The United States Army was the villain in the "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., wrote in a 2017 Twitter post.
Omar, a Somali native elected to Congress last fall, was responding to a tweet that falsely described the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu as the worst terrorist attack in Somali history. The original tweet noted that 19 American soldiers were killed and 73 American soldiers were wounded.
Omar has repeatedly generated controversy, largely for anti-Semitic statements about Israel which employed old canards about Jewish power and money. House leaders forced her to apologize in February after she tweeted "It's all about the Benjamins baby," referring to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) alleged spending and its purported influence on American policy.
A few fringe characters have reacted to the Omar controversies by making threats against the congresswoman. Omar is an elected official, however, and her viewpoints remain a fair point for debate despite those hateful acts.
A few fellow Democrats have also noted her anti-Semitism. Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath and Dan McCready, a candidate for North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, have turned down contributions from Omar, The Daily Caller reported last Wednesday.
She also is building a record of inaccurate statements. Most recently, she incorrectly said that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was founded after 9/11, when "some people did something" and Muslim Americans faced new civil rights threats. Many critics saw the "some people did something" line as minimizing the magnitude of the al-Qaida attack on America. But as a basic fact, CAIR – her host that night – was formed in 1994 as an outgrowth of a Muslim Brotherhood-created Hamas support network in America.
Omar's attack on U.S. soldiers involved in the "Black Hawk Down" incident appears to have gone unnoticed until now.
Her tweet saying that "thousands of Somalis [were] killed by the American forces" exaggerated the Somali death toll and omitted important context.
It completely missed the point of the U.S. involvement in Somalia, retired Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, who was shot down in Mogadishu on Oct. 3, 1993 and held captive by the militia loyal to Somali warlord Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). The U.S. military was in Somalia as part of a humanitarian mission to save starving Somalis and protect food and aid from being stolen by warring factions.
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.
"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.
Durant's Black Hawk helicopter, code named "Super 6-4," was shot down after a rocket-propelled grenade hit its tail rotor. Durant was injured and ran out of ammunition fighting back as a human wave of militia approached. Delta Force snipers Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon were killed when they joined him trying to keep the Somali militia at bay. Each was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Somali mob dragged their bodies through the streets of Mogadishu. Durant ultimately was captured and held by Aidid's militia for 11 days before being released in a prisoner exchange.
Aidid, the mission's target, was considered a prime culprit in worsening the suffering among Somalia's people, Durant said. When the country's government collapsed into anarchy in 1991, more than 300,000 Somalis fell victim to the subsequent famine.
"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."
President George H.W. Bush began "Operation Restore Hope" in December 1992, saying that he hoped to ease suffering and save lives. At least a quarter of a million people had died at that point due to famine, he said, and five times that number were in danger of dying without immediate action.
Aid workers faced assault, armed gangs hijacked food convoys and stole food after it was delivered, he said. Ships carrying aid were shelled.
"Only the United States has the global reach to place a large security force on the ground in such a distant place, quickly and efficiently, and save thousands of innocents from death," Bush said.
"As a nation, we and our political leadership should be proud of what we did there," Durant said. "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."
Omar's family fled the Somali civil war, initially taking refuge in Kenya before making it to the United States in 1995.
Durant isn't the only veteran connected with the mission in Somalia to take offense with Omar's tweet.
Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, was a Navy physician on the U.S.S. El Paso, which served in Operation Restore Hope 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."
This worldview is even more concerning since Omar has been assigned to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is tasked with legislation and oversight on 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."