Monday, 28 October 2013


Jeremy Scahill professes to try to understand every side to every story he investigates. If you're wondering what the other sides to the stories he walks us through in Dirty Wars are, they're the ones we already know. They're the half-truths we've already been told. In some cases, we haven't even been told shit, and this is where Rick Rowley's slightly sanctimonious documentary comes a cropper. Scahill is so certain that he's right, and heck, perhaps he is. But just as his work encourages us to question not only all that our governments tell us but why they tell us they're even telling us, should we not also question all that he tells us? The US government refutes his allegations and ignores his requests, and they challenge the points he here makes. But the loop is not closed by justifying the existence of theory B with its opposition to theory A. Couldn't there be a theory C? Frustratingly, Scahill is obviously an authoritative voice on these matters, so his intention to condense his findings into filler between generous doses of soundbite-heavy, overdramatic narration smacks of preening. And the more Rowley fawns over his face in close-up, or frames him pensively strolling down a generic Middle-Eastern bazaar, the less digestible Dirty Wars becomes. And what a shame! Because though we may have heard these sentiments expressed before in countless documentaries, the point is put across pretty succinctly over these 87 minutes, and it's encouraging to note the film take such angry, direct but not spiteful shots at high-ranking figures and institutions, particularly Barack Obama, thus implying an absence of political agenda, instead a humanitarian agenda. At the least, Scahill is superb at distilling war to its most fundamental, devastating details.