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"Black Hawk Down", Young Men Dead and B.S.

As I watched "Black Hawk Down" last week at a theatre in Washington D.C., my mind turned to a portion of Minister Louis Farrakhan's Saviours' Day Address in February of 1995. At a certain point during the presentation of his subject, "Jesus Saves" the Minister broke down in tears as he described the wickedness of politicians and business leaders who back war efforts that result in young members of the armies of the world dying in war, for a cause that they do not understand nor benefit from.

While I certainly recognized the propaganda value of "Black Hawk Down" and the negative racial and religious overtones that it has juxtaposed to the current war on terrorism, I was impacted more by the gross ignorance on the part of the young and predominately White (in the film) U.S. soldiers who were fighting in Somalia. They had no idea what they were fighting for and no clear understanding of their interests in fighting the war.

The friend with whom I saw the movie immediately asked me what I thought about the film, as we drove through Washington D.C. I was at a loss for words as I had numerous thoughts in my mind regarding the movie. I actually would not have an answer until the following day for both my friend and myself. And it would not be until almost 24 hours later that the crystallization of what I was feeling and thinking would become clear. Another close friend of mine with whom I attended high school would help refine my thinking, when that friend told me that the History Channel was airing a documentary on the incident in Somalia and that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had attended the premier of the "Black Hawk Down" movie in Washington D.C. That information caused a general distaste to develop in my mind as it became clear to me what I was reflecting over.

The thought of Secretary Rumsfeld attending the premier of a movie that will serve as a propaganda piece that will result in young men - White, Black and Latino dying in ignorance this decade was an irritating one. Here, I thought is the ultimate paradox. On one hand you have a wealthy and politically-conscious old White man in Rumsfeld who is totally clear on why he wants the American military to invade the nations of Asia, Africa and the Middle East in a "war on terrorism" and on the other hand you have young, poor, middle-class; and politically ignorant and naive White men who are totally ignorant of why they are giving the ultimate sacrifice -their lives - in a "war on terrorism". It is almost the most striking juxtaposition of mental awareness and physical sacrifice. The ones who stand to gain the most from this war are not the ones who are asked to sacrifice the most. Rumsfeld's physical proxies pay the ultimate price for the geopolitical and economic benefits that only a small percentage of the American population will reap.

Last week I was a guest on the "Hard Knock Radio" program of Hip-Hop opinion leader Davey D. We discussed the fact that it would be primarily young Black, Latino, White and Asian men who would be the ones dying in a war on terrorism. We discussed last week's article in the L.A. Times that spoke of an additional 45,000 soldiers being called up into the war effort. Anyone, who thinks that Afghanistan and maybe Iraq are the only targets in this effort are out of their minds.

Secretary Rumsfeld and his hawk Deputy, Paul Wolfowitz have already pointed to the Phillipines, Indonesia, and Somalia as next on the list and they have more than hinted that spots in Africa are eventual targets. To think that Hip-Hop listening and MTV and BET watching young people, many of whom have never voted, would be Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz's mercenary representatives abroad - while totally ignorant of the fact that oil pipelines and mineral resource excavation among other things will track their movements abroad - is disgusting and even, depressing.

When the Minister broke down in tears, at the rostrum, in front of 20,000 people and even let a rare expletive(the only time I have ever heard him curse, in public or private) fly when he explained that our "babies" are being sent "to die over bull---" so that a wealthy few can reap the political and financial benefits of war, I began to think over the root of the evil that is exhibited by older men who will ask other younger men to lay down their lives while they (the younger ones) are ignorant - not only of the cause that they represent but also the interests and benefits that their sacrifice will bring for a narrow-minded few. They are ignorant of such because they have been mis-educated and mis-guided as the result of a political and economic system that has failed to identify and cultivate human capital. As a result, young people who could have been molecular biologists, school teachers, financiers, and lawyers are now soldiers, quite often because they had no other choice but to join the armed forces, if they were to earn a regular salary and leave the worst conditions of the innercity.

My father was one such man who served 27 years in the U.S. Army because being born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn had not developed his human capital. He, like the majority of the young Black, Latino and White soldiers who enlist, did not join the Army out of patriotism or to defend free markets, democracy and civil liberties. They joined because it was a way to a higher education and a few dollars in their pockets. Anyone who has served in the military or who has been a dependent in a military family knows that the rhetoric spouted by politicians about "freedom, patriotism and democracy" is, well, bull----. The soldiers know what drives them to fight as they do. The best line of the entire movie is when one of the white soldiers speaks of how hard it is to explain to civilians back home why he is willing to continue to fight. He says, "It's because of the men beside you..." Exactly. And on a smaller-scale any man or woman who has played on a sports team, or in any intense group activity understands that it is the power of fraternity or sorority that drives members of organizations often more than the mission statement that they all say they believe in.

Many journalists, opinion leaders and politicians are pure cowards in their unwillingness to dissent over Bush's widening war on terrorism. Well, we don't have that problem over here. Neither should anyone who currently serves in the armed forces, has served in the armed forces, or who has been a dependent of a non-commissioned officer(NCO)in the U.S. military. It is pure b.s. that is spewed by this country's media and the political rulers that advocate for sending soldiers to war. These simple-minded journalists, especially those on MSNBC, don't care about these poor uninformed soldiers. And the best of journalists, editors and publishers know that these war efforts are not for the protection of freedom. Yet the "mainstream media" that relies upon "Pentagon source", after "State Department source", after " White House source" after "Intelligence sources" for every bit of breaking news and different angles on covering the war expects the public to believe that serving in the armed forces is an honored profession, valued and respected by Americans in society.

If that is the case why do so many military families live below the poverty line? Why are soldiers so under-paid, in the face of $8 billion annually going toward a missile-defense system that doesn't even work? The mainstream media should be more honest about the poverty and dissatisfaction that really exists within the ranks of the U.S. military. All they would have to do to cover the story is track the debate that happens every year inside of the armed forces, over the lack of sufficient pay increases and housing provisions. The debate, for years, has been covered by the military's own press in newspapers like The Stars and Stripes.

Maybe President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz can run the line that the men and women of the armed forces are treated like heroes in order to deceive and intimidate a bunch of punkdified journalists, opinion leaders, politicians, and ultimately woefully ignorant public. But to those of us who have lived in the U.S. military and experienced the lifestyle offered to soldiers, we know that it is nothing but pure b.s. The best question to ask is : why are so many young men and women dying for interests that they know so little about? It is a question that runs throughout "Black Hawk Down". And even one that few politicians are willing to consider, in public. We wonder if the pipelines that many in the military-industrial complex and political and business establishment have wanted built in the Sudan; and to connect Turkmenistan and Pakistan, ran through Secretary Rumsfeld's mind at the premier of "Black Hawk Down".

It ran through mine.

Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

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