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Black Hawk Down

The movie Black Hawk Down was on MBC2 last night.

Mark Bowden wrote Black Hawk Down. It was published in 1999. 

Black Hawk Down takes place in 1993, when 18 American soldiers were killed during a raid in Mogadishu. They were withdrawn shortly thereafter. Bill Clinton was the president then.

Before the credits, we are shown graphic images of starving Somalis. Interspersed among the images are messages that read, in order of appearance:





Years of warfare among rival clans causes famine on a biblical scale.
300,000 civilians die of starvation.

Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the most powerful of the warlords, rules the capital Mogadishu.

He seizes international food shipments at the ports. Hunger is his weapon.

The world responds. Behind a force of 20,000 U.S. Marines, food is delivered and order is restored.
April 1993

 Aidid waits until the Marines withdraw, and then declares war on the remaining U.N. peacekeepers.
In June, Aidid’s militia ambush and slaughter 24 Pakistani soldiers, and begin targeting American personnel.

In late August, America’s elite soldiers, Delta Force, Army Rangers and the 160th SOAR are sent to Mogadishu to remove Aidid and restore order.

According’s Mickey Kaus (partially quoting author Mark Bowden):

Muhammad Farrah Aidid was the recognized leader of the Habr Gidr, “a large and powerful clan planted deep in Somalia’s past and present political culture,” in Bowden’s words…

The Habr Gidr were the militarily more powerful of two main groups contending for control of Mogadishu. If the U.S. had killed Aideed, citizens of the Habr Gidr areas wouldn’t generally have felt liberated, like Afghans freed from the Taliban. They would more likely have been pissed off. 

 Later in the article, Kaus talks about an event that wasn’t mentioned in the movie:

On July 12, months before the Ranger raid, in an incident unremarked in all the Black Hawk Down hype, U.S. and U.N. forces attacked a Habr Gidr clan meeting. The meeting included clan elders, intellectuals, poets. It was held at the house of Aideed’s self-styled “defense” minister, but included Habr Gidr members who planned to argue against Aideed’s anti-U.N. stance. Indeed, the meeting had been called to consider a Howe “peace initiative,” according to Bowden.

The aim of the mission depicted in the movie was to detain two of Aidid’s aims. They hoped to capture Aidid as well.

The names of the dead Marines appear at the end of the movie, before the credits roll.

Over a thousand Somalis died as well. None of their names appear.

In the movie, Sam Shepherd’s character, Major General William F. Garrison, says something to the effect of :

             “This isn’t Iraq. The situation is complicated here.”

The marines in the movie constantly say, ‘huwwa’ as a response to a command, or an acknowledgement of fact. In Arabic, huwwa means ‘he’.

In the movie, the Somali spy who helps the marines is named ‘Abdi. A couple of years ago, I tutored a blind Somali man named ‘Abdi. He was one of approximately 40,000 Somalis who have immigrated to the Twin Cities since the early 1990s. He told me his story in short bursts, and with a quick smile and a reassuring laugh.

Tens of thousands of Somalis—or mostly Somalis, some of them are from other East African countries—have crossed the Gulf of Aden in rickety boats to come to Yemen.

There are over 90,000 Somalis in Yemen.

Somalia’s total fertility rate—the average number of children are born to a healthy woman—is the forth highest in the world, at approximately 6.6. Yemen is the sixth highest, at 6.4.

Yemen’s population is expected to double in 16 years. 

I live in Khormaksar, which is a neighborhood in Aden close to the sea, or gulf. Every day, I pass at least a dozen Somali men who wash cars. Somali women and their children ask for change quite close by. The men never ask for change.

Black Hawk Down is an effectively intense, neo-verite army movie that shows a mostly white army battle a black insurgency.

After an initial limited release, the movie was widely released in the United States on January 18th, 2002, three days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and two days after the U.N. Security Council established an arms embargo and froze the assets of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida, and the Taliban.

Black Hawk Down grossed over $170,000,000 worldwide.

 In 2003, NovaLogic released a video game for PCs, Xboxs and PS2s called Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. It’s rated T for Teen.  

A review on the site, complained that the computer-generated Somali insurgents were not developed enough. The writer added,

So, it’s basically up to you to play Rambo, running around and shooting all the sitting ducks. In fact, the game even keeps score for you–you can expect to kill more than 1,500 Somalis during the campaign.


June 17, 2008 at 5:44 am Leave a comment

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