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Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  4,875 ratings  ·  417 reviews
A New York Times bestseller. Now also an Oscar-nominated documentary

In Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill, author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater, takes us inside America’s new covert wars. The foot soldiers in these battles operate globally and inside the United States with orders from the White House to do whatever is necessary to hunt down, capture or kill individua
Hardcover, 642 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Nation Books (first published September 1st 2012)
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Slim Khezri
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Dirty Wars" has a somewhat different tone that Scahil's book on Blackwater. It is a rigorous history of un-declared and largely un-reported violence in many countries around the world by various parts of the United States government since Sept 11th. There is,as one might expect, a sub-text of great alarm about the deterioration of American legal standards and a profound concern about the effects of killing of thousands of people, many of them children and others who died for having the bad luck ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I was very nearly finished with this book I recommended it to a friend whom I consider quite conservative; I cautioned him that the read may appear a bit 'liberal' for his tastes. Somehow, an honest assessment of our military killing civilians in certain parts of the world has come to be seen as 'liberal' for some, but there you are.
These words, then, from the epilogue, drew me up quite short:

"No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its border
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war
Even if you don’t like the work Scahill does (and I do) you must admit that he is one of the few people out there doing actual journalism instead of sitting in a TV studio spewing out opinions. We have made the news such an entertainment industry that most people don’t know the difference between news and editorial.

Most of this is old news for people who bothered to keep themselves truly informed during the Iraq War disaster. Reading it in this kind of detail is depressing. Like the guy said at
David Stephens
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
Jeremy Scahill has written here what is likely the most comprehensive reference book on the U.S.'s foreign policy post-9/11, focusing mostly on the country's covert and clandestine affairs. While he does cover the history of the CIA and other earlier issues, he spends most of his time reporting on how things have changed over the last decade.

The book is composed of relatively short occurrences from many different times and places, detailing aspects of the conventional military, the CIA, the Join
I nearly read this book in 2014, only my reading schedule was tight and I put it aside for another time. After watching the documentary a few weeks back, I decided the time to read it was now, as I could not believe that the book would be anywhere near as sensationalist in style as that truly awful documentary.

I was disappointed to find that it was. Maybe I shouldn't have watched the Doco first with all it's blatant heart string pulling slow shots of children's little faces and weeping wives and
Ryan Gilbert
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
It quickly becomes obvious as to where the author stands with his view on war, and what he thinks of the United States when it comes to geopolitics. It's hard to discern fact from fiction, because the author integrates so much of his own hyperbole with hard facts, and first person testimony, it becomes a convoluted mess.

There are some very interesting stories and research the author has done, but at times it feels like on Oliver Stone movie where he's presenting the data in a way that supports
Steven Z.
May 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The reemergence of the Benghazi attack as a partisan political issue, the popularity of the film “Zero Dark Thirty” and the recent bombing in Boston have refocused Americans on the issue of terror and its threat. Did the FBI and CIA miss intelligence in dealing with the Tsarnaev brothers and other questions regarding the devastation at the Boston marathon have been discussed repeatedly during our twenty four hour news cycle and the question must be asked are we doing enough in terms of protectin ...more
Simon Wood
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Journalist, Jeremy Scahill, author of the best selling expose of leading mercenary corporation "Blackwater", has in his sights a somewhat larger prey in "Dirty Wars": namely the series of Covert Wars the United States has run in parallel with its more overt ones in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

