"Leave no man behind"
January 16, 2002 10:47 AM   Subscribe

"Leave no man behind" is the tagline for the new Scott/Bruckheimer battlepic, Blackhawk Down.

In October of 1993, US Rangers and Delta Force personnel stationed outside of Mogadishu, Somalia, launched what should've been a 30 minute grab-and-go mission to capture higher-ups under the command of Mohammed Aidid, a Somali warlord. Before it was all over, many hours later, 19 US servicemen and 1000+ Somalis were dead.

PBS has a decent writeup on the Bakara Market ambush, but I still feel like I am missing something. Some sources share the movie's claim that the US was there to support humanitarian relief efforts, that Aidid was preventing the distribution of food. Others say we were there to protect American oil interests.

So what really happened on that day in October 1993? The movie opens on Friday, I saw it last night, and I am still exhausted. Admittedly, this film is far better than Pearl Harbor (no contrived love-triangles are used as a framing device here), but for all the simulated shooting and on-screen heroism, it still seems hard to make out the truth through all of the Hollywood dust. So I guess I am wondering, can we prevent Hollywood's versions of history from replacing the truth (or even the truth-as-we-knew-it)? Should we even try? Is it even possible?
posted by grabbingsand (38 comments total)
We have already seen Hollywood approved history stamp all over many times. Braveheart was almost presented as a documentary (and I say this as a Scot), then there was that submarine flick about the Enigma machine. That one really annoyed me. I have to admit a certain tinge of almost disgust when one of those Blackhawk Down trailers comes on TV.
posted by jackiemcghee at 10:54 AM on January 16, 2002

Solution: read the book. And I'm pretty sure far more than 1,000 Somalis died (mostly from infections from gunshot wounds that could not be treated in local hospitals, which were overflowing)
posted by insomnyuk at 11:11 AM on January 16, 2002

The movie is a fairly accurate adaptation of the book by Mark Bowden, which itself was based on extensive interviews with the American combatants and is the most complete document there is of the actual battle. The book doesn't delve too deeply into the politics behind why America was in Somalia, and neither does the film, so Scott cannot really be accused of rewriting history; politically this movie is a blank page.
posted by dydecker at 11:13 AM on January 16, 2002

The nice nice thing about hollywood crap-u-mentaries like "Pearl Harbor" is that only the hopelessly gullible will find them convincingly truthful and confuse them with history.
posted by plaino at 11:14 AM on January 16, 2002

but for all the simulated shooting and on-screen heroism, it still seems hard to make out the truth through all of the Hollywood dust.

I have heard the film accurately protrays the theme that no one knew what was going on, or why they were doing it, which from all reports is how it exactly happened.

Among the broad range of comparisons between hollywood tales of war and real history, from what I've heard, this film is pretty close to the truth, and atypical of hollywood war epics.
posted by mathowie at 11:19 AM on January 16, 2002

I didn't know missiles and RPGs moved that slowly.
posted by websavvy at 11:21 AM on January 16, 2002

I think the point of this movie is to give a very specific point of view: that of the servicemen who were ordered to undertake this mission. It's an interesting perspective, these are the guys who are sworn to protect America in whatever way the brass deems fit. Why they are there is not a question they are permitted to ask, and it's not necessarily relevant to telling the story of these men's experiences.

I think it's a very interesting perspective and should not be confused with a geo-political analysis. Rather, it's the story of what happened to these guys on these days. In many ways, this is far preferable to a movie that tries to 'explain' the ramifications, motives, and reasons behind military action, because then you're getting a point-of-view dressed up as a historical document.
posted by cell divide at 11:24 AM on January 16, 2002

The Black Hawk Down book was excellent. The story originally appeared as a series of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Inquirer has a site has the original newspaper series, along with photos and multimedia. There's also a companion documentary, which won an Emmy.

And dydecker is right: the book (and presumably the movie) is much more about the experiences of the soldiers in combat than it is about the politics.

As for the movies-as-history question, all of the movies mentioned so far are fictional, so I wouldn't expect them to be completely accurate. They are stories set in particular times and places, not documentaries of those times and places. Unless there are glaring inaccuracies or gross distortions, they're allowed creative leeway.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:31 AM on January 16, 2002

posted by kirkaracha at 11:31 AM on January 16, 2002

cell divide's point is well taken. I remember running into a highschool friend who had enlisted and was back from Somalia a few years ago. He was telling me about traveling with a convoy (he was a mechanic) and his commanding officer (or whatever the proper jargon is) ordered him to man a gun when they came under attack by snipers from a nearby building. From what he said, it was mostly kids shooting at them and when his officer orederd them to level the building, they had to follow orders.

