As the Somali pirates have a strong week, attacking more ships and capturing hostages, the word “terrorism” is coming up in many news stories. Most recently, my learned colleague wrote about the FT’s editorial that asserted we should “stop calling them pirates.” Munro-Ferguson basically took the position that this was nonsense — perhaps “Maritime armed robbers,” or “blue water hijackers,” or “maybe something simple like ‘pirates.’”
I couldn’t agree more. The Somali piracy phenomenon is one I discussed at length about half a year ago, arguing that the Somali pirates were actually a result of the strong civil society in the northern horn, unrelated to the Islamic extremists in the south, and regardless, irrelevant to Al Qaeda and the major factions in the war on terrorism (defunct). Basically, Washington agrees with me — “U.S. officials have found no direct ties between East African pirates and terrorist groups.”
But everyone — the press, analysts, academics, and others just can’t help themselves:
But piracy is believed to be backed by an international network that runs from the Horn of Africa to as far as North America. It is made up primarily of Somali expatriates who offer funds, equipment and information in exchange for a cut of the ransoms, according to researchers, officials and members of the racket. With help from the network, Somali pirates brought in at least $80 million last year.
As I see it, the war on terrorism created a large, self-entitled bureucratic infrastructure — in government, academia, think tanks, and the media — that justifies its existence on the threat of terrorism. As the war on terrorism comes to a soft close, it is in the best interest of these parties to make sure that “terrorism,” whether it by Al Qaeda or desperate Somalis, be labeled as such so the bureaucrats keep their jobs.