Raging Ripples

Raging Ripples

ripplesAmbassador Carson’s warning yesterday appears to be true today. There are unsettling ripples all over Africa, all carrying the frequency of Trump mayhem.

Wednesday’s all-so-important Somali election is in real trouble because monitors can no longer go there (or more accurately, come back). Great hopes for Libya’s national coalition collapse. Egypt sends jetboats to threaten Ethiopia’s new dam on The Nile, Eritrea makes a new alliance with Saudia Arabia to destabilize Ethiopia. The Ivory Coast is challenged by new internal military struggles.

It’s all new and hard to unweave, and it’s all related to Trump.

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Lethal Peace

Lethal Peace

Canada’s defense minister says that the country will use “lethal force” to protect civilians when it sends 600 soldiers into Africa’s troubled regions shortly.

It will be Canada’s first serious involvement in UN peacekeeping in Africa since its famous general, Romeo Dallaire, was thwarted from preventing the Rwandan genocide more than 20 years ago. Then President Bill Clinton used America’s UN veto in the Security Council to prevent Dallaire from using “lethal force.” You know what happened next…

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Another ‘Election’

Another ‘Election’

somalielectionObama leaves office having created the largest American military complex in Africa in history with operations in at least 22 African countries.

The incredible size and scope of the American military in Africa was first reported in Mother Jones in 2013, but gained no wide audience. I was surprised then and remain surprised, today. Is it because we’re safer? Or because we just don’t want to talk about it.

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Discounted Business Class

Discounted Business Class

eastafricanboatThe Somali war began in 1993; Ethiopia’s various versions of terror started in 1979. Yesterday, more than 450 mostly Somalis and Ethiopians drown in the sea when their refugee boat capsized near Greece.

It seems this is the first large “migrant” incident with mostly East Africans.

Why now?

I don’t doubt that many of those on board led lives as tenuous as those fleeing Syria. Over many past decades we’ve grown calloused to the sufferings in Africa. Many westerns think it’s just a “way of life” for Africans.

But on the other hand there’s no actual fighting or bombing in Ethiopia right now. Particularly why in Somalia – where it’s more peaceful than in the last 30 years – are people taking these huge risks now?

It’s simple. Europe has opened its heart, since it was unwilling or unable to open it’s military hanger. Europe is passing through a period of great guilt and it’s a piece of melancholy but hope as well for mankind.

Another reason is that ever so slowly East Africans are amassing bits of wealth. Under reported almost to the point of immorality, every migrant you hear about or see flailing in choppy seas has paid upwards of $10,000 for the chance of making it to Europe.

Many Americans couldn’t wrestle up that cash. Syrians were a rich people. Doctors, lawyers, professionals of all sorts compose the migrant diaspora.

Last August I wrote fondly of a young, educated and professional Somali refugee who made his way all the way to South Africa.

The risks he took were manifest and he undoubtedly had quite a stash of bribes available.

Now, the prospect of reaching a welcoming European coast despite all the tragedies we hear of daily is worth a man or woman’s life savings and possibly, life.

We’ve got to understand this story. We’ve got to think about why someone, anyone – anywhere in the world – would leave the place they were raised or born in and risk everything, that they would pay the equivalent of a roundtrip business class air fare from New York to Sydney to be packed into putrid suffocation on a rickety boat likely to capsize in high seas.

It’s not so far fetched to imagine a Latino American citizen, a professional with some wealth and status, fleeing a Trump America.

But how would they get over the wall?

Kenya Backs into The Future

Kenya Backs into The Future

charcoal stockpilesJust as Kenya was doing everything right it arrests a journalist for uncovering corruption, while the Kenyan army that Obama built to route Somali terrorists turns out to be in cahoots with the terrorist leaders!

When will Kenyans stop being on the take?

The government’s interior minister oversaw the arrest Tuesday of a prominent Kenyan journalist who’d uncovered possible corruption in his ministry. The backlash was swift, the journalist was released, the minister comically claimed he hadn’t order the arrest, but the damage was done.

And today another courageous group of Kenyan journalists released a scathing report linking Kenyan occupying forces with the illicit half billion dollar trade in sugar and charcoal that had hugely financed Somali pirates.

Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaissery oversaw the arrest Tuesday of Kenyan journalist John Ngirachu. The journalist had discovered a multi-million dollar hole in Nkaissery’s budget that was unaccounted for.

By the time police brought Ngirachu to the station, the outcry in Kenya was so loud that he was simply kept for a short time and not even interrogated before being released.

Then yesterday, acting as if this was all news to him, Nkaissery ordered the “end to any investigation” by journalists claiming he knew nothing about it.

