‘Undeclared wars have been launched in countries across the globe’ … Jeremy Scahill (centre, in black) in a scene from Dirty Wars. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar
– Jeremy Scahill: the man exposing the US Dirty War (Guardian, Nov 24, 2013):
While making the documentary Dirty Wars, Scahill met the survivors of secret US hit squads in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – and promised to tell their stories
Jeremy Scahill, whose provocative documentary Dirty Wars is released in the UK this week, has been described as a “progressive journalist” and an activist in the same mould as Glenn Greenwald. Is “progressive” a word he is comfortable with? “It’s not a term I would reject in terms of my personal politics,” he says, “but I see myself as an independent journalist and my mission is to try to tell stories about real people.”
Scahill’s critics write him off as an activist or an advocate, but he argues that all journalists have a point of view. “Oftentimes the ones who are activists on behalf of the state don’t get labelled as activists. People who accept the state’s version of events are considered objective journalists. People who question the state’s version of events, particularly in the face of overwhelming evidence that the state is either lying or involved in extra-legal activity, are tarred with the brush of being activists. There is a systematic smearing of anyone who questions the state, while people who are slavishly devoted to advocacy for the state somehow wear the crown of objectivity.”
The real people in the film – and the book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, which accompanies it – are the victims of what are, in effect, US hit squads operating in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places where the American government is waging its “war on terror”. Starting with one murderous attack on an Afghan police chief and his family in eastern Afghanistan, Scahill widens the focus to portray an out-of-control US military, operating through a shadowy organisation called the Joint Special Operations Command, stalking an ever increasing number of targets in an apparently endless war. It is a compelling picture that tries to make sense of the spiralling number of drone strikes and targeted assassinations; tries, too, to prise a reaction from viewers who have been desensitised by a decade of such killings.