By Dan Yaseen
Following Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers and Rethink Afghanistan, Robert Greenwald has produced and directed another smashing documentary, Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars. His documentaries have been streamed across all seven continents and viewed more than 70 million times and counting.
In Unmanned, Greenwald and his team investigate the impact of U.S. drone strikes at home and abroad through more than 70 separate interviews, including a former American drone operator who shares what he has witnessed in his own words, Pakistani families mourning loved ones and seeking legal redress, investigative journalists, lawyers and top U.S. government and military officials.
One of the compelling features about Greenwald’s documentary is that it allows the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to speak for themselves to an audience in the United States.
The film begins with the story of Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old boy who loved soccer. He attended an anti-drone conference in Islamabad in 2011 because he was concerned about the deaths in his area. Seventy-two hours later, he was killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a U.S. drone as he was preparing for a soccer match. No explanation has been given for his death. The U.S. government asserted that no child was killed that day, only terrorists were targeted.
Greenwald and his team traveled to Pakistan to film this movie and interviewed people who knew Tariq and mourn his loss. They also interviewed Rafiq ur Rehman, who lost his 67-year-old mother in a drone strike.
The film was released last October. To coincide with the release of his film, Greenwald arranged for visas for Rafiq ur Rehman and his kids to travel to the United States and testify before Congress about the missile that killed his kids’ grandmother. The briefing was led by U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, but only a few members of Congress attended. The idea was to urge policymakers and the public to engage seriously with the true costs of America’s drone warfare program.
One of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the film is of a March 17, 2011, drone strike on a “Jirga” held in the Pakistani town of Datta Khel. A Jirga is a tribal assembly of the elders to settle disputes. The decisions are made by consensus. This Jirga was called to address a dispute regarding a chromite mine in the area. This was a public meeting in an open space. The area commander of the Pakistani Army was informed about this meeting. It was held in bright daylight. Suddenly missiles fell from the sky, ripping into the gathered crowd and killing more than 40 people, mostly tribal leaders. The loss of so many tribal elders in a single day was devastating for the people in the area.
President Barack Obama, former CIA Director Leon Panetta and current CIA Director John Brennan insist that they are only targeting known terrorists with our drone strikes. Only 2% of about 4,000 people killed by drone attacks have been identified, therefore 98% of the victims are not the primary targets and they are neither identified nor are their deaths acknowledged by the U.S. government.
Greenwald has produced and directed eight full-length documentaries and more than a dozen short videos, uncovering corporate abuse, the military industrial complex, the unbridled political influence of billionaires, and the unfair and unbalanced tactics of Fox News.
Greenwald’s films are produced to help create social change. From Outfoxed to Wal-Mart to Rethink Afghanistan to Koch Brothers Exposed to Unmanned, the purpose of these films is to change hearts, minds and policies.
Following is an excerpt from Brave New Films’ Web site:
Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films are at the forefront of the fight to create a just America, and we want you to join us. Using new media and Internet video campaigns, Brave New Films has created a quick-strike capability that informs the public, challenges corporate media with the truth and motivates people to take action on social issues nationwide. We are an organization that can produce a hard-hitting three-minute video in less than 24 hours that exposes John McCain’s double talk, for instance, and receive 9 million views around the world.
From Real McCain exposés to calling out Fox News for overt media bias, from social to economic justice, our groundbreaking online campaigns are revolutionizing traditional grassroots politics. Using YouTube, bloggers, networking sites and strategic partnerships with both national networks and local activists, we are reaching millions and getting results.
You are critical to advancing these hard-hitting political campaigns. We can’t create a nation of socially conscious activists alone.
Please consider supporting us with a donation to help us continue to create and distribute cutting-edge political campaigns that result in action and victories.
Dan Yaseen is on the editorial board of the Community Alliance. Contact him at 559-251-3361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.