The book begins by looking at precedents and experiences of U.S. covert operations and wars in the post-Vietnam War era, particular regard is giving to the Reagan administratio
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The phrase "dirty wars" isn't very clear in meaning. Scahill is a reporter whose chronological narrative is gripping and revealing but virtually commentary-free. Any observations on the facts related tend to come in the form of quotations from experts and those involved. So, there isn't anywhere in the book that explicitly explains what a "dirty war" really is. The point Scahill seems to be trying to make is that the CIA-JSOC "kill campaign" creates more enemies than it eliminates, a point worth ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Drones, torture, clear violations of human rights abroad. Scahill catalogues how it happened over time, how it was justified, and what was done. It went from Bush to Obama and hardly abated. Such an important book
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield", by Jeremy Scahill, takes a detailed look at the U.S. "War on Terror", at the initial decisions which brought us there under the Bush Administration, and how it's been continued and extended, albeit under a different name, under the Obama Administration. The book provides an extensive look at Special Forces, conventional forces, CIA targeting, night raids, and drone strikes, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in diverse locations such as Pakistan, ...more
Aaron Shields
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you can get past Scahill's obvious political bent and use of leftist sources throughout to bolster his point, even as a conservative, you can't get past how shady and brutal the US has become in fighting terrorism. So much info in this book, it's incredible, thus the 5 rating. Probably not quite on the level of Coll's Ghost Wars and Wright's Looming Tower simply because of the political bent and obvious opinion inserted throughout, yet I commend Scahill for caring enough about this underrepor ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Dirty Wars is an excellent, highly detailed chronicle of the U.S."Global War on Terror." The reason why I give it 3 stars instead of 4 or 5 is not Jeremy Scahill's writing style, which is superb. It is mainly because it is a bit too dense with facts and figures. The 521 pages contains A LOT of cruise missile statistics, etc. and it became a bit tedious. The parts I liked the best are those in which personalities come alive, such as Anwar Awlaki and his father Nasser. I wanted more of them! Nonet ...more
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Killing Our Way To Victory

The predominant post-presidency maxim delivered to the public by George W. Bush has been that 'history will ultimately judge' him. This is true enough, and actually, the closemouthed nature of his presidential afterlife has served to mitigate many of the criticisms levied against him. Or maybe it's just time passing. With each new day I tend to view Bush as less evil than weak, and Rumsfeld, Cheney, and all of Daddy Bush's neo-con buddies as more evil than human. But an
Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield as a title perfectly sums up what this book is about.
The book details the events pre-911 that dealt with the USA's relationship with assasinations and how Obama has made it the tool in the war with terrorism.

This book is completely factual and lets no one off the hook in terms of idealogy whether it is religious or political. Scahill displays the aggressive, nasty and illegal tatics from both presidents Bush and Obama. The book begins with the a little hist
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gaston Gordillo
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a must-read book to understand the imperial present, as well as the moral bankruptcy of the Obama administration in embracing and radicalizing the Dick Cheney doctrine. The narrative is not necessarily stellar (it is a bit repetitive at points) but the book is solid, well-argued, convincing, and gripping throughout. More importantly, the book reveals a world that is systematically censored in the mainstream media (which, as Scahill shows, simply parrots what the White House tells them to ...more
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sincerely torn on this one. Scahill is clearly a great story-teller, but that may actually be part of the problem. Instead of presenting the last 15 years as a messy history of US attempts to respond to the threat of terrorism, he seems to frame the whole thing as a single, on-going co-conspiracy by both Bush and Obama. While I recognize that this is a compelling narrative, I just don't think that the thread of history is ever as clean as Jeremy presents it here.

The further along I got, the
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Jeremy Scahill is one of the best investigative journalists in the English-speaking world. His reporting is thorough--the notes to "Dirty Wars" is over 80 pages. Scahill’s findings are an indictment of the Bush and especially the Obama Administrations, not to mention our compliant lawmakers and a corporate media that goes along for the ride. It is chilling to read that U.S. efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and the rest of the world are not defeating Al-Qaida and other terr ...more
Bryan Alexander
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dirty Wars describes America's war on terror, with a specific focus: campaigns and operations waged by special forces from 2001-2011. It's a detailed, impassioned, sometimes frightening book, and one of best accounts I've read of what has become the longest war fought by the United States.

Scahill focuses on the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSCOC), whose powers and relationship developed rapidly during the post-9-11 decade. The Bush administration expanded JSOC's resources and am
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2018
Gripping, insightful and chilling all at once. Through excellent, meticulous research, Scahill digs into the multitude of controversies and abuses, lies and cover-ups, circumvention of laws and appalling disregard for human life and human rights that have characterized the so-called War on Terror and continue to do so.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had to make myself read this book. Given some of the work I do, I felt it was important, but I literally made myself read 20 to 30 pages everyday no matter what. It's well told, well argued, and well-documented, but it is indeed a somber topic and it is 500+ pages.

