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Dirty Wars
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Reviews & Ratings for
Dirty Wars More at IMDbPro »

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128 out of 149 people found the following review useful:

Why isn't this being more widely reported?

9/10
Author: DougWilliams88 from United States
7 June 2013

A courageous film that brings the truth of America's war crimes to our movie screens. Pregnant women murdered in Afghanistan shot to death by US special forces in their own home. Innocent villagers in Yemen blown to pieces by US cluster bombs. Somali warlords paid by the United States government to kill foreigners. Meanwhile, young Americans celebrate outside the White House after the President announces that a man has been in his own home.

It would be hard for anyone to watch this movie with dry eyes, but how can an American sleep at night after seeing the murders our tax dollars are funding and elected officials are ordering? Hopefully this movie will spark a national outrage against America's crimes against humanity and bring America's military aggression to an end once and for all.

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103 out of 122 people found the following review useful:

Investigative journalism at its finest

8/10
Author: bowencho from United States
8 June 2013

"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 military footprint around the rest of the world in places like Yemen and Somalia. 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 Nation magazine, is an interesting figure who stands apart in today's age of feckless news media and the increasingly moribund state of investigative journalism although it would have been interesting to learn more about what drives a man like Scahill to go into Taliban country with nothing more than a camera, a notepad, and a bulletproof vest.

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 stomach churning 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 grown into several thousands.

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 false suspense and dramatic effect, although I found the insight into the changing nature of warfare to be its most interesting and primary aspect. (This itself might not be news to people who read the news regularly, thanks in large part to the work of journalists like Scahill.) But the film's greatest achievement is how it raises these important questions about who we are and where we are headed as a nation.

For a country in which more people die by motor vehicle accidents and gun violence every year than have ever died from terrorist attacks, how did we come to a state of endless war? Are we a nation that values human rights or not? Are we a nation that values due process or condones assassination of our citizens? Are we a nation that abides by the constitution or not? And will Americans who speak out against these gross abuses of power become suspect in the eyes of their own government, or are they doing what all citizens should be doing by actively engaging in our democratic process?

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98 out of 119 people found the following review useful:

Amazing Documentary

10/10
Author: John Anderson from Seattle, United States
1 June 2013

The documentary covers the story of Jeremy Scahill's discovery of a secret war, without bounds, which the US government has been waging in the name of fighting terrorism.

We see Scahill travel the world interviewing families in Iraq, Jordan, Yemin and Samalia who have had family members killed when they were declared to be suspected terrorists.

I left the theatre feeling that it is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.

I was lucky enough to catch a screening of this at the Seattle International Film Festival, where Scahill did a Q+A afterwards. He was extremely eloquent answering every question.

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60 out of 67 people found the following review useful:

Why aren't more people watching this film?

10/10
Author: CL Goodman from United States
8 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this film at home yesterday. It opened my eyes and broke my heart. I didn't realize the United States of America has hired War Lords in Somalia, on our pay roll. I didn't realize the raids and mass killings in other countries where we are not currently at war with. I didn't realize we killed an innocent young teen just because he might grow up to be a threat (wtf). This film opened my eyes and I haven't been able to get it off my brain since watching it. I don't understand how the USA is getting away with committing crimes against humanity. This kill list they have keeps growing and at anytime your name could be put on it. It keeps growing and growing and there is no end in sight. Watch the film, have a your friends and family watch this film. Everybody needs to watch!

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63 out of 78 people found the following review useful:

Courageous attempt

10/10
Author: alikhan112
20 October 2013

Finally someone brave enough to uncover US war crimes against innocent people. Jeremy Scahill and his team did a great job for humanity despite facing a lot of difficulties. i believe every one who has heart and some humanity left in him/her will be influenced by the movie and try to understand what US and other governments around the world are killing and torturing innocent civilians specially Muslims and covering up their crimes by just using a disguise instrument of terrorism and national security concerns. Those so called patriots denying that their government could do such a thing should consider themselves in the condition of victims who are killed every single night by US. There should be global moment to make US, NATO and puppet government held responsible for what they are doing.

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46 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

For those who would like open their minds just a little bit...

9/10
Author: mananpandya from India
22 October 2013

First off - this is not "fiction". I don't know where IMDb picked it up, but as far as what i've read about this documentary - it is all real. If you want to watch this documentary, make sure you open your minds just a little bit.

People across the world shouted cheers when G Bush said "We're going to fight Iraq because there are WMD there". All the big reporters and media outlets shouted in chorus - Yeah, let's bomb Iraq! A lot of American soldiers died there. A lot of Iraqi people died in that assault. There were sons, husbands and friends. For nothing. There were no WMD there. And the country is in a worse state than what it was during Saddam's rule. Is this the "freedom" that we gave people of Iraq?

Did bush issue an apology? To the hundreds of innocent people killed in Iraq? To the families of American soldiers who died? Why didn't this "freedom and justice loving country" raise it's voice?

Take a look at this documentary. It's NOT fiction. Then, sit down and think about it. Is it really possible? Most of you will want to think twice before being able to say to yourself - no.

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41 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Most people don't have a clue.

10/10
Author: Renārs Grebežs from Latvia
19 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I always had a feeling that the major media's version and the political affirmation is a bit one-sided, but never did I have a clue about what's really going on. I've also listened to what Naomi Watts had to say and the parallels are obvious - the world is shoving the control of grand processes in the hands of a bunch of elite, who are being represented by the White House, USA. I always knew that my brief passage through an American prism of beliefs in a high school in FL was truthful in it's lesson for me that the belief that "America is the best country in the world" will lead those young naive minds into nowhere. I'm not an American and I have no *need* to participate in "writing to your congressmen" or any similar actions (you Americans should), though I suspect that sooner or later Europe will wake up and what then? Will the civilized portion of the world be able to suppress the ambitions of megalomaniacs and shrink them down to due process?

Do we really want to see our reality as a failed civilization?

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Scahill Takes Center Stage

8/10
Author: gavin6942 from United States
10 February 2014

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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21 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

You saw American forces take the bullets out of the body?

8/10
Author: Ben Larson from Leesburg, FL
16 January 2014

Written by David Riker and celebrated investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, the film follows Scahill as he unpeals the layers of the Joint Special Operations Command, the powerful covert military outfit that answers directly—and only—to the president, and whose maneuvers in the Middle East have left more civilians dead than we can know.

The film shows the complicity of both the U.S. government and media in covering up massacres and smearing journalists who do more than phone in PR-spun news.

It's compelling journalism and a fascinating story with which all Americans should familiarize themselves – especially as drones and airstrikes occur with greater frequency and spread to countries such as Somalia, Yemen, and beyond.

Skip at your own risk.

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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

The Dirty Side of America's Military

7/10
Author: evanston_dad from United States
7 March 2014

Add "Dirty Wars" to the list of movies that make me depressed to be an American.

Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill plunges into the shadowy world of American strategic ops initiatives around the world, and the results, while not exactly surprising, are certainly chilling. What he finds are instances of American forces randomly going into obscure parts of the world and carrying out attacks that are as likely to kill innocent women and children as they are any people actively trying to do America any harm. At the center of these operations is a mysterious military unit about which virtually nothing used to be known, until this same unit carried out the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and elevated itself to hero status in the eyes of the American people.

Movies like "Dirty Wars" seem like a necessary evil to me. They bring to light topics that need to be addressed, but at the same time leave me impotently frustrated at my inability to do anything about it.

Grade: A-

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