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Dirty Wars
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Dirty Wars (2013) More at IMDbPro »

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Dirty Wars -- It’s the dirty little secret of the War on Terror: all bets are off, and almost anything goes. We have fundamentally changed the rules of the game and the rules of engagement. Today drone strikes, night raids, and U.S. government–condoned torture occur in corners across the globe, generating unprecedented civilian casualties. Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill traces the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command, the most secret fighting force in U.S. history, exposing operations carried out by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. No target is off-limits for the JSOC “kill list,” even a U.S. citizen. Director Richard Rowley takes us on a chilling ride with whistle-blower Scahill. Dirty Wars is a battle cry for the soul and conscience of an America few of us know exists.


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Down 8% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
David Riker (writer)
Jeremy Scahill (writer)
View company contact information for Dirty Wars on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
18 October 2013 (Spain) See more »
A secret army. A war without end. A journalist determined to uncover the truth.
Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is pulled into an unexpected journey as he chases down the hidden truth behind America's expanding covert wars. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for Oscar. Another 10 wins & 5 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Investigative journalism at its finest See more (51 total) »


Nasser Al Aulaqi ... Himself - Interviewee
Saleha Al Aulaqi ... Herself - Interviewee
Muqbal Al Kazemi ... Himself - Interviewee
Abdul Rahman Barman ... Himself - Interviewee
Saleh Bin Fareed ... Himself - Interviewee (as Sheikh Saleh Bin Fareed)
Andrew Exum ... Himself - Interviewee
Abdul Ghafoor ... Himself - Interviewee
Philip Giraldi ... Himself - Interviewee
Matthew Hoh ... Himself - Interviewee
Patrick Lang ... Himself - Interviewee

John McCain ... Himself (archive footage)
William McRaven ... Himself (archive footage)
Emile Nakhleh ... Himself - Interviewee
Malcolm Nance ... Himself - Interviewee

Barack Obama ... Himself (archive footage)
Mohamed Qanyare ... Himself - Interviewee
Mohammed Sabir ... Himself - Interviewee

Jeremy Scahill ... Himself
Anthony Allen Shaffer ... Himself - Interviewee (as Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer)
Hajji Sharabuddin ... Himself - Interviewee
Abdulelah Haider Shaye ... Himself - Interviewee
Hugh Shelton ... Himself - Interviewee
Yusuf Mohamed Siad ... Himself - Interviewee
Jerome Starkey ... Himself - Interviewee
Mohammed Tahir ... Himself - Interviewee
Ron Wyden ... Himself - Interviewee

Directed by
Rick Rowley 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
David Riker  writer
Jeremy Scahill  writer