To me, I can't adequately put my mind in that situation. You're being shot at, there's kids doing it and you're ordered to gun them down. I assume that I would follow orders, probably mostly out of self preservation, but that's something that would haunt me throughout my life.
posted by jonah at 11:35 AM on January 16, 2002

I get the impression--correct me if I am wrong--that the poster is not convinced that the film is correct as to basic facts and is being told in comments to read the book, which itself, so posters say, isn't sure why we were there. The film then can't be wrong if the book doesn't jibe with the facts. And seemingly we are not going to get The Truth. Art misrepresent Art which misrepreset Truth, perhaps. Lordy,a complicated world.
posted by Postroad at 11:36 AM on January 16, 2002

Entertainment Weekly's article about "Black Hawk Down"
Most interesting part to me: how Tom Sizemore describes the area in Africa where they are shooting...Sizemore delicately describes it, ''it's a Third World smell: s--- and dead cat and garbage. It's the stench of death.''

posted by ColdChef at 11:37 AM on January 16, 2002

I have heard the film accurately protrays the theme that no one knew what was going on, or why they were doing it....

That cannot be denied. The audience is easily caught up in the confusion, not knowing really who-is-who (young white men with shaven heads are hard to distinguish in bad light), where they were and where to fire.

The why question bothers me. Why were we there?

The movie may appear to be a political "blank slate," but the Rangers are clearly wearing the white hats, while the Somalis wear the black. And as our country is currently pondering an armed re-entry into Somalia, the portrayal of Somalis as driven militia is easily grafted onto the new idea of Somalis as determined terrorists.

In other words, current events are marking this blank slate.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:42 AM on January 16, 2002

And I am sure that Tom Sizemore has spent a lot of time smelling s--- and dead cat's and garbage, to be so familiar with the stench of death.
posted by bittennails at 11:44 AM on January 16, 2002

Mark Bowden's book was excellent. It put me in mind of Robert Mason's first-person account as a combat pilot in Vietnam, Chickenhawk. Both books illustrated the immense bravery and skill of our soldiers, and drove home the lesson that they are not to be used frivolously. (Scott/Bruckheimer could do worse than Chickenhawk if they're looking for a followup movie.)
posted by whuppy at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2002

Of course the whole Blackhawk Down fiasco was political. Any military or 'policing' action is political. To me, it seems the reason we were there was because the U.N. was busily trying to supplant local warlords in a bid to feed starving Somalis.

The reason our troops were so vulnerable was because they were denied the ability to bring in Bradley APC's (armored personnel carriers) and AC-130 gunships in support of their operation. Eventually Pakistani and Malaysian APC's were brought in to help with the rescue effort. They were denied this support, ostensibly, because bringing in armor and planes would have looked much more like a war time manuever rather than a police style raid and arrest.

The other political consideration is this: Why are we acting as the muscle for executing the U.N.'s own political ambition? As far as I know, were it not for the U.N., we would not have been in Somalia. Why do we think that the U.S. should be the world's nanny? We can't force warlords to feed their own people. But we keep trying. We try to keep the peace all over the world, and terrorists are killing us in our own backyard. We have 1 million troops in 170 different countries (I didn't even know there were 170 different countries). If that isn't old-fashioned doomed to failure imperialism, I don't know what is.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2002

Tom Sizemore slept with Liz Hurley, so you're probably right.
posted by John Shaft at 12:14 PM on January 16, 2002

Jonah, they cease to be children after the first bullet whizzes past your head.

Regardless of the traditional concept of childhood, certain decisions ("Hey, I'll take up arms") and beliefs ("Killing people is OK") carry with them the grave consequence of battle. If they choose to fire upon U.S. soldiers, fire will be returned with an intent to kill. It's an unfortunate fact of the matter, but it's necessary, as in many third world countries children start to find as young as 8 or so. An obvious solution would be for us not to be there, but that's another story for another time.
posted by jgooden at 12:35 PM on January 16, 2002

Looking for truth? In a movie? Hey, movies are entertainment, like the news on tv. And like Carol Anne said when this subject came up in a different context:if there's a piece of scum among the participants, just rewrite history.
posted by Mack Twain at 12:46 PM on January 16, 2002

