Did Robert Gates’ Planning Help Bring Black Hawk Down?

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When the lame-duck Senate Armed Services committee starts confirmation hearings next week on Robert Gates, President Bush’s replacement for Donald Rumsfeld, Gates’ performance in his last government job, as head of the CIA, is certain to come up. But will any of the senators ask Gates about his role in the first Bush administration’s final blunder—the military operation in Somalia, launched by George H. W. Bush in the lame-duck days after the 1992 election, and brought to a disastrous conclusion six months later under Clinton? John Prados, an analyst at the National Security Archives and author of the new book Safe for Democracy, says it was Gates who approved the “initial architecture” for the operation, including making arrangements for TV crews in Mogadishu to train their spotlights on the Marines’ dramatic night landing. The CIA then led the troops inland, spread them out, and set up bases while keeping tabs on the conflict through its assets with the warlords; by the following spring most of the U.S. troops had been replaced by UN forces, and the rest were pulled after the Black Hawk Down debacle in June 1993.

Despite questions about his handling of the Somalia planning and other intelligence matters, Prados says he expects Gates to be confirmed easily; Armed Services Committee chair John Warner, R-Va., voted for Gates’ confirmation in 1991. Once in office, Prados says, Gates could help bridge divisions between the CIA and the military, perhaps even pulling the plug on Rumsfeld initiatives that pit military intelligence initiatives against the CIA. Just don’t expect him to crack down on politically influenced intelligence; that, after all, was his specialty.

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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