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Movie Review: Dirty Wars
Jeremy Scahill, reporter for such outlets as The Nation and Democracy Now, has come out with the most hard hitting documentary of recent years entitled, “Dirty Wars.” He takes us around the globe from Afghanistan to Yemen and Somalia documenting the crimes of U.S imperialistic foreign policy in tragic detail.
The documentary starts off in Gardez, Afghanistan, where a night raid by strange-looking, long-bearded American troops ends up in the butchery of a family, one of the targets being an American-trained Afghan policeman. To cover up their tracks the secretive American troops extract the bullets from the dead bodies with knives. The villagers refer to the mysterious killers as “the American Taliban.”
Scahill then returns to the U.S. to dig deeper into the covered-up massacre, which results in fierce denials from the American political and military establishment. After intensive research on the atrocity, Scahill testifies before a congressional committee composed of . . . empty seats. The elite politicians apparently had no stomach for answering questions about their sordid machinations.
Scahill’s documentary is a very instructive look at the U.S. media, and reveals them as tools of big business and the banks. The film shows Scahill attempting valiantly to get out the news of U.S. foreign atrocities to the public through civilized debate that goes nowhere; the media showers him with denunciations, and when these don’t work they stonewall him.
In following his story about U.S. interventions around the globe, Scahill discovers a secretive, law breaking elite U.S. paramilitary unit that answers only to the President, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Not only is JSOC guilty of the Afghan massacre, but, as it turns out, other atrocities abroad as well.
Just as Scahill is about to break the story he is threatened by a high ranking military officer, but then an even more incredible thing happens; JSOC is credited with the “successful” killing of Osama Bin Laden, and suddenly this illegal death squad goes from top secret to media darling.
Dirty Wars follows Scahill to Yemen where members of JSOC destroyed an innocent village under the pretext that Al-Qaeda was operating there. Scahill interviews a wealthy Yemeni politician who fills him in on the massacre, while a well known Yemeni journalist who covered the story was unceremoniously clapped in jail by the Yemeni government at the personal behest of none other than Barack Obama!
On coming back to the United States Scahill interviews many military veterans who fill him in on the functions of this JSOC force. Essentially, these special forces types are wild about hair raising adventures, ready for anything, even the most bloody and criminal operations across the globe, which reminds one of nothing other than Adolf Hitler’s elite Waffen SS paramilitary units, only on a far vaster scale than anything that the fascist madman could ever dream of.
Trying to get information about the activities of these vicious special units, Scahill struggles through all sorts of Freedom of Information Act requests but is rebuffed. Talking to Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Scahill is unable to elicit any information, as Wyden hides behind the old “it’s classified” routine.
As Karl Marx noted, the government of a nation state is essentially the “executive committee” of the ruling class; it is a veiled dictatorship of the capitalists who own the tremendous profits that enable them to bend the government to their will. Laws can be ignored or instantly changed to suit the interests of the very wealthy, while working people are jailed immediately for ignoring minor laws, and find it nearly impossible to implement new ones in their favor.
Particularly chilling is the move by U.S imperialism to begin targeting U.S. civilians for assassination. The film focuses on one of the first of these unconstitutional acts: the assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric that had been radicalized by the invasion of Iraq. After the Iraq invasion Al-Awlaki began to make radical speeches in favor of Jihad, calling for national liberation through the medium of Islamic extremism.
However, inflammatory speeches are not illegal and the government could prove nothing with regard to his affiliation with any terrorist group. Al-Awlaki ended up on the wrong end of a drone strike, one of the first U.S. citizens targeted for destruction. The film reaches its emotional zenith when Al-Awlaki’s teenage son is later the victim of a drone strike, along with his equally innocent teenaged friends.
Scahill documents the emergence of these war crimes over the whole globe, as the JSOC units conduct clandestine, illegal wars on virtually every continent.
He eventually makes a trip to Mogadishu, Somalia to interview a local warlord who had been tasked with killing Somalians on the U.S. “kill list.” In an interview with a Somali warlord, the killer praises the Americans who taught him the art of murder, saying that Americans are masters of war, they are “our teachers.” In league with violent reactionary forces the world over, it appears that the American war machine has its fingers in every pie.
Jeremy Scahill brings into focus many of the crimes of U.S. imperialism since the start of the Iraq War, and in the name of the ever-ready bogie of the War on Terrorism.
The empiricism of the film is one of its undoubted merits; the “high crimes and misdemeanors” of American imperialism are fully fleshed out and absorbing. However, Scahill’s journalistic empiricism — “just the facts” — is never fit into any kind of theoretical framework, leaving the viewer to wonder why all of this madness is happening.
For an answer one need look no farther than the great socialists of the twentieth century, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, who pointed out that by the time of World War One, the great powers had embarked on a policy of imperialism — where the banks and corporations had a dominant position in economic life, and sought a foreign policy of domination and exploitation of the peoples of the whole globe for raw materials, markets and spheres of influence.
Lenin said that this inter-imperialistic struggle between the great powers would lead to war after war unless the working class intervened to end the capitalist economic basis of imperialism, and replace it with a democratic, planned economy.
With the downfall of the Stalinist Soviet Union, the imperialists of the world and especially the mightiest of them all, U.S. imperialism, thought anything was possible. Seizing the strategic oil resources of the Middle East and placing a cordon around Russia and China is undoubtedly the road being taken by American imperialism, which requires an expansion of blatantly illegal foreign wars, using drone assassinations and backing rogue regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Somalia, etc. “Dirty Wars” is just one manifestation of the eruption of aggression that American imperialism is using to “organize the globe” in its own image.
In the final analysis, the nation state can be reduced to “bodies of armed men” and their appendages, in defense of the economic system of the rich, capitalism. The American military is an instrument in the hands of the capitalist class used to oppress the entire globe. And because American capitalism can longer dominate through economic means alone, it relies ever more strongly on illegal, militaristic answers to the goal of global domination.
Jeremy Scahill has done the labor movement of the whole world a great service by exposing the bloody, insane, robber nature of the capitalist system in general and mighty American imperialism in particular. It deserves a wide audience.