TALKING POINT BY
16th Jan. 2002
"BLACK HAWK DOWN" MOVIE - A HOAX?
seen the devil of violence and the devil of greed and the
devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! There are strong,
lusty red-eyed devils (the Black Hawks?) that swayed and drove
men - men, I tell you. But as I stood on the hillside, I foresaw
that in the blinding sunshine of the land, I would become
acquainted with a flabby pretending weak-eyed devil of a rapacious
and pitiless folly."
Heart of Darkness.
HAWK DOWN - THE FACTS.
It was siesta hour in South Mogadishu and there were very
few people in the area close to the Digfer General Hospital.
The children who usually played makeshift soccer on the dirt
road were sleeping in the shade of their mothers' street stalls.
Gunmen loyal to General Aideed had withdrawn into the shades
of the Dhamas trees where they lounged sleepy-eyed, trying
to recover from the previous night's Qat hangover. The sky
was cloudless. The Monsoon rain was late and the heat and
the humidity are intolerable.
a squadron of Black Hawk and Cobra helicopter gunships backed
by Tomcats swiftly appeared in the cloudless sky, too late
for General Aideed's militia to fire their RPG7s and bazookas
at the fast approaching death machines. And in less than a
minute all hell broke out as the choppers fired their so-called
"smart bombs" and missiles at General Aideed's Command Post
where clan elders were holding impromptu meeting to decide
whether to cooperate with UNOSOM and end the bloodshed or
not. Their acrimonious voices could be heard miles away.
target was General Aideed. But the General abruptly walked
out of the meeting without a word to the clan elders. Accompanied
by his ally, Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess and his financier Osman
Ali Atto, he was seen driving towards his new hideout, minutes
before the air raid. According to Newsweek magazine, the Americans
intercepted the Italian contingents tipping him about the
air raid against his Command Post.
the UN and the Red Cross gave the death toll as 75. This figure
was not included the number of children, women and innocent
passersby who were killed in the 20 minute-long bombardment.
Clans who were neutral, less supportive of UNOSOM (non-Aideed
clans) were angry at the UN and Red Cross figures of 75 dead.
These people knew it better, for it was they who buried their
dead with their own hands in mass graves. They put the estimate
at 700 non-combatants who belonged to other clans, mainly
non-Aideed clan. The official UN catch phrase was "There are
no innocent by-standers in Somalia."
people in the North of the city (Ali Mahdi's stronghold) were
leisurely preparing to go about their businesses, after the
early morning prayers, they watched scores of Black Hawk helicopter
gunships packed with Army Rangers scooped low over villas
near Digfer Hospital in a fresh attempt to capture the fugitive
general and his top aides hours after four American soldiers
were killed by a landmine near the port.
team of Army Rangers slid with ropes from the Black Hawks
and snatched Aideed's top aide Osman Ali Atto giving the UN
its first victory in three month-long manhunt. But as previous
attempts General Aideed eluded the Rangers by seconds.
that the Italians were tipping-off the fugitive general about
the impending air raids on his stronghold persisted. Newsweek
magazine in its international edition once again suggested
that the Italian troops had helped the elusive south Mogadishu
faction leader to evade captures. A US-run surveillance network
"had more than once" intercepted members of Italy's contingent
in Somalia warning Aideed about operations against his stronghold,
the magazine said. "The Americans are using a sledgehammer
to crack a nut, and the Italians were furious for being sidelined
in Somalia, their former colony," the magazine concluded.
a brief lull, the Black Hawks took to the sky again and strafe-bombed
residential area where Aideed was reportedly hiding, "using
women and children as a human shield". Earlier in the day
UN soldiers captured general's Aideed's alternative headquarters
after it had been pounded by AC-130 attack planes overnight
and destroyed the clans arms depot nearby.
bungling their latest bid to catch Aideed, the choppers now
decided to level the neighbourhood once and for all. They
mowed down people indiscriminately with 7.62millimeter machineguns.
