TALKING POINT BY
16th Jan. 2002
HAWK DOWN" MOVIE - A HOAX? - PART TWO
THE TRUE SCENARIO AS WITNESSED BY THIS WRITER
which was full of Hollywoodism is based from the book of the
same title by Mark Bowden, but it does not show the 24 Pakistani
Peace keepers who were killed in an ambush allegedly orchestrated
by militia loyal to General Aideed as they tried to search
for arms cache at the shattered Villa Somalia close to Radio
Major, David Stockwell told journalists that it is unclear
whether Aideed has ordered the ambush or whether it was a
spontaneous reaction as they planned inspection.
York, an outraged UN Security Council demanded the arrest
of those responsible for the killings. The resolution adopted
in an emergency session, calls for arrest, persecution and
trial of the gunmen responsible for inciting such attacks
against the Pakistanis. General Aideed was again named as
the master-minder of the attack. He was still in his secret
hideout, using women and children as human shield, according
to Admiral Jonathan Howe. He was unable to pinpoint the area
to persistent foreign journalists.
Sohail Ehsen, who was wounded in the ambush, said that after
three hours of fighting, his men found themselves low on ammunition
and are trapped by UN/US Black Hawk helicopter gunships firing
on the site, unaware of the Pakistani UN peace keepers who
were trapped there. Evidently they could not distinguish between
the militia gunmen and the Pakistanis, despite the distinctive
Blue Helmets! Again the movie-producers deliberately ignored
this tragedy. I would not be surprised if this slanted movie
receives the Oscar Award with the blessing of the Pentagon
and the White House. Over to you Mr. Donald Rumsfeld and Mr.
crossed the winding roads of the shantytown, which the Somalis
called The Black Sea and bordering another shantytown called
Tokyo and OPEC (after the oil cartel, because women who cradle
AK-47 or M-16 assault rifles sell petrol, diesel and engine
oil), we felt we were being targeted by gunmen lurking in
the shadows. But today there was no living soul to be seen,
except cats roaming on the rooftops of the surviving makeshift
buildings. Broken household articles and rubble littered the
roads and no women selling fuel.
through the streets echoed horrible sound of uncontrolled
shrill. "ALLAAAH! ALLAAAH!" I stared at my colleagues from
the French news agency AFP, the BBC and the CNN.
and destruction!" the BBC's East Africa Correspondent exclaimed.
There was tear in her eyes.
get the hell out of here before we become past tense or another
statistic," the American reporter of the CNN said after taking
few pictures with shaking hands. But my Editors in London
and Nairobi insisted that I should scoop the real scenario
before the opposition.
stalls were not there anymore. The place was deserted and
a black smoke hung in the air. An old man, bent in half and
carrying the dead body of his grandson suddenly appeared from
the rubble of the demolished buildings. "What happened?" I
asked him. His eyes slowly widened. He set down the tiny body
in front of us, then answered: "The American iron birds came
and destroyed everything, including my family. Their bodies
are still trapped in the rubble," he said looking angrily
at my white colleagues, who were busy taking his picture and
that of the dead child. Then they asked him if he knows where
the captured American aviator, Colonel Durant was kept prisoner.
The old man ignored them and continued to read verses from
the Holy Quran.
written," I tried to console him, offering him a shoulder
to cry on. After all I too lost one of my sons in the clan
wars couple of months ago. I felt like weeping.
let's get out of here before our luck runs out," the French
reporter of AFP said after taking one last snapshot of the
frail old man and his dead grandson.
day, picture of the frail old man and his dead grandson appeared
on the front pages of French and British newspapers, including
the big selling PARIS MATCH and THE DAILY TELEGRAPH with the
screaming banner headlines of "BABIES MURDERED IN MOGADISHU!"
The CNN and the BBC upgraded the story for prime time news.
