Monday, March 26, 2007

The Reavers

Hundreds of of passengers were thrown to the sharks as people smugglers on the Horn of Africa dump Somalis and Ethiopians overboard to escape pursuing Yemeni coastguards, reports CNN.

Knife-wielding smugglers forced 450 Somalis and Ethiopians overboard into stormy seas along a remote stretch of Yemen coastline at Ras-Alkalb in the Gulf of Aden last Thursday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement.

The smugglers forced their passengers overboard so they could make a speedy departure after being spotted by Yemeni security forces, UNHCR spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort said.

This is very reminisicent of an the "boat people" incident which took place off northern Australian waters in the recent past. Human smugglers from Indonesia who were spotted by Australian patrol boats threw their passengers, including children, to force the coastguards to pick up the floundering victims. Of course, the Left insisted it was "Howard's fault" because if he didn't try to bar the smuggling trade there would have been no reason to toss people to Davy Jones' locker.

Boat people were demonised, labelled potential drug-runners, prostitutes, queue-jumpers, evil people, people who would throw their children overboard, whom our leadership did not want to have in Australia.

... Have we forgotten that we live in one world? Those who pollute the environment affect the entire world, not just their own countries. In economic matters our leaders speak of globalisation. But when it comes to people, we divide ourselves into islands, into separate groups, into races, into religions.

Speaking of races and religions, it may come as a surprise to many that people smugglers and slavers did not historically restrict their victims to "people of color".

The Arab slave trade ... was not limited to people of certain color, ethnicity, or religion. In the early days of the Islamic state—during the 8th and 9th centuries—most of the slaves were Slavic Eastern Europeans, (called saqaliba and Mamluk), people from surrounding Mediterranean areas, Persians, Turks, other neighbouring Middle Eastern peoples, and peoples from the Caucasus Mountain regions (such as Georgia and Armenia) and parts of Central Asia, 18th and 19th centuries, slaves were increasingly mainly coming from East Africa. According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by pirates and sold as slaves between the XVI and XIX century. These slaves were captured mainly from seaside villages from Italy, Spain, Portugal and also from more distant places like France or England.

History buffs may recall that Arab slave traders seized Americans too.

In 1784 two ships (the Maria of Boston and the Dauphine of Philadelphia) were captured, everything sold and their crews enslaved to build port fortifications. Christian slaves were preferred and forced to do degrading work and treated harshly so letters would be written home to prompt the payment of a bigger ransom.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, then the ambassador to France, and John Adams, then the ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the ambassador to Britain from Tripoli. The Americans asked Adja why his government was hostile to American ships, even though there had been no provocation. The ambassador's response was reported to the Continental Congress:

That it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.

American ships sailing in the Mediterranean chose to travel close to larger convoys of other European powers who had bribed the pirates. In the early 1800s, President Thomas Jefferson proposed a league of smaller nations to patrol the area, but the USA could not contribute. For the prisoners, Algeria wanted 60,000 dollars, America offered $4,000. Jefferson said a million dollars would buy them off, but Congress would only appropriate $80,000. For eleven years Americans who lived in Algeria lived as slaves to Algerian Moors.

In the end, the new American Republic resolved to fight the slave traders and eventually forced them, by means of naval combat and ground assault, including an attack on Tripoli, to leave US ships alone. That is why the Marine Corps hymn contains the phrase "to the shores of Tripoli".

But we often forget that in many places of the world beyond the reach of the network television camera, many people have never heard of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They may have never even heard of the Geneva Convention and many legal protocols -- until they are told by a high-powered lawyer hired by Human Rights advocates after their apprehension that they are entitled to its protections. How should civilization deal with those parts of the world that are still pre-modern or which march to a different drummer? We have no adequate answers as yet.


Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

It's called "women and children first".

Albanian smugglers carrying mostly Muslim illegal immigrants to Italy, did it too, but they first dumped the women and children over the side when pursued by the Italian version of our Coast Guard, to slow the pursuit down rescuing the victims, and threw out their male cargo only if that didn't work.

When smugglers tried that with the Australians, the Aussies took to intercepting suspicious ships well off-shore and forcing them to anchor in someone else's coastal waters. Sometimes the smugglers would then scuttle their ships leaving everyone to drown or be picked up by the watching Aussie. On one occasion I suspected the Aussies sank the ship, but that one had gotten to New Guinea as I recall, and the Aussies feared it might sneak past them to Australia.

3/26/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger uberspiff said...

We have no adequate answers as yet.

Defeat them!

3/26/2007 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

In March, 2001, a remarkable case was filed in U.S. Federal district court in Washington. D.C. The suit demands $40 billion from the U.S. Government in reparations for the death of innocents in WWII.