Well Hey, thanks for the spoiler.
You could've said.
posted by ajbattrick at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2002

Ah, what fantastically sheltered lives we all must lead, such that we get to care about this sort of thing. Hey, let's all condemn Hollywood for the portrayal of an event, rather than do something about the circumstances that produced the event! Yeah!
posted by aramaic at 1:04 PM on January 16, 2002

thanks for the spoiler.

you're kidding me, right?
posted by grabbingsand at 1:17 PM on January 16, 2002

Somalia was a case of mission creep, and inattentiveness. Daddy Bush sent our people over there on a humanitarian mission, then he lost the election, and Clinton did not
focus clearly in the early period of his administration.
The Clinton types blame Colin Powell for what happened (he was still a general).
posted by Slagman at 1:40 PM on January 16, 2002

The main problem with “Black Hawk Down,” or any Hollywood representation of "history," is that the format of a movie lacks the ability to provide its watchers with the proper context in which the events take place. One just can’t cram all the complex issues inside a film that is less than two hours; not to mention the clear pointed political object of the film." Here's a good Salon.com article on the issue.
I haven't seen the movie, but it looks like the typical Scott movie, big explosions, but not a lot of substance.
posted by Bag Man at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2002

The other political consideration is this: Why are we acting as the muscle for executing the U.N.'s own political ambition? As far as I know, were it not for the U.N., we would not have been in Somalia.

Insomnyuk: please read this article from the L.A. Times.
posted by electro at 2:12 PM on January 16, 2002

Looking for truth? In a movie?

It isn't that people look for truth. It's that they look for exciting movies, with explosions and guns and good cinematography, and come across something that seems like truth (when it is not) because it uses the names of real people and places and is cast in the hollywoodized context of a real event. For a lot of people it will be their only exposure to the event and many will accept what they see as fact because they haven't any real perspective or lack the will or ability to think critically about what they see. Then, with their heads full of crap they go to the voting booth and choose leaders like George W. Bush
posted by plaino at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2002

Electro: not surprising but certainly depressing. Thanks for answering my question. However, the U.S. is not the only nation interested in oil, many other nations have large oil concerns (like Sweden and Britain) and have a lot of power in the U.N. Sweden is on the human rights council right now.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:32 PM on January 16, 2002

skallas: One of the Rangers (John Stebbins, the one Ewan McGregor plays) was convicted of molesting a kid in 2000 (the events depicted happened in 1994, no?). The Army pressured the screenwriters to change the name of the character in the movie, which they did.

I'm assuming that this is the "rewriting history" alluded to above. I don't think that it's a significant issue, but others may disagree. On the other hand, Stebbins' ex-wife is pissed that he's being portrayed, even fictionally, in a positive light. I think most would agree that is a non-issue.

While Stebbins ended up doing 30 years in Leavenworth for child molestation, that doesn't change the fact that on that one particular day, he was a hero.
posted by jaek at 4:02 PM on January 16, 2002

I'm told by a friend who works on the edge of the film business that the script for Black Hawk Down contained several scenes counterpointing the situation in Somalia with the situation in Washington, giving the movie an extra level of depth -- sorry to sound vague but I don't have more details than that -- and these were shot but were removed in editing. Whether that was because of the September 11th effect or because the movie's 144 minutes already, I have no idea.

According to the IMDB, if you like Black Hawk Down then you should also like... Operation Dumbo Drop. I think someone at the IMDB has a dark sense of humour.
posted by Hogshead at 7:02 PM on January 16, 2002

Some sources share the movie's claim that the US was there to support humanitarian relief efforts, that Aidid was preventing the distribution of food. Others say we were there to protect American oil interests.

these are not mutually exclusive. there are always multiple considerations in every overseas action that involves use of military forces. I remember reading case studies and declassified docs about this incident in '97 while doing some work for a class on international security and decisionmakers involved pretty candidly stated that we had definite security interests in the region, but it didn't eliminate the fact that humanitarian aid was another objective. (Anyone that thinks the two are not related has a very shallow understanding of public policy.)

