For those who read Al Jazeera (or Glenn Greenwald) on the subject of our illegal wars, drone strikes, civilian casualties and the resulting creation of exponentially more anti-American terrorists than we could ever possibly kill or contain, there are probably no shocking new revelations in Dirty Wars, a film that follows intrepid journalist and author Jeremy Scahill to places on the globe that American journalists would rarely, if ever, dare to go. But even if there are no big reveals, it’s the smallest details in the film that make it powerful and jarring, in ways that humanize and universalize these horrors.
The faces of young children, orphaned and dead, pointless victims of our lawless and counterproductive violence. The breaking voices of those in mourning. The hellscapes of Somalia. The sheer scale of the reckless and senseless evils done in our names that every U.S. citizen should reckon with on a daily basis, before the reckoning comes back to them.
I don’t want to recount any more of it here. Today, I am tired of thinking about it. Tonight, it will doubtless haunt my dreams.
So instead I’ll just say a few nice things about the filmmaking itself, apart from its subject matter. The cinematography is astonishing. Under some of the most extreme circumstances imaginable, the filmmakers manage to capture majestic landscapes as well as extraordinarily gritty and revealing closeups of their interview subjects. Some of the post-production and editing may be a little slick for my personal taste, but it supports the chaotic narratives taking place in war zones, and indeed in Scahill’s own mind as he runs down the story. In the wake of the NSA revelations last week, I had to laugh at Scahill’s wondering aloud how some military big shot could possibly get his cell number and know enough about what he was working on to call him and issue a veiled threat only hours before he published a piece in The Nation that The Powers That Be did not want made public. Hahaha.
In a just world, Scahill’s work would win him a medal of honor. In this world, it’s more likely to win him a target on his skull, one put there by his own president.
The Palace highly recommends Dirty Wars to anyone with an interest in the truth.