International

The Pirates Are Winning!

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY JEAN-MARC MOJON

hide captionA pirate stands on sandy dunes just outside the central Somali coastal town of Hobyo as he watches the outline of a hijacked ship anchored off the coast on August 20, 2010.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images/AFP

Jeffrey Gettlemen of the New York Times has spent more time with Somali pirates than anyone else I read. His reporting has been comprehensive, brave, and thrilling reading. He has a piece in the New York Review of Books that has some fascinating insights into the world that piracy has created.

This excess has created a budding pirate culture. Pirate weddings are elaborate two- or three-day affairs, stretching deep into the night, with bands—and brides—flown in from outside Somalia and convoys of expensive 4x4 trucks. The prettiest young women in pirate towns dream of a pirate groom; little boys can hardly wait until they are old enough to sling an AK-47 over their shoulder and head out to sea. In these places, the entire local economy revolves around hijacking ships, with hundreds of men, women, and children employed as guards, scouts, cooks, deckhands, mechanics, skiff-builders, accountants, and tea-makers.

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