Written by Andy Worthington
On May 13, I was privileged to be invited to a London preview of “Dirty Wars,” the new documentary film, directed by Richard Rowley and focusing on the journalist Jeremy Scahill’s investigations into America’s global “war on terrorism” — not historically, but right here, right now under President Obama.
In particular, the film, which opens in the US this weekend, and is accurately described by the New York Times as “pessimistic, grimly outraged and utterly riveting,” follows Scahill, who wrote it with David Riker, and is also the narrator, as he uncovers the existence of the shadowy organization JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, established by 1980, which is at the heart of the “dirty wars” being waged in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.
I had seen rushes with representatives of the Center for Constitutional Rights at the London base of the Bertha Foundation, one of the backers of the film, last year, and I remembered the powerful sequences in Afghanistan, where Scahill found out about JSOC after meeting the survivors of a raid in Gardez by US forces in 2010 in which two pregnant women had been killed, and there had then been a cover-up.This involved US soldiers returning to the scene of their crime to remove bullets from the corpses — something difficult to forget once informed about.
The Afghan sequences — although involving JSOC rather than the military or other Special Forces — reminded me of the numerous similar raids based on chronically unreliable information, which have persistently led to the slaughter of civilians throughout the entire Afghan occupation — now nearing 12 years — or have led to the capture of people unrelated to insurgency, who ended up in Bagram, or, in the early years of the occupation, were sent to Guantánamo. Shockingly, Scahill discovers, during the course of his investigations that, in just one week in Afghanistan, there were 1,700 night raids similar to the one noted above.
The trailer for the film is below:
The powerful sequences in Afghanistan that I saw last year remain in the film, and are followed by visits to Yemen, where Scahill delves into the chilling story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the US citizen killed in a drone attack, and his 16-year old son Abdulrahman, killed in another attack — “not for who he was, but for who he might one day become,” as Scahill notes — and spends time with Anwar al-Awlaki’s distraught father.
In Yemen, it is disturbing to note how provocative and counterproductive US actions have been, in a troublingly undeclared war in which, as in Afghanistan, their every action appears to be counter-productive, either involving the slaughter of civilians, through attacks based on woefully inadequate intelligence, or the inflammatory and cold-blooded murder of Anwar al-Awlaki and his son.
Once Scahill reaches Somalia, and the chaos of permanent war and warlords, in which US involvement is even more inexplicable, it becomes horribly apparent, as he says at the conclusion of the film, “The world has become America’s battlefield, and we can go everywhere.”
As the New York Times explained in its review of the film, we learn that JSOC “operates not only in Afghanistan but also in countries on which no war has been declared. Algeria, Indonesia, Jordan and Thailand are mentioned.”
Disturbingly, we also see JSOC emerge from the shadows, as their commander, Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, discovered by Scahill involved in paying hush money to the family of the pregnant women who died in Gardez, later is praised as a national hero as JSOC lead the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.
I urge you, if you can, to see “Dirty Wars”, which, as I noted above, opens in US cinemas this weekend (and in the UK later this year), and or even to organize a screening yourself.
This is how it is described on the website:
“Dirty Wars” follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater, into the heart of America’s covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond.
Part political thriller 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 into a US night raid gone terribly wrong 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 US citizens.
Drawn into the stories and lives of the people he meets along the way, Scahill is forced to confront the painful consequences of a war spinning out of control, as well as his own role as a journalist.
We encounter two parallel casts of characters. The CIA agents, Special Forces operators, military generals, and US-backed warlords who populate the dark side of American wars go on camera and on the record, some for the first time. We also see and hear directly from survivors of night raids and drone strikes, including the family of the first American citizen marked for death and being hunted by his own government.
“Dirty Wars” takes viewers to remote corners of the globe to see first-hand wars fought in their name and offers a behind-the-scenes look at a high-stakes investigation. We are left with haunting questions about freedom and democracy, war and justice.
“Haunting questions about freedom and democracy, war and justice” is one way of putting it. Personally, after seeing familiar examples of homicidally inept operations in Afghanistan, and then seeing how America has created an enemy in Yemen, in drone strikes that have killed civilians and have also involved assassinating US citizens, and are engaged in alliances with extremely dubious warlords in Somalia, I reacted with genuine horror when Jeremy explained how, for JSOC, the entire world is now a battlefield, and the inept, unaccountable and counter-productive operations that are now America’s way of waging war are taking place in an unknown number of countries.
At that point, I realized that, to deal with everything that is going on, the film would last for days, and would have to take us to places where, unlike Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, few journalists, if any, have yet uncovered the full extent of what is going on.
Most of all, the horror I felt at this point was a profound opposition to war — not a novel feeling for me, as a lifelong pacifist, but a powerful indictment of how, under President Obama, being opposed to war — modern, dirty wars conducted in a senseless manner below the radar — is imperative for anyone with a modicum of common sense and humanity.
Note: Jeremy Scahill is also the author of Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, published in the UK by Serpent’s Tail.
View the original Downsum source here