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 Special  Article

BLACK HAWK DOWN:

[ AllPuntland Opinion/Fikradaha ]

January 27, 2002

Posted to the Web   January 27, 2002

By

Dr. Abdi Ulusso

dr.ulusso@attcanada.net 


At the launch of Operation Restore Hope, the peacekeepers were for the most part welcomed. They watched over deliveries of food aid to Somalis, who faced possible famine in a vicious civil war between feuding clans. The 21 countries who went to Somalia, providing humanitarian assistance in Operation Restore Hope and later Operation Continue Hope their mission was limited in scope, just to open corridors for food delivery putting a stop to mass starvation, but didn’t accomplish what the Somali people had hoped from the international community; namely, disarming the militia, setting up a national government and reconstruction of Somalia. 

The operation turned sour in mid-1993 after 25 Pakistani peacekeepers distributing food were ambushed and murdered and the United Nations decided to hunt down the killers and Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed became the main target since his militia carried out the killing. Overall, the one billion-dollar a year mission of the U.N. operation claimed the lives of more than 100 peacekeepers, including 42 US troops, the lives of thousands of Somali militia and innocent civilians. 

The ‘Black Hawk Down’ is a movie rated R for intense, realistic graphic war violence and language. The movie was made well before the horrible September, 11th terrorist attack on US soil and it is a true account of heroism and war. It is an adaptation of a true story, telling the audience what happened on October 3rd, 1993 in Somalia when elite US Rangers dropped in Mogadishu neighborhood to carry out a raid to apprehend Gen. Aideed and the top echelon of his militia (i.e. Abdi Hassan Qeyb-diid, the current Mogadishu Chief of Police), but unexpectedly went bad. 

The raid is rumored to be a C.I.A operation and Robert Oakley who kept in the dark the UN Envoy Adm. Jonathan Howe a US and Gen. Montgomery, Commander of US Forces and rest of Coalition Forces in Somalia.  As a result, the Rangers were denied air cover of C130 gunship and Cobras which could have saved a lot of lives on both sides and served as a deterrent to the advancing Somali militia encircling the Rangers, since the mission was so secretive and couldn’t get help when they needed.  It was a poorly planned military operation with fatal consequences which forced Mr. Clinton to abruptly pull out all US troops from Somalia, leaving the country in chaos and back to square one. Some believe the Clinton Administration was looking a way out to withdraw from Somalia and this incident provided him the opportunity to do just that. 

The movie depicts modern urban warfare, where best trained military in the world are ill-equipped and unprepared to wage such a war and win. It shows the difficulties, turns and twists of the mission and the heroic nature of the combatants US Rangers and Somali militia. It shows the bravery of US Rangers trying to set up a secure perimeter around at the crash side of their Black Hawk helicopters, while enduring heavy gun fight and their courageous effort to rescue their compatriots, attend the wounded and defend them. Two of the Black Hawk helicopters which are not with machine guns, but used for transporting the military and evacuating the wounded were brought down while lowering soldiers onto the ground immediately and the crew became faced with brave young Somali militia, well armed with pick up trucks mounted with machine guns, AK Rifles, pistols and RPGs, who kept coming and never give up. 

I was surprised to see some in the Somali community calling for a boycott of the movie and others calling as a hoax. I say, they are horribly wrong and should admit it. They didn’t analyze the movie correctly, which didn’t speak much to the politics and culture of Somalia. They jumped to hastily conclusions and are dead wrong on all counts. Just remember, you doubters there were young men on side, US & Somali who died and the movie underscores war is hell. You can express your opinion in a free and open society, such as ours in North America. However, in my opinion if you are not proud to be an ethnic Somali when the movie ends, move! 

Some dared to suggest the movie would be a set back for Somalis in North America, depicting Somalis as savages and would bring a backlash to them. Others attributed to the mission uncorroborated and unsubstantiated events that didn’t take place and false allegations, even calling the movie as a fantasy. Movie is just for entertainment, whether it drama, comedy, action, adventure or fiction. Just, imagine German people calling boycott of all second WWII movies, which many demonize and vilify Germans depicting them always as the bad guys and the Allies as the good guys.  

