War is a dirty business. Everyone knows that.
Hostages and collateral damage; friendly fire and PTSD. Famine and disease; massacres and mayhem. When two nations go to war, the only certainty is bloodshed.
When the greatest military power on earth declares war, not against a country, but against a concept – terrorism – the only certainty is that there is no certainty. As Dirty Wars reveals, something very disturbing is taking place in the new frontier against global terror.
What happens in Afghanistan is meant to stay in Afghanistan. Someone clearly forgot to tell Jeremy Scahill, a constant thorn in the side of the US government. The 39-year-old filmmaker brushes aside military cordons and delves deep into forbidden territory to create this award-winning documentary.
By day, the American soldiers sip tea with the locals and talk of winning hearts and minds. When night falls, however, those same hearts and minds are ruthlessly obliterated by drone strikes and assassination squads. In many cases, there is scant evidence that the victims are terrorists, yet there is ample evidence that their deaths are creating a new breed of terrorist – one with a shrapnel-sized chip on his shoulder.
“We would rather die than sit by and do nothing,” confesses one man in response to the covert killings. Scahill’s cinematic documentary dishes the dirt on extrajudicial killing squads that ‘find, fix and finish’ their targets – be they Afghan tribesmen or US citizens. No one is off-limits and nothing is off-limits in Jeremy Scahill’s quest to discover the truth about the war on terror – no matter how unpalatable it may be.
Fear of the dark
The trailer for Dirty Wars (embedded below) is tense, seat-gripping stuff. As Jeremy Scahill narrates, it could easily be mistaken for Memento or some other slick thriller. There’s just one crucial difference: all of this is real.
Rather than sermonising, Scahill’s exquisitely-filmed documentary strips away the layers of government secrecy and exposes the truth about a morally vacuous war. It transpires that you can’t kill a noun any more than you can kill a hydra. As one head is lopped off, another three take its place, sowing the seed for future wars that will beget future wars.
Watch your six, lies and videotape
Despite its bleak subject matter, Dirty Wars is a tense and exhilarating ride as Jeremy Scahill steps out from behind the lens and into the line of fire. Dubbed a “one-man truth squad”, the director has spent the last ten years reporting on wars the US would rather we forgot; Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and every other conflict that can be chalked up to the existential threat of ‘muh terrorism’.
In the foothills of Afghanistan, there are things that go bump in the night. Dirty Wars takes us uncomfortably close to the true face of global terror.
Ed Uncovered looks forward to meeting some of you there, as well as the film’s producers who will be engaging in a panel discussion about drone warfare afterwards.
Bring a friend, switch off your phone and get comfy – but whatever you do, don’t forget to breathe.