Failed states and massive humanitarian tragedies (which tend to occur in tandem) create very real security problems for the international community. Somalia was, for all practical purposes, a failed state, and famine exacerbated the negative aspects (crime, corruption, humanitarian tragedies) of that. as a result, it produced massive refugee flows that drained the resources of surrounding states and caused even more instability in the region. somalia was effecting our already fragile relationships in the middle east and north africa. the bottom line is that we *did* want to fix humanitarian problems in the region. Not because we're an altruistic state (who is?!), but because problems of somalia-in-'93 scale affect our economic and political interests. they affect others as well, which is why there wasn't exactly a burst of international outrage when we went. we were doing the dirty work for several other states as well.

the salon article, however, while correctly stating that the movie was free of context, was extremely naive in insinuating that the somalian hatred of U.S. forces in the Black Hawk Down incident stemmed from our policy in the region. (The tired and fallacious if-something-bad-happened-to-us-we-obviously-did-something-to-deserve-it argument.) Most man-on-the-street somalis had no idea what the U.S. was doing in the region - good or bad - and were ruthlessly manipulated by the various warloads that were still jockeying for power at that point. don't kid yourself into thinking these warloads were motivating crowds by making legitimate claims about the sins of U.S. policymakers. oh no. they were telling the masses the most horrific things they could think of no matter how implausible, (more along the lines of "americans eat somali children for breakfast" than "the U.S. is here because their big corporations want to exploit oil reserves in the region") because there was no one to contradict them, and given the general lack of knowledge of the U.S., even the most ridiculous stories seemed plausible - especially when the only exposure you have to america or americans in general comes in the form of a scary-looking ranger with a gun and a lot of space-age equipment. in a place where people barely (or rarely) have food to eat, much less electricity, the warlords don't exactly have to worry about people getting a more objective picture from CNN. al-jazeera's usual commentary would have sounded like a love letter to the U.S. compared to what people were being told by local leaders.
posted by lizs at 7:32 PM on January 16, 2002

i haven't seen any of the commercials for the movie yet. who's the leading lady? Hollywood always makes these things into love stories, doesn't it?
posted by tolkhan at 8:23 PM on January 16, 2002

Here's the UN's own backgrounder on UNOSOM I, which unfolded from limited coordination teams to a Security Council resolution imposing an arms embargo to another unanimous resolution calling for a humanitarian assistance mission. Note particularly that the United States did not participate at this time. A $700B aid program began, but soon deteriorated under the conflicting aims of local warlords:

Implementing the programme proved difficult. Continuing disagreements among Somali factions ... made the effective deployment of UNOSOM impossible. The Special Representative [resigned and was replaced]. On 28 October, General Mohamad Fahrah Aidid declared that the Pakistani UNOSOM battalion would no longer be tolerated in Mogadishu. He also ordered the expulsion of the UNOSOM Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance. Subsequently, Aidid's forces shelled and shot at UNOSOM forces controlling the airport, and [other] forces shelled ships carrying food as they attempted to enter Mogadishu port. General Aidid objected to United Nations control of the airport; [others] wanted UNOSOM to take full control of the port. On 13 November, after coming under machine-gun, rifle and mortar fire, the Pakistani troops controlling the airport returned fire. In the absence of a government capable of maintaining law and order, relief organizations experienced increased hijacking of vehicles, looting of convoys and warehouses, and detention of expatriate staff.

In other words, the situation in Somalia deteriorated severely before the United States ever got involved. The forces most viciously opposed by the warlord Aidid were fellow Muslims from Pakistan. In December, the UN Security Council again passed a unanimous resolution (remember: this includes not only the five permanent members, but also the temporary regional members in rotating seats) to authorize the United States deployment of a security force. The US forces remained there under a marginally improved security profile, but the UN remained concerned as aid was not getting to the provinces and looting and violence against humanitarian workers continued.

Finally, under UNOSOM II, the mandate of the force was expanded as follows:

monitoring that all factions continued to respect the cessation of hostilities and other agreements to which they had consented;
* preventing any resumption of violence and, if necessary, taking appropriate action;
* maintaining control of the heavy weapons of the organized factions which would have been brought under international control;
* seizing the small arms of all unauthorized armed elements;
* securing all ports, airports and lines of communications required for the delivery of humanitarian assistance;
* protecting the personnel, installations and equipment of the United Nations and its agencies, ICRC as well as NGOs;
* continuing mine-clearing, and;
* repatriating refugees and displaced persons within Somalia.

That's a pretty heavy workload, and again, this was the goal that all members of the UN Security Council agreed on, with the US presence providing a backbone but hardly the majority of the forces. This phase led to a peace agreement and plans for an interim government and disarmament of the warlords.

