Film Reviews

Dirty Wars Documents How the U.S. Wages War Now

It's not news that the American "War on Terror" has helped create growing anti-American sentiment (in Iraq and Afghanistan, for starters) rooted not in people's envy of our culture or hatred of our values but in the senseless bloodshed suffered by their families and countrymen. A sobering illustration of how the U.S. creates such enemies is merely the starting point of Richard Rowley's documentary Dirty Wars. Written by David Riker and celebrated investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill (author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army), the film follows Scahill as he unpeels the layers of Joint Special Operations Command, the powerful covert military outfit that answers directly — and only — to the president, and whose maneuvers in the Middle East have left more civilians dead than we can know. Fast-moving and sleekly made, the film is woven from graphic images filmed on phones, in-the-field footage shot on handheld cameras, and interviews with both survivors of violence and stunningly calloused American military figures. At times it plays like a real-life Jason Bourne flick as Scahill travels from country to country connecting the dots between mysterious and misbegotten attacks on outpost villages, the U.S. military's hunt for the Taliban, and the complicity of both the U.S. government and media in covering up massacres and smearing journalists who do more than phone in PR-spun news. Dirty Wars is essential viewing for anyone who wants to know how we wage war right now; it's also a chilling prologue for what's likely a global future of endless war and blowback.

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Ernest Hardy is a regular film contributor to the Village Voice,LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.

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