some of those evil rich people. You have the platform to begin it, but you`re not going about it the right way. Never bite the hand that feeds you….

  27. allisonkilkenny said, on April 12, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Joe – You are, without a doubt, the first to ever say I’m too nice of a person. Cheers!

  28. Gailand said, on April 12, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    You shed interesting light on the Somalia situation but why wait until now to bring this up. Oh, you couldn’t sell the story before there was any interest in it stirred up and already for you to exploit. I have sympathy for the poor of Somalia. Did your write an article about European exploitation by super fishing off their coasts before this event? Did you write about the dumping of radioactive waste a month or more ago? But now you whine!

    This is a real situation that needs to be solved with real power now. It is not an excuse for situations that you did not address at earlier times and a free pass to violate international laws and hostage taking. I doubt that the “fishermen” even know about the radio active dumping. If it is part of their motive why don’t they demand the dumping and international abuse stop instead of asking for ransom?

  29. Carly said, on April 12, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Wow, I just briefly scanned through some of the comments and was seriously shocked by all the hate you’re getting on this. Of course I expected some, but the first three comments were not only negative but flat out mean.
    Well anyway I agree with you. I think it’s not right at all that they are automatically painted as the bad guys. Yeah what they are doing is wrong but they have better motives then most people who do stuff like that in the US. The only thing that really pissed me off about the hostage situation is that the navy seals that rescued Richard Phillips killed the pirates that were holding him hostage. I really feel like they could have rescued him another way. Another thing is that many of these pirates are only kids! 17 & 18 years old! Do they really deserve to be killed? And everyone is happy that they’re dead. At dinner tonight when they announced that the pirates were dead my mom said “good they should be.” But I think the real reason her and other people feel this way is because these people are not American. If this were a group of Americans trying to get some cash and they were killed people would react much differently. In fact the person that killed them (for the “greater good”) would probably lose his/her job.

  30. allisonkilkenny said, on April 12, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Hi Carly — Thanks for the response. Something you may not know: Somalian tribal elders had actually proposed a deal where Phillips would have been released, and the pirates would have been allowed to return to land. The navy rejected the deal, saying they wanted to arrest the pirates. Now, I think the pirates should have been held accountable for taking a hostage, but then the law also demands that their grievances (namely the poisoning of their environment) also be addressed. This would have entailed suing the companies that dumped nuclear waste in their waters. The law must hold everyone accountable, equally.

    I agree that the assassination of all the pirates was excessive (and some are speculating, illegal). The navy claims they had “no other choice,” but of course, we weren’t there, and accepting military propaganda unquestioningly is always dangerous and irresponsible.

  31. allisonkilkenny said, on April 12, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Sell the story to whom? No one paid me to write about the Somali pirates.

  32. Kay Price said, on April 13, 2009 at 11:15 am


    As I said before if it was one of your family members, then I am sure you would feel different about the hostage situation. Criminals are criminals period and they need to be held accountable for what they do wrong. You cannot negociate with terrorsits no matter what and plus it is wrong too. The captain of that ship was not doing anything other than his job. I am sure that if they had reached the shore with him, he would either never been seen alive or he would have been killed. I myself am glad that he was able to be rescued. He had more courage and determination than most would have had in that situation. We are the greatest nation in the world and if it was not for us, no other country would have anything. We have defended and given to every country in the world.I believe that if you dont like the way it is here, then go to another country and see how well you are treated. I am sure that you abide by their rules or else you would not be allowed to stay there.

  33. allisonkilkenny said, on April 13, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Kay – I think this is a silly argument. It’s like saying I only believe in the rule of law as long as it’s never applied to me, or my family. I’m not saying hostage-taking is acceptable. I’m saying the rule of law ought to be applied fairly to everyone in this situation (the pirates, but also the CEOs who poisoned their environment.)

  34. Matt said, on April 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Undoubtedly, some “[p]eople of Florida” are already “calling for the nuking of Italy.”

