There's no doubt that the American soldiers involved were heroic.
One aspect that I think was ignored in your program and press coverage at the time was the absence of AC-130 Spectre aircraft.
I believe that not having Spectre was an internal decision within the military, made somewhere near the joint chief of staff level and was not a decision made by the politicians.
If such gunships had been available, it is likely there would have been fewer American casualties, although more on the Somali side.
By ignoring the decision on Spectre, the spin on the story shifts to the civilian political shortcomings and ignores the major military blunder.
Publicized or not, one would suspect that those who made the decision learned from their mistake and that it will not be repeated.
We may not want it, but we've got it- the role of the World's policeman. However, it's an honorable role, and one we can and should be proud of. We're going to be able to do it a lot better if we can overhaul the existing machinery that continues to cause such messes; and the blame and responsibilty lies outside of our armed forces.
A starting point might be to examine the qualifications required to occupy the nation's highest office, the Presidency. If we can't insist that an incumbent have some real military background, and that's probably not feasible, then we need to investigate a means to ensure that a military action, once joined, is unfettered by ignorance and self-serving vote-driven agendae; a tough proposition in a democracy, and deservedly so, but it's surely long overdue some changes.
PBS's coverage of these tragic events was excellent and should give real pause for thought- and might bring scrutiny to bear on those whose actions and behaviour are so evidently unforgiveable and unjustifiable: the President, Ms. Albright et al.
The contributions of the military personnel involved in this particular debacle, and others before, must be recognised and appreciated; both our own folks and hapless others, viz the Pakistani forces.
'Heroism' and 'heroes' are terms overly used in the media and elsewhere, applied to football and baseball players, and so forth. The real heroes are the men and women of the armed forces who are prepared, and sometimes called, to duty. They are standing in for the rest of us; we owe them our full and effective support.
An ex-F4 driver.
Chris Laidlaw Bell
As a Ranger I am proud of your professionalism, your dedication to your comrades, and your sense of duty. It is far easier to espouse the Ranger Ideals than to live them. You deserve your nation's respect in spite of the way that you were wasted by inept and cowardly politicians. You trully are a national asset.
stratton mtn., vt
This is my junior year in high school. Many of us are going to join the military because we either have no money for college or no ideas of what to do after school.
But what is going to prevent us from going home in a body bag due to bad policy. What is going to prevent this from happening in Bosina or any other place where are troops sent on peacekeeping mission?
To me, it seams like are troops are merely there for the politicians to show the public that they have strength and show that there not just there for the American people but for the hole world to use. This policy has to change.
For Example; for to long we just threaten to use deadly force on the Serbs for their war crimes. We should do one of two things. Leave Bosina all together, or get rid of the Serbs who commit these war crimes.
I'm tired of hearing nonsense by our leaders saying that they know best. If our leaders knew best, then we wouldn't have this innocent in Somolia.
san antonio, texas
I watched with a feeling of helplessness that I'm sure can't begin to compare with what the soldiers on the ground felt.
My heart goes out to the survivors and the families of the fallen.
It strikes me the dramatic difference between the Government response in Somolia and the recent missle attack on international terrorist. We decided to make Adide pay by capturing him (and bringing him to trial?), and we made the terrorist we thought responsible for the embassy bombing pay by destroying a warehouse where a large number of terrorist were alleged to have been meeting. I can only hope this was due to a lesson learned in Somolia and not an attempt to divert attention from the Presidents problems at home.
The men who died, did so in pursuit of everything they though was worht dying for and so to say they died in vain is to dishonor thier memory but I think it safe to say they died needlessly.
Your report on Mogadishu was excellent. It pointed out what appear to be two common themes that have occurred when our elected officials haved assigned military forces to carry out operations overseas and ended up with high casualties: (1) the mission is unduely constrained or unrealistic and (2) insufficient forces are committed to carry out the mission. The United States had considerable military equipment that could have avoided the casualties in Mogadishu but failed to send it over even after the political decision was made to commit to a de facto intervention into the civil war in Somalia.
It also emphasized why character is important in a president. President Clinton's taped remarks about the tragedy seemed hollow, not heartfelt. For a fraction of the cost of investigating the alleged instances of misconduct in the Whitehouse, the men that were so humanly depicted in your report could have had the resources they needed to accomplish the political goals set forth by Clinton and Albright without the unfortunate bloodshed. I wish that the President had devoted the mental effort to resolving the situation in Somalia that he has put into attempting to resolve his legal matters. It would have saved many young lives.
I am moved by the interviews showed on your program, especially those of the precious lives who were there in Mogadishu. I do not feel that the ones who died did so in vain. I believe that they died as they lived, for each other. But their blood lies on those who sent them there. I have always believed in obeying orders and looking up to our leaders. But all that is crushed now. Lives have been lost. If there is a hereafter, i hope they will finally pay. As for those who died and for those who managed to stay alive, i hope for peace for them. That is all that i can say now. Peace and Hope.
Shirley Jean Sanchez
san antonio, texas
I echo a lot of the same sentiments already expressed and don't want to repeat them. Time and time again while watching, I found myself wondering why this society doesn't have an appreciation for the Forces that protect it.
I see this time and time again during my day to day and it frustrates me to no end. As a former Marine Corps combat infantryman and the VP of a placement company that finds jobs for honorably discharged veterans and their family members, I am so utterly disgusted by what private companies say about military veterans.
" They're too rigid."
" They don't know how to express themselves."
And many, many more. Looking at ALL of the Rangers interviewed, who wouldn't want those guys working for them? After all, it's our tax dollars that trained them. Don't we owe them something? Have we as a nation grown so far from those that keep us safe?