Most remarkably, this case is not based on an action taken by the U.S. in WWII, such an accidental or even deliberate bombing attack, but is based on actions the U.S. did not take during the war - specifically the failure to bomb the rail lines leading to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

There is a technical flaw in this legal case – the U.S. could not have bombed the rail lines leading to Auschwitz until too late to do any good. But the mere fact the case was filed shows that - like the human smuggling cases – there are people who not only fail to recognize that there are philosophies at large in the world that care not one whit for their tender sensibilities – but also that there are people who have no problem holding the uninvolved culpable for the actions of such monsters.

3/26/2007 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

... many people have never heard of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They may have never even heard of the Geneva Convention and many legal protocols...

If they've never heard of any of these things, then how the hell do they know about America and Australia and Europe and insist on coming here despite adamant insistence that they're not welcome?

One lemming is cute. One locust is annoying. A herd of lemmings is scary and a plague of locusts is devastating.

I've been thinking for years now that if these people -- including our swarms of illegal Mexicans -- put half the amount of work into their own countries as they do in trying to barge uninvited into our country, it would be a very good thing both for them and for their homelands.

We don't want them. We didn't invite them. And I'm not going to feel sorry for them because they died for their stupidity.

3/26/2007 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger RAB said...

Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) claims 200 million slaves were thrown overboard altering the habits of the sharks.

3/26/2007 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger PossumTater said...

Is it true that Senator Webb was planning to assassinate the President?
The Senator has been very vocal about his dislike for the president and now we have a loaded semi-auto pistol being smuggled inot the Senate by his top aid, along with two extra clips.
Is the Senator a paranoid schiz? Is he a danger to the President?

3/26/2007 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Habu1 said...


Do you really think that's a possibility?

Webb is very volitile I know and is perhaps unbalanced but gunning the Prez?

I guess anything is possible.

3/26/2007 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I'm currently reading Steven Pressfield's fictional The Afghan Campaign which explores what happens when a "Western" army, in this case Alexander's in Afghanistan finds that it's rules of conduct are not universal. Typically what happens is that the direction of moral adapatation is downward. By the end of the campaign, Alexander's men were behaving like the Afghans themselves.

The entire narrative takes place in th pre-Islamic age and its a reminder that the similar dilemmas are nothing to do with Islam in particular. It could happen in animist Africa. One hopes that commerce, education, literacy will soften the wilder instincts of humanity, which contrary to the belief of certain bureaucrats in multilateral organizations, still remain as base as they ever were in certain places -- even in the marble heart of Brussels, as Conrad told us. "The horror. Oh, the horror."

3/26/2007 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

possumtater, habu

Please be careful with that line of speculation. I'm not always available to monitor the comments and God only knows what responses we might get once that line of thinking is opened.

3/26/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Wretchard: In regards to "downward" adapation, I am reminded that in WWII at least one U.S. Army unit responded to Japanese human wave attacks and other Japanese atrocites by be decorating its tanks with Japanese skulls.

Reportedly, Eleanor Roosevelt responded to this news by suggesting that such military units should be taken somewhere remote to "cool down" before being allowed back into the U.S.

3/26/2007 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Starko said...

Wretchard said:

One hopes that commerce, education, literacy will soften the wilder instincts of humanity, which contrary to the belief of certain bureaucrats in multilateral organizations, still remain as base as they ever were in certain places...

Wretchard, I too have similar hopes. People who are educated, aware and reasonably "fat and happy" are less likely to want to make war on others for the usual reasons, which I'll define here as some combination of greed, religion, ethnicity, or political animosity, but this is hardly an exhaustive list.

However, what disturbs me are the likes of Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. It is well known that Bin Laden was very rich before devoting himself to jihad. I assume that as a member of a very wealthy family that he was also well educated. Al-Zawahiri is of course a doctor which by definition means he has an education, and I'm also assuming that he was at least middle class but probably better off than that in Egypt before he committed himself to jihad.

The only reasonably satisfying explanation I've been able to come up with for their ilk is that apart from jihad, they have no sense of meaning in life.

I'd guess that Bin Laden had wealth and privilege, but found that in of themselves those pleasures are not fulfilling. While this is a common tale, most of us don't arrive at the conclusion that waging a global jihad against the west is the way to find a sense of purpose.

However, he first started in Afghanistan with what I'd argue was a righteous cause. In this context righteous might mean righteous in the religious sense (depending on your religious views), but more importantly, righteous from a perspective most of us can identify with- fighting an evil and unjust occupation that was nothing more than naked conquest (the Soviet Union).

In fact, there were also Americans that also put their life on the line to help the resistance in Afghanistan during those days, including Bin Laden. My point is that at a certain point in time, it’s at least conceivable that what made Bin Laden tick was similar to what made some of America’s dedicated CIA field operatives tick.