  35. Jesse Carter said, on April 13, 2009 at 8:30 pm


    The Somalians have been the subjected to awful inequities over the past decade. I was appalled when I read reports that nuclear and chemical waste had been dumped off the country’s coast. There is no excuse for this, and the Europeans should clean up the mess. But they won’t. Doesn’t this bode well for tough environmental policy going forward? No! Of course it doesn’t. Cap and trade? Won’t work. The exact same amount of pollution will be emitted. It will simply be emitted by a different country, which doesn’t have the regulation to prevent it. And to top it all off, the country that imposed that regulation will lose every job that was associated with the manufacture that created the “terrible pollution” (or we could get off easy and just have prices skyrocket). Should we simply accept pollution as a necessary evil? No, but I contend that any effort to assuage pollution of all sorts will only succeed if enforced unilaterally. But I digress…

    Allison, might I say, as appalled (but not surprised) as I was to learn of the dumping of the aforementioned waste, I’ve never heard a more appalling, and frankly asinine, argument than the one you’ve just presented in your piece. I can’t wait to read the article you write, defending me, after I steal my neighbor’s car. I’m vindicated, no doubt! His college was paid for by me, the taxpayer. He is now a medical malpractice lawyer who has made millions at the expense of others. He buys a BMW; I take out a loan to pay off my Father’s medical bills. You obviously see where I am going with this… Allison, you did your best not to create a moral equivalency in your article, but you failed miserably. These pirates are no different than thieves who are convicted in the U.S. each day. Every criminal gets some unfair breaks along the way, but that doesn’t excuse his taking of others property.

    And if you still don’t buy into my point of view, consider this:
    Knowing what the pirates know now (that insurance companies will pay generous ransoms in avoidance of bad press and conflict), do you honestly believe that if a) an international cause cleaned Somalian waters of nuclear and chemical waste, and b) fishing in Somalian waters stopped, the acts of piracy would cease? I didn’t think so.

    “Of course, terrorizing civilians is never acceptable, though I would like to point out my own government is guilty of crimes against humanity that far exceed any acts of Somalian piracy.” – Classy comment. And you have hard evidence to support that statement, right? Yes, the U.S. is evil. You should move to another country. I’ll be right behind you. Oh, don’t forget to take the disgraceful Huffington Post with you on your trip to “the grass is always greener on the other side”.


  36. allisonkilkenny said, on April 13, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Jesse – I’m really amazed that you somehow think I’m pardoning the pirates for taking hostages. For the eighth (or ninth time,) I will reiterate: at no point did I say it’s acceptable to take hostages. I’m saying the rule of law ought to be applied fairly to everyone in this situation (the pirates, but also the CEOs who poisoned their environment.)

    What a weird reply. I think you half-agree with me, you?

  37. Jesse Carter said, on April 13, 2009 at 9:17 pm


    There is no law in Somalia. And moreover, there is no money to enforce the law. What exactly do you propose? Without reading your response to this entry, I can already provide you with my next response: Nothing will be done differently going forward. The European companies who polluted will provide no recompense, most shipping companies and insurers will continue to pay ransom, and the U.S. will continue to use lethal force in situations that involve U.S.-flagged ships. I don’t think I need to explain why this will be the case, as this has been extensively discussed in your blog.

    And yes, while I do concede that you present a healthy, alternative viewpoint and raise valid a few valid points, I vehemently disagree with your idealistic conclusions. I wish things worked out the way you envision them. I just know they don’t from experience.

    For the record, I never said you pardoned them. I said you drew a moral equivalency. And that, you did. On yet another tangent, that was a very fast replay… I’m happy to see that you take pride in your work and encourage a reasoned debate on your blog.


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  39. Charles said, on April 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Nice post. One minor point: you’re probably too young to remember the earlier sources for your reference to the pirate’s meeting with Alexander the Great. The story is told by St. Augustine (with the judgement that the pirate makes a good point). More recently, Noam Chomsky begins one of his books with this story. The book is called PIRATES AND EMPERORS. It was published when I was your age. I liked your interview with Noam, and I’m guessing you’ll catch up on your Chomsky reading eventually. All the best, Charles P.S. Keep up the good work.

  40. allisonkilkenny said, on April 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks Charles – Johann Hari made the first reference to the story, but I had no idea who the pirate was. Thanks a lot!

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