‘Black Hawk Down’: Read the book because the movie can never do the men who died justice

blackhawk-down

If you ask most people what they think of Black Hawk Down, then the vast majority of the time the response you’ll get will probably be something along the lines of, “Good movie.” That is understandable, given that it was a blockbuster film in 2001 produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Ridley Scott.

If you are like me, then perhaps you’ve always had an itch regarding the movie and, more importantly, the event — the downing of two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and the subsequent deaths of 18 American soldiers Oct. 3-4, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Sure, it made for a night out at the theater, but perhaps you’ve felt that it was somehow insulting to only know the tale through its Bruckheimerization.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been working on a book in my spare time that will eventually see the light of day (we’re at the artwork stage now, so hang tight!). There are parts of the novel that required knowledge of Task Force Ranger, and at some point I admitted to myself that it would be literary heresy to not read Mark Bowden’s masterpiece to assist with authenticity. It is safe to say that there probably is not a more comprehensive retelling of the ill-fated attempt to capture two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

And if you do not think any of this is still relevant, then I suggest you start reading The New York Times. The paper reported Sunday in a piece titled In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War:

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993. …

In March, an American airstrike killed more than 150 Shabab fighters at what military officials called a “graduation ceremony,” one of the single deadliest American airstrikes in any country in recent years. But an airstrike last month killed more than a dozen Somali government soldiers, who were American allies against the Shabab.

Outraged Somali officials said the Americans had been duped by clan rivals and fed bad intelligence, laying bare the complexities of waging a shadow war in Somalia. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the Pentagon was investigating the strike.

Who, exactly, are we fighting? Why are we there? Should we be there?

Mr. Bowden’s book provides many of the answers, which unfortunately raise more questions:

“In books and movies when a soldier shot a man for the first time he went through a moment of soul searching. Waddell didn’t give it a second thought. He just reacted. he thought the man was dead. He had just folded. Startled by Waddell’s shot, Nelson hadn’t seen the man drop. Waddell pointed to where he had fallen and the machine gunner stood up, lifted his big gun, and pumped a few more rounds into the man’s body to make sure. Then they both ran for better cover.

They found it behind a burned out-car. Peering out from underneath toward the north now, Nelson saw a Somali with a gun lying prone on the street between two kneeling women. The shooter had the barrel of this weapon between the women’s legs, and there were four children actually sitting on him. He was completely shielded in noncombatants, taking full cynical advantage of the Americans’ decency.

“Check it out, John,” he told Waddell, who scooted over for a look.

“What do you want to do?” Waddell asked.

“I can’t get that guy through those people.”

So Nelson threw a flashbang, and the group fled so fast the man left his gun in the dirt.” — Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down (New York: Grove Press, 1999), 46.

If you want to know what it’s like to have an entire city honed in on killing you and those you hold dear, then I suggest reading Black Hawk Down. The book can be a bit arduous at times — it’s like trying to eat a steak the size of your head — but there is no escaping it because a.) Mr. Bowden leaves no stone unturned, and b.) the experience for the men on the ground was grueling.

Perhaps the best endorsement of the book that I can give is this: I did not know much about the author before picking up the book, and was surprised to find out he is not a veteran. He’s just a reporter who did a damn good job telling a story.

Black Hawk Down is a book about courage and fear, the nature of war, success and failure on the battlefield, and most importantly the experiences of the men who fought valiantly to save one another in situation that was so surreal that it seem like “a movie.”

 It was not a movie — it happened — which is why those who care about national defense issues should read it sooner rather than later.

Kudos to Mr. Bowden for writing a book that will be read by military men and women for generations to come.

Nice terror is just the beginning: Bataclan torture suppression spotlights wretched western leaders

Nice France attack CNN

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel killed 84 people this week in Nice, France, when he used a giant truck to mow down crowds during Bastille Day celebrations. Besides the multiple media outlets that called the attack a “truck crash” well after it was determined to be an act of terror, another story perfectly highlighted how woefully equipped western “thought leaders” are for dealing with the threat.