Produced by
Anthony Arnove .... producer
Brenda Coughlin .... producer
Scott Roth .... executive producer
Jeremy Scahill .... producer
Jess Search .... executive producer
Jacqueline Soohen .... associate producer
Lauren Sutherland .... assistant producer
Randall Wallace .... executive producer
Sandra Whipham .... executive producer
Original Music by
David Harrington 
Cinematography by
Rick Rowley 
Film Editing by
David Riker 
Rick Rowley 
Art Department
James Franklin .... graphic designer
Sound Department
Julie Alexander .... audio transcriptions
Christopher Barnett .... re-recording mixer
Christopher Barnett .... sound designer
Christopher Barnett .... supervising sound editor
Danny Caccavo .... digital editorial support
Ryan J. Frias .... digital editorial support
Paul Frye .... adr recordist
Dmitri Makarov .... digital editorial support
Brandon Proctor .... additional re-recording mixer
Ric Schnupp .... adr mixer
Cathy Shirk .... post-production sound accountant
Visual Effects by
David Rowley .... digital intermediate technical direction and finishing
Editorial Department
Elizabeth Press .... additional editing
David Rowley .... colorist
Jacqueline Soohen .... assistant editor
Music Department
Laura Dean .... music recording engineer
Hank Dutt .... musician: viola
David Harrington .... music supervisor
David Harrington .... musician: violin
Kronos Quartet .... performed by
John Sherba .... musician: violin
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ .... musician
Terri Winston .... music recording engineer
Jeffrey Zeigler .... musician: cello
Other crew
Ryan Bishara .... intern
Josh Braun .... distribution advisor
Frank Dehn .... legal counsel
Ryan Devereaux .... additional research
Devon Landes .... archive
David Rice .... archive
Said Rifai .... production accountant
David Rowley .... graphic design & titles
David Rowley .... title design
Lauren Sutherland .... researcher
Fabien Westerhoff .... director of sales & distribution (hanway films )
Fabien Westerhoff .... worldwide sales: Hanway Films
Nancy Willen .... publicist
Spencer Ackerman .... thanks
Stephanie Ahn .... thanks
Matthieu Aikins .... thanks
Ashley Akunna .... thanks
Ammar Al Aulaqi .... thanks
Nasser Al Aulaqi .... thanks (as Abir Nasser Al Aulaqi)
Omar Al Aulaqi .... thanks
Mohammed Al Basha .... thanks
Claire and Rennie Alba .... thanks
Mohammed Albasha .... thanks
Brendan Allen .... thanks
Marc Ambinder .... thanks
Kellan Anderson .... thanks
Iris Andrews .... thanks
Shani Ankori .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Nathan Appel .... thanks
Alexandra Avakian .... thanks
Daniel Avery .... thanks
Neal Baer .... thanks
Haykal Bafana .... thanks
Geoff Bailey .... thanks
Ben Baker .... thanks
Ruth Baldwin .... thanks
Amir Bar-Lev .... thanks
Allison Barlow .... thanks
Joslyn Barnes .... special thanks
Elizabeth Benjamin .... thanks
Medea Benjamin .... thanks
Terry Bennett .... thanks
Phil Benson .... thanks
Suzan Beraza .... thanks
Sean Berney .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Geoff Betts .... thanks
Andy Bichlbaum .... thanks
David Bither .... thanks
Drew Blasingame .... thanks
Arianna Bocco .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Ron Bochar .... thanks
Boikutt .... thanks
Mark Boxer .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Elizabeth Brambilla .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Brandon Bussinger .... thanks
Nick Camacho .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Bonni Cohen .... special thanks
Harbor Picture Company .... thanks
John Cooper .... thanks
David Courier .... thanks
Kristin Feeley .... special thanks
Greg Fornero .... thanks
Isabel Freer .... thanks
Howard Gertler .... special thanks
Trevor Groth .... thanks
Isaac Guenard .... thanks
Matthew Hamachek .... thanks
Joe Hobaica .... thanks
Joy Holloway-D'Avilar .... thanks
Jameel Jaffer .... special thanks
Sam Jaspersohn .... thanks
Andy Jones .... thanks
Sanjay Kak .... thanks
Kim Kalyka .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Pardiss Kebriaei .... special thanks
Huma Khan .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Caroline Libresco .... thanks
Rebecca Lichtenfeld .... special thanks
Mary Martin .... thanks
Leslie Mayer .... thanks
David Menschel .... special thanks
Cara Mertes .... special thanks
Michael Moore .... special thanks
Frank Moshier .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Benny Mouthon .... thanks
Sheloa Nichols .... thanks
Larry Oatfield .... thanks (as E. Larry Oatfield)
Brian Reali .... thanks
Jennifer Robinson .... special thanks
Betsy Rodgers .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Talia Rubino .... thanks
Wade Rudolph .... thanks
James Schamus .... special thanks
Lauren Schwartz .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Liliana Segura .... special thanks
Jonathan Sehring .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Hina Shamsi .... special thanks
Lisa Smith-Reed .... special thanks (as Lisa Smith)
Glenn Snyder .... thanks
Neil Strumingher .... thanks
Dan Summer .... thanks
Justin Szalczyk .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Tony Tabatznik .... special thanks
Mary Tackett .... thanks
Technicolor .... thanks
Randy Thom .... thanks
John Vanco .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects
Michael Watt .... special thanks
Ryan Werner .... special thanks: IFC Films / Sundance Selects

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Additional Details

Also Known As:
87 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »

Did You Know?

