Boycotting Black Hawk Down

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, January 18, 2002. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST: In the second Impact segment tonight, the film Black Hawk Down is being released in theaters all across the country today. But some Somali-Americans are calling for a boycott of the movie because they say it depicts Somalis as savages.

Joining us now from Minneapolis is Omar Jamal, the executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center.

Omar, thanks for being with us. What's your beef about the movie?

OMAR JAMAL, BOYCOTTING BLACK HAWK DOWN: Well, first of all, the contents of the message the movie is sending is really very disturbing. And we, up to now, couldn't figure out what message or purpose is this movie sending to us and to the bigger society in this country.

We've been dealing with the impact of September 11 now. And we've been doing legal counseling and consultation to the people that this war against terrorism is not against all Muslims. It's against a specific group. But now this movie is completely set back. And people are really starting to doubt the gospel we've been preaching to them.

KASICH: But Omar, this movie is part of history. This is a movie that's been in the works. In fact, I have not seen the movie, but I've read the book. And the book is really about a number of things, but the overwhelming message is the courage, the patriotism, and the commitment of the American special forces. That's what it's all about.

JAMAL: Well, actually, it's not what that's all about. The book and the movie is completely different. We attending the screening of the movie. Some of us were there in Mogadishu City at the time this event was happening. And some of us read the book.

And it's completely different. And even the book is more close to the factual events of what happened than the movie. The movie is completely convincing and shocking to the community. And therefore, it's completely two different things. Although the movie is based on that book you just mentioned, actually, it has nothing to do with the book. 

KASICH: Well, Omar, my understanding is, and I've talked to our film critic here, Bill McCuddy. And he says all the characters are not developed all that well. But nevertheless, the story's pretty simple.

The United States goes in for humanitarian purposes. The mission changes. They try to capture Adid. They go into Mogadishu that day. Helicopters are shot down. Men are trapped. And a great number of Somalis joined together to try to kill the American soldiers. And they were successful to some degree. Where is the distortion?

JAMAL: Well, we completely disagree with that. The distortion is just, you said that the movie basically lacks the background of the events. What is this war is all about? The Americans went there in a very mercy mission that went terribly wrong. The movie doesn't even say anything about that.

If someone goes in that movie without knowing the background and political circumstances around this event, he or she will walk out confused, because the movie never talks about anything about that. It's just a bunch of guys hunkering down at the airport in Mogadishu City and then they go to war hunting for one of the warlords, Wahlor (ph) Aidid. And at the same time, it undermines the conscious of Somalis, which the movie states 1,000 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Somalis. And some people who were there, actually, have different numbers than the movie has.

KASICH: Well, yes, I don't want to -- I can understand your sensitivity, but the fact is that they did go after Aidid. That's why they got in trouble. And they didn't have the armor there that they wanted. And the mission sort of changed.

But there isn't any disputing the ferocity by which the -- a number of the militia and the warlords engaged in trying to kill Americans over 24-hour period of time. And some say it was the most violent action really, some argue since World War II.

So why would it be wrong to portray this? This is not a hit on Somalis or an attempt to try to say they're all bad people. This is what happened in Mogadishu that day. And there was a lot of loss of life on both sides, which is tragic, but you know, the fact is it did occur.

JAMAL: It did occur. We're not disputing that. The fact that we're disputing here is the way the portrayal of the Somali people in the movie. They're not given any emotional, any human elements.

These are -- they are depicted as beasts and savages running around, killing whoever they can make contact with. This is actually a mission that gone wrong. And we want the movie to a little bit explore a little background of what this situation's all about.

But it didn't do that. And to us, when we watch the movie, we just really very much shocked. And it's true that this is an actual event. This is a true story. However, the movie doesn't portray the fact and the events through the eyes of those who were there. And at the same time, I think the movie director, all they were concerned is to somewhat make a movie, I think.

KASICH: Mr. Jamal, look, I want to thank you for coming on. And I understand what you're saying. And I would say this. You know, there's a lot we can learn from this, including the fact that the mission changed. And whenever that happens on the ground, there's always tragedy.

And in this case, there was a tremendous loss of life involving some, I'm sure, innocent people.  Bottom line though is, I think the movie is about the courage of special forces. I think we can learn from it. And I'm glad you had an opportunity to be here to present your side.

JAMAL: Thank you.

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