“Heroes and villians” — it is standard rhetorical fare for elected officials, media outlets, and the general public. We all want our uplifting stories of freedom, set against the backdrop of immorality and danger.
The story of the Somali pirates is no exception. This is not to say many of the pirates are in fact anything other than bandits. When someone points a gun at someone else and take them hostage, the range of scenarios in which the gun-toter could be considered anything but a criminal start to narrow greatly.
But the dominant narrative has obscured other realities on the ground. Somalis are apparently quite angry at European ships, and with good reason. In a widely circulated essay on The Huffington Post, Independent (UK) newspaper journalist Johann Hari spells out the gruesome details:
In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed … As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken…People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Continue reading