In Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, Jeremy Scahill, author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, takes us inside America’s new covert wars. The foot soldiers in these battles operate globally and inside the United States with orders from the White House to do whatever is necessary to hunt down, capture, or kill individuals designated by the president as enemies.
Drawn from the ranks of the Navy SEALs, Delta Force, former Blackwater and other private security contractors, the CIA’s Special Activities Division, and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), these elite soldiers operate worldwide, with thousands of secret commandos working in more than one hundred countries. Funded through “black budgets,” Special Operations Forces conduct missions in denied areas, engage in targeted killings, snatch and grab individuals, and direct drone, AC-130, and cruise missile strikes. While the Bush administration deployed these ghost militias, President Barack Obama has expanded their operations and given them new scope and legitimacy.
Dirty Wars follows the consequences of the declaration that “the world is a battlefield,” as Scahill uncovers the most important foreign policy story of our time. From Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia, and beyond, Scahill reports from the frontlines in this high-stakes investigation and explores the depths of America’s global killing machine. He goes beneath the surface of America’s covert wars, conducted in the shadows, outside the range of the press, without effective congressional oversight or public debate. And, based on unprecedented access, Scahill tells the chilling story of an American citizen marked for assassination by his own government.
As US leaders draw the country deeper into conflicts across the globe, setting the world stage for enormous destabilization and blowback, Americans are not only at greater risk—we are changing as a nation. Scahill unmasks the shadow warriors who prosecute these secret wars and puts a human face on the casualties of unaccountable violence that is now official policy: victims of night raids, secret prisons cruise missile attacks and drone strikes, and whole classes of people branded as “suspected militants.” Through his brave reporting, he exposes the true nature of the dirty wars the United States government struggles to keep hidden.
Jeremy Scahill (born October 18, 1974) is the National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of the international bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, which won the George Polk Book Award. His newest book is Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, published by Nation Books on April 23, 2013. On January 8, 2013, the documentary film of the same name was released. Scahill is a Fellow at The Nation Institute. He is also a producer and writer of the film Dirty Wars, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Scahill learned the journalism trade and got his start as a journalist on the independently syndicated daily news show Democracy Now!. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
“Dirty Wars” has a somewhat different tone that Scahil’s book on Blackwater. It is a rigorous history of un-declared and largely un-reported violence in many countries around the world by various parts of the United States government since Sept 11th. There is,as one might expect, a sub-text of great alarm about the deterioration of American legal standards and a profound concern about the effects of killing of thousands of people, many of them children and others who died for having the bad luck to be near a US target. The concerns are both moral and strategic since it is not at all clear that the policies have not created far more terrorists than they have killed. But what is most striking about “Dirty Wars” is how thorough and careful it is as a work of history. There is no name calling there are no no knee-jerk left wing attitudes. There is an implicit empathy and respect for many in the military and intelligence communities who wouldn’t be caught reading a copy of The Nation.It is a search for the truth in an arena that most of the media has ignored or failed to have the resolve to fully learn and analyze. It is primarily a recitation of facts which gives the book far more authority than a mere polemic and it will be a permanent part of the history of these times. Dirty Wars: The World Is A BattlefieldDirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield
Tonight I heard Jeremy Scahill speak for about two hours about his book and field questions from the audience. I also skimmed through his book before his talk. While what he writes is compelling and needs to be heard by more Americans- I believe his talk and what I can gather from the book, have a fundamental flaw.
During his talk Jeremy spoke about building empathy- through reporting- reveal the stories that personalize acts of atrocity- committed by our government/military or others. This is important- and a major failing of our educational systems is the failure to expand the moral imagination- to go beyond dry facts into a deep and self questioning moral understanding. However, an adult audience present day- twenty years ago- one hundred years ago- needs more than a spark of moral outrage. They need at least a framework that can see US foreign policy in the context of empire- or corporate domination and the perversion of global capitalism. In the broader historical and current day contexts so brilliantly developed by Chomsky, Zinn and others- it becomes obvious that drone strikes, JSOC operations, tomahawk missile attacks on civilian populations, cluster bombs, targeted assassinations- are hardly recent aberrations, but are part of a pattern of empire that extends across time and spatially across the globe. Whether Honduras, Guatamala, Nicaragua, Palestine, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere- whether today or 40 years ago- the US and its allies’ foreign policy have reigned more than just terror from the skies. It is directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions of innocents. And while there are always evil characters at all levels of society- the truth is our killing, exploitative policies have and are serving the basic needs of empire- which includes maintaining the American standard of living. Americans and others, must understand that these policies- are already coming home and being used to suppress dissent and erode basic freedoms. As Jeremy points out- globally they create enemies from friends. But more significantly- they are destroying the economic, environmental, political and social fabric of world society- putting what amounts to all life in jeopardy.
Jeremy stuck to the facts of what he investigated. But his motivation for writing is fundamentally moral. But his words and writing, by not at least hinting at a systemic critique- perpetuate the illusion that it is just a few bad apples. Sorry, Jeremy- the orchard is bad- and the disease is and has been spreading rapidly.
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