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EW Movie Review: "Dirty Wars"

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A new documentary entitled "Dirty Wars" looks into the effects of the war on terror. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following review for NY1.

If you sit through enough muckraking, left-leaning documentaries about the post-September 11th world, you may feel that what they have to say is powerful and important, but that you basically already know the message.

The U.S. does a lot of dastardly stuff, including torture, in secret prisons around the world. That's kind of what I expected to learn from "Dirty Wars," a movie that looks at the secret outer reaches of the war on terror. Actually, though, this film is much more eye-opening than that.

It follows the efforts of Jeremy Scahill, a fearless reporter for The Nation, to trace the underground activities of the Joint Special Operations Command, known as JSOC, first in Afghanistan, then around the world. JSOC became famous when it coordinated the operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden. So we kind of think of them as the good guys. Dirty Wars paints a far different picture.

In Afghanistan, Scahill investigates a series of middle-of-the-night raids, and what he learns is that in the effort to kill terrorists, innocents are being murdered on an almost epidemic level. Scahill isn't against the targeted assassination of members of al-Qaida or the Taliban, but what he uncovers is a secret war so indiscriminate that what used to be known as "collateral damage" is now built right into the system.

The revelation of "Dirty Wars" isn't just that it shows us the dark side of the war on terror. The film's real subject is a new world order, in which the U.S. isn't so much fighting the war on terror as it is using that war to expand its power around the globe. That, of course, is what the war in Iraq was really about.

The most disturbing aspect of "Dirty Wars" is that it demonstrates how what went on in the Bush-Cheney era isn't necessarily slowing down in the Obama era. It may, in fact, be escalating, even if the president says otherwise in a big speech.

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