It’s so lame. Just before the arrest Nkaissery told Reuters that Ngirachu’s reporting was “unacceptable” and “calculated to harm the nation” since it portrayed his ministry as corrupt and that it was a trend by journalists “increasingly taking the shape of a larger plot of economic sabotage.”

So whether the minister then went down a floor and ordered the arrest by his chief of arrests, or whether his chief of arrests knew he would be canned if he didn’t do it on his own, the arrests came swiftly thereafter.

We often scratch our noggin wondering how in the world corrupt politicians think they can get away with it. Well, in Kenya you have to scratch all the way through the scalp to wonder how this guy would think just by denying what he had just said to a worldwide news agency, everything would be fine!

Today Kenyan soldiers are paid well and are well equipped, because of our own dear Obama. I’ve written critically many times about the Obama war effort in Somalia. We Americans built, funded and trained the Kenyans to oust the Somali warlords that had more or less run that evaporating country for nearly 20 years.

And they did a great job.

Now they’re flipping.

According to the Kenyan Journalists’ report, “Eating with the Enemy,” the Kenyan occupying soldiers have struck a deal with what’s left of the al-Shabaab they were supposed to nuke.

They are splitting about $24 million annually through illicit exporting of charcoal to the Arabian peninsula.

Charcoal burning stoves still fire many of the homes in the Arabian peninsula, where there aren’t any forests. Somalia has been deforesting itself for decades to supply them. So this isn’t just an illegal and corrupt act, it’s raping the planet.

But the Kenyan soldier scandal doesn’t stop there. Putting together UN reports with other Kenyan journalist reports, Nancy Agutu of Kenya’s Star wrote today that $400 million is being earned by the Kenyan soldiers and their middlemen back home for the illegal importation of sugar from Somalia.

There are so many angles to this story it’s hard to parse: America once again duped into trying to do good with military means; the ongoing rape of Somalia’s earth even after the war is stopped; the corruption of Kenyan officials high and low; the demand for charcoal in a modern age…

Only one thing is clear. There are some really good, possible heroes among Kenyan journalists.

One of Kenya’s most famous anti-corruption activists, John Githongo, told Reuters recently, “This is the most corrupt Kenya has been since we began measuring corruption in the ’90s.”

Kenya has been working so hard recently to combat crime and corruption, to work through their new constitution, to deal with the Somali crisis at their borders and stem terrorism … that’s it’s simply a crying shame that idiots like this minister and cowboys in the army we built would try to blow their future to smithereens.

Dangerous Dennis

Dangerous Dennis

norwegiansuitShould a paid aid worker in a dangerous part of the world be able to sue his NGO for not protecting him well enough?

Steve Dennis sued his employer, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), for gross negligence that resulted in his kidnapping in 2012. Dennis refused more than a half million dollars out-of-court settlement, and a Norwegian judge will now soon decide the matter.

Dennis and several others were kidnapped from the Dadaab Refugee Camp on the Kenyan/Somali border by Somali insurgents. They were freed four days later by a commando raid of Kenyan and Somalia government forces.

He contends that his PTSD syndrome and continuing physical ailments that resulted from the kidnapping were all preventable had NRC better security procedures in place.

I think this is nuts.

Everyone – even soldiers and aid workers – should have redress through the courts for being abnormally maligned or mistreated, but Dennis was not.

The NRC is one of the most respected NGOs in Africa. The 100+ recommendations the NRC generated from its own internal investigation into Dennis’ kidnapping have all been implemented and are being widely considered by all NGOs in the Dadaab area.

I suspect there is much more to the story than has reached the media.

Just after the actual incident, the then 37-year old Dennis told his home-town Toronto Globe and Mail:

‘[that] he remains committed to aid work despite having just gone through “a very bad long weekend. I’m still going to be engaged somehow. How, I don’t know. For now I think my job is to take a couple months off and then, if I feel good, take a couple more maybe,” he said with a laugh.’

Dadaab is one of the most dangerous refugee camps in the world, and if I know this I imagine that aid workers do, too.

There are about 22 million refugees living in camps around the world, the majority in United Nations’ organized mini-cities. There are nearly a million in Dadaab alone.

The 10,000 UNHCR employees overseeing these facilities are assisted by an estimated 50,000 other aid workers of the sort Steve Dennis was, persons who are actually working in refugee camps. (Altogether there are around a quarter million humanitarian aid workers worldwide.)

Aid workers are characteristically the most dedicated, moral and upstanding individuals you can imagine. I’ve often pondered why these incredibly intelligent and motivated individuals give up traditional lives with usually greater compensation for such hazardous work.

