Somalia Medal The Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia
A Soldier's Journals
Tuesday, September 28, 2021  

Somalia '93


Changing Orders

7 March 93

Our open fire policies and rules for confiscating weapons have changed again, very effectively tying our hands. We are no longer allowed to shoot people breaching our wire unless they have a weapon or are stealing weapons, ammunition or communications equipment. This is crazy, at night, all you know is that the person breaking into your compound who may have a grenade or weapon and could do you harm. At night you cannot see well enough to make subtle distinctions.

This is all because the media is blowing the killings of the Somali all out of proportion. Once again we are letting our policies be set by public opinion which is shaped by the media coverage and slant they decide to put on the news.

As for weapons confiscation, the sweep of Beled Weyne has been called off. We are no longer allowed to confiscate weapons we find during the day. At night we can confiscate weapons at the platoon commander's discretion (which is questionable.)  Now the bandits will adapt again and start moving in the day. Just the other day bandits shot up a relief convoy killing five people and injuring a score of others. What good are we doing?

They tell us in O-groups that they know where the bandits are, but the intelligence is never acted upon. It is as if higher is just doing their time here and is afraid of actually committing their troops for fear someone may get hurt. That would be a bad career move. They would rather pretend the problems are solved and ignore the evidence to the contrary. Coalition troops are dying, will their deaths be meaningless?

427 Squadron has been arriving over the past couple of days. Hopefully they will be used to give us the mobility we need to chase down the bandits, instead of just to get some flyboys another medal .

We have firm word on redeployment now.  The first troops will be leaving on the 15th of May with the last troops out by the end of June.  The longer the better.

9 March 93

We were relieved from garrison duty at six this morning and were out on patrol by seven.  It was an extremely boring day, two five kilometer sweeps for weapons caches along the river.  It ended up being a hot walk in Somalia.  We did see some interesting things though.  Three boys were copying the Koran onto long planks shaped like tombstones, two large 4 foot long lizards swam in the river (possibly camens), vultures standing over 4 feet high and large cranes almost as big that left footprints about 6 inches long.

In the afternoon we came across a tunnel dug in the side of a bank.  We thought that it might contain weapons, so Daren grabbed my pistol and a flashlight and crawled in like a tunnel rat.  He came backing out swearing as quickly as he went in, it was a porcupine den.  The 13 inch long quills around the hole attested to its size, but no-one else was willing to go in and look for themselves.

We returned to camp before dinner to find more beer in the canteen.  Happy day.

Orders tonight were interesting.  All sweeps have been called off because coalition forces in other sectors are not keeping up with disarmament, leaving the people in our area open to bandits raiding from other areas.  Bandit activity is on the rise on the border of the Italian sector.  We are also allowed to confiscate weapons again.

12 March 93

The last couple of days have been busy.  I have been taking the classroom portion of a scuba course which I will finish on R & R in Mombasa.  I'm really enjoying the course and may take the advanced and rescue courses next month. It is rather strange though, sitting in the middle of the desert, without water in sight, learning to scuba dive.

I read in a scuba magazine and advertisement for a commercial diving course at Seneca.  I could probably make a better career commercial diving as opposed to being a climbing guide.  It would allow me to keep climbing as a passion/hobby rather than pollute it by leading wannabes up easy routes.

Last night we went on an all night patrol with full blackout drive.  We patrolled the eastern part of our sector down to Yesouman returning to camp at close to 3 a.m.

13 March 93

I spent most of yesterday catching up on my sleep and writing letters.  The days are becoming unbearably hot.  The average temperature is over 50 degrees celsius in the shade, Ugh!

In the past couple of days we have killed two camel spiders in our tent.  They are huge beasts, the colour of sand and the size of my hand.  It makes me nervous sleeping with them running around.

We guarded 1 commando's compound last night then took over garrison duty here this morning.  I am on canteen duty again.  Once again I am running on 4 hours of sleep and will get the same tonight.  I'm on empty and getting lower.  I spend the day reading Old Path White Cloud about the life of Buhdda.  It is a great book, a nice change.

This evening as the sun set, the camp filled with birds like starlings flying all around our heads.  What beauty, these birds filling the orange sunset sky.

14 March 93

It bothers me the way some of the others have been treating Mussa and all Somalis in general.  The other night while returning Mussa and the other interpreter, Abdi to their homes, Daren and Tim were reported for their conduct. They went flying through town with the searchlight on and the turret spinning. They ended up physically kicking the two interpreters out of the carrier and taking the bottle of water Moussa was carrying away from him. The crowd that had gathered was so incensed by Harding's and Steven's behavior that they were going to kill them. Luckily the interpreters intervened on their behalf preventing a riot.

When word of this came back to the Commando, everyone covered Daren and Tim's asses by transferring the blame to Mussa. They said that Mussa was hoarding water among other half true charges. Now Mussa's job is on the line because he is working for a section of red necks. I am by far the minority in this situation and don't know what to do.

"I have lost my smile, but don't worry. The Dandelion has it."

-Marion Tripp as quoted by Thich Nhat Hanh

We are going out again tomorrow for a two day dog and pony show for six reporters. Mussa will be coming with us, I'm worried. Apparently he is scared of us. I don't blame him.

When you take young, immature people who have never been confronted by poverty or vastly different ideals and thrust them into a situation like this they get scared. Everything is against all their preconceived notions and beliefs. The only way they can rationalize it all, within the confines of their limited view, is to dehumanize the people. If they are savages or lesser beings, one no longer feels compelled to care.

Racism and bigotry stem from our own fears and a lack of understanding. Our perceptions of a society are often erroneous, tainted by the values of our own society. How can we judge another country when our own society is plagued by racism, hatred, immorality, sexual misconduct, corruption, oppression . . .? I blame it on a lack of maturity, but that does not explain Chris who is much older than me. I think it more likely a lack of experience, vision, and understanding.

How can I make them see when they cannot even perceive the impropriety of their beliefs? I try and set an example, but that does not work, nor does reason make any impression on them. What can I do but insulate and mediate?

15 March 93

The reporters didn't arrive, so we left around ten. We set up a roadblock just north of Treejante and sat there until one-thirty. Then we moved south to set up in a different location. A couple hours after arriving, Mussa approached me and said that he wanted to go home. He was quitting because he couldn't work with Harding after what had happened.

I tried to talk him out of it, but couldn't. He said he would not work with someone who called him a "Mother fuckin' niger" and treated him the way Daren had. So Mussa hitched a ride on the next vehicle going to Beled Weyne. I told him I was sorry to see him go and gave him the box of candies and gum I had been saving for his kids. Then he was gone.

The Platoon Commander questioned Daren about the matter, but of course he denied everything except taking back the bottle of water. He was 'believed' and the incident quickly forgotten. That is fine, Daren should be protected by the family, but at the same time the incident should have been dealt with by the family. The fact remains that we lost a good, dedicated interpreter because of the actions of one person. Mussa put it, "one bad friend can lose you many good friends."

I don't even think Daren understands the wrong that has been done today. Right now he is over there laughing and joking about Mussa. It makes me sick.

We stopped a vehicle this afternoon and took an old Lee Enfield from an even older man. We continue to take weapons from people who only use them to defend themselves. This is right, but only if we are also taking the weapons from the people who are using them against others, the bandits, which we are not doing. We are chasing down the wrong people, and in the end probably doing more harm than good.

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