- True to its post-9/11 government-sanctioned role as US
war propaganda headquarters, Hollywood has released "Black Hawk
a fictionalized account of the tragic 1993 US raid in Somalia. The Pentagon
assisted with the production, pleased for an opportunity to "set the
record straight." The film is a lie that compounds the original lie
that was the operation itself.
- Somalia: the facts
- According to the myth, the Somalia operation of 1993
was a humanitarian mission, and a shining example of New World Order
and altruism. In fact, US and UN troops waged an undeclared war against
an Islamic African populace that was hostile to foreign interests.
- Also contrary to the legend, the 1993 Somalia raid was
not a "Clinton foreign policy bungle." In fact, the incoming
Clinton administration inherited an operation that was already in full
swing -- planned and begun by outgoing President George Herbert Walker
Bush, spearheaded by deputy national security adviser Jonathan Howe (who
remained in charge of the UN operation after Clinton took office), and
approved by Colin Powell, then head of the Joint Chiefs.
- The operation had nothing to do with humanitarianism
or Africa-love on the part of Bush or Clinton. Several US oil companies,
including Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips were positioned to exploit
Somalia's rich oil reserves. The companies had secured billion-dollar
to explore and drill large portions of the Somali countryside during the
reign of pro-US President Mohamed Siad Barre. (In fact, Conoco's Mogadishu
office housed the US embassy and military headquarters.) A
Somalia also provided the West with strategic location on the coast of
- UN military became necessary when Barre was overthrown
by warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid, suddenly rendering Somalia inhospitable
to US corporate interests.
- Although the pretext for the mission was to safeguard
food shipments, and stop the "evil Aidid" from stealing the food,
the true UN goal was to remove Aidid from the political equation, and form
a pro-Western coalition government out of the nation's warring clans. The
US operation was met with "surprisingly fierce resistance" --
surprising to US officials who underestimated Somalian resolve, and even
more surprising to US troops who were victims and pawns of UN policy
- The highly documented series by Mark Bowden of the
Inquirer on which the film is based , focuses on the participants, and
the "untenable" situation in which troops were placed. But even
Bowden's gung-ho account makes no bones about provocative American attacks
that ultimately led to the decisive defeat in Mogadishu.
- Bowden writes: "Task Force Ranger was not in
to feed the hungry. Over six weeks, from late August to Oct. 3, it
six missions, raiding locations where either Aidid or his lieutenants were
believed to be meeting. The mission that resulted in the Battle of
came less than three months after a surprise missile attack by U.S.
(acting on behalf of the UN) on a meeting of Aidid clansmen. Prompted by
a Somalian ambush on June 5 that killed more than 20 Pakistani soldiers,
the missile attack killed 50 to 70 clan elders and intellectuals, many
of them moderates seeking to reach a peaceful settlement with the United
Nations. After that July 12 helicopter attack, Aidid's clan was officially
at war with America -- a fact many Americans never realized."
- Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Somalis were killed in
the course of US incursions that took place over three months. In his book
The New Military Humanism, Noam Chomsky cites other under-reported facts.
"In October 1993, criminal incompetence by the US military led to
the slaughter of 1,000 Somalis by American firepower." Chomsky writes.
"The official estimate was 6-10,000 Somali casualties in the summer
of 1993 alone, two-thirds women and children. Marine Lt. Gen. Anthony
who commanded the operation, informed the press that 'I'm not counting
bodies . . . I'm not interested.' Specific war crimes of US forces included
direct military attacks on a hospital and on civilian gatherings. Other
Western armies were implicated in serious crimes as well. Some of these
were revealed at an official Canadian inquiry, not duplicated by the US
or other governments."
- Bowden's more forgiving account does not contradict
in this regard:
- "Official U.S. estimates of Somalian casualties
at the time numbered 350 dead and 500 injured. Somalian clan leaders made
claims of more than 1,000 deaths. The United Nations placed the number
of dead at ``between 300 to 500.'' Doctors and intellectuals in Mogadishu
not aligned with the feuding clans say that 500 dead is probably
- The attack on Mogadishu was particularly vicious. Quoting
Bowden: "The Task Force Ranger commander, Maj. Gen. William F.
testifying before the Senate, said that if his men had put any more
into the city 'we would have sunk it.' Most soldiers interviewed said that
through most of the fight they fired on crowds and eventually at anyone
and anything they saw."
- After 18 US Special Forces soldiers were killed in the
final Mogadishu firefight, which included the downing of a US helicopter,
television screens filled with the scene of a dead US soldier being dragged
through the streets by jubilant Somalis. Clinton immediately called off
the operation. US forces left Somalia in disgrace. Some 19,000 UN troops
remained for a short period, but eventually left in futility.
- The Somalia defeat elicited howls of protest and rage
from the military brass, congressional hawks, and right-wing provocateurs
itching for an excuse to declare political war on the "liberal"
- The "Somalia syndrome" would dog Clinton
his presidency, and mar every military mission during his tenure.
- Today, as right-wing extremist George W. Bush occupies
the White House, surrounded by his father's operatives, and many of the
architects of the original raid, military fanaticism is all the rage. A
global war "without end" has just begun.
- What a perfect moment to "clean up" the
- Hollywood to the rescue
- In promoting the film, producer Jerry Bruckheimer (who
rewrote another humiliating episode of US military history with "Pearl
Harbor") is seeking to convince Americans that the Somalia operation
was "not America's darkest hour, but America's brightest hour;"
that a bungled imperialist intervention was a noble incident of grand moral
- CNN film reviewer Paul Tatara describes "Black Hawk
Down" as "pound for pound, one of the most violent films ever
released by a major studio," from "two of the most pandering,
tactless filmmakers in Hollywood history (Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley
Scott)" who are attempting to "teach us about honor among
- More important are the film's true subtexts, and the
likely emotional reaction of viewers.
- What viewers see is "brave and innocent young
boys" getting shot at and killed for "no reason" by
black Islamists" that the Americans are "just trying to
(Subtext one: America is good, and it is impossible to understand why
hate us." Subtext two: "Those damned ungrateful foreigners."
Subtext three: "Those damned blacks." Subtext four: "Kill
- What viewers will remember is a line spoken by one of
the "brave soldiers" about how, in the heat of combat,
goes out the window." (Subtext one: there is no need for thought;
shoot first, talk later. Subtext two: it is right to abandon one's sanity,
morality and ethics when faced with chaos. Subtext three: when the Twin
Towers went down on 9/11, America was right in embracing radical militarism
and extreme violence, throwing all else "out the window.")
- In the currently lethal political climate, in which
rage, mob mentality, and love of war pass for normal behavior (while
critical thinking, and tolerance are considered treasonous), "Black
Hawk Down" will appeal to the most violent elements of American
Many who have seen the film report leaving the theater feeling angry,
to "kick some ass." In short, the film is dangerous. And those
who "love" it are dangerous.
- Considering the fact that Somalia is one of the targets
in the next phase of the Bush administration's "war on
the timing of the film is no coincidence.
- As Herbert London of the Hudson Institute said of
Hawk Down," "I would never deny the importance of heroism in
battle, but just as we should recognize and honor heroes, we should also
respect the truthfulness of the events surrounding their heroic acts. In
the case of 'Black Hawk Down,' we get a lot of the former and almost
of the latter."
- Larry Chin is a freelance journalist.