At this point Aidid's cooperation deteriorated swiftly. Following the transition to UNOSOM II in May 1993, it became clear that, although signatory to the March Agreement, Aidid's faction would not cooperate in the Agreement's implementation. Attempts to implement disarmament led to increasing tensions and, on 5 June, to violence. In a series of armed attacks against UNOSOM II troops throughout south Mogadishu by Somali militia, 25 Pakistani soldiers were killed, 10 were reported missing and 54 wounded. The Special Representative stated that the soldiers were "murdered as they sought to serve the neediest people in the city". The Security Council adopted [a resolution] strongly condemning the unprovoked armed attacks against UNOSOM II. On 8 June, 11 Somali parties condemned the attacks and expressed support for [this] resolution.

So, we had a US presence as part of a UN humanitarian mission that was starting to deteriorate under the determined opposition of a warlord who stood to lose power under the interim government. After non-American forces tried to disarm his troops, he massacred them, placing the entire mission in danger. If the troops themselves were at risk of outright mob violence and murder, how safe were the humanitarian workers? The next step was explicitly authorized by the United Nations Security Council members. Even though the United States had been expecting to ramp down its presence in Somalia under UNOSOM II, setting a firm withdrawal date of March 1994, the new conflict with Aidid required them to participate in an escalation of the mission, which involved several obvious things like taking control of the radio station and forcibly disarming those militia they could. After the June massacre the United Nations issued an arrest warrant for Aidid. (The UN, not the US.) This is when the Army Rangers went in, later joined by the Delta Force squadrons and temporarily the AC-130 gunships. Even so, it was not until October of 1993 that the fatal raid took place.

Were there Western oil interests present in Somalia? Yes. Was there contact with the representatives of those oil interests? Yes. Would a stabilized Somalia be profitable to Western oil and business interests? Yes. But it would also be a humanitarian boon to the people of Somalia, and this was the basis for the 100% agreement of the entire United Nations Security Council on every step of the UNOSOM mission. The US didn't even want to play a central role, with plans to quietly slip out and let the UN run things, until the murder of UN peacekeepers forced a response.

Amazingly, with a globalized economy and free trade covering most of the globe, there is a high likelihood that US or Western business interests will already be present wherever there is a conflict. Noting this is hardly evidence, in and of itself, of murkier, craven motives. To say "we were there to protect American oil interests" is to trivially oversimplify a very complex situation.

Alex Cox, the author of that column, is well known as a left-leaning muckraker. Cox's narrative "capriciously" suggests that Bush moved unilaterally by "sending in the Marines", but this part of the mission proved relatively peaceful. It was not until the unprovoked massacre of Pakistani soldiers that the UN mission character changed to one of confrontation with Aidid. Cox sneers that the Marines' main task was "guarding oil men" and places scare quotes around the word partners (why not just come right out and say lackeys?). In any case Cox deliberately omits in his story any mention of the massacre which provoked the unanimous response of the United Nations Security Council. Nope; Cox has it that we just "decided that Aidid was [our] enemy". What a foul lie, Mr. Cox. In describing the fatal raid, Cox omits any mention of the deliberate RPG attacks on US helicopters, and suggests that the US troops became "confused" when surrounded by an angry crowd and proceeded to "massacre" Somalis. Cox fails to note that this angry crowd was armed and had been primed over a period of weeks for just such an ambush. The RPG attacks on the helicopters involved planning, procurement, training, and strategizing. Cox would like to have it merely be an "angry crowd" but it was a disciplined militia force that hid inside an angry, incited crowd. Then he goes off on an "all American elite forces are racist" riff that probably satisfies his muckraking impulse but fails to ask a single soldier whether he harbored racist feelings for the people of Somalia. (Most of them didn't; they thought they were doing a good deed, boy scout style.)

Really, that's a disgusting little piece of distortion and I've lost any respect for Alex Cox now that I've read it. I mean, if you're going to tell this story and say not one word about the massacre of the Pakistanis, how can you lay any claim to honesty? The word Pakistan does not even appear in the article. Cox: for shame.
posted by dhartung at 11:38 PM on January 16, 2002 [1 favorite]

According to the Independent, the book's author toned things down compared to his earlier writings.
posted by southisup at 11:58 PM on January 16, 2002

Bowden's book has been, by some, called the most accurate and in-depth account of US military action ever written. It is a minute by minute account based on extensive interviews of the men on the ground (from both sides), in the command post, in the air directing the battle, as well as classified radio and video transcripts. I read this book in 1999 and was both joyed and fearful when I heard that it was being made into a movie. Joyed because I had never read such a powerful and gripping story and fearful that no movie would be able to capture what was in the book without introducing a love story and a liberal revisionism of history.

