April 14, 2009

Crimes Against Humanity In the Horn of Africa?

Context :2. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.

Is there additional context to the piracy phenomenon occurring in the Gulf of Aden? The Huffington Post says yes:

"Nuclear waste. 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. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply."

Grappling with context. This is always perhaps America's most difficult challenge as we weigh our self interest and sense of justice against a world of uncertainties and murky, unpleasant, inconvenient facts and hard truths. Is this a truth implicated in the death of Italian reporter Iliara Alpi? Twenty percent of the world's oil transits this region of the sea. Thats more than enough to motivate the world's great and not so great powers to action. But what about this? If European countries are indeed dumping nuclear waste off the unpoliced coastline of a failed African state, sickening entire populations, thats a crime against humanity.

Sadly, who will investigate? Will the United States naval vessels in the Gulf of Aden conduct tests? Will there be any investigation as to whether there is any truth to this report by the UN, or the EU or anyone? Because the nasty truth is that where chaos and lawlessness reign, there are those who will exploit such conditions. During the fall of Baghdad, amidst the chaos and looting, a sophisticated sacking of the Iraqi National Museum took place. Irreplaceable and priceless historic artifacts of Persia disappeared into the mayhem as silently and unseen as barrels of nuclear waste now slip beneath the waters off the Somali shores.

Could it be that the heightened awareness of piracy crimes in the Gulf of Aden will ultimately shed light on an equally troubling and callous crime against humanity off the Horn of Africa?