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New Left Review I/230, July-August 1998

Alex de Waal

US War Crimes in Somalia

In his foreword to Mogadishu! Heroism and Tragedy, Ross Perot wrote: ‘Read this book carefully. Never forget its contents as you watch the tv docu-dramas of smart bombs going down air shafts, where war is presented in a sterile, sanitized environment. Remember, war is fighting and dying.’ [1] Kent Delong and Steven Tuckey, Mogadishu! Heroism and Tragedy, Westport, Conn. 1994, p. x. Notable by its absence from the final sentence is the verb ‘killing’. Careful readers will find, for example, that us helicopters fired off no fewer than 50,000 Alpha 165 and 63 rockets on 3 October 1993 in the course of the battle near the Olympic Hotel in Mogadishu, in which eighteen us soldiers died and one was captured. The book lauds ‘the world’s most highly trained and effective military “extraction unit”’, that gained more decorations than any other American flying unit in us military history for a comparable size of operation. [2] Ibid., pp. 90, 93, 99–100. But there are only hints at the carnage among the Somali civilians who lived—and all too commonly died—in this closely packed residential quarter of the city.

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Alex de Waal, ‘US War Crimes in Somalia’, NLR I/230: £3

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