I tried to see the film back in Dec. on the day it opened in Los Angeles and NY. At the first theatre I went to the line for the film was around the block and the next two showings were already sold out (I was trying to catch the first showing of the day). I called Moviephone and found that it was playing across town but Moviephone didn't offer advance ticket sales for that theatre. I drove across town and the film was playing on two screens and was sold out for the entire day (this was around 11am in the morning).

I eventually saw the film (the next day) and it was perhaps one of the best war movies I have ever seen. It stayed (mostly) true to the book and captured that sense of complete confusion and though you know the final outcome (either from reading the newspaper or from reading Bowden's book), it was one of the few films based on actual events where I was constantly on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. It was definately the best film that I saw in 2001.

The beauty of both the book and the film, is that if you can put aside your analysis of world events and/or why we were there, it's a story of 99 men engaged in some of the most fierce and frightening combat the US has seen since Vietnam. It's a story about courage under fire, complete chaos, and men reaching deep within themselves to do the right thing. The right thing being, to not let the guy next to them down. Surrounded by over 5000 armed Somalis, low on ammunition, many without water (they were supposed to be in and out in a 1/2 hour, why carry the extra weight?), nearly every man wounded, no word on when help would arrive, and with 18 of their commrades dead, they didn't abandon their duty to each other.

Regardless of what your politics or thoughts on whether or not we should have been there in the first place, this story isn't about Washington or the UN. It's about the 99 men on the ground and it's about heroism. To imply otherwise is as cowardly as Clinton for calling the men out of there following the incident. The press has potrayed it as a failed mission, but many military strategists view it as one of the greatest moments in the history of US combat.

And as a side note, it has been speculated that bin Laden trained men took part in the battle and that the immediate pullout afterwards helped form bin Laden's impression as the US not having the stomach to fight him.
posted by billman at 12:44 AM on January 17, 2002

southisup: I've been looking up Cox's charges about the "war crimes". One is clearly wrong, a prisoner praying in the back of an Army 6x6 who was killed by incoming fire, not by the Rangers. The other is a woman who was unarmed, but jeopardizing the position of the retreating and surrounded team. Bowden (not Dowden as Cox writes!) did include that incident in the book form, which the explanation that she was pointing out where to shoot, making her an unarmed combatant. A very tough call in any situation.
posted by dhartung at 6:26 AM on January 17, 2002

dhartung: Cox was referring to an article in the Independent by Richard Dowden. Also, his description: “... Rangers took a family hostage. When one of the women started screaming at the Americans, she was shot dead,” does not, to me, sound like the incident in Bowden's book in which a lone woman was periodically running towards the building where the Rangers were hiding, pointing out their locations, and running back when Somalis started firing. But you're right, a tough call, anyway.
posted by transient at 7:06 AM on January 17, 2002

transient: That Dowden account [here] is merely derivative of Bowden's account, in a paraphrase for which I can find no specific analog. It seems to be Dowden's spin on the same incident based on the sketchier account found in the Inquirer piece. It is not, and should not be considered, independent reporting from primary sources.
posted by dhartung at 5:34 PM on January 17, 2002

Although I don't know what Dowden's sources are, I'm still not convinced that they're talking about the same incident. Dowden and Bowden just seem to be describing two different things. If that's “spin,” it's been spun beyond recognition.

At any rate, it's probably a bit pointless to go back and forth about this or that incident, but before this thread falls into oblivion, there are two key ideas in Bowden's book that I thought were interesting. He makes the point many times that the attitude of the Rangers and D-boys is that questions of human rights and rules of engagement are generally out the window in such situations (and paints an incredibly vivid picture of the fear and tension that provokes this). There's a great passage in which he relates this, that the politics are dealt with later by the eggheads, but in the third world, men with guns still rule. The other point he makes repeatedly is that these guys are always anxious to get into some “real action,” to shoot something (and be shot at?). They are bored and frustrated when they don't get to go on “real” missions.

I haven't seen the movie, so I may be making a rash assumption, but I'm guessing it doesn't really address the instinct to violence (on all sides) and the ramifications of the unquestioned willingness to distribute death (again, on all sides).
posted by transient at 6:52 AM on January 18, 2002

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