This naturally upset the UNOSOM and American oligarchy in
Mogadishu. We were worried that we would be blacklisted and
barred from the weekly press briefing. Luckily image conscious
CNN with Ted Turner breathing hot at the necks of the Pentagon
officials was with us. We were saved at the eleventh hour!
the shantytown we saw fresh mass graves, with boys bristly
walking and toting assault rifles and shouting "Down Black
Hawks!" The little houses, with their corrugated iron sheets
twisted, seemed to melt. None of these scenarios are shown
in the Hollywood film, specially screened for bigwigs, like
Ronald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense and top US Army
officers in Washington for the premiere.
shown, the dead children, the mass graves and the general
destruction, the American public would have been outraged
and bewildered," an American friend told me the other day.
the nights are hot and humid and tracer bullets criss-crossed
the night sky. You don't know who is shooting at whom but
people no longer dive for covers. Business is as usual in
many parts of the beleaguered city. At the Bakaaraha open
air market you can still buy everything from tooth brush to
AK-47 assault rifles, bazookas, laptop computers, Dove toilet
soap and cell phones. The Somalis, hardened by many years
of anarchy and mayhem perpetrated by clan leaders, call the
sound of the bullets a nonstop "Music." The American soldiers
gave the city many names, such as Mog Madness, Sniper Alley,
Spaghetti Junction, Bat Alley, MOG Beer (camel milk) and Mad
Max (the militia gunmen). The Somalis too, (mainly supporters
of General Aideed) had a name for Admiral Howe, they jokingly
called him "Animal Howe."
David Stockwell, Marine spokesman, said army patrols would
be quadrupled and that any Somali carrying a gun would be
shoot on sight with no questions asked later. And Admiral
Jonathan Howe was furious when journalists asked him to give
them the Somali casualty rate during the week-long firefights.
have to go to the area and find out for yourselves," the red
faced born again Christian (Christian fundamentalist) shot
back at us in an angry tone.
very moment, Somali gunmen congregated at the old 21st October
Parade Ground, and no matter what they began to discuss, it
always led to the number of civilian casualties. Paradoxically,
it seemed that very few militia gunmen lost their lives in
the firefights in the south of the city. However, shooting
back and forth continued for the second week in a row. Non-Aideed
clans joined into the fray, as many of them lost loved ones
in the carnage.
Jump Jets flew over the capital to herald the return of the
2,200 troops from the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to reinforce
the United Nations as scores of helicopters from the helicopter
carrier USS Ranger hovered over the heads of the frenzied
women and children. They showered the streets with tens of
thousands of posters with Aideed's picture offering a reward
for the general wanted for war crimes, under a UN arrest warrant.
But the posters were quickly tore up at the pro-Aideed rally.
Washington, a White House spokesman said President Bill Clinton
approved the air strikes "until Aideed is brought to heel."
US posse has came "within hair's breath" of catching Aideed,
Admiral Howe said in his weekly press briefing. But the Somalis
who knew Aideed said he is in deep cover and there would be
a "big price" to pay in terms of human lives before the fugitive
general is captured. Is this the hunt for Osama bin Laden
played back? The scenario is almost the same minus the B52s
and the "Daisy Cutters."
the US has thrown in more Black Hawk, Cobra helicopter gunships
and the U S Navy's Orion plane which slowly circled over the
capital with cameras so good that they can photograph a face
in every detail from 5,000 feet up.
regrettable that the makers of "BLACK HAWK DOWN" film
completely ignored the facts mentioned above. My email to
the producer and director of the film went unanswered at time
of writing this Talking Point. Are they ashamed to be straightened
by a third rate exiled Somali writer? Or perhaps they are
sticking to their guns Wild West-style? Dear readers, your
guess is as good as mine. May the New Year bring peace and
stability to the old country and that no more Somali child
goes to bed with an empty stomach. No more skeleton-looking
mothers would cry for sustenance for their emaciated children.
long time correspondent, M.M. Afrah was there when military
dictator, Major Mohamed Siyad Barre came to power in a military
and police coup in October 1969. He was there when General
Barre was ousted from power by poorly trained, poorly equipped
youths in beach sandals, after more than two decades in power.
He was there when the militia youths turned their guns on
each other for the control of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
He was there the US Marines, Army Rangers and the Delta Forces
stormed the beaches of Mogadishu to spearhead an international
task force under the code name of Operation Restore Hope.
And he was there to see them leave. He watched as their initial
goodwill turn into an impotent rage, and saw their efforts
to impose Western-style democracy end up in fiasco. It cost
the UN and US billions of dollars and the lives of several
UN and US soldiers end up in body bags. The cost to Mr. Afrah
was one of his sons and the destruction of his house after
it received a direct hit from a tank shell. He buried his
son at the steps of his demolished house. In an article in
the British edition of ESQUIRE magazine, Aiden Hartley, who
worked with Afrah in Somalia, described his frontline reporting
as "A Bravery under Fire."