Tag Archives: Jeremy Scahill

Filling Your Queue: Dirty Money


Jeremy Scahill’s investigation into what the Joint Special Operations Command does while it isn’t taking down bin Laden lands in DVD queues this week. Dirty Wars offers a provocative look at the evolution of the American military from boots on the ground warriors to a management firm handling targeted assassinations. Hell, we even outsource the jobs, and the kill lists, to warlords in Somalia and elsewhere. The documentary wallows in cinematic clichés here and there, but that tweaking of tensions is needless given the bewilderingly fascinating content. It’s a scary look at the likelihood of endless war.

Another eye-opening documentary -that far too few people laid eyes on – is 2010’s Inside Job, director Charles Ferguson’s look at the deregulation, greed, and glorified pyramid schemes behind the most recent Wall Street meltdown.

Ferguson makes complicated issues clear enough to understand without a phD in economics. There are no dramatically staged confrontations, just tough questions to stammering subjects who suddenly decide the interview they’re doing wasn’t a good idea. While this is tough material with plenty of facts, figures, dates and data, Ferguson does his best to keep it from getting too dry. The only thing keeping the film from classic status is a strange decision to have narrator Matt Damon close the film with a preachy sermon by writers Chad Beck and Adam Bolt.

That stumble aside, Inside Job is essential viewing.

In Search of a Nail

Dirty Wars

by Hope Madden

In 2006, Jeremy Scahill’s articles on Blackwater exposed the privatization of American military force. Seven years later, the national security correspondent for The Nation magazine sees peril in another kind of American military power, a topic he uncovers in director Rick Rowley’s documentary Dirty Wars.

Sort of a less reverent counterpart to Zero Dark Thirty, Dirty Wars traces the rise in power of the Joint Special Operations Command, the covert military arm that brought down Osama bin Laden.

Dirty Wars makes some scary predictions due to the operational style and military philosophies of JSOC. Specifically, Scahill and company foresee sprawling and endless war. They base the theory on things like kill lists that eliminate ever more vaguely articulated threats, and a constantly widening circle of acceptable collateral damage – or what some call martyrdom.

In short, they see a war on terror transformed into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Rowley keeps an impressive pace, pausing between revelations long enough for the information to sink in without stooping to obvious pronouncements or condescending reiterations. Unfortunately, not all of his choices are wise.

The documentarian falls on gimmicky cinematic clichés to suggest clandestine research, a journalist quietly consumed by what he’s finding, struggling with the unfolding mystery.  It’s a manipulative effort to keep attention, and Rowley’s Hollywood thriller sensibilities are needless, since his content is so bewilderingly, bleakly fascinating.

Are targeted assassinations just obvious military streamlining – the natural evolution of war?

Rowley’s film exposes a military machine that distances even the military itself from the act of war. Sure, drones help, but to the JSOC, war is a business and business practices are employed. They even outsource our kill lists to Somali war lords.

Scahill’s investigation wags a bi-partisan finger. It may have been Bush who created the JSOC, he points out, but Obama’s been more than willing to utilize this military arm.

They “created one hell of a hammer,” says an unnamed former JSOC member. “And they are continually searching for a nail.”