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Dirty Wars Documentary Review

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Dirty Wars Documentary Review | Jeremy Scahill

“It’s hard to say when this story began. This was supposed to be the frontline in the war on terror. But I knew I was missing the story. There was another war… hidden in the shadows.”

Dirty Wars, the latest film from investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, digs deep into the world of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) an elite force of private military contractors. These mercenaries are being deployed worldwide by the United States government to engage in secret operations including night raids of homes in Afghanistan, drone strikes in Yemen, arming and training militia and warlords in Somalia, and even in secret operations in the United States and their allied countries. Hidden in the shadows since the 1980’s, JSOC are the group credited with the questionable raid and subsequent killing of Osama Bin Laden. Although Bin Laden’s body was never shown, and no video footage of the incident apart from government created cartoons was ever released to the public, this event was used as the launchpad to make public the operations of this secret group even though it has been funded by US tax payers for decades.

Dirty Wars Documentary Review | Jeremy Scahill

“Part of the reason why I called it Dirty Wars is because the Obama administration has really tried to give the impression that it’s waging a clean war, and of course there’s no such thing as a clean war” says Scahill. The documentary into America’s ‘War On Terror’ begins following Scahill into the depths of Afghanistan. Convinced that the real story of these overseas wars is in fact being overlooked by everyone including himself, Scahill is determined to find the truth and put a human face to the victims of these dirty wars. “Undeclared wars have been launched in countries across the globe” says Scahill. He finds proof of this on his visit to Gardez in the Paktia Province of Eastern Afghanistan, and the family affected by one of JSOC’s most recent night raids.

Dirty Wars Documentary Review | Jeremy ScahillScahill joins a tribal elder who tells him the story of the murder of his 2 sons, his daughter-in-law, and his granddaughter, who were all taken from him in a single day. In the midst of a celebration into the birth of a child, family members and neighbours including men, women and children, were spending the night playing music, dancing their traditional dances and enjoying the festivities. JSOC descends on this remote part of Afghanistan in the early hours of the morning based on intelligence that 50 Tailban members  are located there, evidence not shown to anybody. As the father of the house Daoud takes a look outside after hearing the landing helicopter, he is immediately shot by JSOC who then continue to open fire on his home killing several members of the family including children and 2 pregnant women. Refusing to let the family take those shot and still alive to the hospital, JSOC proceed using their knives to dig the bullets out of the bodies of those killed, presumably to get rid of any evidence of their actions. They then tie the hands of the remaining people and blindfold them, forcing some of the men into the helicopter to be kidnapped and interrogated.

One of these men who returned after being interrogated and after seeing his wife murdered by the American soldiers says “I didn’t want to live anymore. I wanted to wear a suicide jacket and blow myself up among the Americans. But my brother and my father wouldn’t let me. I wanted Jihad against the Americans.” Daoud, who we later learn is the local police commander, and had worked with the Americans and been through many of their training programs and was known to them, dies around 7am from his injuries. Quoting another local Afghan resident “If the Americans do this again, we are ready to shed our blood fighting them. We would rather die, than sit by and do nothing.” A statement it’s hard to blame him for making.

Dirty Wars Documentary Review | Jeremy ScahillAmidst a growing voice of both US and world citizens claiming that in fact the war on terror is making us all less safe and creating more terrorists, Scahill states “Blowback is inevitable. You can’t conduct these kinds of wars around the world, killing innocent people in the pursuit of a few bad guys and pretend that it’s not going to come back to hurt you.” Scahill, one of the few real journalists left in the area of foreign policy and national defence, is providing a priceless insight into the side of the war the government does not want us to know about. “I value human life and don’t get pleasure from being around men with guns or hearing things explode. I’m motivated more by wanting to tell the stories of people who are on the other side of the missiles.”

The film further explores the murder by drone strike of US citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki and his 16 year old son Abdulrahman, without charge or trial. Scahill points to the dangerous escalation by President Obama of these dirty wars, and the attempt to shut down journalists throughout the world who do real journalism to report on it.

A highly insightful documentary based on Scahill’s award winning book, Dirty Wars is a must see for anyone fed up with the never ending ‘war on terror’ and the thousands of innocent lives lost every year.

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Jeremy Scahill’s bio from



Jeremy Scahill is National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine and is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute.

Scahill is author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation Books, 2007). Nation Books will release Scahill’s second book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, on April 23, 2013.

He is the writer, with David Riker, and a producer of the documentary feature film, Dirty Wars, which won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2013. IFC Films releases Dirty Wars in theaters June 7 throughout the United States.

Scahill has reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere across the globe. Scahill is a frequent guest on a wide array of programs, appearing regularly on The Rachel Maddow Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Democracy Now!. He has also appeared on ABC World News, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, BBC, al Jazeera, CNN, The NewsHour, and Bill Moyers Journal.

Scahill’s work has sparked several Congressional investigations and won some of journalism’s highest honors. He was twice awarded the prestigious George Polk Award, in 1998 for foreign reporting and in 2008 for his book Blackwater.

In 2013, Scahill was named one of nine recipients of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes at Yale University.
Scahill is a member of the Writers Guild of America, East.