Director Talks about ‘Dirty Wars’: Part II


by Jason Harris

According to the movie’s website, Dirty Wars “begins as a report into a U.S. night raid gone terribly wrong in a remote corner of Afghanistan, and quickly turns into a global investigation of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

As Jeremy Scahill digs deeper into the activities of JSOC, he is pulled into a world of covert operations, unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams ‘find, fix, and finish’ their targets, who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for the ‘kill list,’ including U.S. citizens.

Drawn into the stories and lives of the people he meets along the way, Scahill is forced to confront the painful consequences of a war spinning out of control, as well as his own role as a journalist.

We encounter two parallel casts of characters.

The CIA agents, Special Forces operators, military generals, and U.S.-backed warlords who populate the dark side of American wars go on camera and on the record, some for the first time.

We also see and hear directly from survivors of night raids and drone strikes, including the family of the first American citizen marked for death and being hunted by his own government.”

The world has changed so much since director Rick Rowley and writer Jeremy Scahill began Dirty Wars. When they started the film, there was no public discussion on the war on terror, Rowley said. No one was talking about drones, targeted killing, assassinations or any of that. There may have been some talk on the fringes, but nothing like there is now, Rowley said. It eventually moved from the fringes to the editorial pages of the Washington Post.

Rowley doesn’t know why it is being talked about now when it wasn’t when they started the film. He thinks this discussion should have happened a decade ago so people would know why the war is being waged, what it’s doing to the world, and doing to us as a people. “It’s wonderful that it is, but the rhythms where they take us are difficult to explain.”

He’s not sure how these things happen, but after Sept. 11 it was bound to take some time before we could soberly look at what was going on, Rowley said. He thinks it could be happening now that President Barack Obama has been re-elected and he won’t be facing a challenge from a Republican contender.

“I think its safe for them to come forward and begin to talk about issues that they would feel differently talking about if you were about to go up against [Mitt] Romney.”

Rowley hopes his film is a part of the conversation that is going on at the moment. There are more than a dozen wars going on in the world at this time.

“There are a dozen of those countries where wars are being fought in our name, but without our knowledge and without our consent. And at home, they have assumed the right to execute American citizens without formal charges and without a trial.”

Rowley believes fundamentally important decisions have been made about who we are as a country and how we operate in the world, and it has all been made over the last decade in secret without a national debate. These wars have been orchestrated by the secretive and powerful JSOC, which Scahill is about to sue, he said. The lawsuit is coming about because of all the freedom of information requests that have not been answered by JSOC.

Scahill was also pressured not to publish certain articles, Rowley said. Scahill was threatened and his computer was hacked. Some of these instances are chronicled in the film. The film also delves deeper into JSOC’s activities.

You can find out where Dirty Wars is showing on its website,

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