Dirty Wars | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Dirty Wars 

Part investigative report, part docu-drama and part meditation on the long-term costs of the clandestine U.S. military actions overseas

Jeremy Scahill works in the dark.

Jeremy Scahill works in the dark.

Rock Rowley's film Dirty Wars follows investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill through the shadows — from a covered-up U.S. Army night raid in Afghanistan to the current off-the-books actions of the super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Yemen and Somalia. The film is part investigative report, part docu-drama and part meditation on the long-term costs of clandestine U.S. military actions overseas. "The war on terror," Scahill summarizes, "has transformed into a self-fulfilling prophecy."  

Scahill writes for The Nation, and also penned the influential exposé Blackwater, about the titular military contractor. A lot of the shocking detail is buried in mountains of data, and that's the value of a yard dog like Scahill. Before JSOC came to light, Scahill would find photos, often buried in foreign press or overlooked reports, of U.S. military commanders wearing uniforms missing key insignia. He converts military numerical charts of enemy kills into the names of women and children killed by secret strikes in Yemen. It's a story, he says, of the "seen and the unseen, and what's hidden in plain sight."

The rub with black ops, of course, is that it's hard to find independent sources to verify one's claims. But if only a fraction of what Scahill posits is happening, it's disturbing enough.



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