Proud to be a socialist!

Brendan Sexton III responds to "Did 'Black Hawk Down' Sell Out?"

By Salon Staff

Published March 20, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Read Michelle Goldberg's story

In response to Michelle Goldberg:

While reading the piece entitled "Did 'Black Hawk Down' sell out?" I was grateful for the press coverage, yet I was also disappointed in the content of that coverage. Feeling grossly misrepresented, I couldn't let it pass without a response.

The article seemed to have an air of condescension, without actually presenting any real or genuine political criticisms, or concrete factual dispute with the points raised: that coverage from all types of media on the war in Somalia in 1993 has been highly insensitive to the deaths of thousands of Somalis.

Ms. Goldberg spent much of the article mocking those at the event who criticized the film instead of focusing on the issues of a much greater concern that were discussed at length. I'm sorry Ms. Goldberg found the politics of my friends and me "anachronistic" and took a jab at me for referring to a "bearded, middle-aged black man" as brother. I'm sorry that I wasn't aware that expressing black/white solidarity was an ancient practice that is now passé and no longer en vogue.

It also seemed to me that Ms. Goldberg was out to attack my credibility by misrepresenting how I thought my character, Pfc. Kowalewski, was "opposed" to the U.S. occupation of Somalia in 1993. I have never tried to represent "Alphabet" as having had a political dissatisfaction with the Army. As Mark Bowden referred to, my understanding -- through talks with soldiers at Ft. Benning -- has always been that he had a fiancée back home and didn't want to have people shoot at him and didn't want to shoot at people himself. Please reference Richard Kowalewski in the index pages of Bowden's book "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War."

Furthermore, asking me to "provide proof" of "ostensibly censored lines" to one in a hundred scripts I've read in the past year to prove the validity of my sentiments is a bit absurd.

I'm disappointed that much seemed to be made of my physical gestures of expression and style of speech and dress, and not my political convictions. If Ms. Goldberg had disagreed with me and provided a sound, concrete argument against my case then I would have nothing but respect for someone willing to take me on politically. Instead, I was treated as naive and my argument as "hyperbolic" and rhetorical, with some truth thrown in there. Last I checked presenting fact is not hyperbole. The CIA -- maybe more of an authority on the subject than Mark Bowden -- admits to close to 10,000 Somalis being killed during the U.S. occupation of Somalia in 1993.

When the oil company Conoco's Somali headquarters was used as the office for the American embassy, we should see that as a hint of possible reasons for militarily intervening in Somalia, not political exaggeration. We should see that the U.S. used the "Bravo" Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment and the people of Somalia as guinea pigs in a post-Cold War Pentagon public relations campaign and military experiment in the kidnapping of a warlord. We should also remember the photos of Belgian U.N. soldiers literally roasting a Somali child over a fire to show the true nature of this particular "humanitarian" military intervention. That's not rhetoric; that's the true face of modern-day war.

Stating that the U.S. provided about $70 million worth of arms a year to the dictator Siad Barre's regime in Somalia is not hyperbole; it's stating what is par for the course in terms of U.S. foreign policy. I again encourage people to read Bowden's book, and read what Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal, former directors of Africa Watch -- a division of Human Rights Watch -- have to say about the U.S. intervention in Somalia.

As far as the ISO being an "intellectually dubious organization," I have never been prouder to be involved with an organization that has consistently taken an anti-imperialist stance on all U.S. interventions, even when it has made us temporarily unpopular. This has allowed us to provide venues for people like Howard Zinn ("A People's History of the United States") to speak on our magazine's national antiwar speaking tour. As well as people like Gregory Palast, of British Guardian fame, and the book, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy"; Amy Goodman from the radio show "Democracy Now!"; Colleen Kelly of Sept.11th Families for Peace Tomorrow; along with numerous others too lengthy to list here. People should find out for themselves at the Northeast Regional Socialist Conference on March 30 and hear from some of these incredibly dynamic, often unheard voices.

Thank you to the editors of Salon for allowing me to respond (thoroughly) and I hope that the editors and Michelle will understand my grievances.

-- Brendan Sexton III

Salon Staff

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