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DIRTY WARS (director: Richard Rowley; screenwriters: Jeremy Scahill/David Riker/narrated by Mr. Scahill; cinematographer: Richard Rowley; editor: Richard Rowley; music: David Harrington; cast: Jeremy Scahill, Abdul Ghafoor, Raouf Hikal, Mohammed Tahir, Mohammed Sabir, Hugh Shelton, Jerome Starkey, Sheikh Saleh Bin Fareed, Abdul Rahman Barman, Ron Wyden, Patrick Lang, Anthony Shaffer, Nasser al Aulaqi, Malcolm Nance; Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Anthony Arnove/Brenda Coughlin/Mr. Scahill; Sundance Selects//IFC Films; 2013)
“Relentlessly questions the military aims of American foreign policy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Based on Nation investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill’s decade long research on the hostile areas in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. The hard-hitting expose takes its title from Scahill’s book title. Its main focus is on the Joint Special Operations Command, a unit that is centered around international reactions to terrorism and is responsible for targeted assassinations–which surprisingly became more common under the anti-Bush peace-proclaiming President Obama. Documentarian director Richard Rowley (“Zapatista”/”The Fourth World War“/”Black & Gold”) keeps the expose film, of how in modern times we live in a world of continuous wars (however covert and low-level) and how we have no inclination of getting out of them despite its unclear aims, vast expenses, lack of accountability and failures to make us secure. It’s an earnest attempt to breach the stonewalling by the government and the military of reporters and the public to justify the illegal wars fought and of the coverups after many special-ops errors.

Rowley, with screenwriter David Riker and tour guide narrator and co-writer Jeremy Scahill, examine America’s dirty wars in the Middle East and ask moral questions about its secret missions and relentlessly questions the military aims of American foreign policy.

The sobering grim film is a well-executed essential one, informing us of news we might not get on network TV about these endless wars. But it should so we can be aware and not be fooled about what we got mired in without fully understanding the implications. In its main episode, it’s shown how the dubious War on Terror has our government assassinate by drone rogue American citizen, the distasteful Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and a few weeks later his 16-year-old son, in an operation acting upon a “kill list” that’s not only legally questionable but questionable if it makes us safer. The pic asks us to ponder if these harsh unconstitutional actions are necessary and why are we kept in the dark and questions the weak current president’s judgment in following such a militaristic policy.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”