Heat Street was the first to report Friday morning that government officials in France tried to suppress knowledge of beheadings and torture that took place during the November 13, 2015, Islamic terror attacks in Paris.

The website reported:

“A French government committee has heard testimony, suppressed by the French government at the time and not published online until this week, that the killers in the Bataclan appear to have tortured their victims on the second floor of the club.

The chief police witness in Parliament testified that on the night of the attacks, an investigating officer, tears streaming down his face, rushed out of the Bataclan and vomited in front of him just after seeing the disfigured bodies.

The 14-hour testimony about the November attacks took place March 21st.

According to this testimony, Wahhabist killers reportedly gouged out eyes, castrated victims, and shoved their testicles in their mouths. They may also have disemboweled some poor souls. Women were reportedly stabbed in the genitals – and the torture was, victims told police, filmed for Daesh or Islamic State propaganda. For that reason, medics did not release the bodies of torture victims to the families, investigators said.”

The most stunning exchange came when a French prosecutor implied that the injuries a grieving father was told about during his son’s autopsy (i.e., the man’s testicles where shoved in his mouth) may have been cause by shrapnel.

Prosecutor: I specify, for the sake of clarity: some of the bodies found at the Bataclan were extremely mutilated by the explosions and weapons, to the point that it was sometimes difficult to reconstruct the dismembered bodies. In other words, injuries described this father may also have been caused by automatic weapons, by explosions or projections of nails and bolts that have resulted.

Q. Would those have put a man’s balls in in his own mouth?

Prosecutor: I do not have that information.

The western world can not successfully deal with Islamic terrorism until it stops denying reality:

  • Jan 7, 2015: Charlie Hebdo attack — 12 killed.
  • Jan 9, 2015 Jewish supermarket attack — 4 killed.
  • Nov 13, 2015: Bataclan theater, Paris attacks — 130 killed.
  • March 22, 2016: Brussels, Belgium attack — 22 killed.
  • July 13, 2016: Nice attack — 84 killed.

Terrorists have used boxcutters to hijack planes and ram them into large buildings. They have used handguns and rifles. They use suicide bombers and trucks. The answer by western policymakers should not be to have 85-year-old Catholic women searched at airports, rifles banned, or “kill switches” mandated for all vehicles — and yet that is precisely the mentality that continues to pervade influential circles in academia, media, and politics.

The terror in Nice is just the beginning for Europe because its leaders are failures. The five attacks listed above were all tragic, but one should not forget that the sorrow attached has an added dimension due to the western world’s willful ignorance.

Related:

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer takes CNN, Erin Burnett to task on Hamas ignorance

Ron Dermer CNN

In a sane world, a terrorist organization that hides rockets in schools, hospitals, civilian homes and religious buildings would be condemned for its actions. In a sane world, moral outrage would swiftly flow in the direction of individuals who use innocent bystanders as shields. Unfortunately, there are a lot of confused people out there, which is why cable news viewers must suffer through hours of footage blaming Israel when children die during the course of war.

On Thursday, Ms. Burnett tried to scold Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., over 16 people who died in a U.N. shelter in Gaza. Mr. Dermer decided it was time to call CNN out on its ignorance, and the result was a smack down of epic proportions:

Erin Burnett: Obviously what happened here is horrific and we don’t yet even know the scale of how many children may have died. Initial reports indicate that at least 16 are dead. And the initial reports was that the attack had come from Israeli tanks. As you know, the Israeli military said it may have come from Hamas and a rocket that misfired. Do you know at this point? Do you have any more certainty?

Ron Dermer: I don’t know, but I do know who who is responsible for it, and that’s Hamas because they’re using schools as weapons depots. And I think it would be a disservice to your viewers for a reporter from Gaza not to mention that in the last week we had two different U.N-run schools where we actually had rockets found in the schools and handed over to Hamas. I also think it’s a disservice —

Erin Burnett: These are two different U.N. schools, you’re saying?

