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Black Hawk Down, directed by Ridley Scott. Specifically, it will look at a summary of the film, what part of the film was accurate, what impact it had on the period; what impact it had on future periods; and what impact, if any, it may have on you. "Caring about someone's life, rather than your own," is a very powerful and brave belief to breathe under, as declared by producer, Jerry Bruckheimer. "Black Hawk Down" brings out the "heroism under fire" by which every brotherly soldier of the U.S. Rangers and Delta Force reside.
HISTORY AND BLACK HAWK DOWN
Somalia - 1993. Two sides were fighting against each other to gain control of Somalia. One was led by "a member of the Abgal (Hawiye) subclan, and the other by General Mohamed Farad Aidid, a member of the Habr Gidir (Hawiye) subclan" (Lefebvre 49). By November 1991, thousands of Mogadishu residents died when fighting began between the two factions. The capital, Mogadishu, became two separate "cities," separated by a "green line" between the "northern part of the city controlled by Ali Mahdi's forces and the southern half in the hands of Aidid" (Lefebvre 49). Both factions said the food shipments meant for the starving population belonged to them, and as a result, food was not getting to the people.
The Somalian people were starving. "As the result of a two-year drought and internal conflict, by the end of 1992 one-third of Somalia's 7 million people were in danger of perishing from starvation and disease. During 1992 an estimated 300,000 Somalis had died as a result of malnourishment or violence" (Lefebvre 46). The U.N. Security Council had already decided something needed to be done to help the starving Somalis, and had sent 3,000 peacekeepers to deliver food, but there were still many problems. "Before the arrival of the U.S. Marines the only way relief organizations could operate in Somalia was by paying bribes and hiring one or more of the so-called 'technicals' for protection" (Lefebvre 49). Finally, the U.S., after many meetings, decided to send troops to Somalia to aid in the food distribution.
On December 4, 1992, President George Bush agreed to send nearly 30,000 U.S. military forces to Somalia. Under the auspices of the United Nations, their mission would be to provide for the delivery of food and other emergency supplies throughout the country. Bush's decision to implement Operation Restore Hope came one day after the U.N. Security Council had adopted Resolution 794 calling for the United Nations Unified Task Force (UNITAF) to "use all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief in Somalia." A week later U.S. Marines went ashore at Mogadishu. They would subsequently be joined by troops representing more than 20 countries (Lefebvre 44).
After the U.S. And U.N. troops arrived, there was still general anarchy in Somalia, and General Aidid continued to commandeer shipments of food. This was unacceptable to the United States, and they decided to remove Aidid from power, and replace the government. It was an action unshared with the other U.N. forces. The U.S. went in alone. "I am not sure policymakers understood either Somalis' social structure or how sentiment tempered this. For instance, as a catchphrase 'ancient ethnic hatreds' seemed perfectly designed for making deeper understanding seem all the more superfluous" (Simons 204). The biggest problem with the U.S. policy in Somalia was our intention to end the famine, remove Aidid, and thereby "revolutionize" the government. Unfortunately, the government did not seem to understand "Ending the famine and ending the crisis which provoked the famine were two separate issues" (Menkhaus 142).
Because of mismanagement, miscommunication, and a total lack of regard for the resistance fighters' network of spies and weaponry, what was supposed to be a quick, in-and-out 30-minute operation turned into a nightmare. "Black Hawk Down" is the story of the U.S. Rangers and the Delta Force who entered Mogadishu to "extract" Aidid and key government officials, and instead, were pinned down for nearly 24 hours in an ambush by Aidid forces, along with men, women, and children who picked up guns to save their city. As the movie says in the opening scene, "Only the dead have seen the end of war - Plato" (Black Hawk Down).
Black Hawk Down" opens with some background on Somalia, and why the U.S. forces are there, but it is skimpy at best, and leaves the viewer asking questions, such as, "What did Aidid do with the food? Why was he in charge?" A review of the history of Somalia answers these questions, but the movie does not. The first part of the movie, introduces the characters to make them more sympathetic and give some insight as to why they feel the strong camaraderie they do. They are "brothers," and this section of the movie helps establish their bond, as well as their disgust with some of their leaders, such as the scene when they make fun of their commanding officer, and he catches them at it.
This early part of the film humanizes the characters, and makes the viewer care what happens to them, which of course is the entire purpose, so the viewer can be outraged when they die in Mogadishu.
The main portion of the film follows the Rangers and Delta Force as they enter Mogadishu for the raid; code-named "Irene." Unfortunately, as soon as they leave the base at the airport, spies report their progress, and a large group of forces are waiting for them when they arrive. The mission is doomed from the start, when young Blackburn falls from the helicopter and is critically wounded. From then on, it is unorganized chaos. A Black Hawk helicopter is shot down, and another goes down trying to rescue stranded members of the team. The convoy leaves some of the Rangers behind as it tries to get out of the city. Through it all, there is continual fighting, groups of men running from sniper fire, and a general feeling of mass confusion. Where the beginning of the movie was easy to follow, this section is frantic, just as it must have been for the men involved in the fight. There was a lack of leadership. The convoy literally "got lost," and people kept asking where it was. In an interview on Frontline, PFC Anton Berendsen said, "The forward observer up on the top in a helicopter telling us 'go right,' 'go left,' and we started getting lost. And you can just imagine, you know who you feel when you're driving in the city and you're lost, that feeling of desperation. Just magnify it times a hundred" (Weiss). Finally, the convoy abandoned 90 Rangers who were pinned down to get the wounded back to the base. Then, another group of Rangers had to go in to try to get their men out. Through it all, their motto was "leave no man behind," but it was a difficult motto to keep.
This section of the film not only showed the unholy odds the Rangers were facing, it showed how they stuck together, and attempted to save one another. They were genuinely upset when one of their comrades fell, and they did anything to get the wounded out of harm's way. In the scene when the first Ranger is killed while manning the 50-caliber gun on HumVee in the convoy, the characters seem amazed that one of their men was killed in what was supposed to be a simple exercise. Later, they are not so much surprised as angry, and determined to get out alive. This section of the film very realistically portrays the horror of war, and how men are terribly maimed and killed.
This showed the validity of their training, and how they attempted to keep the mission together, and keep the men together, even after the mission turned into disaster. This was the longest portion of the film, and it seemed even longer because of the continual action, and the feeling that this nightmare was never going to end. This seemed to capture what the men were feeling perfectly.
The aftermath was only shown for a few minutes at the end of the film, but it was enough to make the story more poignant, and yet more worthless. One character says, "What's changed? Nothing" (Black Hawk Down), and he was correct. The aftermath of the fighting seemed to show that nothing the Rangers had done made a difference. Somalians still starved. Aidid was still in power, and 19 American men had been killed.
Was the film historically accurate? Of course, given the limitations of a two-hour plus movie, a lot of liberty has to be taken with the content, especially since the entire episode lasted fifteen hours or more. However, the historical accuracy seems reasonably correct, especially in the fighting scenes, where the director was attempting to get the most impact across to the viewer. He showed dramatically how tight the…[continue]
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