About a year after the July, 2012, incident Dennis began issuing more and more serious allegations and complaints: his mood had obviously changed. In court documents he chalks this up to his PSTD.

Also about a year after the incident, NRC changed CEOs. In a letter introducing himself, Jan Egeland concluded, “And finally. Be careful, take the necessary precautions and wear a seatbelt. We cannot afford to lose any of you.”

The NRC media arm that issued the letter featured a picture of a smiling, handsome and weathered Egeland holding a large hand-written sign that read, “Listen to Locals And Stay Safe.”

As Dennis’ legal wrangle starting taking shape, he asked the public for $50,000 through FundRazr. The $20,000 that the Guardian newspaper reported he finally raised was apparently sufficient enough to attract ambulance chasers now working on speculation.

I don’t doubt that Dennis suffers from PTSD or that he has other lasting infirmities from his kidnapping. I’m not even sure I approve of the half million dollar settlement NRG offered Dennis, but at the very least it strikes me as incredibly generous.

But if aid organizations are now sued by employees who work in the most dangerous conditions in the world, it would be like soldiers suing the Army for sending them into war!

Norwegians are among the most dedicated aid workers in the world, and Norway among the most committed countries on our planet to making the whole wide world better. So it’s not surprising that they will find fault with themselves.

But I hope the judge notes that Dennis used crowdfunding to attract ambulance chasers. This is not how to save the world.

Stability at What Price?

Stability at What Price?

freedomprosperityAre freedom and prosperity at least somewhat mutually exclusive? Why is Africa so stable, today?

There is serious turmoil in Burundi, but in the major hothouses of death and destruction, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan, right now there is a remarkable level of peace.

Tuesday, Secretary of State Kerry became the first high American official to visit Somalia since Blackhawk Down in 1993. Kerry justified his visit because Somalia “is turning around.”

There are many wonderful indications to suggest this is true.

There is worrisome fragility in the current Mali government, and troublesome weakness in a number of West African governments probably due to the prolonged ebola outbreak, but governments in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa (other than Burundi) look strong and stable.

The answer is becoming clearer and clearer. Very strong military assistance mostly from the U.S. and France has propped up existing governments and laid to waste many areas of terrorism.

The starkest of the stark is Nigeria.

Literally for the last 5 years Nigeria was decimated by Boko Haram, at its worst situation (hardly a few months ago) ceding nearly 20% of its territory to terrorists.

Today Boko Haram is absolutely on the run. The explanation from one of Nigeria’s best media outlets:

“Unlike a year ago, when Nigerian troops would run away from Boko haram militants after running out of ammunition or for possessing inferior weapons, the Nigerian soldiers are now better armed, better equipped and better motivated.”

‘Better equipped’ is the understatement of the decade. The list of new equipment in the hands of Nigerian soldiers is astonishing, particularly when compared to the situation less than a half year ago.

It was not for wont of giving. The western powers were ready, as clearly demonstrated by the current situation, to arm the Nigerian military sufficiently. But a mixture of local politics and western hesitation because of the equivocal politics kept the ammunition in warehouses until now.

Legitimate concerns with protecting human rights were front-and-center in the paradigm that kept the previous Nigerian government of Goodluck Jonathan weak. These have been cast to the crows by the current president Buhari, a former general nearly imprisoned by his own society for human rights’ violations.

Ditto in South Sudan, the more “peaceful” Somali and ever more stable Kenya.

In addition to arming Africa to the teeth, Obama’s militarism these last six years has decimated terrorist cells and American drones have wiped out more than two dozen terrorist leaders.

Media freedom is a great barometer of authoritarian governments, since there has never been a government in the history of mankind that wasn’t vain.

Press freedom is under serious attack in … Nigeria, South Sudan and ever more stable Kenya.

So that’s the reason it’s safer than ever for you to travel to Africa: growingly authoritarian governments infused with western military might.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m troubled by this. I’m delighted that Africa is a calmer, safer, more stable place, but troubling if at the expense of freedom and the sanctity of human rights.

It seems that this age-old paradigm is near inviolable. Freedom and prosperity are at least somewhat mutually exclusive.

But wait.

Didn’t we try this, once? Weren’t there horrible South American generals and racist American governments and horribly cruel potentates that ruled the world for a long time not too long ago.

Did things get better? For whom?

Muddled America

Muddled America

banksblockmeAnother bank stops money transfers to Somalia as American business continues to foment terrorism in The Horn of Africa.