Miscellaneous: The clock on the wall of the home video was earlier during the party, NOT at the moment the house was attacked.See more »
Himself - Interviewee:If children are terrorists then we are all terrorists.See more »
Movie Connections:
Tashweesh (Interference)See more »


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109 out of 130 people found the following review useful.
Investigative journalism at its finest, 8 June 2013
Author: bowencho from United States

"Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands." Robert F Kennedy

Although it seems America may be pulling out of Afghanistan next year, Special Operations units have been steadily and secretly increasing their deployments around the rest of the world in places like Yemen and Somalia. These "pinpoint" operations merely obfuscate the military's footprint and are thus a PR coup for the DOD but a disaster for public accountability. Consequently, today's wars are being fought in our name in foreign lands completely under the public radar. In light of recent revelations regarding the government's massive domestic surveillance program and the DOJ's record amount of prosecutions against whistleblowers, one might reasonably argue that this is the least transparent administration in our nation's history. The Obama administration's attempts to sanitize war by shrouding it behind a cloak of government secrecy ultimately serve to keep American citizens in the dark about what is really going on. War is by nature dirty, however, and it is the very knowledge that war comes with huge costs and sacrifices that acts as a check on our aggressive impulses. By bringing the hidden truths about these military night raids and drone strikes into the light, "Dirty Wars" makes a compelling argument about why you should care that we have been a nation at perpetual war since 9/11.

Originally, the film was supposed to focus solely on the story of the buildup of JSOC itself, but the filmmakers made a good decision to expand the scope of the documentary to include more about the man who helped to expose the story. Jeremy Scahill, a sedulous investigative reporter for The Intercept, is an interesting figure who stands apart in today's age of feckless news media and the increasingly moribund state of investigative journalism.

After watching the film, I thought of the late Roger Ebert's film review of a 2003 film about another intrepid investigative journalist, Veronica Guerin, who died while exposing a powerful syndicate of drug dealers in Dublin. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert wrote rather disapprovingly, "Disturbed by the sight of gangs selling drugs to children and teenagers in the Dublin of the 1990s, she began a high-profile, even reckless campaign to expose them. Was she surprised when her campaign ended with her own murder? She must have been, or she would have gone about it differently. That she struck a great blow against the Irish drug traffic is without doubt, but perhaps she could have done so and still survived to raise her son."

I don't know how Ebert would have felt about Scahill, but there is a chilling scene in the movie where Jay Leno asks Scahill with surprising bluntness, "How are you still alive?" That we need people like Guerin and Scahill today is without question. But that our appreciation for their work is also balanced out of concern for their well-being is an even sadder reflection of the type of dangerous world we live in.

The most powerful aspect of the film is the way it humanizes the victims of American violence by giving us faces, names, and stories to connect with the dead. The term "collateral damage" is a military euphemism for civilian casualties. In the newspapers that report on these Special Operations night raids and drone strikes, which have been happening with increasing frequency the last few years, we are only told the number of dead. Even worse, we are told that all military age males who are killed in drone strikes, whether they were intended targets or not, are automatically categorized as militants. In a particularly lame performance of spin doctoring, a DoD spokesperson rationalizes the deaths of pregnant women and children by reassuring us that they COULD have been militants.

To those who respond, "Well this is war. This is what happens in war," the film poses an important question: What is the ultimate end goal of all this bloodshed? What have we accomplished in our last 10+ years at war if it has only engendered more enemies around the globe. In the film, it would be comic if it weren't so tragic when a former intelligence officer states that what started out as a kill list of 50 names at the beginning of the war has now grown several thousands long.

The film succeeds in presenting complex issues without moralizing, and finds the right balance between veracity and entertainment. The movie does seem to stretch and play up material sometimes for unnecessary film noir-ish effect. The changing nature of warfare is a compelling story even without the stylistic frills. But the film's greatest achievement is how it raises important questions about who we are and where we are headed as a nation.

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Recent Posts (updated daily)User
This film wins the award for most dishonest title ever. bryanmillsfist
Why the low rating when 14 of 16 provided reviews are glowing? ob1-15
Al-Awlaki financed the terror attacks in France last week nickrock23
Awful work! MagicDick
Obama won his Nobel Peace Prize for what exactly? Buckster69
When does a war on terror end = 8 joelgibbo7
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