Pentagon-Backed ‘Black Hawk Down’ Championed Military Intervention After 9/11

Kevin Gosztola
10 min readSep 28, 2021

[Editor’s Note: This is the third in The Dissenter’s weekly series on 9/11 and its impact on cinema, which will be published as a companion to our series, “Twenty Years In A Security State.”]

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Vice President Dick Cheney defended President George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks and invoked “Black Hawk Down” at a town hall event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“If you saw the movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ it portrays the events where we lost 19 soldiers in the battle in Mogadishu, and within weeks, we’d pulled all of our forces out of Somalia. So two lessons, one, they could strike us with impunity; and, two, if they did hit us hard enough, they could change [United States] policy.”

“What happened, of course, on 9/11 was they escalated, an ever higher level, killed 3,000 Americans, struck us here at home, and so that the approach that we’d taken before, that sort of, ‘well, it’s just a law enforcement problem,’ approach clearly didn’t work,” Cheney added.

The film, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, was made with full support from the Pentagon before the September 11th attacks. But its release date was moved from March 2002 to December 2001 — and a wide release in January 2002 — precisely because it was a tale of American heroism that could sell audiences on the supposed necessity of military intervention.

It initially had two cards at the end that linked the film to the 9/11 attacks, but it apparently did not go over well with audiences at test screenings. The messaging was removed.

Tom Sherak, a partner at Revolution Studios who oversaw the release of the film, told the press, “People will take out of it what they want. If this was pre-September 11, maybe they’d take out, ‘War is hell; we should never go to war.’ But we’ve learned that we have to be involved. If it’s not us, who else is it?”

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