As of this morning Merchant’s Bank of California will no longer process customer wire transfers to Somali .

This leaves fewer than a dozen mostly small banks left in the U.S. that still process wire transfers to Somalia.

I don’t know if it’s uncontrollable fear, explosive ego or just abject stupidity, but it’s so clear that this action will increase terrorism and any threats to America as a result.

According to Oxfam
, $215 million annually is sent by Somalis in the U.S. to relatives in Somalia, equaling or exceeding the total annual U.S. foreign aid to the country.

“… millions of Somalis … are dependent on this for their daily lives,” Degan Ali, the founder of a Somali support group in Kenya told Reuters today. “We’re talking about food, shelter, medical needs, education …” she explained.

I remember my own grandfather each Saturday wiring much more than my grandmother thought appropriate to his relatives in Croatia.

Large banks like Wells Fargo and Citibank stopped the service a decade ago, citing U.S. government regulation as the reason.

In a message last week to its intermediary agents, Merchants said it had received a “Consent Order” from the Department of the Treasury requiring new procedures to ensure that the wires did not end up in terrorist’s hands, and that the procedures were either impossible to comply with or to expensive to pursue.

So which is it? Is it the U.S. government incapable of managing a regulation that determines the numbers of zeros after “$5” used either to buy a month’s worth of cornmeal or a SAM missile, or is it the banks who just don’t want to be bothered by a few more checklists?

Last April two Congressman from Minneapolis where America’s largest Somali community resides, one Democrat (Keith Ellison) and one Republican (Erik Paulsen), introduced legislation in The House to clarify and simplify these regulations.

Guess what? Boehner and company dumped it as increasing government involvement in the banking industry.

In December Oxfam published a timeline of American regulatory agency involvement in this, documenting so clearly how confused and contradictory it is.

So whether it is messed up self-destructive ideology, or messed up poorly created regulation, or both, once again America is shooting itself in the foot.

There’s no question that too much money is getting into the hands of terrorists. But the significant conduits are Saudia Arabia and other of our allies! Not expatriates in Minneapolis or Los Angeles sending chip change to struggling relatives!

That presumption is the success of terrorism. There are so few American expatriate Arabs and Muslims who feel anything less than outrage against terrorism that I feel embarrassed every time I write this sentence! Americans don’t – or don’t want to – believe this.

So the system on all sides gets muddled, we make the situation worse and worse with cockamamy wars and stops on bank transfers.

We act against our own best self-interest. Isn’t that terrorism’s first objective?

Terrorists will never defeat America. America will defeat America.

Shelter in Place

Shelter in Place

index“The War on Terror,” Version 163 announced by Obama last week, is taking a significant toll on American tourism and business in East Africa.

This weekend the U.S. embassy in Kampala issued the most serious warning in their lexicon of warnings, “shelter in place,” one step before evacuation:

“All U.S. citizens are advised to stay at home or proceed to a safe location. Shelter-in-place and await further guidance. Follow U.S. Embassy Kampala on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.”

The warning was issued Saturday and rescinded Sunday, after Ugandan authorities claimed to have foiled a terrorist attack Saturday night.

Then all day Sunday Ugandan military and police went through Kampala ransacking houses and shooting people. This, by the way, is how the Ugandan military works: shoot first, ask later.

It is the same philosophy that gave rise to terrorism in the first place.

It doesn’t work.

Uganda is neither a place to visit or live, right now, and it hasn’t been for some time. That isn’t because of an increased threat of terrorism, but because of the government’s increased militarism.

That seems to be in fashion with U.S. authorities right now.

Kenya is doing a much better job. Security outside the border region is improving, although security along the coast and Somali border is not.

Beheading, by the way, has been a modis homocide among terrorist groups for the last several decades. Recently another Kenyan border village experienced one.

What’s new, of course, is the beheading of westerners. The roughly thousand beheadings of Africans and Arabs didn’t draw any serious attention. But my goodness, we’ve now had three innocent westerners brutally beheaded! Time for action.

Until now terrorists felt that the potential ransom for a westerner was more valuable than the potential public reaction.

They’ve realized now that the PR value of a few beheadings is worth zillions more than a couple hundred million dollars.

We’re now playing into their game exactly as they wish us to.

That’s why they’re winning.

Dominoes in Reverse

Dominoes in Reverse

kismayoforisisCome on, America! You’re not all dimwits! Obama’s announced policy against ISIS is comparable to what he did in Somali, and it worked. And it was wrong.

We’ve apparently been successful knocking down a bunch of dominoes around the world. I guess Obama thinks it’s time to pull a few of them back up for future consideration.

