“Dirty Wars” is 2014. Oscar nominated documentary feature. “Dirty Wars” is a story about covert operations of American forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen. While wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were (and still are) in the public spotlight, wars in Somalia, Yemen and some other countries are led under the radar with the common title “War against terror” which is by itself illogical. “Dirty Wars” are focusing on operations of J-SOC, special military unit for counter terrorism, founded after the failed response to the Iran hostage crisis in 1979.
After 9/11, J-SOC operations were more diverse and more brutal than in any past period of their work. Film follows Jeremy Scahill, investigative reporter and the author of international bestseller “Blackwater”, into the deserts of Afghanistan and Yemen where the night raids of US troops killed innocent men, women and children without trial, without questions asked, and then went to the brutal lengths to cover-up what they did. Jeremy Scahill then founds out another interesting fact, traces of J-SOC activities in Yemen, and he follows the trail of other such raids made in the name of the USA under the direct order of the White House, possibly even the President Obama himself.
At this point few key questions had to be asked. Why did Obama get the Nobel Peace Prize if he’s fighting two wars that we know of and a dozen of covert ones we don’t know anything about? Second, does the “War on terror” ever end? Is it for something that is so perpetual and self-sustaining possible to ever end? Jeremy Scahill talks about threats of the US officials, talks about the Congressional hearing where he asked the questions about specific raids but all that he’d get were deaf ears of the congressmen and military staff alike.
From the side of film-making it’s obvious that the film was meant to be about J-SOC and revealing their true nature to the American public, but after Osama bin Laden was killed activities of J-SOC were revealed to the public and they’ve made their fame and achieved the place in the spotlight. At that point the authors of the documentary were forced to change their narrative and you can feel that change while watching it. The fact that this documentary is Oscar nominee is important from the perspective of facing what’s been done in the name of freedom to the other countries around the globe to which US had never declared war.
Here is the main problem with the story, idea that’s not developed enough. Is it possible to lead a war on concept? Is it possible to fight globally against emotion, against state of mind. In the past countries were at war with each other, ideologies were at war with each other (democracy, communism, fascism) but until the “War on terror” there was never one against the concept so vague that can’t even be called an idea. How dangerous that concept can be we can see in the “Dirty Wars”. There’s always a danger for the fighter to become the very thing he’s fighting against. When the fighter against “terror” sew terror himself, how different is he from the Talibans, and the warlords he fights against? Few key moments of the movie I would like to emphasize: first is a moment when Afghan child calls US Army “American Talibans” and second’s a moment in Somalia where US backed warlord is ramping through the streets of Mogadishu with his band of savage men and an endless killing list. Scahill argues that USA in such a way, with the “War on terror” creates its future enemies, and because of that for such a war it’s basically impossible to end. But the question Scahill doesn’t ask is whose interest is it to be in a perpetual war?
I remembered a joke from the history class on the University: What’s so good about the “war on terror” is that the new enemies can always be invented. Perpetual war made impossible for something like the fall of the Soviet Union and disappearance of the enemy to occur ever again.
In some twisted way, “Dirty Wars” proves the point. Joke has became a reality. Twisted and sick joke. Nevertheless, the joke that is probably more surprising and more provocative to the American than European people.
Demystification of Barack Obama and clarification of his role in the drones attacks and Yemen night-raids, questioning the repercussions and justification of the perpetual and twisted context of “War on terror” are the reasons to watch this documentary. Storytelling shifts somewhere in the middle of the story when it was clear that revealing J-SOC will not be provocative enough and that’s one of the downsides of the film. Direction of Rick Rowley is intriguing, and Jeremy Scahill is great as an investigative reporter trying to get to the bottom of things.
But reactions to the feature probably aren’t so tense as expected. Will those responsible for the atrocities be held in custody and court-marshaled? I’m not so sure. Maybe Oscar nominee will help and give the topic space that it needs to finally challenge the actions of the government.
One imdb reviewer in his review quoted: “Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands.” Robert F Kennedy
I would just add, if we’re silent shame is on us – not on them.
Also, I would like an answer: Was there ever a clear war?
Food for thought.