To those still serving, take heart. There are a few of us out here that still care.
"Ambush in Mogadishu" was a remarkable piece of filmmaking. It succeeded in illuminating some recent history which, like so much of actual significance, was woefully underreported by the television media at the time.
However, the piece seeemed designed to answer the question,"did our soldiers die in vain?" I wonder if this is the right question to ask. Sgt. Thomas said it best, when he said that his comrades died in service to the idea of a sense of duty and to protect their buddies. Missions go wrong and enemies are sometimes underestimated. The quality of the operation itself in no way undermines the significance of the deaths of the young men who did their duty bravely.
I was concerned that the Rangers, considering their status as an elite Army unit, seemed seriously emotionally underprepared for the realities of a firefight. It has become obvious that any future conflicts in which the U.S. will be involved will probably be between well-armed, well-fed U.S. troops and hungry, angry people who have nothing to lose. It should be clear by now that all of our technology and wealth is unable to overcome desperate men willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause without some casualties.
I believe the U.S. and the U.N. initally became involved in Somalia for good, humanitarian reasons. I do believe it is the responsibility of the U.S., as the strongest, richest country in the world, to defend human rights wherever possible, even if it means that in some extreme situations we will have to endure casualties. What we and others have allowed to happen in the former Yugoslavia is the shame of the industrialized world. Feeding a starving child is at least as worthy a mission as defending national boundaries or natural resources, which are the usual reasons given for military operations.
Frontline did its viewers a disservice by failing to give an update on the situation in Somalia today (even on this website!) or to inform us as to whether the service of the Rangers and their sacrifice in any way helped end the famine in that country. Surely that is an important question to answer.
new york, ny
This was truely a masterfully told story. I was completely rivited by the entire episode.
The contrast between the dicipline of the soldiers and the mindlessness of the policy which guided their mission held me in a perpetual spell of disbelief. Perhaps I am benefiting by hindsight, but my meger understanding of military doctrine still says that the commanders (both military and civilian) should have known better.
Specifically, the scene in the beginning where soldiers were demonstrating their readiness to spectators by were roping out of a hovering Black Hawk played through my mind as they performed the same operation in the streets of Somalia. Only in this latter instance there was no announcer to tell the Somalis how, for the sake of the troop's safety, such an undertaking should only be carried out under the cover of darkness. Unfortunately, it would appear that the gunmen did not need any such prompting regarding the ensuing vulnerability of both the men and the choppers. Impertinance is a word that comes to mind, as well as arrogance as foolishness--perhaps Desert Storm had been a bit too successful...
I wish that Frontline would follow up this piece with one examining what went on at the higher levels of power and what effect the protracted US administrative transition might have had on the decision-making process.
Finally, I would like to sincerely thank the men and women of our armed services for the work that they do, and are prepaired to do--I feel at once proud and humbled. No one who lived so purposeful a life could ever die in vain.
I watched the program with great sobriety. I served in Mogadishu from August to December of 1993, during the bulk of the heaviest fighting. It was surrealistic watching the images again. I was not a combat soldier, I was an Air Force radio disc jockey. I always felt that even though I was there, I wasn't part of the "real mission." Watching your program made me realize that I was. The night of October 3rd, we announced on the radio and television that the hospital was collecting blood donations for the injured soldiers. I have no proof, but I am sure that our actions helped save lives. Hats off to those who supported the Rangers and those in the Quick Reaction Force (10th Mountain Division) who rescued the Rangers that night!
fort worth, tx
Your show brought back a lot of memories. I was a member of the 10th Mountain Div. and served in Mogadishu during the Oct 3rd Battle. The incident in Somalia will live in me for the rest of my life. Once again, when one mixes politics with a military operation, the soldier is the one who pays the price. Our glorious leader The Unhonorable President Clinton laid the framework for our brave servicemembers paying the ultimate price. This is just another reason for Mr. Bill to be run out of office. We can't have a draft dodger making critical military decisions. It's also rather peculiar that Mr. Clinton never visited the troops in Somalia during the entire operation. My thoughts go out to all the men and women that served in Somalia, especially, the ones that gave their lives.
On the political front, many questions are left unanswered. The Clinton Administration has taken the blame for the political debacle in Somalia. Yet questions over the "peace" negotiations, and brokered deals with the know-deceased-Somalian warlord still remain unanswered. Perhaps it's time for someone in the Clinton Administration to tell the entire truth over Somalia!
Of course, it will be a long time before we will ever know what really happened in that small nation.
The same goes for the Reagan Administration's fiasco in Beirut, the Bush Administration's failure in Grenada and the truth behind the poisoning of our own troops in Desert Storm.
My condolences to the families and friends of the 18 military personnel who gave their lives in a text-book military operation. As soldiers, they fulfilled their obligation in taking care of business on behalf of their grateful nation.
I wish Frontline had included more voices of ordinary Somalis not involved with military activities. My impression is that they desperately wanted "peacekeeping" forces, but were caught in the middle when the US changed its cource and went to war with Aideed.
It looked like Vietnam all over again. A mission that started out under the pretense of helping a native population turns into a 'limited war' run by bureaucrats in Washington.
The people responsible for the lack of armor and failure to provide adequate strength for reserve fighting forces should be held accountable. I have never seen an answer from the Clinton administration as to why they denied the requests of the military for routine, even basic equipment.
Not since the micromanagement in Vietnam have so many died and been injured because of the incompetency of Washington bureaucrats. Now you know why there is opposition to Clinton involving us in Bosnia. The same situation exists in the Balkans as did in Somolia: lack of equipment, bungling direction from Washington, and ignoring military leaders on the scene in favor of diplomatic photo-ops.