Now so far I’ve probably assisted raising new funds for the Society of Dimwits. But you’ve got to understand as we race pell-mell into war, again.

OBLstatementTake a look at the statement to the right and guess who said it. Read this blog through to the end to find out, but try to guess, first.

I was watching my favorites on MSNBC parse the Obama speech for analogies with past African policy in Yemen and Somalia, and they got the facts terribly incomplete. It’s astounding that three years after the Kenyan invasion of Somalia, nobody knows about it.

Before the Kenyan invasion on October 18, 2011, U.S. special forces and even regular forces had been spotted on the ground in Mombasa and Lamu, two of Kenya’s coastal cities near Somalia.

French naval forces had penetrated the unofficial stay-away limit from the Somali shore.

A week after the invasion, 90 U.S. soldiers were cheered by Ugandan crowds as they entered Kampala on their search for the terrorist, Josef Kony.

Drones – relatively new and untested back then – were flying all over the African heavens.

We knew something was up, and it was. Later we’d learn about all the equipment and training that the British and Obama had given until-then a useless Kenyan army.

Obama had chased the meanest of the Afghan and Iraqi warlords and terrorists into Yemen and Somalia. They found greater purchase in Somalia than Yemen, where no real government had been in place for more than a decade.

So while the war in Yemen has never ended, it’s much less international than in Somalia. The war and the terrorists in Yemen are almost all Yemeni. Not so in Somalia. They came from Afghanistan and Iraq, mostly.

Someone made a decision in late September, early October, 2011, to deploy everything possible short of the perceived “boots on the ground” against the fugitive terrorists from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s now three years later. What’s the score?

The Kenyan Army took less than a year to get rid of the terrorists who were, in fact, controlling most of Somalia. As I wrote on October 12, 2012, ‘Mission Accomplished: Now What?’.

From afar the score today is pretty much in America’s favor. More than two dozen terrorist leaders have been “eliminated.” Somalia while not yet fully pacified has its first functioning government in 21 years. (There’s even a dry cleaning store now open in Mogadishu.) Piracy in the Gulf is almost nonexistent.

And …

Kenya continues to occupy Somalia. It has suffered the most horrific three years of terrorist attacks on its own soil imaginable. Its economy, prior to October 2011 and in fact right through the Great Recession, which was robust, is now weak and possibly crumbling.

Somalia has a government, but its Parliament building is rather regularly destroyed by suicide bombers. There’s less piracy in the gulf off Somalia, but now a phenomenal increase in piracy in the gulf of west Africa.

The short-term strategy to make America safer, however slightly since our fear isn’t invasion but surprise suicide bombings, worked. And I expect it will work against ISIS despite all the naysaying.

Our policy, Obama’s policy in Iraq and Syria, will make America slightly safer at the immoral expense of making Iraq and Syria much, much less safe … and all for the short-term.

Exactly like the Horn of Africa, where our safety – incrementally better in my view – came at the horrible expense of the safety of our so-called “partners on the ground.”

And so once we complete the mission in Iraq and Syria, with the wars there incompletely finished, then we’ll have an even better score, and we’ll be able to start another war just like it in, oh say, Nigeria.

And after Nigeria, maybe Mynamar? How about Tibet at last? Why, my goodness, we could be remarkably SAFE with the rest of the entire world burning up!

Click Here for the answer to the question about who was quoted in the red box above.

So get it right, Rachel and Chrisses. The policy did work. And it’s wrong.

What’s the Point?

What’s the Point?

adangodaneAmerica has likely killed Ahmed Godane. Do you care?

Ahmed Godane, if dead, was the leader of al-Shabaab for four years. Al-Shabaab is al-Qaeda of sorts in Somalia, although like so many terrorist groups the affiliation is tentative at best.

But al-Shabaab is among the larger and more successful terrorist groups in the world, because it is what’s left of the council of warlords that had run Somalia for a decade or more before American and Kenyan military sent them running in October, 2011.

Godane replaced Adan Hashi Ayrow who was similarly killed in an American drone attack in 2008.

Whether true or not, Godane claimed responsibility for staging the two mass killings in Uganda and Kenya in 2010 and 2013 (Kampala bar of people watching the World Cup; and the Westgate Mall).

The missile attack certainly obliterated an awful lot, and if Godane was anywhere near this herculean attack, he’s certainly gone. Reuters called the attack “a hail of missiles.”

Locally Godane is presumed killed. The local Somali media picked up a tweet that seems legit: Shabaab announcing the “demise” of their leader.

