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Page 25
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Only Those Who Have Died Will Ever See the End of War

By Bob Riggle (Reviewer)

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Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War
By Mark Bowden (Signet, 2002)

Black Hawk Down
Directed by Ridley Scott
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley Scott
Written by Ken Nolan and Steve Zaillian
Starring Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, and William Fichtner.


If you're ready for close to two hours out of two hours and 24 minutes of sheer chaos, death, destruction, fear, anger, rage, and absolute madness, then this movie is for you. Of course, the book comes nowhere near as intense, but ain't it always that way?

"Black Hawk Down" is based on a true story about a group of Special Operations forces in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. This group consisted primarily of U. S. Rangers, some Navy Seals, a few USAF combat control technicians, and the Deltas, AKA D-Boys/Operators. The mission: to capture some major lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

What was supposed to be 37 to 60 minutes became nearly 18 hours of madness. As we all have seen in our military careers, the best-laid plans for a successful mission can and often do go wrong. Despite similar, totally successful missions in the past, this one couldn't seem to get anything going its way. Part of the problem was the communications system. There were three or four tiers of communication, from spy planes high above the fight area, down to the JOC (Joint Ops), down to the ground troops, who somehow were supposed to have the entire picture. Go USA. Was this the only major thing wrong? No!

The opening shot of this movie is a quote by Plato, the title of this review. I knew right away it wasn't going to be pretty. Ridley Scott did a fantastic job of showing the intensity of the situation. There were some special effects, but nothing really spectacular. We've all seen war movies and seen the mangled bodies. However, the scene with the one ranger with his entire lower torso blown off seemed realistic, as did the scene showing the man who accepted an unexploded RPG round through his midsection. In the movie, they were mainly freaked out about getting him out of the vehicle, because it was still hot. They then proceeded to flop him around like a sack of turnips. The book treated him more gently.

With, I'm sure, more PCness, the Somalians were referred to as "Sammies" and "Skinnies" in the movie much less often than they were in the book. The disdain of the D-Boys toward the Rangers was also less then presented in the book. The D-Boys thought the Rangers were too young, too regular Army, and too ill-trained. Maybe so. This attitude also carried over to the 10th Mountain Division. Even the Rangers thought they took things too lightly. Being Airborne myself, all I can say is: "Fucking Legs."

Okay. On to the good stuff! The collateral damage was so much minimized during the movie - almost nonexistent - that it's almost like we were the good guys. Not so in the book. Come on, that many rounds, sent off in any direction from a force of 120-150 troops, into thousands of rioters and militia, aren't going to hit something, innocent or otherwise? There came a point during this mission-turned-chaos when these young, elite bucks began to wonder why they were there. Thoughts of betrayal began to make sense to them. U.S. Ranger Sergeant Mike Goodale was wounded in action and sure he was about to die:

He thought about what a terrible thing it was to turn over responsibility for his life, his very existence, to the U.S. government, and because of it he might be breathing his last breath in this shit back room, on this back street dirt floor, in Mogadishu-Fucking-Somalia.

He reflected on how he really wanted to go to war. How he could be or live parts of those war movies he had watched in the innocent years. Suddenly, he resigned himself to the fact that he could die, and now. "People really get killed."

There was an attitude in the book not expressed in the movie. These kids were video game freaks; they just imagined these people were actually shooting at them, actually trying to kill them. How dare they?! We belong to the strongest, most powerful nation on earth - how dare you try to kill me?! Welcome to war, dudes.


Bob Riggle is the coordinator for VVAW's Milwaukee chapter.


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