The Hot Zone

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Hot Zone

Yahoo has teamed up with journalist Kevin Sites, who will "spend the next year covering every major global conflict ... in "The Hot Zone."

The first dispatch come from Somalia, where 12 years ago the infamous "Black Hawk Down" incident occurred. Sites does a good job of explaining an oft-ignored point regarding just what had happened in June of 1993 and the role it played in the fury unleashed on the Army Rangers four months later
So much of what many Americans, including myself, know about Somalia comes from watching news coverage of the aftermath of the Battle of Mogadishu, and the chilling image of Somalis dragging a dead American soldier through the streets.

It was a seminal moment for Americans who collectively shook their heads and wondered how Operation Restore Hope, a joint humanitarian effort to protect United Nations relief supplies from falling into the hands of warlords, degenerated into bloody combat.

Historians say the key moment was when the mission shifted from protecting food supplies to capturing Aidid.

A major misstep in the operation, acknowledged even in the U.N.'s own independent inquiry, was a United States-led attack on what was believed to be a safe house in Mogadishu where members of Aidid's Habr Gedir clan were supposedly meeting to plan more violence against U.S. and U.N. forces.

In reality, elders of the clan, not gunmen, were meeting in the house. According to U.N. officials, the agenda (which was advertised in the local newspaper) was to discuss ways to peacefully resolve the conflict between Aidid and the multinational task force in Somalia, and perhaps even to remove Aidid as leader of the clan.

17-minute combat mission

What eventually took place on July 12, 1993, was a 17-minute combat operation in which U.S. Cobra attack helicopters fired 16 TOW missiles and thousands of 20-millimeter cannon rounds into the compound.

When the operation was over and the smoke had cleared, more than 50 of the clan elders, the oldest and most respected in their community, were dead. Many here agree that was the turning point in unifying Somalians against the U.S. and U.N. efforts here.

It would also lead to the deaths of four journalists, killed by angry Somali mobs when they arrived to cover the incident.
This is only the first installment, but I like what I see so far. Giving a journalist dedicated to covering "hot spots" his or her own forum is undoubtedly a good thing and I plan on reading it regularly.

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