Posted 9 months ago on June 25, 2013, 5:33 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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In Scahill Documentary, Blowback May Be Biggest, Most Dangerous Legacy of US Dirty Wars
Tuesday, 25 June 2013 09:35 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Film Review
For the tourist going overseas, a journey begins with boarding a plane. For Jeremy Scahill, his personal journey in the documentary Dirty Wars began in the remote hamlet of Khataba, near Gardez, the capital of Paktia, Afghanistan.
It was here, after a celebratory wedding turned into a night of sudden bloodshed and death for an extended family, that Scahill arrived as an investigative journalist. What he uncovered there in terms of the human toll of civilian women, men and children killed and wounded by US special forces (in one of perhaps thousands of such raids in Afghanistan under the cover of darkness) was a key turning point in his exhaustive journalistic inquiry. The result of Scahill's research became the book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield - and a filmed version, an exploration of a secretive war that has killed untold numbers of non-combatants in the name of United States "security" told from a first person, engaged perspective.
The book Dirty Wars documents how the world came to be a battlefield defined by US rules of engagement, often formulated and carried out in secrecy. Scahill provides, with nearly 100 pages of citations alone, the historical context and inner circle decisions that led to the kind of ruthless warfare being waged across several continents by the American military, the CIA (and its paramilitary capabilities), the secret surveillance agencies, and many more members of what was first called by President Dwight Eisenhower the military-industrial complex.
In the documentary Dirty Wars, Scahill is the war journalist who came in from the cold, who could not, in good conscience, live any longer within the limits of detached reporting. Something horrifying has emerged in the US permanent war: death and assassinations for which there is no due process nor accountability, and all too often no "within the margin of error" justification except that the government and military are able to get away with their actions. There are no public checks and balances. Whistleblowers are prosecuted and jailed at a faster rate under the Obama administrations than under the George W. Bush administrations. This is a film that is both a mystery of ghoulish proportions and a punch in the gut confirmation that perpetual war now exists regardless of which party is in power. Scahill pieces together the killing of innocents, connecting the dots with push pins on a makeshift map when he is on one of his visits back home to his New York apartment. The loved ones we meet of those innocents speak to the heart, to the common human empathy for uninvited horrors visited unexpectedly upon those we love.
There is a major player among the large group of institutional enforcers of US hegemony. That military force is called the Joint Security Operations Command (JSOC) and it is only accountable to the president. It was founded in 1980, becoming more powerful over time.
Scahill's fear is that with a Democratic president taking the Bush administration footprint of executive branch war without public oversight and putting it on steroids, any objection to the continuation of such policies of empire under a Republican or succeeding Democratic president will fall on deaf ears.
In his book, Scahill exposes the history and many of the primary duties of JSOC; in the film, he exposes the command's collateral damage by letting us see the carnage that it leaves in its wake. Of the JSOC, the Washington Post reported in a 2011 article:
CIA operatives have imprisoned and interrogated nearly 100 suspected terrorists in their former secret prisons around the world, but troops from this other secret organization [JSOC] have imprisoned and interrogated 10 times as many, holding them in jails that it alone controls in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since 9/11, this secretive group of men (and a few women) has grown tenfold while sustaining a level of obscurity that not even the CIA has managed. "We're the dark matter. We're the force that orders the universe but can't be seen," a strapping Navy SEAL, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said in describing his unit. The SEALs are just part of the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command, known by the acronym JSOC, which has grown from a rarely used hostage rescue team into America's secret army. When members of this elite force killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, JSOC leaders celebrated not just the success of the mission but also how few people knew their command, based in Fayetteville, N.C., even existed.
The Post went on to describe more of the ever-expanding role of the JSOC in covert activities and military actions:
Two presidents and three secretaries of defense routinely have asked JSOC to mount intelligence-gathering missions and lethal raids, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in countries with which the United States was not at war, including Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Syria.
"The CIA doesn't have the size or the authority to do some of the things we can do," said one JSOC operator.
The president has given JSOC the rare authority to select individuals for its kill list — and then to kill, rather than capture, them. Critics charge that this individual man-hunting mission amounts to assassination, a practice prohibited by U.S. law. JSOC's list is not usually coordinated with the CIA, which maintains a similar but shorter roster of names.
Created in 1980 but reinvented in recent years, JSOC has grown from 1,800 troops prior to 9/11 to as many as 25,000, a number that fluctuates according to its mission. It has its own intelligence division, its own drones and reconnaissance planes, even its own dedicated satellites. It also has its own cyberwarriors, who, on Sept. 11, 2008, shut down every jihadist Web site they knew.
Obscurity has been one of the unit's hallmarks. When JSOC officers are working in civilian government agencies or U.S. embassies abroad, which they do often, they dispense with uniforms, unlike their other military comrades. In combat, they wear no name or rank identifiers.