Dirty Wars – Ramifications of Contemporary Warfare

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The US government has been waging ‘War on Terror’ at a vague enemy for more than twelve years (longer than the World Wars). However, the conflicts don’t seem to be ending and the death tolls of these high-quality military tactics are never mentioned in news or speeches. May be the media were worn in repeating the facts of these non-sensational pieces or may be, we believe that the scope and intensity of this secretive terror war has decreased after the change of Bush/Cheney Administration. A definite ‘No’ is uttered by Journalist Jeremy Scahill and Richard Rowley, whom in their documentary “Dirty Wars” (2013) investigate mini-wars wedged upon innocent civilians, which mostly escapes the media scrutiny and congressional oversight.

The 38 year old Scahill is a best-selling author of “Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” (2007), who is currently working as a national-security correspondent for the “Nation.” Now, the documentary, released concurrently with the book (under the same title) pursues the actions of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which is named as “the most covert unit in the military and the only one that reports directly to the White House.” The JSOC came into spotlights after it successfully carried out the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Although, Katheryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” remained unbiased in portraying these events, it transmitted lore about these national heroes: that they are so lethal, efficient, so necessary, and so ethically specific in its targets.

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Schaill and his crew inquire this lore by looking into a mysterious night raid in Patkia province of Afghanistan. Five civilians – including two pregnant women – were killed by members of JSOC. Apart from the women, a senior police commander, trained by Americans was also killed. Scahill goes into this Taliban-controlled territory to meet the victims’ family. He learns that the victims were the members of a wedding party. The family also says that the soldiers cut the bullets from the bodies so the deaths could not be linked to U.S. troops. The shocking fact is that this is not the first of its kind night time raid. Over 1,700 raids were conducted within only a three months period. Another intriguing fact is that the NATO’s press office tried to cover up the attack by naming the killers as Talibans. When the cell phone camera footage support the version of victims, we see William McRaven, the chief of the JSOC visiting the villagers to enounce an apology.

Later, we follow Scahill to another village, to another bloody raid. This time it has happened in Yemen. The death toll in this dirt-poor village is much bigger: 21 children and 14 women. More American weaponries are lying in the burned down village. A local reporter who has covered this story was imprisoned by his government. Scahill also finds out that the United States government is hunting “suspected terrorists” in countries, where there was no conflicts were going on. The list extends to more than 45 countries.

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Scahill and director Rowley criticizes post 9/11 American policy through the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen. The American-born Muslim cleric got radicalized by the mistreatment of American Muslims. Few Years later, he was named as a terrorist and a recruiter of Al-Qaeda. In 2011, a drone attack in Yemen killed him (along with three by-standers), without a trial. Few weeks later, Anwar’s 16 year old son was also killed by a drone attack, when he was drinking tea with his friends. These incidents put a human face to all this misplaced ‘War on Terror’ tactics. But, any way the polls generally show that the majority of public and the government fully support these tactics. The voice-over provided by Scahill is engaging and some of it was written powerfully: “How does a war like this ever end?”

The documentary doesn’t feature counterargument justifying JSOC. May be the answers are rendered as counterargument are obvious: ‘collateral damage happens when encountering ruthless terrorists.’ But, what shames a so-called democratic nation like America is the way their armies back warlords to assist them to do their dirty work in Africa. When one of the gun-toting guy of this group showers accolades like, “America is a master of war,” you could feel that this war could sow deeper troubles, which will definitely be felt several decades down in the history.

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The harrowing documentary “Dirty Wars” (85 mins.) might bring out debate on the unethical actions of US military, in the name of national security. Above all, this courageous investigation will also make us think that, ‘at least the Americans have freedom of press.’

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