Déjà vu -- Black Hawk Down part two

The Battle of Mogadishu, also known as the Black Hawk Down incident, was part of Operation Gothic Serpent and was fought from 3-4 October 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, between the forces of the United States and Somali militiamen loyal to Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Although not by choice, I happen to have a very close association to that hellhole known by those who have served there simply as “The Mog.” First while serving as a member of the Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC and secondly while serving as the Commanding Officer of USS Rushmore (LSD 47) during Operation Restore Hope and supporting forces ashore in Somalia.

Prior to this pivotal battle, MG “Bill” Garrison, my commanding general at JSOC, requested armor support, but this request was denied by then-secretary of defense Les Aspin and the Clinton administration for fear that the “optics” of utilizing armor would not play well to our allies. This denial of requested forces was made despite the fact that the humanitarian mission had then shifted into one of peacekeeping -- our primary focus shifted to ensure that the warlords were kept at bay and not utilizing the aid we provided to control the local populace.

American casualties in the incident included nineteen dead and seventy-three wounded. MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shugart were both awarded the Medal of Honor as they chose to remain on the ground defending the crew of the downed helicopter knowing they would face certain death from the ragtag mob.

Ultimately, this failed battle shifted American foreign policy and led to an eventual pullout of the UN mission. This embarrassing retreat was ridiculed by Al-Qaeda, who were responsible for training the fighters that downed the helicopters. In the aftermath of the battle, dead American soldiers were dragged through the streets by Somalis, which was shown on American television. You may also recall that Representative Ilhan Omar called these same soldiers “Satan” even though they saved both her and her family.

Fear of a repeat of the failed battle was a reason for American reluctance to get further involved in the region it was a major factor that affected the Clinton administration's decision to not intervene in the Rwandan genocide, which took place six months later. Unfortunately, I happened to be there for that unmitigated disaster as well.

Fast forward to 2021 and we recently witnessed the debacle of our withdrawal from Afghanistan. Thirteen young American lives were squandered needlessly. Again,  despite the advice of both military leadership on the ground and in the Pentagon, the administration in power proceeded forward ignoring the advice of those in uniform in a fruitless attempt to execute their own failed and naïve political agenda.

When I saw the images of our service members returning at Dover in flag-draped caskets and saw our commander-in-chief constantly glancing at this wristwatch as if to say, “do I really have to be here,” I felt that against my will I had been transported back to 1993.  When will our civilian “leadership” ever learn from the lessons of our recent past?

Image: National Archives

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