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'Dirty Wars' shows what Obama won't

Photo: Courtesy Photo, License: N/A

Courtesy Photo


Here’s a movie both Obama-hating Republicans and disappointed progressives can enjoy: Richard Rowley’s powerful, deeply disturbing Dirty Wars.

The film (which takes place in Washington, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia) describes how the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has been systematically carrying out covert missions abroad meant to find and annihilate any real or “possible” threats against our security. It’s a “dirty war” fought overseas with no explanations given, no accountability.

In 2010, three women (two of them pregnant) and a U.S.-trained police officer celebrating a birth were slaughtered during a secret night raid in Gardez, Afghanistan. According to witnesses, U.S. soldiers took the bullets out of the bodies and blamed it on an “honor killing” by family members, wrongly thought to be Taliban. It took an exposé by Jeremy Scahill (The Nation’s investigative reporter, and the real star of the film) and The Times of London for the government to apologize and offer the family… two sheep, an ancient forgiveness ritual in Afghanistan.

“If Americans do this again, we’re ready to shed our blood fighting them,” said a family member. “We’d rather die than sit by and do nothing.”

The incident was only one of many — at one point, there were 1,700 such attacks in a three-month period.

In this “dirty war,” no one is safe — not even American citizens. New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, a suspected Al Qaeda operative, was killed by a drone attack in Yemen in September 2011. His 16-year-old son, born in Denver, followed two weeks later, and today we still don’t know whether it was a targeted killing or “collateral damage.”

“I want to know why he was killed because it would say a lot about who we are as a society,” Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, told the Current in June. “One of the reasons we made this film is because we feel [the government] should answer that question.”

None of this is new. Anyone familiar with, say, the history of U.S.-Latin America relations in the ’70s and ’80s knows our government has a long history of secret and illegal operations. The difference is that this Orwellian constant war is now the norm, and the person who promised change is the one doing it.

“I believe that nations have a right to defend themselves, but I do not believe that nations have a right to wage preemptive wars or offensive wars,” Scahill said. “In our actions around the world, we’re engaged in Minority Report-like pre-crime. That has got to stop.”

Dirty Wars

Dir. Richard Rowley; writ. David Riker, Jeremy Scahill (not rated)
Opens July 5 at the Bijou

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