Apr 15 2014

On Dirty Wars, NSA Spying, and Independent Media: A Conversation with Jeremy Scahill

A creative new art collaboration between Pakistani activists French street artist JR, has attempted to humanize the victims of US drone bombings. The project involves laying out a photo of a young child who was apparently orphaned by drone strikes in a Pakistani village. The photo is large enough to be visible by satellite imagery. Using the #NotaBugSplat, the effort has drawn attention to the tragic impact of remote-controlled killings that have become routine under President Obama.

While defenders of drone attacks are going as far as saying drone operators ought to be eligible for military medals, the question remains, who are the people conducting the drone war and the related ground raids in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, and why are they acceptable to the American public given that there is no Congressional dialogue or debate about them?

Attempting to answer that question are two intrepid journalists: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley. Their film, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, was nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Academy Awards and is based in part on the book by the same name written by Scahill. In an unflinching manner, Dirty Wars explores the shadowy world of US military raids, bombs, kill-lists, and assassinations.

What started out some years ago as an investigation into a mysterious night raid in Gardez, Afghanistan where a number of innocent Afghan women and men were killed, ended up uncovering a covert force known as the Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC which operates in countries like Yemen and Somalia where there has been no declaration of war.

As Scahill and Rowley worked on the film, President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, suddenly making JSOC one of the most talked about military units in the media. What is most disturbing about the idea of a small unit of highly trained killers that answer directly to the president is that US citizens are being targeted, minors are being targeted, and some targets have actually committed no crime other than to exercise their right to free speech.

GUEST: Jeremy Scahill is the national security correspondent for the Nation Magazine and a Fellow at the Nation Institute. He’s the author of the international bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, which won the George Polk Book Award. He is producer and writer of the film Dirty Wars and author of the book Dirty Wars. He is also a Senior Editor with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras of a new media venture called The Intercept, a Project of First Look Media.

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