In the film Black Hawk Down (which, by the way, I kind of recommend – kind of, because in spite of some token efforts, it unquestionably succeeds in portraying Somalis as animalistic, blind, vengeful and corrupted, and is an unnecessary paean to American military power (at the conclusion, the US soldiers who died are listed by name and rank; nothing is mentioned about the Somalis who died), but nonetheless found meaningful because it shows the futility of war, the disproportionality of war (over 1,000 Somalis died and 19 Americans lost their lives in the conflict), the endlessness of war (US efforts did little to stabilise Somalia) and the stupidity of war, and the way in which war ends up justifying itself, if only to commend the expense of blood and treasure) – in this film, early on, an important leader in Mohammad Farrah Aidid’s cadre, General Atto, is caught by the American team.
Atto is held at the American base, and while awaiting his outcome, smokes a cigar and drinks tea. Then a US senior military leader enters. Atto, after some small talk, gestures at the expanse of the US base, and says, ‘ You see all this? It is just building tomorrow’.
‘Maybe,’ the colonel answers. ‘But it is a tomorrow without you.’
I may have not got the dialogue quite right, but the meaning is there. It is a while since have seen the film, though I must have watched it 20 times in 2004-2006. Somehow its bleakness and darkness comforted me, during my own winter.
But those lines spoken are timely and true in this country, at this time. The ISAF efforts focus on the elimination of peoples, thinking that with them, the tomorrow will be different. Those captured, and those not captured know that all this intervention is building simply a great reservoir of impatience, cynicism, anger and hatred, and that therefore they have eventually won. It matters little if the individual dies in the process, the dynamic lives on. That is why Saddam Hussein could claim victory even when his city lay in ruins about him: the city could be rebuilt, or destroyed, it mattered little. But in its destruction, at the hands of US forces, something much more durable had been raised: mistrust, suspicion and distance from US policy. Hatred, even. That, was victory for Hussein.
Well, it is not quite the same here, but it is not too different either. The efforts, the blood, the treasure expended by all the foreign forces, it is building – indirectly, unwanted, and unintended, perhaps, but building nonetheless, a massive ocean-current of anger and distrust. Walk around my neighbourhood, and view the expensive vehicles, the million dollar houses. It has not been built through honest labour, but through corruption. Consider a recent report, which comments on,
‘the Performance-Based Governors Fund, which is authorised to distribute up to $US100,000 a month in US funds to individual provincial leaders for use on local expenses and development projects. In some provinces, ”this amount represents a tidal wave of funding” that local officials are incapable of ”spending wisely.” ‘
I don’t know of any provincial government here that could spend that much, honestly. It is too difficult. The infrastructure, the companies, the people, the skills, the resources Simply. Aren’t. There. It is like going to a small country town, to spend $5million. You can’t do it. But you have to. So you end up just handing it out.
What is so hard to understand about this people? Total aid and military spending in this country in 2001 was about 100 million, and then it went to 600 million in 2002, and the to 1.2 billion in 03, and by 2004 it was nearly 2.5 billion.
I wish the aid and military money would end. Then we could just get on with it all.