DVD: Dirty Wars
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• " '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 Department of Justice'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.
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 become 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 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."
- Bowen Cho
• "Dirty Wars - the book - is an encyclopedic (though compellingly readable) history of America's abandonment of her own purported values in pursuit of an endless, borderless war against a tactic. Dirty Wars - the movie - is both an excellent summary of and supplement to that story. My only quibble is that the filmmakers decided to include the portion 'Breaking Out of the Green Zone' as an extra rather than including it in the film itself. It's essential viewing for anyone concerned about independent journalism, and if you watch the DVD, take a few minutes to watch the extras -- it's well worth it."
- Barry Eisler
• I don't go to Movies as a rule, or watch TV. But I do keep tabs on documentaries. . . I will admit I consider Jeremy Scahill one of the most inspirational American Citizens and Courageous Journalists on the planet. He will point out that the local Arab journalists who actually broke parts of this story, deserve the credit, which proves my point.
This insightful, considerate and thoughtful film carefully analyzes the costs (Exorbitant) and benefits (slim to none) of our "war on terror" which is a travesty for everyone involved. Nothing is worth our young men coming home to commit suicide because the veterans affairs denies their requests for PTSD benefits, after witnessing, or participating, in War Crimes, but that is not covered in this film. Or on Fox.
What this film illustrates, is the lies and omissions by both Obama and Bush, as well as their subordinates, JSOC and the DOD. It clearly examines the costs to both our troops and primarily to the majority of civilians around the world, and our credibility as a nation of "good guys". This movie explores both a complex series of "wars" and exposes the travesty of the "War on Terror" Which has made America into a Rouge terrorist state, as Noam Chompsky has pointed out in interviews with the film maker on Democracy Now! Which is well worth watching for free, if you doubt my opinion as a film or foreign relations critic (as well you may).
We are not making any friends and are worsening our Foreign Relations disastrously, only to benefit a few arms merchants, who are the only life form below oil companies, and bankers IMHO. Urge your representative to have the U.S. join the ban on land mines and cluster bombs, they are the weapons of Sadists & war criminals. As bad or worse than white phosphorous or VX (nerve) Gas.
It's also useful for it's truncated examination of the support we give to people that far more deserve to be in jail than the avenge american. And most interestingly examines how America seemingly chose to pursue a disasters "War" on a "Tactic" (Terrorism), Rather than pursue a useful, moral and defensible, police action against a few dangerous and insane criminals.
Watch the film and draw your own conclusions, but watch it, without the information it contains, we remain ignorant and easily manipulated by forces that do not have the best interest of America's citizens, or the world, at heart.