There is no ill-feeling towards Somalis in the movie among the US soldiers who all volunteered to help Somalia before the raid and after the failure of the raid. The only reference that, some may construe as an offence is when the US Rangers refer Somalis as ‘skinny’. It is not a derogatory remark, because Somalis are described as handsome, talk, dark and slender people. However, the Somalis were hurling insults at the soldiers which is understandable, since it was war and even before the raid subjected peacekeepers to constant taunting and rock-throwing.  

The movie was made in Morocco not in Somalia even though blended some actual footage from Somalia in the movie, but have left out the cozy relationship of Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed and US Envoy Robert Oakley to Somalia, the $100,000 a month bribe given to the General by the U.N to appease him, the concentration of all U.N and NGO operations in his sector in the south and not extended to other areas, employment and contract opportunities only given to his militia and their relatives and using exclusively by UNOSOM the General’s banknotes and denying currency exchange for others.  

The movie didn’t touch on the role of Somali-Americans and Somali-Canadians which was vital to the whole mission who volunteered to accompany US soldiers as interpreters/translators/consultants, who came under fire, several getting injured and one killed (Ali Ga’al) along his American counterparts by a landmine triggered by remote control. There were even rumors of $6,000 price for the head of each interpreter placed by Gen. Aideed and Osman Hassan Ali ‘Atto’, accusing them as spies and traitors. 

I was hoping to pop up in the movie, the different image of the intervention that has emerged afterwards, peacekeepers brutalizing the civilians they were there to help. Some peacekeepers in remote areas, away from scrutiny acted almost like warlords. For example, the Italian troops tortured Somali villagers to death and raped women. The Belgians tortured a Somali boy by dangling over an open fire; force fed a pork meat and salt water to Somali children and closed children in a container in a scorching heat without water for two days and dead as a result. Equally, the Canadian contingent beat viciously to death a Somali teen in their custody and fatally shot three others. However, none of these soldiers from Italy, Belgium and Canada who have committed these appalling atrocities received tough sentences fit for their crimes, but received a slap on the wrist.  

This is not in any way to suggest that, the mission has failed or peacekeepers didn’t do an excellent job. The peacekeepers did help safeguard deliveries of food aid to Somalis who faced starvation, treated the wounded, built schools, bridges, hauled water and brought some stability to the country. Even so, Somalia needs now more than ever another US intervention to free Somalia from remnants of Siad Barre, ruthless warlords and radical Islamic groups with links to international terrorist organizations. 

I was there in Somalia at the time, responding to a call for volunteers in support of US military, operating in Somalia providing humanitarian relief effort in Operation Restore Hope/Operation Continue Hope and returned when all US Forces were withdrawn by Presidential Degree. Nonetheless, the US which had the largest contingent throughout the mission almost all of them volunteering for humanitarian relief efforts, acted properly and professionally and never committed any atrocities whatsoever. I am proud to have served with the US military and would welcome another opportunity. 

 The picture is still vivid in my mind and I believe can stay with me forever, when Osman Hassan Ali ‘Atto’ sitting at table in front of the US General, after he was apprehended drinking and smoking a Cuban cigar says, ‘you shouldn’t have come here. ‘This is a war, our war not yours’. The US Gen. responds, ‘this is not a war Mr. ‘Atto’, it is genocide, thousands died and counting’. 

I saw the movie with my friend Roy Cullen, M.P. Etobicoke north, who invited me and I hope you will all have the opportunity to see this important movie and draw your own conclusions. It is a must-see movie and the actors Josh Hartnett and Tom Sizemore, who acted greatly, should be nominated for an Oscar.

Please direct all questions on the above article to  Dr. Abdi Ulusso" <dr.ulusso@attcanada.net>


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