Dirty Wars (2013)

Of late, investigative journalism and WikiLeaks have been a thorn in the side of the US Government. As the pile that the government sweeps its secrets into piles up, it becomes harder to conceal the traumatic faults and atrocities that our government is hiding from us. With a little bit of digging, it’s not hard to see that there are many military related accidents that happen overseas that the public isn’t made aware of. Whereas WikiLeaks went ahead and leaked all these documents, on investigative journalist went into the heat of the battle to uncover a few separate instances in which the government has had a hand in unjust killings of innocent civilians overseas and close to home.

Scahill is photographed as he tries to help this family discover what happened to them.
Scahill is photographed as he tries to help this family discover what happened to them.

Jeremy Scahill has been an investigative journalist for many years and is the best-selling author of Blackwater and Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. As an investigative journalist, his work has taken him all over the country and into other countries as well. He’s one of the hardest working members of his profession and his work has led him to discover some disparaging facts about our government, when it comes to: drone strikes, secret raids, special targets and even an assassination order on a US citizen.

Schahill’s work finds him going back-and-forth between the States, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, as he even takes cases to many judges who won’t listen to him, despite his astounding evidence. The film centers around a drone strike and JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) covert-ops mission that ended up killing innocent civilians, the assassination of Anwar Awlaki and his son Abdulahman Anwar al-Awlaki (both US citizens) and the cover-up of a raid gone wrong, in which US Soldiers killed five innocent civilians and proceeded to remove their bullets to hide any evidence. The film brings these awful events to light and holds the government accountable.

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Scahill rides in a taxi to the more dangerous part of town.

This has certainly been a year for films to bring horrible government secrets into the public eye. I, for one, am glad that people like Jeremy Scahill are going to the lengths that they do to deliver this information. Not only is it nice to see that someone still cares about investigative journalism, but it’s also admirable to see a man stand up against his own government when he has evidence of the evildoing’s that they gave the “okay” for.

This film was adapted from Scahill’s book of the same name and the narrative couldn’t be better. These topics were clearly something that Scahill was passionate about and once you see the damage firsthand, it’s hard not to want to support his work. What struck me most about this film is the extremes that the government has gone to when it comes to their neglecting of these awful events. The evidence is there, but it’s overlooked and dismissed. Seeing bodies with empty bullet wounds is enough to disgust you on more than a few levels. Seeing the destruction that befalls an innocent family with elderly members and young children is enough to tear at your heart. To know that our troops have killed civilians on suspicion and just pass it off as it’s nothing is deeply upsetting. The denial of all these events hurts the worst, because you know that these horrible things happened and that nothing has been done about it.

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Scahill is hard at work.

For me, this film urged me to discover more about what isn’t being told to the public and in a way, this documentary is a great companion to We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks. Both documentaries discuss government cover-ups, but the hard work in Dirty Wars and the genuine concern for these deceased and distraught families will connect better with audiences. While some believe that this film takes a more “liberal” look on the War on Terror, I believe that this film will reach out and grab the attention of anyone who considers themselves political. It’s not a film that tries to tear apart one political party or another. At its core, the film begs a huge question. What else is the government keeping from us? How many civilian deaths have there been? How many women and children have died from “accidental” operations? How much is enough? It’s these questions that had me thinking all throughout the movie. Had these been American deaths, I guarantee that more people would care about all these issues.

Unfortunately, as is shown by the government, not as many people care because these deaths weren’t of American soldiers. If anything, the film does come off as heavy-handed at times and the narration does seem overplayed, at times. At times, I can see how the film may become more liberal than it is neutral, but it’s not enough to where it bothered me. I’ve also heard that some believe that Scahill glorifies himself for his work, but if he did at all, I think that he kind of  has a right to. The film does drag on a bit towards the end and it does make you grow a bit wary. That, and the pacing does shift from fast to slow, from time to time. Other than that, I thought that the information is presented well and that it serves to educate, rather than tell you what you should think. Why I liked this film so much, I think, is because many different aspects of the War on Terror are explored. Aspects such as why we’re still fighting and what we’re fighting for, why certain groups are chastised because of their beliefs and why some targets are perceived as the enemy, when in fact, they aren’t.

"If children are terrorists, then we are all terrorists".
“If children are terrorists, then we are all terrorists”.

Stories, like this film’s, are ones that make you step back and really look at the war as a whole. I think that these kinds of stories are important and are the ones that need to be told. We, as American citizens, have the right to know what all’s going on in a war that we continue to fund. Until that day comes, I can live with having journalists like Scahill who will go through any trials to learn the truth and share it with the people. This film is evidence of a man who cares and it’s enough to make you care as well. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the War on Terror and those who are seeking what’s really going on behind the scenes. You’re not going to be disappointed, rather shocked, if anything.

4 STARS!!!
4 / 5 stars     

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