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June 25, 2003

Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down was a good, shoot-em up war movie based on an ill-fated military mission in Somalia. It was subtitled "Leave no man behind". It was just a movie. I just read a good Wall Street Journal story by Dorthy Rabinowitz about the real one day battle in Mogadishu that had wide-ranging political implications as well as personal ones for the families of the participants. Rabinowitz's story points out that two of the soldiers, Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon and Sgt. First Class Randall D. Shughart, involved in the battle were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for their bravery in Mogadishu on Oct. 3, 1993.

The events that day in Mogadishu were a defining moment for the Clinton administration. From that point on in Rwanda, Iraq, Bosnia/Kosovo, and Haiti, the administration's priority was to conduct casualty-free operations. Clinton was reluctant to commit US ground forces to back up his rhetoric and bombed instead. Clinton said one of the worst moments of his administration came when Randall Shughart's father, at the White House to accept the Medal of Honor for his son, told President Clinton that he was not fit to be president and that he was responsible for his son's death. This dramatic event did not get a lot of media attention. The battle in Mogadishu aggravated the already bad relationship Clinton had with the military.

Many anti-war groups used the failure of the US military in Somalia as an argument for opposing the war in Iraq. There were even suggestions that Saddam Hussein used the book/movie as an motivational tool.

Stu Bykofsky writes in Philly.com:

No royalties from Baghdad
Saddam Hussein reportedly is a fan of Mark Bowden, who writes "The Point" column for the Sunday Yawn. Well, not Bowden himself, but of his Inky series-turned-book, "Black Hawk Down," which later became a movie. Before the war, some sources report, the Butcher of Baghdad supplied his commanders with the book, which details the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia, in which 18 Army Rangers were killed while serving as peace-keepers. (We were there helping Muslims, by the way.) Other sources say Saddam told his commanders to see the movie, to inspire them to use guerrilla tactics that worked against the Americans. I asked Bowden how he felt about that, and if he's getting royalties from book sales in Baghdad. To his knowledge the book hasn't been translated into Arabic. Bowden doubts the entire report, but says "it might be true in terms of the film, because Saddam is a film buff." Bowden says he wouldn't be surprised if Saddam saw "Black Hawk Down" and "it wouldn't surprise me if he misinterpreted it. The lesson of Somalia for many people around the world is if you can kill a few soldiers, the massive American military will give up and go home." While that was politically true - then - after 9/11 everything changed, says Bowden, adding that the battle itself - in which hundreds of Somali irregulars died - proved the "courage and tenacity of the American military, who did not give up."

Rabinowitz writes in her Wall Street Journal piece:

"It has been said of Osama bin Laden that the main lesson he derived from the war in Somalia was that the infliction of heavy casualties was all that was needed to cause Americans to turn and run. Americans, he suggested, are weak that way, and soft."

- posted by Mad Jayhawk and Seven @ 6/25/2003 01:38:00 PM    |

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