However, snipers on rooftops fired their RPG7s at the Black
Hawks. This time they succeeded in putting down one of the
arrnour-plated helicopters. Minutes later another Black Hawk
went down and several Army Rangers were caught in the line
of fire until they run out of ammunitions. An estimated 20
American soldiers have been killed and an equal number were
seriously injured. A helicopter pilot was captured and the
badly mutilated body of another aviator was dragged through
the forces fighting the United Nations is made of a few hundred
irregulars (militia) clad in sarongs and wearing flip-flops
or beach sandals with little or no military training. "It's
like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Christine Amanpour
of the CNN TV team in Mogadishu.
HAWK DOWN MOVIE - THE HOAX. I must confess, I did not
see the full screening of the movie. Only a short-trailer
courtesy WNED in Bufallo, New York, but I could not conceal
my horror and disgust from the people around me in the screening
room. A spark of Wrath! There was too much noise for anyone
in the audience to comprehend the yelling of the 'Marines'
followed by a storm of white dust.
was no real Somali gunmen to be seen anywhere in the movie,
apart from few old television footages. Their places have
been taken over by other non-Somali Africans. A closer look
shows that they were not used to hold the ubiquitous AK-47s
and RPG7s in the proper fashion. The ground under their feet
was the colour of ashes and looked as barren. They were fear
in their eyes.
this for terrifying?" one man sitting next to me said. "FAKE!
IT IS HOAX!" I yelled over my lungs. Everybody in the audience
looked at me as if I was a monster from Mars.
fake," I repeated. "I was there," I added.
in Somalia during the period in question was well-documented
by the Western media in their own biased way when covering
a third world country and there's more TV footage and information
available to last for a life time. But the makers of BLACK
HAWK DOWN made mockery of traditional Hollywood war movies.
For one thing, the location, the cast/actors and "villains"
had no resemblance whatsoever to the actual location where
the carnage took place. It was said that the film was shot
in Tanzania and parts of Kenya with a number of TV footages.
Even the story line did not fit the bill. Where are the hundreds
of innocent women, children and the elderly who were sprayed
with machineguns by the Black Hawk crews? The moviemakers
decided not to show what the Pentagon prefers to call "Collateral
damages". Instead they focused their cameras on the "Brave
American Soldiers". They conveniently ignored the death and
destruction they caused during the hunt for a single person,
the same person who initially welcomed the American Marines
and Army rangers, but later fell out because he could not
get what he wanted from them -- namely the office of the Presidency.
As a matter of fact, he was obsessed with that office and
vowed publicly that he would do anything to occupy that office.
was even a First-lady-in-waiting in Toronto. Another irony
is that his son, a corporal in the US Marine Corps was on
active duty in Somalia, only to be sent back to the US when
it was discovered that he was the son of the wanted General!
(Hussein Aideed is now one of the key faction leaders opposed
to the Arta Group in Mogadishu and accuses them of sheltering
Al-Qaeda terrorists in Somalia.)
Howe and Ambassador Oakley made it clear that the general
was not fit to run a country like Somalia where clan loyalty
was paramount. They equalled him with General Noriega of Panama!
A comparison that had never been accepted by the Italian Foreign
Minister, Fabbio Fabbri during a press conference in Rome.
He then strongly condemned the dragging of the American aviator
through the streets of south Mogadishu by supporters of Aideed.
no civilised people would drag in the streets the dead body
of a human being. It is immoral and unacceptable and should
be condemned by people who care for humanity, but is it moral
to maim innocent people as a form of collective punishment?
is that the film Black Hawk Down was hoax and hackneyed
and had nothing in common with what had happened in South
Mogadishu in 1993.
Afrah © 2002
Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of
the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He
contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international
newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through
the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two
of us remember his critical articles in his weekly English
language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory self-censorship
introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga
Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am very proud to
know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian censorship
laws and went ahead to write what he thought was wrong in
the country. He received several death threats from the warlords
and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993. But he remained
defiant and continued to send his stories of carnage and destruction
to Reuters news agency. He still is!