In a perfect world, one might believe that President Obama's recent foreign policy speeches, calling for an end to "America's perpetual wartime footing" and reopening the debate on the use of drones, came in response to the imminent release of Richard Rowley's timely doc "Dirty Wars," which is opening Friday and explicitly addresses these issues. Do documentaries have that much power? Probably not, but "Dirty Wars" couldn't have arrived at a better time, striking when the debate is hot.
Since the film's Sundance premiere, I've been all over this film; today, my interview with Jeremy Scahilll and Richard Rowley appears in the Village Voice ("Drone Dirt Cheap") , while a piece about a new wave of war docs appears on my SundanceNow Docutopia site.
Scahill, a veteran reporter, offers great quote, and his fierce commitment to expose America's insidious and widespread covert military ops--and the collateral damage they cause, killing innocent people, is admirable. One of my favorite quotes from Scahill was unfortunately cut from the Voice piece right before print, but it cuts to the severity of the issue.
Talking about "Zero Dark Thirty," he said to me, "We glorify this warrior image, but we have an obligation as journalists to show the full spectrum of the truth. If all we know about is the heroic raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and we don't talk about [U.S. soldiers] digging bullets out of dead pregnant women, we're not giving people the full picture so they can make informed decisions."
Scahill also told me that he doesn't expect substantive change on this issue to come out of Washington, nor even the institutional Left, and particularly not the Democratic Party.
"I have more faith in the people of the U.S. to ask these questions than these yahoos on Capitol Hill," he said. "The democrats are out to lunch because their guy is in power, the Republicans find conspiracies in every corner; what's lost in the middle? The real discussion we should be having. If the film contributes to average folks in America starting to discuss this and make this part of our the discussion, then that would be an accomplishment. That's what we want. We want your friends to see this movie, and that's how things are going to start to crack.
It's not going to be some political campaign organized by MoveOn."