Is the United States the Real Pirate?

President Barack Obama has been riding the coat-tails of his military/political victory over the so-called “scourge of the seas off the Horn of Africa” – but is the United States the real pirate? For those of you who have been watching CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, most of the coverage on the Somalian Piracy crisis will read like the following quote:

In a daring high-seas rescue, U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed the American sea captain who had offered himself as a hostage to save his crew. The operation was a victory for the world’s most powerful military but angry pirates vowed Monday to retaliate (MSNBC).

The United States media has only provided one side of the story. Consider these accounts from two non-American sources – one is a Somali-Canadian poet, rapper and musician called K’naan. In his article, entitled Why We Don’t Condemn Our Pirates in Somalia , he says (among other things) “one man’s pirate is another man’s coast guard.” British writer Johann Hari (over at The Independent), expressed his discontent with American journalism in an article entitled You Are Being Lied to About Pirates. Check out these quotes from each article:

It is time that the world gave the Somali people some assurance that these Western illegal activities will end, if our pirates are to seize their operations. We do not want the EU and NATO serving as a shield for these nuclear waste-dumping hoodlums. It seems to me that this new modern crisis is a question of justice, but also a question of whose justice. As is apparent these days, one man’s pirate is another man’s coast guard (read entire article here).

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won’t act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world’s oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats (read entire article here).

I am not condoning violence against Captain Richard Phillips and his crew, I only want to contextualize the intentions of some justified African pirates. The Boston Tea Party could once have been considered a random act of piracy and vandalism against the British Government. However, many Americans praised the illegal actions of their Massachusetts brethren, like many Somalians (such as K’naan) support the actions of Somali pirates. The Tea Party was the culmination of a grassroots resistance movement against oppression from foreign powers. Many pirates follow the same ideological justification for their actions. Thoughts?

6 Comments to ‘Is the United States the Real Pirate?’:

  1. Z on 14 Apr 2009 at 10:58 pm: 1

    In my opinion, there is no way that these somali pirates give two shits about the fish off their coast or the polution being dumped into their waters. They have made it clear that like many others, they are motivated by the almighty dollar.

  2. Al on 19 Apr 2009 at 10:08 am: 2

    Exactly. I don’t remember anyone getting taken hostage or killed at the Boston Tea Party.

  3. HP on 19 Apr 2009 at 10:42 am: 3

    Take a gander at this. I don’t condone either but I do thank K’naan for bringing to our attention the dumping of nuclear waste in the Indian Ocean. (

    Take your tea and shove it.

    George Hewes was a member of the band of “Indians” that boarded the tea ships that evening. His recollection of the event was published some years later. We join his story as the group makes its way to the tea-laden ships:

    “It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin’s wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.

    The Boston Tea Party
    When we arrived at the wharf, there were three of our number who assumed an authority to direct our operations, to which we readily submitted. They divided us into three parties, for the purpose of boarding the three ships which contained the tea at the same time. The name of him who commanded the division to which I was assigned was Leonard Pitt. The names of the other commanders I never knew. We were immediately ordered by the respective commanders to board all the ships at the same time, which we promptly obeyed. The commander of the division to which I belonged, as soon as we were on board the ship, appointed me boatswain, and ordered me to go to the captain and demand of him the keys to the hatches and a dozen candles. I made the demand accordingly, and the captain promptly replied, and delivered the articles; but requested me at the same time to do no damage to the ship or rigging. We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water.

    In about three hours from the time we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard every tea chest to be found in the ship, while those in the other ships were disposing of the tea in the same way, at the same time. We were surrounded by British armed ships, but no attempt was made to resist us.

    …The next morning, after we had cleared the ships of the tea, it was discovered that very considerable quantities of it were floating upon the surface of the water; and to prevent the possibility of any of its being saved for use, a number of small boats were manned by sailors and citizens, who rowed them into those parts of the harbor wherever the tea was visible, and by beating it with oars and paddles so thoroughly drenched it as to render its entire destruction inevitable.”

    Hawkes, James A, Retrospect of the Boston Tea-Party, with a Memoir of George R. T. Hewes… (1834) reprinted in Commager, Henry Steele, Morris Richard B., The Spirit of ‘Seventy-Six vol I (1958); Labaree, Benjamin Woods, The Boston Tea Party (1964).

    How To Cite This Article:
    “The Boston Tea Party, 1773,” EyeWitness to History, (2002).

  4. Sundiata Salaam on 19 Apr 2009 at 11:48 am: 4


    However, the question that is begging to be asked is, “What environments helped to create these pirates that only care about money?” as you have so eloquently stated. Perhaps is a run down impowerished environment that has suffered years of piracy off their own shores through the vices of pollution and the excavation of the fish. As all are saying, I am not excluding behavior against particular individuals, however, it is necessary to look at the whole picture, and to understand why these so called “pirates” are doing what they’re doing.

  5. Z on 19 Apr 2009 at 6:20 pm: 5


    I am just saying that kidknapping unarmed merchant marines in hopes of a big pay day is an interesting approach for an enviormentalist. Don’t you think?

  6. Sundiata Salaam on 20 Apr 2009 at 6:48 pm: 6

    I’m not justifying their action, nor am I saying anything about environmentalist. Perhaps you read my response incorrectly…

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Published on April 14, 2009 at 9:45 pm. 6 Comments.
Filed under Africa,poverty,President Obama,violence.