Date: Tue, 24 Mar 98 13:23:13 CST
From: Platformist Anarchism <>
Subject: (en) US massacred 1,000 Somalis
Article: 30718
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US massacred 1,000 Somalis

By Richard Dowden, The Observer, Thursday 22 March 1998

Revealed: how trapped soldiers fired indiscriminately on crowds and used corpses as shields

As president Bill Clinton begins a six-country tour of Africa today, new evidence has emerged of how trapped United States troops indiscriminately fired on crowds of Somalis in Mogadishu in 1993, killing more than 1,000—five times the ‘official’ number.

In a dramatic new account of the battle in central Mogadishu, collated from hours of interviews with American and Somali survivors, Mark Bowden of the Philadelphia Inquirer has revealed that US troops abandoned their rules of engagement—to fire only when threatened by fire—and shot down every Somali they saw, including women and children.

It happened 10 months after US marines landed as part of a humanitarian effort to feed starving Somalis cut off by the civil war. On the afternoon of 3 October 1993, a hot sleepy Sunday in Mogadishu, a group of 40 Delta Force, Special Forces and about 75 Rangers set off to try to capture Somali leaders supporting General Mohammed Farah Aideed, the Mogadishu warlord, who were meeting in a house near the centre of town.

According to Bowden’s account, US troops took hostages and murdered wounded Somalis and a prisoner. They also used the bodies of Somalis as barricades. Bowden also reveals that, far from the official version of the mission (that it was not intended to kill anyone) helicopter gunships began the ill-fated raid by firing anti-tank missiles into houses.

While Canada, Italy and Belgium all held inquiries into the excesses of their troops in Somalia and even put some of them on trial, the US has never held any public investigation or reprimanded any of its commanders or troops although Les Aspin, the then US Defence Secretary, resigned some time afterwards. Yet compared with what the Americans did that night, the excesses of other national forces were child’s play. The revelations of the Mogadishu massacre come barely a week after America finally laid to rest the ghosts of the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam by awarding a medal to the officer who exposed the atrocity.

Bowden’s account, now available on the Internet and to be published as a book in the autumn, threatens to start a new controversy in the US military. Despite the debacle, the commander of the mission, Major- General William F. Garrison, took full responsibility for what happened, describing it as ’a success’, while US personnel who died were all given medals, as were many of the survivors. Other key players were promoted.

At the time, the world’s media concentrated on dramatic television footage of the naked bodies of US soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, and the drama of a helicopter pilot taken hostage. The Somali dead were a sideshow, a bland figure, estimated at about 200.

Bowden, however, quotes Ambassador Robert Oakley, the US special representative to Somalia, as saying that more than 1,000 Somalis were killed. The incident occurred after the US-led peacekeeping force had handed over to a multinational United Nations force under the command of a Turkish General, Cevic Bir.

Neither he, nor the UN Special Representative in Somalia, a retired US Admiral, Jonathan Howe, had been informed about the Delta Force raid. Nor was the UN consulted when the US military decided to hunt down Gen Aideed.

Backed by 17 helicopter gunships, they stormed the building where the Somali leaders were meeting and took 24 prisoners. They planned to drive the three miles back to the US base but could not get out of the area. First one and then another Blackhawk helicopter was shot down. Without a back-up force the convoy ended up going in circles, trapped by hundreds of Somali gunmen firing AK47s and rocket grenades from rooftops or moving with the crowds.

Eventually it had to be rescued by units from Pakistan and Malaysia. But by that time they had been involved in their biggest fire-fight since the Vietnam War and their discipline and organisation had disintegrated.

Bowden describes the convoy trying to escape from the maze of streets in which it was hit by a hail of rockets and bullets at every corner: ’Some of the vehicles were almost out of ammunition. They had expended thousands of rounds. The back ends of the remaining trucks and Humvees in the lost convoy were slick with blood. Chunks of viscera clung to floors and inner walls.

The second Humvee in line was dragging an axle and was being pushed from behind by the five-ton truck behind it. Another Humvee had three flat tyres and two dozen bullet holes.

Seal Sgt Howard Wasdin, who had been shot in both legs, had his legs draped up over the dash and stretched out on the hood. Yet another Humvee had a grenade hole in the side and four flat tyres. They were shooting at everything now. They had abandoned their new mission (to rescue the downed helicopter pilots). Now they were fighting just to stay alive as the convoy wandered into one ambush after another, trying to find its way back to base.

Dale Sizemore, a young Ranger, describes blasting at everything they saw. Rules of engagement were off. Sizemore saw young boys, seven and eight-year- olds, some with weapons, some without. He shot them all.

In one incident Rangers took a family hostage. When one of the women started screaming at the Americans she was shot dead.

In another incident a Somali prisoner was allegedly shot dead when he refused to stop praying out loud. Another was clubbed into silence. The killer is not identified.