But then they won- the Soviets went home, and there was no atheistic occupying power to fight anymore. So what do you do? While I’m sure a lot of the foreign fighters went home and resumed a normal life, there were others who became “freedom fighting junkies”. That is, without the need to fight for something, what was the point of life?

But after saying all of this, it is still mentally very difficult for me to get from where the Afghan resistance left off to where Bin Laden wound up, planning mass murder to show his displeasure with the West and the US in particular on an apparently existential level.

So what’s my point in all of this meandering stream of consciousness? I think it’s that while education, commerce and literacy will shrink the pool of potential terrorists and their supporters, the Bin Ladens of the world, like the poor, will always be with us.

For instance, as I described this, another name and similar story comes to mind: anyone ever heard of a guy named Che Guevara?

3/26/2007 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

Watched "Lawrence of Arabia" over the last couple of days.What a profound picture of the inherent looniness of the Arab culture.Only a megalomaniac oddball like Lawrence was able to channel Arab chaos into something productive for a short season.Fascinating film with great performances by Peter O'Toole,Alec Guinness,Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn.

3/26/2007 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger the mad fiddler said...

Jeez, Guys.

If I wanted to hear wild speculation about vicious violent conspiracies by elected officials, I would go back to reading Demokritische Untergrund, where uniformity of opinion is guaranteed at all times.

Haven't you been watching Animal Planet or National Geographic?

Life is fille dwith horror. One Dung Beetles scrabbling with another to keep its hard-won dungball. One critter killing another. One human slaughtering another. One group of humans mistreating everyone else. So we have been since we were all microbes, and we show no discernible sign of evolving (which I don't mean as a concession to the Creationists, God bless they pointy li'l heads.)

The Jihadis are merely acting like predators on the Serengeti --- culling agents, whose actions delete from the mix the weak and stupid.


How do the predators identify their victims?

Oh, yeah... Anyone who doesn't agree with'em.

3/26/2007 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Starko, Those folks in Hollywood are rich too. What do you think about their reasoning capacity? Sean Penn?

I know what you want, but is that really what you're getting?

3/26/2007 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Starko said...

Mike H.,

To me the hollywood elites share Bin Laden's problem in that despite everything they have, they find life is still empty.

So in lieu of seeking any absolute truth they just pick a cause that appeals to them or pick the cause that's popular with their fellow elites, or the one that will get them more exposure.

My point was that a populace that has education and some level of material comfort is less likely to support terrorism, but that there'll always be some malcontents that needs a cause to fight for, and will invent one if need be.

3/27/2007 04:22:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Starko: My assessment is a little different than yours. I think that Bin Laden came to realize that no matter how successful he was in his family's construction and other business ventures, he still would never be the best of anything. Having already soiled his hands with worldy matters he could never be a powerful cleric. In Saudi Arabia, he was not royalty and thus could never aspire to being the country's leader. Alexander reportedly wept when he concluded he had no more worlds to conquer; Bin Laden may have wept but also he decided to drag it all down.

As for Hollywood, I see many signs that so many of the elites there realize that their fame and fortune is based on a thin and often arbritary veneer of conditions they cannot effect and rarely can even affect. And they realize deep down inside that they are merely play-acting. I one saw a interview with Roger Moore in which he said "Being an actor is not as valuable as being something like a doctor." Few can control their egos enough to make that realization. Fewer still can do like John Wayne say to real heroes "You are the man I play in the movies." - with tears in their eyes.

So Hollywood looks at Al Queda and Iran and the other dangers of the world and wishes it would just all go away. Those on-screen heroes know they could never do as well as the the passengers of United Flight 93.

3/27/2007 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger rampaging_guppy said...

As an Australian who was watching Australian media coverage at the time, I seem to have ended up with a somewhat different perspective on the incident off our northern coast. The controversy over the "children overboard" issue was not about who was to blame, but rather whether the government had lied about or misrepresented the whole thing - were there actually any children thrown overboard in the first place?

In the end, I don't recall that any conclusive evidence or eyewitness reports that children were thrown overboard were ever produced, and the whole thing ended up in hairsplitting arguments about exactly what had originally been claimed.

As that Australian news article states, there were also some significant mistakes made by the immigration authorities at the time, leading in one case to the incorrect deportation of an Australian citizen to the Philippines and in another case to the detention of a mentally ill Australian citizen for nearly a year while attempts were made to deport her to Germany (who refused to accept her, since she was not on their books as a German citizen).

The federal minister responsible for immigration did an absolutely terrible job of explaining those errors to the public, when it all came out. I'm not at all surprised the department has come under fire in the press.

3/27/2007 06:41:00 AM  

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