The reasons Americans aren’t confirming the death is because there’s nothing left to check. The “hail of missiles” was so intense that there’s no evidence left.

Much of the good Somali media, the ones not affiliated to the warlords or terrorist groups, are hailing the American strike and predicting a “game changer.

But not necessarily for the better. These same Somali media are warning that Godane’s death will foment “potentially more dangerous splinter movements.”

This makes me dizzy. This is what we now propose to do to the leaders of ISIS. Taking out leaders doesn’t do anything. There are dozens in the next village waiting to assume control.

When our president is assassinated, as seems to happen at least once a generation or two, America doesn’t stop.

And it’s particularly true of the decentralized nature of terrorist groups, today. Unlike America, they are often composed of many smaller groups, each with equally competent and trained leaders.

So what’s the point?

Vengeance. That’s no strategy.

Right On, Alabama!

Right On, Alabama!

Tom HanksSomali piracy is at its lowest level in years and Tom Hanks helps show us why.

The Oscar-nominated “Captain Phillips” starring Tom Hanks depicts in terrific detail the hijacking of a giant container ship as it traveled through Somali waters in 2009. The film which has already won a screen writers award is up for six Oscar nominations.

Anyone watching the film right from the beginning is going to scream out, “Why doesn’t the crew have guns!?”

Well, most crews do now have guns. The Alabama was hijacked in 2009 when few merchant vessels from any country in the world were allowed to be armed.

That stemmed from a centuries long policy of governments worried that large vessels were capable of coups. Later in history rogue merchant vessels tried avoiding naval inspections as Britain and the U.S. started to police the high seas for contraband.

More recently the government of Egypt banned any type of armed vessel in the Suez canal, where most of the ships in Somali waters originate.

But after large naval task forces organized by the U.S. and European union were unable to stem increasing piracy by 2010 many countries including the U.S. began allowing on-board security. The U.S. remains the most restrictive, but many U.S. flag carriers can now carry weapons or commercial security.

In 2009 giant ships like the Alabama were completely unarmed. The movie details how the captain and crew had to behave without weapons. It shows how tiny little speedboats with a handful of men carrying old Uzis or AK47s could take over a ship 3 times the length of a football field, bigger than five 747s.

As a composite of the 500 ship hijackings that year, I believe the movie does a fabulous job. It may not have been so honest with regards to Capt. Phillips and the Maersk Alabama.

In fact quite to the contrary, the crew of the Alabama is suing the real Captain Phillips and his employer, Maersk, for more than $50 million for malfeasance.

“It is galling for them to see Captain Phillips set up as a hero,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer told the Guardian last October. “It is just horrendous, and they’re angry.”

The crew contends that Capt. Phillips should have done exactly what the film depicts Capt. Phillips doing! If the crew is telling the truth, it’s almost as if Columbia pictures read the litigants’ charges and wrote the screenplay from the depositions!

Water hose defense, engine room retreat, wave action, intentional power failures … all procedures the suit against Maersk contends Capt. Phillips refused to do or bungled.

The film does give one clue to Capt. Phillips’ culpability. U.S. recommendations which Maersk had adopted included keeping ships at least 300 miles and preferably 600 miles from the Somali coast. In the film the ship is about 200 miles from the coast when hijacked.

Because the litigation is current, neither Maersk or Captain Phillips will comment. At least until the Oscars are awarded, neither will Sony or Hanks.

The screenplay also dug into the reality of why there is piracy in the first place. I wish it had been developed more elaborately, but kudus to the writers for bringing up the subject of how the Somalis had been raped of their fisheries by multinational fishing companies.

Most pirates were once fishermen, or more correctly, would be fishermen if their industry hadn’t been plundered by multinationals taking advantage of the implosion of the Somali state.

In the movie there is a poignant scene where Capt. Phillips (Tom Hanks) challenges the chief pirate:

“You’re no fisherman!” Hanks charges and then asks the pirate why with his language skills and obvious other capabilities he doesn’t do something more legitimate.

“Maybe in America,” the pirate answers. “Not in Somalia.”

In 2009 when the Alabama was hijacked, there were nearly 500 hijackings annually. Last year it was about half that.

Piracy is down because of actions as depicted in the film by heroic crew, because of massive operations by European and American navies (including as masterfully shown in the film an exciting operation by Navy Seals), and probably most of all because of the pacification of Somalia itself.

Go see the flick! Hollywood finally gets it right.

Dropping The Tuna

Dropping The Tuna

somalifishingI don’t like it but it’s good news. Should a private foundation in Somalia be doing what really should be the responsibility of the U.S. government?

