Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Blog

By Lama Al-Arian

Summer 2013 Intern

From disturbing images of night raids and villages destroyed by US drones, to tearful interviews with family and friends who refer to the US soldiers donning long beards as the “American Taliban,” Richard Rowley’s documentary featuring investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, released in early June, sheds a critical light on the war on terror in the Middle East and Africa. The documentary reveals Scahill’s shocking journey through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia to expose the secret night raids, drone attacks, and targeted assassinations overseen by the Obama administration’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

In "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield," Scahill travels to the village of Gardez, Afghanistan to investigate a botched raid in 2010 that resulted in the deaths of five people, including two pregnant women, which NATO and the US admitted having a role in.

In an interview, Scahill describes how JSOC, which was formed in 1980 out of the ashes of the failed hostage rescue mission in Iran, and is “…like an all-star team of U.S. military special operations units (the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Delta Force, and the 75th Army Rangers [Regiment], and the most elite helicopter forces in the world called the Night Stalkers), operated largely in the shadows or in the periphery of U.S. national security policy.”

Scahill further explains that “[JSOC] is also the only unit in the military that [he’s] aware of that has been exempted from the Posse Comitatus law (which prohibits the military from engaging in law enforcement activities on US soil).” 

The film also concentrates on the much ignored “collateral damage” of the post-9/11 war on terror. Scahill’s movie reveals how the US is in a perpetual state of war with a constantly growing laundry list, or “deck of cards,” of targets for assassination, as battlefronts continue to proliferate.

What started off as a targeted assassination against al-Qaeda members turned into the drone killings of two US citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year-old son, Abdulrahman. Scahill travels to Yemen to investigate the innocent 16 year-old’s death and interview his close friends and family.

The documentary also contains authentic footage from home videos taken by the Afghan family in Gardez, featuring a celebratory family gathering with dancing, only a few minutes before their house was raided.

"If the Americans do this again, we are ready to shed our blood fighting them," one Afghan from the small farming village of Koshkaky says.

Scahill’s documentary is meant to shed light on the clandestine operations run by the US government and military which have turned the world into a battlefield. The documentary ends not with one solution, but rather several posed questions.

“I don’t have the answers, and that’s why we wanted to end the film on those questions. I think it’s been far too long that we’ve gone without having a real debate about what an actual national security policy would look like. I know that what we’re currently doing is something we’re going to pay for later, there’s going to be blowback, and I fear that we’re making more new enemies than we are killing terrorists.”


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