Thursday, April 09, 2009

Birth of a Notion

Somalia? History? Who the hell needs research when there's a a movie that tells you everything you need to know - a movie so accurate and so truthful that its Washington premier "attracted Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Oliver North and other military top brass."

Can you guess what the movie is? A listen to NPR's Thursday morning coverage of Somalia piracy might help:

Tom Bowman checks in with Ari Shapiro who asks, "What options does the US, and do American allies, have in these kinds of situations?" Tom responds:
"....there aren't that many great alternatives. Admiral Gortney, the commander of the 5th Fleet says that the best way to deal with this is to create a more stable government in Somalia, but of course the United States tried that before back in 1993, going after the warlord Mohamed Aideed and it led to a lot of bloodshed, in a movie and book called Blackhawk Down."
After Bowman and Shapiro, NPR has a second report with Renee Montagne interviewing familiar "expert" - Maj. General Tom Wilkerson of the US Naval Institute. Wilkerson explains that dealing with Somali piracy "is not a Navy problem; it is an American problem and the American leadership has to decide at some point when they're going to accept that the pirates can not have a safe haven on land...." Montagne interjects
"when you suggest trying to deal with a safe haven on land in Somalia - again as Tom Bowman and Ari have just spoke about - that brings up some pretty bad memories for the US: Blackhawk Down and what happened in the early 1990s when they tried to tackle Somalis' militias."
Let's review our NPR history movie lesson: The US tried to bring stability to Somalia back in 1993 but that "led to a lot of bloodshed" and "brings up some pretty bad memories for the US."

Don't get distracted by the fact that from 1977 to 1991 the US poured weapons and support to Somali dictator Barre who wreaked havoc on traditional Somali social structures and pitted clans against each other. And definitely don't bring up the sudden rise in piracy (and death and misery) that followed the US/Ethiopian invasion of Somalia late in 2006. And please don't worry about the basic distortions of events and facts in the Pentagon-approved (and revised) movie about Somalia. And...

Let's just say that there's a wee bit of danger in relying on racist, grossly inaccurate movies to simplistically retell and reshape the past. Then again movies like Blackhawk Down, in which there are good guys (us) and evil bad guys (them) do give one (or certain reporters at least) a certain warm, clannish reassurance about our past - what a notion!


Porter Melmoth said...

I'm surprised that the Tripoli War of the early 19th century wasn't brought up. That was a nice little 'pirate war' that brought glory to the US.

The US's Saddamizing (no pun intended - support the strong man, screw the country) of Somalia is yet another contemptible example of imperial exploitive policy.

The movie correlation is valid, but any more, these types of international diddlings are more like a goddam video game.

Anonymous said...

There is a huge irony associated with Blackhawk Down, of course.

The Right wing has used that movie to attack Clinton (and "Liberal" policies in general) ad infinitum* decrying the death of the American troops as a result (18 died in the ensuing battle) ... when they have been utterly mum about all the US troops who have died in Iraq (4271) and Afghanistan in the wars of their hero W. (would not even allow pictures of the caskets)

*former Boston radio shock jock Jay Severin used to harp on that incessantly a few years back (before he was exposed as a liar and hack by the Boston Globe)

ANY dead US troops is too many in cases like these where we have no business being involved to begin with, IMHO.

But the double standard is striking, nonetheless.

WarOnWarOff said...

The Islamic Courts had mostly controlled the pirates, but of course then we had to arm Ethiopia in order to get rid of any semblence of stability there.

gopol said...

To be fair and nuanced, should tell the history of WWII by referring listeners to Catch 22:

"America will lose the war and Italy will win it."

"America is the strongest and prosperous nation on earth. And the American fighting man is second to none."

"Exactly. Italy, on the other hand, is one of the least prosperous nations on earth. And the Italian fighting man is probably second to all. And that's exactly why my country is doing so well in this war and yours is doing so poorly."