Developing Somalia’s fishing industry is critical to sustaining peace in the region. Piracy was expertly developed as al-Shabaab’s principal source of revenue by enlisting former fishermen who had been systematically raped of their livelihoods mostly by western fishing companies.

Fishing had been Somalia’s main industry prior to the state failing in the 1990s. Numerous studies documented major western fishing companies, the majority from Italy and France, taking advantage of Somalia’s implosion to rape the seas of the Gulf of Aden.

With all the money and effort western powers have spent trying to oust the terrorists from Somalia, I can’t understand why they won’t rebuild its fishing infrastructure. Somehow, I guess, it’s just not militaristic enough.

So the job is being left to the private sector, which could be all well and good of course, but I fear without government to government involvement, here, a free-for-all is going to develop in these nutrient rich waters.

For several years now as the Somali war wound down, there have been reports of private companies violating fishing treaties and dumping toxic waste, in essence taking advantage of the lack of government (including multiple government, regional and UN) regulations.

The Oceans Beyond Piracy project brought together active western partners in Somalia at a Thursday conference in London which was striking for its positive outlook.

Led by a Danish NGO, Somali Fair Fishing, the conference wants to rebuild not only the infrastructure but the human capital of the Berbera port.

Berbera is Somaliland’s main port on the Gulf of Aden just before the Red Sea. Somaliland and Puntland are autonomous regions of Somalia that have been relatively peaceful for more than a decade.

Functioning as independent states, the two northern regions have seen realistic development over the last decade but been given little outside attention. World aid organizations, for example, are reluctant to promote what would become the fracturing of a former Somalia Republic.

New elections in Somaliland and new policy initiatives in Puntland announced this week, however, suggest that the two autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland are newly interested in reintegration.

It makes imminent sense for western powers and world aid organizations to go in full force to develop Somaliland’s Berbera. It’s wonderful what Oceans Beyond Piracy and other small NGOs are trying to do, but it’s just not enough.

There’s no point in developing a fishing industry if there’s no fish. Without reenforcement of existing world treaties about the Somali fishing harvests, and without worldwide enforcement to stop ships treating the Gulf of Aden as the world’s biggest public toilet, there won’t be any fish.

The foundation supporting the Oceans Beyond Piracy initiative is the One Earth Foundation of Colorado. The CEO, Marcel Arsenault, made his fortune anticipating the housing bust of 2008. As a new kid on the block of a growing number of private philanthropy organizations it doesn’t have a long enough track record for any critical appraisal.

But its mission looks good and I wish them success.

As always, though, I worry when private interests trump the responsibility of government institutions.

The Thursday conference attracted a number of giant players, like BP and Maersk. But these mega multinationals are not going to invest fully until western governments decide to invest as much in cranes and drones.

It’s an unending story of failed peace making. Nixon tried lamely to explain to a fatigued America that Vietnam could only be won by building factories, but it was an out of sync suggestion at the time it was made, way too late.

War is expensive. Fishing is much less expensive and far more productive.

Before we lose Somalia again, world powers should see what groups like One Earth and Fair Fishing are trying to do, and learn from them. USAid in Somalia should now be given as much support as AFRICOM.

Revealing the Terrible Truth

Revealing the Terrible Truth

ShabaabfightersThis past weekend’s Navy Seal operations in Libya and Somalia mark a turning point in the Obama Administration’s successes against terrorism in the U.S: the Somali raid in particular has made America more vulnerable now to terrorism.

I’ve not been a particular fan of the five years of growing American military involvement in Africa, but as I’ve written my judgment was suspended because it seemed to be working … for America. It was definitely not working for Africa.

The Westgate Mall attack, and a year before an even great attack on a bar in Kampala, were all announced revenge attacks for military successes ostensibly achieved by Kenya and Ugandan armies.

They were more fundamentally military actions by France and the United States, using Ugandans and Kenyans as their proxies. That fact alone is disturbing. It’s a bitter return to Cold War mentalities on how to resolve conflicts.

But the covert operations, in spite of lots of good professional journalism that unmasked the French and American involvement, seemed to be making America safer as Obama systematically took out his enemies one by one through drones and targeted battles.

But last weekend’s operations, intentionally or not, have been brought into the front of the public conscience, in both the U.S. and Somalia. Five years of covert action seem to be over. It’s now admitted and explained, with scant regards for the sovereignty of African nations.

The New York Times detailed explanation of the Barawe attack followed by the BBC report of the Liby capture mean that either the Obama Administration is no longer capable of keeping a secret, or that journalistic interest has just become too intense.

