All the recent stories about Somalia have left me with the same question:
Why do the people there hate us?
Why are the people there killing our soldiers, stripping their bodies and dragging them through the streets?
Don't they know that we came to feed them?
So why are they trying to kill us?
Examine the account of Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, the captured American helicopter pilot who was released yesterday.
"We lay there on the ground beside the aircraft," Durant told a British journalist, "and I saw people coming out of tin shacks trying to get to us."
Eventually the Americans ran out of ammunition. "Then the people got to me and started to hit me," Durant said.
The crowd pulled off Durant's clothes and started carrying him through the streets.
"They held me up in the air," Durant said. "Some people would break through the crowd and hit me."
Durant was saved from the crowd. But why was the crowd angry at him?
We can understand why the soldiers of warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid would want to attack American soldiers. We are fighting Aidid and trying to capture or kill him.
But why would ordinary people rush out of their "tin shacks" and start beating wounded American soldiers?
We have not been "Ugly Americans" in Somalia. American soldiers have been punished by our military for even relatively minor brushes with Somalian civilians. (One American soldier was fined, reduced in rank and sentenced to a month at hard labor for stealing a cane from a street vendor and then punching him.)
We have not brutalized the people of Somalia or tortured them.
So why do they hate us?
Because the United States is fighting as part of a United Nations mission. And if there is anything in the world that you want screwed up, you should let the United Nations handle it.
Much has been made over the June 5 ambush of Pakistani United Nations forces in Mogadishu. Some 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by Aidid's gunmen.
Very little has been made, however, of what followed eight days later:
Pakistani soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons on a crowd of civilians in Mogadishu.
A 10-year-old boy had the top of his head blown off. A 2-year-old boy
was shot in the stomach by a high-velocity bullet. At least 20 civilians were slaughtered.
And then, as the survivors lay in the streets begging for help, the Pakistanis got in their U.N. vehicles and roared off.
"There was a man whose arm was almost severed," Paul Watson, a reporter for the Toronto Star, said. "He was basically mush from the hips down. The guy was still alive when the U.N. trucks passed by, but they just kept on going."
"I saw three trucks with Pakistani soldiers roll right past injured kids," Alexander Joe of Agence France-Presse said. "The injured kids looked up at the Pakistanis as if to say, 'Help,' but they didn't even look."
"This is an absolute disaster," a U.N. official said after the killings. "Before this, we had the moral high ground."
Remember how angry you were last week when you saw pictures of our slain soldiers in Somalia? So how do you think the Somalis felt when they saw pictures of their slain children?
Four days after the massacre, President Clinton held a news conference. He strongly criticized Aidid for his killing of U.N. soldiers, but spoke not a word against the slaughter of Somalian civilians by U.N. forces.
This did not go unnoticed in Mogadishu.
Mike McDonagh, head of an Irish charity group in Somalia, made an eerily accurate prediction: "Aidid can come out of this looking like a rose. [The Pakistani United Nations forces] are out of control. They'll never be able to regain control in Mogadishu. There'll be permanent sniping at them from now on. This thing can escalate and escalate and escalate. People will get angrier and angrier."
They have. The people are angry at the United Nations and the United States and all those who have stayed to "nation-build" in their country.
We came to feed the people. And the people were fed.
But we should have left before the people were fed up.