Movie review: 'Dirty Wars' asks: Security at what price?

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRERJuly 12, 2013 

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Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviews witnesses to a U.S. Special Forces attack in Afghanistan.

  • DIRTY WARS

    •••1/2

    Rated: unrated. Starring: Jeremy Scahill. Director: Rick Rowley. Running time: 90 minutes. Theaters: Flicks

Does the Bill of Rights apply to all Americans, or only those the government deems worthy?

Should American citizens be assassinated for committing crimes without being charged, tried, or convicted?

These are some of the exigent questions asked by Jeremy Scahill in his new film, "Dirty Wars," a shocking piece of investigative journalism about the covert campaigns waged by U.S. Special Forces since the Sept. 11 attacks. (It's a companion piece to Scahill's book, "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield.")

His latest investigation began as a follow-up story to a 2010 British report that U.S. troops had erroneously targeted a family in Gardez, in Afghanistan's Paktia Province, an area with heavy Taliban activity.

Special Forces troops killed an American-trained police commander and three women, two of whom were pregnant.

Witnesses told Scahill the Americans dug out the bullets lodged in the victims' bodies, wiping out the only forensic clues. NATO's media office tried to cover up the attack by naming the Taliban as the killers. Scahill presented his findings to the House Judiciary Committee - and only one member showed up.

Eventually, the reporter found that the Gardez attack was one of hundreds of missions undertaken by a Special Forces group called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which reports directly to the president.

Scahill follows some of JSOC's activities, finding more evidence that the group caused the deaths of numerous terrorists - and plenty of innocent victims in more than 45 countries that are not at war with us.

Scahill's film takes an even darker turn when it looks into the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was denied the right to trial guaranteed all Americans.

Scahill gives an in-depth look at the CIA-led drone strike against the New Mexico-born al-Awlaki, a Yemenese American imam, while in Yemen. The White House said al-Awlaki was an active al-Qaida recruiter.

The Justice Department asserted that the killing was constitutional because President Barack Obama decreed it so.

"Dirty Wars" is essential viewing for all Americans, conservatives and liberals alike. It's intense and depressing. It'll make you angry.

Above all, it'll make you wonder: What are we willing to sacrifice in the name of national security?

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