Either way, the cat is truly out of the bag, now. No longer covert, in my opinion, hardens the terrorists’ resolve and challenges them for a response.

It’s academic whether this change is a result of sequester stressed by a government shutdown, or more conspiratorially an attempt to deflect criticism of Obama in general at a critical time for American politics, or just plain journalism finally catching up with public interest.

You see I don’t believe terrorists are all that aware, so to speak. I don’t think they’re news junkies like us or have any more of a sense of geography of America than Americans do of Africa. I believe, for example, that the Nairobi airport fire was definitely an act of botched terrorism, and that likely most acts terrorists attempt are botched and never heard of.

In part this is because of the West’s increased security, but it’s also because the main terrorist organizations are falling apart.

There is little left of al-Qaeda or al-Shabaab. As we saw several weeks ago in Nairobi that doesn’t mean there won’t be more dramatic terrorist events. It just means that it’s less likely, and unlikely that such events will further the power goals of their organizers.

This will be particularly true if like the Kenyans it’s understood that a response of the sort American organized after 9/11 is counterproductive. And I think most of the world, maybe even America, gets that now.

Terrorists today are unorganized. We’ve learned how transnational they are. We’ve discovered that many are truly deranged and that political or religious aspirations are no longer their principal motivating forces.

That’s why I can’t understand the change from covert to overt action.

The terrorists and their local supporters were as shielded from the truth of American involvement as Americans were. There was less of a chance when operations remained covert that any response would be against America.

But we’ve taken off our boxing gloves and mask. We’ve invited them to fight.

I still think their remaining reach is far more limited than it was before 9/11, for many good and for many bad reasons. But my judgment is no longer suspended about America’s militaristic involvement. I don’t think there’s a possibility of a net good from the type of operations which concluded last weekend in Africa.

Weather Grounds Drones

Weather Grounds Drones

Predictions about African security linked to global warming have proved frighteningly correct. Does weather trump drones?

As the stubborn, not-too bright bully on the block, America has shifted to accepting global warming as human caused, but it took a few Katrinas and Sandys to tip the balance. And experts still spend inordinate amounts of time explaining the obvious to the recent convert:

“Global warming” or “climate change” or whatever you want to call it is manifest most dangerously in extremes, not just increasing temperatures. So terrible winters on top of terrible summers means we’ve screwed up nature. It’s our fault and we’ve altered nature.

Winter and summer are naturally the opponents in a ping pong game. If one hits harder, it sets up the rebound to be harder as well.

And while it’s been predicted for some time that the short-term global effects of climate change could actually benefit America, because America reigns as the world’s principal power, there’s no way we’ll avoid the much more terrible negative effects:

“The U.S…. may benefit from increased crop yields, [but] its military may be stretched dealing with global “humanitarian emergencies,” Scientific American reported five years ago.

The rest of the world has more or less recognized this for a long time, so there are plenty of studies to refer back to. As America’s conversion into reality became policy when the Obama administration came into power, America began to participate in the global studies.

Africa has the largest percentage of unstable societies in the world, and what early climate change studies show is that these misfortunes were mostly predictable, founded mostly if not exclusively on climate change.

Because Africa is the only continent to stretch so far into both hemispheres, it is unfortunately placed to feel the greatest effects of climate change.

Jihad, civil war, violence after contested elections – even the reemergence of debates about social issues like female circumcision – all seem to ebb and flow with the weather. They are all symptoms of climate change.

John Vidal writing last month in London’s Guardian cited a variety of studies showing that the Arab spring had less to do with human rights than food insecurity:

While the self immolation of the Tunisian street vendor “was in protest at heavy-handed treatment and harassment in the province where he lived… a host of new studies suggest that a major factor in the subsequent uprisings … was food insecurity.”

When the rains returned to drought-stricken Somalia, was it only coincidence that the Kenyan army occupied then pacified the country? Or more likely was the Kenyan army decision triggered by an easier time supplying its troops with food?

And now that drought has turned to floods, pacified Somalia is growing restive, again, and this instability is even spilling into neighboring Kenya.

Even in Namibia, among the least densely populated countries on earth, growing instability from climate change motivated the president to declare a state of emergency on Friday.

Record floods in 2011 have now been replaced by record droughts.

The frequency of climate disaster in Africa is increasing so fast that even statistics are lagging. PreventionWeb is a UN agency that simply documents human disasters. From 1980 – 2008, the ten greatest disasters in Africa were all due to drought.

We expect, now, that the top ten disasters when compiled for 2008-2013 will be from flooding.

It seems pretty simple. Forget about proselytizing or promoting democracy and free trade, cut carbon emissions.