I hope people read this book or at least pay close attention to the news concerning what we are doing in the name of the 'War on Terror'. Yes, I do believe there is/are real threat(s) and that we as a nation need to be vigilant and p
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A sobering look at the machinations of the US intelligence and special operations apparatus which leaves one somewhat cold and disappointed - not in the text (which is a great read and informative), but at the lengths that a nation which prides itself on leadership of all sorts (including moral leadership) will go to in order to feel "safe".

That more extra-judicial killings occurred during Obama's tentative first year in office than in the preceding 8 years of the Bush administration is telling.
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Jeremy Scahill’s new book, Dirty Wars, is about America’s covert wars taking place in North Africa and the Middle East. The frontline of the War on Terror is no longer the overt occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, it involves the expansion of covert wars which consists of black ops, night raids, kidnappings, drone attacks, torture and assassination of suspected terrorists. The assassination of Osama bin Laden and the movie, Zero Dark Thirty, pushed this secret war onto the front pages o ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military
This book will shatter any illusion you hold onto that America holds any moral high-ground over our stated enemies. This book casts a glimpse of light onto the covert actions and wars America is currently engaging in around the world, with the predominant focus on Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Another central topic is the evolving role of JSOC and the CIA. Some issues that the government and media try to hide or gloss over have been brought to the forefront. Whether you fundamentally agree or di ...more
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A great book, if depressing. If you have a favorable view of our president, reading this might change your mind. There is nothing here that will surprise you if you're well-informed about U.S. actions taken in the name of "security", but the research and reportage bring to light a lot of the details you may not be aware of. It is horrifying, and certainly makes me worry even more about the future of the values we cherish. Free speech, the rule of law, and that sort of thing. If it erodes against ...more
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
I've read some criticism of the documentary, which I have seen, but, I haven't read anything to refute what reporter Scahill has written in the book. War on Terror, JSOC, covert ops, CIA, Brennan, Obama, drone attacks. Yemen, Pakistan, Sommalia, Afghanistan, Navy Seals, humanitarian aid, Congress, murder of American citizens, Anwar al- Awlaki. Hilary Clinton, Blackwater..... YOU THINK YOU KNOW. But you don't. ...more
Maria LeBerre
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is both great and super depressing. It's really important reading for all Americans; we need to know what's being done around the world in our name. Short answer: a whole lot of killing meant to make us safer. We can debate whether it does makes us safer, and if so, what is an acceptable level of civilian deaths. First, though, we all need to know what's going on, and this book, while no fun, is an essential part of our civic education. ...more
Rachelle, Naughty Enabler
I love Jeremy Scahill as a reporter & writer. The risks he takes to tell the real stories about wars and government are just amazing. Dirty Wars discusses drone warfare, and our country's perpetual state of war just as Rachel Maddow's book Drift did. This book will stick with me for a very long time. ...more
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I give five stars frivolously, this is not one of those times. (For what arbitrary, falsely cheery starring systems are worth.)
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Jeremy Scahill is an American investigative journalist and author whose work focuses on the use of private military companies.

He is the author of the best-selling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, winner of a George Polk Book Award.

He also serves as a correspondent for the U.S. radio and TV program Democracy Now!. Scahill is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow a

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“Three weeks after he climbed out the kitchen window, the boy was outdoors with his cousins—teenagers like him—laying a picnic for dinner beneath the stars. It was then he would have heard the drones approaching, followed by the whiz of the missiles. It was a direct hit. The boy and his cousins were blown to pieces. All that remained of the boy was the back of his head, his flowing hair still clinging to it. The boy had turned sixteen years old a few weeks earlier and now he had been killed by his own government. He was the third US citizen to be killed in operations authorized by the president in two weeks. The first was his father” 1 likes
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