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Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater, into the hidden world of America's covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia, and beyond. Part action film and part detective story, Dirty Wars is a gripping journey into one of the most important and underreported stories of our time. What begins as a report on a deadly U.S. night raid in a remote corner of Afghanistan quickly turns into a global investigation of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). As Scahill digs deeper into the activities of JSOC, he is pulled into a world of covert operations unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams "find, fix, and finish" their targets, who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for the "kill list," including U.S. citizens. Written by
Ten minutes into the movie, the claim is that the police officer was dancing at a wedding party 01:00 just before being killed. However, the clock on the wall shows the time to be about 5:35. See more »
Kabul, Afghanistan, four in the morning. As an American jounalist I was used to finding stories in the middle of the night. But there is always something eerie, driving through the deserted streets. A city of three million, barely a streetlight on. There was a familiar routine, waiting for the crew to light up the next set so that you could see something in the background. But what could we really see?
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Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is pulled into an unexpected journey as he chases down the hidden truth behind America's expanding covert wars.
Regarding Scahill, I may be a little biased. His work with exposing Blackwater impressed me, I was able to briefly meet him and found him a charming person, and he happens to be from Milwaukee. As a fellow Wisconsinite, I cannot help but root for the guy.
Here, he investigates the United States military and government cover-up of the deaths of five civilians, including two pregnant women killed by US soldiers from the Joint Special Operations Command. Interestingly, he focuses on this one case when this is probably not an uncommon thing (what we call collateral damage). This puts a human face on the dead rather just make them one of a multitude.
We see the refusal of Congress to listen, particularly Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (another Wisconsin native). Why does no one care about what our forces do overseas? Also interesting, we see that there appears to be a coordinated effort for the harassing of journalists, both American and in the Middle East. Scahill himself was apparently hacked and threatened, and another journalist is shown imprisoned for speaking out.
Trevor Johnston of Time Out London found the film to be a "gripping investigative doc, which plays out like a classic conspiracy thriller as it follows a trail of clues to the heart of darkness behind President Obama's good-guy facade." I think this is fairly spot on, though to use a phrase like "heart of darkness" or to single out Obama seems off. The real message is here is not that this happens, but that it is standard operating procedure regardless of who is in power.
One of the negative reviewers, Douglas Valentine of Dissident Voice, complained that "the film is so devoid of historical context, and so contrived, as to render it a work of art, rather than political commentary. And as art, it is pure self-indulgence." The second point I wholeheartedly disagree with. While of a higher quality than the average documentary, that should not be a strike against it. The first point is quite valid -- those who do not have a solid background regarding the war on terror may not understand the situations presented. As the film is short (roughly 90 minutes), a few minutes of context would not have bogged it down.
Although not expressed by either of these two gentlemen, I expect the biggest criticism would come from those who want to label Scahill an America-hating liberal for his negative outlook on our military. That is a fair criticism, and I do not know what his motivations are. But to not question power -- especially the powers that we pay for and are subject too -- is to blindly accept it.
None other than former president Teddy Roosevelt said, "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president and to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonous to the American public." Well said, and it is people like Scahill who prove the value of this criticism.
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