By Bill Van Auken:
Hijacking of US ship raises threat of intervention in Somalia
10 April 2009
As the hostage drama off the coast of Somalia continued into its second day Thursday, there were indications that the Obama administration may be preparing yet another military intervention, this time in the Horn of Africa.
The ongoing standoff between a small band of Somali pirates in a lifeboat and a US destroyer, which is being joined by other warships and planes, followed an unsuccessful attempt to hijack the 17,000-ton Maersk Alabama freighter, a US flag ship.
After four armed Somalis managed to scale the side of the ship and seize it, the 20-member crew put up resistance. According to reports, however, the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, volunteered to act as a hostage, going with the pirates on the ship’s enclosed lifeboat in order to prevent any clash between them and his crew.
Reached by Reuters via satellite phone, one of the pirates sounded desperate. “We are surrounded by warships and don’t have time to talk,” he said. “Please pray for us.”
The seizing of ships for ransom has been going on in the region for years and increased significantly in 2008, with the number of incidents off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden climbing to 150. There are 16 ships currently being held for ransom.
The shipping firms themselves have treated the attacks as a nuisance that barely dents their profits. They have preferred to treat paying off pirates as a cost of doing business rather than arm their crews against them. Though often heavily armed, the pirates have killed no one thus far.
What makes this latest incident different, however, is that the ship is the first American vessel to be attacked by the pirates. It therefore provides the pretext for a militarist intervention and provokes a wave of jingoism in the media, sections of which are braying for retaliation.
Gen. Petraeus Implements Military Surge Against Four Somali Pirates in a Lifeboat: here.
Will Obama Prosecute the Captured Somali ‘Pirate’ in a US Court? Here.
The [Ten] Most Notorious Pirates Ever: here.
A PROMINENT conflict research group revealed on Tuesday that air-cargo carriers involved in arms smuggling in Africa are also being contracted for international aid supplies and peacekeeping operations: here.
Somalia update, June 2009: here.
Somali Torture Survivors Get Green Light to Sue in U.S.: here.
Children Carry Guns for a U.S. Ally, Somalia: here.