Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield
By Jeremy Scahill
Nation Books. 680 pages. $29.99.
Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam
By Nick Turse
Metropolitan Books. 384 pages. $30.
Hours before the Boston Marathon bombing, I was pondering why there haven't been more terrorist attacks in the United States since 2001. I didn't have any special foresight, just a copy of Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill's terrific new investigation of the U.S. war on terror. By journeying into the shadows of the global battlefield, Scahill has flashed a spotlight on a vast killing machine that--far from making us safer--is sowing death without distinction and cultivating new hatred for the United States.
Early in his companion ninety-minute documentary, also titled Dirty Wars, Scahill ventures to Afghanistan to examine a U.S. raid on villagers near Gardez, the capital of Paktia province. In 2010, Special Forces were dispatched on a night mission to eliminate a Taliban cell. Instead, they gunned down a teenage girl, two pregnant women, and two brothers who worked for the Afghan government. One was a senior police commander, and the second a prosecutor who was hit by sniper rounds as he yelled in English, "We work for the government."
A cover-up ensued with soldiers carving bullets out of the corpses, international forces fabricating an account of discovering "the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged, and killed," and a military official insinuating the women were victims of a "traditional honor killing." Tenacious reporting by the Times of London's Jerome Starkey exposed the deception, but the family patriarch vowed, "All our family, we now don't care about our lives. We will all do suicide attacks."
The unit was drawn from the clandestine Joint Special Operations Command, formed in 1980 after the botched mission to rescue American hostages in Iran. Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation, describes it as "unique among all military and intelligence assets in that it reported directly to the President and was intended to be his small, private army." Mining dues from top-ranking brass, spooks, disgruntled officials, and confidants, he pinpoints JSOC at the dark heart of the "global war on terror," carrying out as many as 1,000 night raids a month in Afghanistan. U.S. diplomats and Taliban alike tell him the raids are "encouraging the people to become extremist."
Scahill chases JSOC's trail from Afghanistan and Pakistan...