Ron Dermer: That’s correct. It’s publicly available information. It’s kind of an important fact for your reporter to mention. And in addition to that, he may have wanted to mention a statement that was made by — not by the Israeli Ambassador, not by the spokesman of the IDF — but by the U.N. Secretary General yesterday. He said this: “The Secretary General is alarmed to hear that rockets were placed in a U.N.-run school in Gaza and that subsequently these have gone missing. He expresses his outrage and regret at the placing of weapons in a U.N. administered school. By doing so…” (Now listen Erin to exactly what he says) “…by doing so, those responsible are turning schools into military targets and endangering the lives of innocent children, U.N. employees working in such facilities, and anyone using the U.N. schools as shelter.” This is yesterday. Do you not think it’s relevant to report on CNN that the Secretary General of the United Nations — yesterday — warned against the use of U.N. schools and shelters for rocket missile details of Hamas?”

Erin Burnett: And ambassador, it is relevant. And let me ask you this…

Ron Dermer: Well, I’ve been listening. I’ve been listening to two hours of reports on CNN. I have seen split screens — horrible pictures — horrible pictures that any decent human being would be horrified by. I have not heard a single person say what I just said to you now. And I think that does a disservice to your viewers to not give them the context they need to make these judgments. Hamas is placing missile batteries in schools, in hospitals, in mosques, and there must be outrage by the world at Hamas to end this.

Ms. Burnett then went on to harangue Mr. Dermer about the need for Israel to take “time” and “confirm” that there are no children in schools before they are fired upon (as if Israel doesn’t already do its best — in war — to avoid civilian casualties). CNN, NBC, MSNBC and other news organizations bend over backwards to avoid mentioning that Hamas hides behind women and children, and then when women and children die the issue is framed as evidence of Israel’s moral bankruptcy.

The whole media charade gets even weirder when they take Israel to task for bulldozing homes without ever mentioning that Hamas digs tunnels underneath seemingly innocuous homes. Cable news viewers see a home being razed, but they don’t see the intricate tunnel systems under the home that were built with U.S. aid money meant for improving infrastructure.

If you want a glimpse into the Twilight Zone, keep watching CNN’s coverage of Israel’s military operations in Gaza. If you want a dose of reality, listen to men like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

NY Times on Benghazi: Ignore the al Qaeda terrorists behind the curtain

If you haven’t read David Kirkpatrick’s New York Times piece on the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, you should do so. It’s good work. Very good work. Unfortunately, it’s solid investigative journalism that goes out of its way to downplay the nature of Ansar al-Sharia and its ties to al Qaeda. Mr. Kirkpatrick also seems to inflate the significance that the obscure anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims,” had in the whole affair. If what he says about “Innocence of Muslims” is true, it further demonstrates the incredibly dysfunctional and backwards nature of much of the Middle East.

Mr. Kirkpatrick’s ‘A Deadly Mix in Benghzi’ centers around a Mr. Abu Khattala, the leader of an extremist militia in Libya. The journalist’s own investigative work clearly demonstrates the overlap between local militias and Ansar al-Sharia, but then he intellectually twists and turns to dismiss the possibility that al Qaeda was involved.

  • Mohammed Ali al-Zahawi, the leader of Ansar al-Shariah, told The Washington Post that he disapproved of attacking Western diplomats, but he added, “If it had been our attack on the U.S. Consulate, we would have flattened it.”
  • At one point, a fighter asked Mr. Abu Khattala what to do with the remains of the compound. “Flatten it,” he said.
  • [Mr. Abu Khattala] volunteered that the leaders of Ansar al-Shariah had joined him in the operations room shortly after the attack began — underscoring the permeability of the line between threat and protector among Benghazi militias.

According to the New York Times, Ansar al-Shariah wasn’t involved in the planning for the Benghazi terror attack, but happened to show up to the local militia’s “operations room” once the bullets started flying. Readers are supposed to ignore Ansar al-Shariah’s ties to al Qaeda (long-established by the CIA and the State Department), and yet the leader of the organization and Mr. Abu Khattala both used “flatten” as the word-of-choice to describe what they would do when put in a position to decide the fate of the Benghazi compound. What a coincidence.

