Book review: Dirty Wars

With great power comes insanity.

We all fall into the world blissfully unaware (though probably kicking and screaming) of everything that’s going on around us. Most of our parents do a great job of hiding the somewhat harsher realities of the cruel events happening in the world.

But is it really to our benefit? Does such protective blinkering develop blind faith in things that maybe we shouldn’t have?
Are we conditioned to have respect for ‘our elders’ or established institutions (religious/government) because of the historical deliberate indoctrination of our parents and their parents before us? We have established beliefs that seem indelible, yet we’re not even sure where we got these beliefs from.

Have you ever wondered why you have the views you do?

Dirty wars - Book reviewFor whatever reason I’ve grown up with a percentage of seemingly Socratic quizzical mind set in my DNA. Because of indoctrination growing up in ‘Catholic’ Ireland, I genuinely believed at a young age that priests could read my mind, such were the powers I was led to believe they had. I was extremely grateful I didn’t have any religious DNA at all, my inner Socrates was having none of it. In a very positive way I pondered (to this day) why things were they way they were, and why folk continued to do and believe seemingly stupid things.

In 2008 a journalist called Nick Davies released a book called ‘Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media’, and for once you could judge a book by it’s cover. You may not be aware that Nick went on to expose the hacking scandal by reporters in the Rupert Murdoch owned New of the World newspaper, it rightly had huge ramifications for many concerned.

Reading ‘Flat Earth News’ was a revelation to me. It exposed the truth behind many many recent extremely stupid human acts, from the mythical Millennium bug to the invasion of Iraq, and by reading it, truth became my religion. It instantly became one of my favourite books of all time, and in no uncertain terms prepared me for reading Jeremy Scahill’s brutally truthful new book ‘Dirty Wars’. Which now sits side by side with Nick’s book in my respect for journalism with integrity.

Jeremy Scahill is an award winning journalist and National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine. He had previously authored ‘Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army’, who if you haven’t heard of Blackwater, was (they’ve rebranded) a private ‘security’ company who made a very great deal of money from the Iraq invasion. Sort of a tour of duty, it exposed him in no uncertain terms to how the machine of war actually operates, rather than blind faith in the PSYOPS (Psychological operations)/military press releases that are basically regurgitated by main stream media outlets throughout the world. Nick Davies had raised in ‘Flat Earth News’ how this practice of transcribing press releases has developed and surpassed proper investigation over the years, through sometimes deliberate commercial strangulation of the truth.

Very effectively and on the same strata of exemplary journalistic candor, Jeremy pulls no punches as he traces the (d)evolution of US foreign policy prior to 9/11, till literally a few months (2013) ago. On this journey, which is effectively a descent into a blood lust of madness, at the very least on a humanitarian level, by many established institutions. And from that madness was born a whole new level of institutions effectively unanswerable to anyone on the planet. In particular JSOC – Joint Special Forces Command, who under the guise of anti-terrorism have become teams of Special Ops hitmen, with no evident boundaries.

There was a military term used by troops in Vietnam, F.U.B.A.R. (fucked up beyond all recognition/any repair/all reason) which tried to describe the atrocities happening around them on a daily basis at the behest of their leaders. Every time I read the word ‘intelligence’ in ‘Dirty Wars’, F.U.B.A.R. replaced it in my mind. Despite all the technology and assets at the hands of the US government, there’s a palpable faith in the most spurious information which constantly results in the deaths of innocents.

On nearly every page of the book, there was a WTF (what the fuck) moment as I tried to understand the reasoning behind the many choices that were made by seemingly intelligent people. From rewriting the law to enable assassination hit lists, to the attempt of a cover up of the murder of innocent men, women, children at a six day old child’s naming party by US Special Ops, where part of the cover up involved digging the American bullets out of the dead women’s bodies in front of survivors. Army press releases dutifully reprinted by mainstream media told a very different story, if at all. To Guantanamo and multiple other black sites around the World where hundreds (if not thousands) of people are tortured (some by techniques originally used by the Nazis) to this day. And of course the resulting consequences leading to the rise of vengeful hate/insurgency (and ever increasing general support for al Qaeda) towards the US. Mixed into that is the seemingly evident practice of grooming and harassment of individuals by US government groups, resulting in yet more chaos. Incidently on which, The New York Times ran a story (April 28, 2012) on the F.B.I facilitating terrorist suspects.


Book Review - Dirty Wars

If that wasn’t enough, there is the proactive suppression of journalists vying to expose the truth, where even Barack Obama himself is on record requesting (made by his personal direct phone call to the President of Yemen) the continual imprisonment of renowned journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye. Also, multiple attempts in various nations trying to bring order to their war torn regions are defeated by apparently American sponsored (directly/indirectly) militia. All supposedly justified by the ‘War on Terror’.

All this is just scraping the bloodied surface in the content of the book. It’s a big book, but the information and journalistic/humane morality involved are exemplary. Every country has the right to defend itself, but when a nation has evolved to the stage where people are being assassinated for precrimes they ‘may’ commit in the future, or by their mere social associations to a particular group of society, intelligence has been replaced by a fairground charlatan looking into a trillion dollar blood splattered glass ball.

Jeremy hosted an excellent (and at times very funny) talk in London this week where he understandably expressed a pessimism towards a positive change in a deteriorating current US foreign policy. This book (and forthcoming award winning documentary film based on the book) however could be that very seed of optimism/awareness that needs to happen to bring a semblance of humanity/reason back to Earth.

This book will make you question your beliefs, which is a great thing. Because our parents beliefs may kill us.

Dirty Wars is published by Serpents Tail and available in the UK now.


Steve Clarke

Born in Celtic lands, nurtured in art college, trained by the BBC, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and released onto the battlefront of all things interesting/inspiring/good vibes... people, movies, music, clubbing, revolution, gigs, festivals, books, art, theatre, painting and trying to find letters on keyboards in the name of flushthefashion. Making sure it's not quite on the western front... and beyond.