Normally I write about movies on my film blog http://www.rgdinmalaysia4film.blogspot.com/
but this film intersects a lot of subjects I have discussed in the past and DIRTY WARS is a documentary so I’ll discuss it here.
DIRTY WARS the good - Jeremy Scahill has done some admirable work most notably his book on Blackwater BLACKWATER: THE RISE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MERCENRAY ARMY. He hits the all right points here on extrajudicial killing esp. the shadowy Joint Special Operations Command which has been given carte blanche authority in the ever widening global war on terror battlefield. They are basically a death squad whether killing innocent Afghans (including pregnant women) or using drones that wipe out whole villages in Yemen. His discussion of US kill lists and the case of Anwar Al Awlaki is pointed and thorough as is the case of Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye thrown in jail in Yemen at President Obama’s behest for reporting on a drone strike on the village of Al Majalah that killed many women and children.
He also establishes that front and center in the implementation of this death squad policy is President Obama. He is the driving force behind this type of violence done to other countries. He is a war criminal and should be impeached and then tried for war crimes.
In particular, the last ten minutes of the movie deal with Somalia which is an ongoing human rights disaster caused by the USA. In order to stop the Islamic group Al-Shabbab(which does have some ties to Al Quaeda) or anybody the US doesn’t like there from coming to power and creating some form of government uniting the country and creating a livable country for its people. The US is paying warlords (gangsters and criminals basically) to keep Somalia in a state of anarchy killing people, raping women, committing other disgusting crimes. The recent terrorist attack in Kenya is a direct result of this policy.
A little history on the US in Somalia courtesy of http://rinf.com/alt-news/breaking-news/hollywood-propaganda-american-heros-and-somali-savages-captain-phillips-obscures-us-crimes-in-somalia/
In response to the terrorism of the US-backed warlords, religious factions began to unite to fight off the warlords. The factions united under the name, The Union of Islamic Courts. The UIC ushered in a justice system as well as stability, which allowed the unrestricted delivery of aid to malnourished Somalis. By 2006 the UIC had united almost all of Somalia. The top UN official on Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, stated that the time of the UIC rule was the “golden era” and the only break from the steady stream of misery for Somalis. The UIC was the first semblance of a stable central government in 15 years.
A leaked diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks revealed that the US wouldn’t tolerate the UIC gaining control of Somalia. The Bush administration likely believed the UIC would be too independent from US influence and mistakenly saw the UIC as sheltering radical Islamists.
In 2006 the US backed Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia. It was a characteristic US proxy war with US troops on the ground, US intelligence informing strategy, and US air power providing support. The invasion turned into a brutal 2-year occupation, displacing hundreds of thousands and killing 16,000 civilians.
Rob Wise at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the Ethiopian occupation transformed al Shabaab from a very weak force in Somalia to “the most powerful and radical faction in the country”.
DIRTY WARS the bad – Well this article lays out all the points http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/07/dirty-wars-and-the-cinema-of-self-indulgence/
(although I think it goes too far….I’m not going to attack Scahill for appearing on camera too much….It is his film….He’s the one doing the investigating).
But the criticism the Counterpunch article gets right is the lack of historical reference.
The War on Terror, a euphemism for US imperialism and murder, is only different insofar as the technology and the use of US troops. During the Cold War, the United States participated in genocidal mass killings in Vietnam, Guatemala, Indonesia, and many other third world nations. US Special Forces sometimes did the killings but often it was specially trained locals (who received their education at that higher institute of horrors the College of the Americas). Nowadays, due to upgrades in technology, not just drones but everything else, the locals are no longer needed.
So DIRTY WARS ends up being like a long 60 Minutes story. Commendable for shining a light on US human rights violations but it could have been made better with a bit of history. The US’s post cold war history is one of mass murder and extrajudicial killings (with tactics borrowed from the defeated Nazis) in the service of capitalistic exploitation whether facing real enemies or not. The only evil empire left is America.