On Tuesday, Arts & Lectures screened the award-winning documentary “Dirty Wars,” a film providing a glimpse into the United States’ covert wars around the globe from the angle of an investigative journalist.
In the film, journalist Jeremy Scahill — a correspondent for The Nation magazine — discovers secret activities performed by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Such activities include targeted killing campaigns throughout the Middle East and Africa, as well as the unmanned drone airstrike program.
The documentary, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Festival, begins with an investigation into a botched night raid conducted by American Special Forces in Gardez, Afghanistan in February 2010. The raid resulted in the deaths of seven civilians, including two pregnant women. Members of the team that conducted the raid went to “extreme lengths,” according to Scahill in the film, to cover up the accidental killings. For instance, some members dug bullets out of the bodies of injured women, in front of surviving family members, he said in the film.
The film also details another attempted cover-up that occurred a few months before the Gardez incident, when a U.S. cruise missile strike in the Yemeni village of al Majala led to the deaths of about 14 women and 21 children in December 2009. The documentary also examines the circumstances in which Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was assassinated by an American drone missile in Yemen in 2011.
Associate professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval said he assigned Scahill’s book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield — which the film is based on — to a class of graduate students, because he said wars do not receive enough attention from the American public.
“We’re engendering more militancy and opposition to the United States, as a result of our policies,” Armbruster-Sandoval said. “It should be watched. It is something not on our radar screen.”
First-year economics major Aaron Barruga, a Special Forces Green Beret veteran of nine years, said he carried mixed feelings about the documentary, “It should not be used as a stand-alone piece if you’re trying to formulate an opinion, because it’s such a strong emotional argument.”
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of the Thursday, October 24, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.