Movie Review: Black Hawk Down
Real to Reel Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down --
Slick Propaganda for the U.S. War Machine

Thumbs Down

In the wake of September 11, the release of Black Hawk Down cements Hollywood's role as the U.S. war machine's propaganda arm. This film rewrites the 1993 U.S. invasion of Somalia as a mercy mission, distorting the real causes, reasons and goals. The Pentagon not only assisted with the production and was pleased for an opportunity to "set the record straight," but also got the filmmakers to rush the movie's release ten weeks early to maximize its propaganda effects on the current "war" climate.

The film appeared on movie screens as the U.S. was sending its commandos and troops into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, the Philippines and other countries. Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of Black Hawk Down, openly bragged to General John M. Keane that he was "going to make a movie that you and your army will be proud of." And they are proud-something that should make us scrutinize the film very deeply.

Some of us in VVAWAI were resistant to seeing the movie and were thinking of joining the boycott of it. However, we realized that it was important for vets to see it and inject the truth into the fantasies of Hollywood. We've seen how war movies have been used to distort reality and influence public opinion.

The movie has many bad points. The GIs are shown in detail-we learn about their lives, loves and dreams-they are shown to suffer, to bleed, with the audience being drawn into sharing their pain. While the Somalis are portrayed as "killing machines," their fierceness as irrational and vicious. When the Somali people are shot, they just drop: no follow-up with their families and comrades, no showing of their humanity. The U.S. troops call them "skinnies," a racist and dehumanizing term reflective of the outlook drilled into real troops beginning in boot camp.

By the time the Black Hawk helicopters were shot down on October 3rd, the Somali people had numerous reasons to want to defeat the imperialist invaders. The U.S. operation had nothing to do with humanitarianism and everything to do with oil and control. Several U.S. oil companies, including Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips, were positioned to exploit Somalia's rich oil reserves. Although the pretext for the mission was to save starving Somalis and stop the "evil war lord" Aidid from stealing the food shipments, the true goal was to remove Aidid from the scene and form a pro-Western coalition government out of the nation's warring clans. (Sound like Afghanistan?) Only after the U.S. left Somalia did U.S. commanders admit that as many as 10,000 Somalis had been killed that summer prior to the October 3rd raid. At least 2/3 of the dead were civilians, including children.

By far the biggest problem we have with this movie is its appeal to youth about "honor" "brotherhood" and "loyalty"-the "Army of One" has been replaced with the "Army of No One Gets Left Behind." In Black Hawk Down, the reality behind the U.S. invasion and the atrocities committed are unimportant. U.S. soldiers are portrayed as "heroes" who do their "jobs" with "honor," going to great lengths to save each other's lives. It upholds and makes central the narrow racist view that "American" lives are somehow more important than the lives of the Somalis, or anyone else's for that matter. A perfect justification in the making for waging unjust wars in the very near future.

As VVAWAI has said in the past: "We know that humanitarianism can never flow from the barrels of U.S. weapons." This is a dangerous movie. Many who have seen the film report leaving the theater feeling angry, ready to "kick some ass." The U.S. military desperately needs today's youth to fight their "new," "never-ending" "war on terrorism." While the draft being debated in Congress is part of their efforts to ensure they have enough recruits to fill the ranks, movies like Black Hawk Down are part of the efforts to make sure those recruits have the right attitude going in-a "Good German" mindset. All the more reason for vets to be out among the youth, telling them the true history. This movie is a political weapon in their arsenal and should be exposed and opposed.