How do you write an extensive piece on the Benghazi terrorist attack and not mention Muhammad Jamal al Kashef? Answer: You can’t — unless the existence of al Kashef throws off a specific narrative you’re trying to create.

After “months of investigation,” the Times found “no evidence” of a connection between the Benghazi attack and al Qaeda.

In several hours of interviews, including ones conducted in the days before he became a prime suspect in the assault, Mr. Abu Khattala said he had no connections to Al Qaeda. But he never hid his admiration for its vision.

Translation: “Yes, it is well-known that my allies have connections with al Qaeda, we both share the exact same vision for the world, we both wanted to ‘flatten’ the Benghzi compound … but I swear that al Qaeda had nothing to do with the terrorist attack on a strategic or operational level.”

Over a decade after 9/11, it strains credulity to believe that al Qaeda did not have a hand in the September 11, 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. I’m not going to completely discount the Times’ theory because, over a decade after the September 11, 2001 attacks, you would also think that U.S. diplomats would be familiar with “Taqiyya” — a form of deception that is permissible in Islam if the end result is beneficial to the religion. Apparently not.

The more moderate leaders of the big militias developed close ties to the Westerners.

At least one Islamist militia leader liked to play basketball at the British compound. Mr. Bukatef of the February 17 Brigade was a fluent English speaker who visited the American compound in Benghazi so often that “it was like he was my best friend,” one diplomat joked.

“We thought we were sufficiently close to them,” said one Western diplomat who was in Benghazi not long before the attack. “We all thought that if anything threatening was happening, that they would tip us off.”

Why are U.S. diplomats “joking” about the Bengahzi terrorist attack and the culpability their own ignorance played in allowing it to happen? The “moderates” are not moderates at all. They do not like us. They are willing to tolerate the United States only as long as our money and our weapons are useful to them, and that’s about it.

Again, Mr. Kirkpatrick’s piece sums up the situation quite well:

  • Unlike other Libyans, Mr. Abu Khattala expressed no gratitude for the American role in the NATO air campaign that toppled Colonel Qaddafi. If NATO had not intervened, “God would have helped us,” he said, insisting, “We know the United States was working with both sides” and considering “splitting up the country.”
  • Mr. McFarland struggled to make sense of their contradictory signals. “The message was, ‘Don’t come here because there is no security, but come right away because we need you,’” Mr. McFarland later told colleagues.

Ah yes, “God” would have intervened if President Obama did not. The president put his chips in with militia leaders like Mr. Abu Khattala, thinking they would help bring “hope and change” to Northern Africa, but instead he received “no gratitude,” a blown up U.S. compound, and dead Americans. The Libyans don’t want us to be there…but they do. Translation: “Give us money and things that go ‘boom’ and then leave us to our own Islamic-extremist devices.”

One last time: Do you believe this guy has no ties to al Qaeda?

On a June afternoon, Mr. Abu Khattala joined a column of as many as 200 pickup trucks mounted with artillery as they drove through downtown Benghazi under the black flags of militant Islam. …

Western diplomats who watched said they were stunned by the scale and weaponry of the display.

Even David Kirkpatrick acknowledges that al Qaeda has made significant inroads into Libya since the 2012 Benghazi terror attack. If you were to believe everything he says at face value (i.e., the Obama administration wasn’t trying to cover up anything and al Qaeda wasn’t involved in the attack on the U.S. compound), what you’re left with — at the present moment in Libya — is a nation teeming with al Qaeda terrorists and a whole host of other Islamic extremist organizations. Bravo, Mr. President.

If you have time, read ‘A Deadly Mix in Benghazi.’ It really is the end-product of top-notch investigative journalism. Unfortunately, it appears to have been pieced together to give cover and concealment to the political leaders most-closely connected with the tragedy.