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


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.

Black Hawk Dumb: Terror haven Somalia likely to get U.S. taxpayer cash

It was only two years ago that then-CIA Director David Petraeus testified before Congress on the dangers posed by Somali terrorists, saying “extremist networks over the past two decades have made southern Somalia one of the world’s most significant havens for terrorists. Al Qaeda’s affiliate there — al Shabaab — is large and well-funded relative to most extremist groups, and it has attracted and trained hundreds of foreign fighters, including scores of Americans and dozens from other Western countries.”

Today the U.S. is preparing to formally recognize the Somali government, paving the way to send taxpayer dollars to the place that will forever be associated with “Black Hawk Down,” where a U.S. Army Ranger was dragged through the streets in 1993.

Bloomberg reports:

    The U.S. will formally recognize the government in Somalia tomorrow, a step that paves the way for the U.S. and international finance organizations to aid the war-torn African nation.

“It’s the start of a significant process that underscores the return to stability that has occurred in Somalia over the last four years,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said [told] reporters. …

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to exchange diplomatic notes with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud … in a meeting at the State Department.

Americans watched as the Obama administration gave weapons and aid to Libyan rebels. Our reward? U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and former Navy SEALs were slain in the Benghazi terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012. Now the American people are supposed to believe that with a few U.S. dollars and some help from the CIA, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud can transform Mogadishu into Club Med.

Most Americans don’t know about the importance of the clan in Islamic culture. They are unfamiliar with women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who grew up in Somalia and says she was beaten until she learned 800 years of her father’s ancestry, or that strangers in the country will often trace their lineages until they find a common ancestor. But the State Department does know this. Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is planning to exchange “notes” with Somalia’s president, which will in all likelihood lead to dollars. And that cash will go to a clan culture riddled with African members of al-Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.

If the State Department thinks it can cozy up to Somalia and not get burned, maybe it should ask French intelligence agent Denis Allex for advice. Or maybe not, since the French government believes members of al Shabaab executed him on Jan. 11.

The question before Americans isn’t whether we should be engaged in Africa, because we should (to what extent can be debated). The question is, who are we going to hold accountable if this goes horribly wrong?

If Clinton’s aversion to answering questions about the Benghazi terrorist attacks and ensuing cover-up is the model for how this administration does business, conservatives should make oversight of any cash transfers to Somalia a priority. If something goes wrong in Mogadishu, the most likely scapegoat will be Republican members of the 113th Congress.

Special Forces in Africa: World’s Dysfunctional Jihadist Centrifuge

U.S. Special Forces have boots on the ground in Africa. Good. Someone has to keep an eye on the Dysfunction Junctions of the world.

There’s been a smattering of news coverage over the contingent of Special Forces troops and advisers sent to Africa in recent days. While the size of the group heading to that region is (perhaps) slightly larger than we might expect, it really should not come as any surprise that American warriors have boots on the ground. There are places in the world that act as dysfunctional jihadist centrifuges, set to send their terrorist bacteria flying in the civilized world’s direction—someone has to be there to keep an eye on the insanity and pick off radical Islamic particles from time to time.

But the U.S. has come back [to Africa], using special forces advisers, drones and tens of millions of dollars in military aid to combat a growing and multifaceted security threat. This time the United States is playing a less obtrusive role but is focusing once again on Somalia…

The Pentagon is paying a lot more attention to Africa than in years past, analysts say. A hardline Islamist group in Nigeria, Boko Haram, bombed the U.N. headquarters in the capital in August, killing 23 people. A Nigerian man tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009. The flight was saved only because of a malfunction with explosives the bomber had carried from Lagos, Nigeria. An al-Qaida group known as AQIM that operates in the west and north of Africa kidnaps foreigners, making vast tracts no-go areas.

And, most worrisome to the United States, an al-Qaida-linked group in Somalia has recruited dozens of Americans, most of them of Somali descent.

As detailed in previous posts, Barack Obama has gone eerily silent on the Bush-blather-blame-game in regards to the creation of terrorists. Why? He gets the national security briefings now, knows what we’re up against, and has acted (in many instances), accordingly. The Secret Wars aren’t so secret, but they must go on anyway.

Question: How do you “mind your own business” (to echo Ron Paul) and keep the nation secure when so-called “sovereign” countries have large swathes of lawless, ungovernable areas that serve as forward-operating bases for the world’s terrorists? You can’t. The only responsible thing to do is to use prudence as you deploy time, money, and resources into such regions.

Reading about Special Forces troop deployments to Africa shouldn’t keep you up at night; it should serve as a replacement for your nighttime sleep aid.

Radical Islam Puts Women In Real Crosshairs Every Day: Left Yells Over Palin’s Metaphors.

Liberals go crazy over "crosshair" metaphors mentioned months ago by Sarah Palin, but Taliban-style executions (women put in the crosshairs by radical Islam every day) get a collective yawn.

It’s more frequent in Somalia to see a woman get a beating than it is to see someone shake her hand.  I’m writing on this today because in the wake of the Congresswoman Giffords tragedy it seems that a whole lot of people have lost their perspective:

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalis say Islamist insurgents have banned unrelated men and women from shaking hands, speaking or walking together.

Residents of the southern Somali town of Jowhar said Saturday that the al-Shabab insurgents threatened to whip, imprison or execute anyone found breaking the recent edicts.
Resident Hussein Ali says he will no longer greet women he knows for fear of punishment.

Student Hamdi Osman says gunmen are searching buses for improperly dressed women or women traveling alone. She says she was once beaten for wearing Somali traditional dress instead of the long, shapeless black robes favored by the fighters.

The insurgents have already banned women from working in public, leaving many families completely destitute.

The differences between Americans who disagree over public policy are nothing compared to the differences we have with backwards civilizations that bring women to soccer fields to put a bullet through their head for…wearing makeup, shaking hands, being seen in public, having a job, or begging for money because it’s illegal to have a job.

And yet, the hate and anger and vitriol aimed (pardon the “rhetoric”) at Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement is rather astonishing. A nut ball kid who is apparently obsessed with “mind control” and the Communist Manifesto goes on a rampage and we’re supposed to believe putting the clues together from his insane ramblings will lead us back to the Tea Party movement?

I’m scared for Western Civilization because there are very real, very serious forces at play that want to tear it down and replace it with a culture that in almost every respect treats women, gays, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t agree as sub-humans living on borrowed time.  Instead of concentrating on tyrannical regimes around the globe we’re busy ripping each other apart!

The pundits and politicos and many of the movement leaders across the country have let you down.  Personally, I almost never watch Cable News or Sunday roundtables; I see no benefit in watching a bunch of people scream and talk over each other. Awhile ago I decided I was going to read the work of respected magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Only occasionally would I delve into cable news if it was called upon for my job or if I knew I’d only be getting a small dose. Since then, I’ve been a much happier person. I suggest you do the same.

My point is, the great thing about technology is that it affords us the opportunity to stay informed without ever having to turn to our least favorite talking heads. The same people who are lecturing the Tea Party about volatile rhetoric are the most egregious practitioners of it, and so I’ll ignore them.  Instead of listening to elitist boors yell at each other just read a few op-eds.  And instead of engaging idiots online in the comments section of your favorite websites or blogs, use that time to start your own blog!

If you spend time arguing with professional nincompoops you’re going to lose because they generally have more experience in nincompoopery.  There’s a battle for Western Civilization to be won.  Tune out the Keith Olbermanns of the world, roll up your sleeves, and win it.