The sudden attack of sickness I experienced since the day I was asked to attend the preview of Black Hawk Down has not yet dissipated. I was expecting to see images of the dead. I did not anticipate the depths of the film's cynical use of the pain of a nation to bolster an immoral purpose.
The film begins by trying to create a sympathetic environment for the US mission by claiming that 300,000 died of starvation in Somalia, but that US intervention halted the famine and brought peace. In fact, as every serious study has shown, the famine was over by the time the US arrived. Also, the film quotes Plato's statement that 'only the dead see the end of war'. What the film is saying is that war is inevitable, that it is necessary to use war against those who resist imperialists and enslavement.
Black Hawk Down pushes the myth of the 'brave American soldiers' who die gloriously and bravely, but also hints that there should be new tactics in the future so that those who fight in one war live to serve in another. Islam also gets a bashing. We see the Somali fighters dropping their weapons and the whole hostile city of Mogadishu gripped by silence for prayer in the middle of a battle. The 'evil barbarians' of the Third World who need to be rescued from themselves apparently only take a break from massacre to pray.
The short scene's purpose is clear-to associate certain sorts of religion with violence. The film tries desperately to paint the best possible picture of the US soldiers' personalities and to praise the morality of US policies and military principles.
I could not possibly say that these attempts were successful. Any sane person who was told what really happened in Somalia could see they were a bunch of bullies and bloodthirsty psychopaths who were excited by the very idea of killing.
Even this film showed that US soldiers constantly wanted to 'kick some ass', and were referring to their perceived enemy as the 'skinnies' who do not know how to shoot. The narrative implies that US military superiority, high-tech ability and training could not possibly be defeated, even in hostile situations such as this.
The film's makers admit that scenes of US bodies being dragged through the streets were left out because they would be 'too upsetting'. It is not, of course, upsetting to see hundreds of nameless Somalis blasted away. The US presence in Somalia was legitimised by transmitting the message of the Somali nation being an evil and immoral society, with no clear political goals or vision.
The central argument was that Somalis needed to experience the enlightenment American civilisation and democracy could bring about. In fact, Somalis showed how enlightened they already were when the whole of Mogadishu rose up against the Americans. Black Hawk Down will take its place as one of the American propaganda movies which will be employed to celebrate 'victory' over the powerless and defenceless nation of Afghanistan. It illustrates what the US learned from a previous experience with the Third World.
US leaders learned that the world beyond American soil is a dangerous place, which necessitates the use of dangerous methods. They learned that Americans should, if possible, never again dirty their hands through engaging in man to man fighting with 'morally inferior' enemies. The Somali conflict is a product of imperialism.
Colonisation by three different powers divided Somali land into five pieces. It was then torn apart by rival powers during the Cold War while the US helped maintain decades of dictatorship. All of this explains the background to Somalia. This film's psychopathology, arrogance and egocentrism do not.
WARSAN FOWZI left Somalia in 1990 as war began. Members of her family were in the country during the US invasion