That Time Ilhan Omar Smeared U.S. Troops Involved in Black Hawk Down Battle
On October 3-4,1993, a force of about 100 American troops fought off more than 1,000 heavily armed Somali militiamen who pummeled them with a steady barrage of small arms and rocket attacks in what Army Times called "an intense, coordinated ambush."
The protracted 15-hour "Battle of Mogadishu" left 18 Americans dead and 73 injured. In its aftermath, horrifying images of American soldiers being dragged through the streets of the war-torn city were broadcast into American homes.
Guess whose side of the battle Somali native Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) took in a 2017 post on Twitter?
Omar was responding to a tweet that inaccurately described the battle "as the worst terrorist attack in Somali history."
"In his selective memory, [the writer] forgets to also mention the thousands of Somalis killed by the American forces that day! #NotTodaySatan," Omar wrote while she was still a Minnesota state legislator.
Omar's family fled the Somali civil war and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. She and her family later came to the United States, where they were granted asylum in 1995.
In 1993, the U.S. military was in Somalia leading a humanitarian mission to protect food and aid from being stolen by warring militias. The country had collapsed into anarchy in 1991, and more than 300,000 Somalis were facing famine.
One of the worst actors exacerbating the suffering of the Somali people was warlord Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid, who had directed attacks against our U.N. allies, killing dozens, as well as a bombing that killed four U.S military officers.
As a result of those attacks, the U.S. Military launched "Operation Gothic Serpent" to "begin focusing on raids to capture Aidid and his top commanders, according to Army Times.
Those raids, initially the kind soldiers train for routinely, erupted into a crisis when militiamen downed two Black Hawk helicopters using rocket propelled grenades.
Journalist Mark Bowden chronicled the ensuing Battle of Mogadishu in his book and later the movie Black Hawk Down in vivid and harrowing detail.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, one of the Black Hawk helicopter pilots who was shot down and held captive by Aidid's militia, took exception to Omar's contention that "thousands of Somalis" were "killed by the American forces" that day.
He told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), "Losses taken on the Somali side came as a result of their attempts to ambush our ground convoy and flight of aircraft. Our forces, being vastly outnumbered, fought to save their own lives. All the Somali militia had to do was walk away, but they persisted," Durant said.
What's more, Omar exaggerated the number of Somali casualties.
Somali casualty counts vary dramatically, in part due to the nature of the battle. But few credible estimates place the figure anywhere near the "thousands" Omar claimed were killed.
Only 133 Somali militiamen died in the fighting with U.S. Rangers and Delta Force soldiers, Capt. Haad, a representative of the Somali National Alliance (SNA) said in a 2001 interview with Author Mark Bowden. He estimated 500 Somali deaths in his book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, considered the definitive account of the Battle of Mogadishu. Others put the Somali death toll closer to 1,000. A 2000 Rand Corporation report estimated 300 noncombatants were killed.
Higher estimates may be related to the swarm-like tactics used by thousands of Aidid's clan members to overwhelm American forces. Women and children also attacked the U.S. troops, carrying everything from machine guns to knives and machetes.
"Relief organizations from the U.S. and our international partners went to Somalia to try to end the widespread suffering and death from starvation of hundreds of thousands of Somali people," Durant said. "The mission was an overwhelming success. Without harming a single Somali or destroying any property, the military force was able to provide security, open the supply lines and get food, medicine and assistance to the Somali people, effectively ending their suffering. Had the story ended there, Somalia could have gone down as one of the most successful peacekeeping efforts in our military's history."
He added: "As a nation, we and our political leadership should be proud of what we did there. We put our most precious resource on the line to help starving people. In return, my friends' remains and those of my comrades were dragged through the streets. I do not hold all Somalis accountable for the actions of a few, but I certainly take issue with the remarks of Congresswoman Omar."
Zuhdi Jasser is another veteran who was offended by Omar's tweet.
Jasser was a Navy physician on the U.S.S. El Paso in late July 1993, almost two months before the Battle of Mogadishu.
He says he can't watch the Black Hawk Down movie because he knew many people who served in the Somalia operation.
Omar's 2017 comment "clarifies the narrative with which she speaks about America," Jasser said. "Her reflexive response was that America killed thousands. I'm especially sensitive about this because I'm a member of the VFW because of my service.
"My ship deployed to Mogadishu, and we were there to help after a famine."
Omar's comment promotes the Islamist narrative that the American military is evil, and that, at best, the U.S. only looks out for itself instead of humanitarian interests, Jasser said.
"If anyone ended up killing people it was the response of Aidid's guys that ended up doing that," Jasser said. Omar's criticism of U.S. soldiers is symptomatic of what he sees as her anti-Americanism.
"I'm particularly offended as an American and as a Muslim that nobody is holding her accountable for these radical views that really view our soldiers as the problem rather than the solution," Jasser said. "She doesn't see terror groups as an issue. She's asked for lighter sentencing for ISIS war criminals. She ignores Al-Shabaab recruitment from her district – the highest in the U.S. – and fought our CVE programs there with CAIR."
As IPT notes, Omar's Islamist-friendly worldview is particularly concerning because she sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which deals with legislation and oversight regarding international relations, including "war powers, treaties, executive agreements, and the deployment and use of United States Armed Forces; peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and enforcement of United Nations or other international sanctions; arms control and disarmament issues."