Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dirty Wars (2013)

Director: Rick Rowley
Writers:  David Riker, Jeremy Scahill

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is pulled into an unexpected journey as he chases down the hidden truth behind America's expanding covert wars. It begins with a story from a remote Afghanistan village called Gardez, where US forced killed members of family of an Afghan Police Commander. Such night raids are carried out by JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) which directly reports to White-house and is shrouded in secrecy. These were the same that carried out the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden after which the secrecy was removed and they enjoyed the limelight. Now they command most of the covert operations carried out by the US in the name of so called War on Terror including the drone strikes.

Jeremy Scahill is one of the founding editors of the online news publication, 'The Intercept', with which Glenn Greenwald is also involved. He had also written the book:'Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army', which won him the George Polk book award. Blackwater is notorious for the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians for no good reason. The narrative that Scahill builds in this documentary is that immediately after 9/11, US had a target kill list consisting of 7 names. When they started the Iraq War it was a deck of cards consisting of around 50 names and now the list is endless. The actual war on terror has only helped in creating new enemies and in its current form there is no end in sight. What JSOC is doing is extrajudicial killings in non-war like scenario and since they are done on the basis of suspect intelligence and without any repercussions to those who are carrying it out, the collateral damage is only leaving fertile ground for terrorists to emerge. He takes a look at the case of Anwar al-Awlaki who was named as a prime target in Yemen and drone attacks were carried out to kill him. He was an American citizen and a preacher who was a moderate during 9/11 and its aftermath. He began to get increasingly radicalized after the Iraq War and started advocating Jihad against US. You can make a thin case against him based on this even though there is no evidence of him being a terrorist operative. He was killed by a drone strike in Yemen. Scahill is even more perturbed by the fact that Awlaki's 16-year old son was also killed weeks later in a drone strike. US authorities described his killing as collateral damage even though they didn't name anyone in particular as target for that particular drone strike, which means that the 16 year old boy was indeed the target. Scahill compares this to the Greek tragedy logic of killing someone not for what they have done but for what they could become. It is a twisted logic and will only help in growing the list. Anyone over 15 and under 70 are fair game.

The documentary is a very good watch with some great cinematic qualities to boot. The fact that he doesn't know where the story is leading and the situation evolving continuously leading to the organization that he is trying to uncover JSOC revealing itself for all after Bin Laden's death make it an intriguing watch. It also throws light on the dangerous game that US is playing with its drone program and it is not something which have got the attention it deserves so far in the wider media. One would think that it is preferable to an all out war like in Afghanistan but the reality is that the strikes will be always based on suspect intelligence and practically no oversight.

Rating: 4/5