After years of being a reporter embedded in war torn countries like Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, Jeremy Scahill is now a part of the story.
He's in front of the camera offering both narration and perspective for a new documentary titled "Dirty Wars," which he made with director Richard Rowley about the recent evolution of the War on Terror.
"I absolutely hated it," Scahill says, of the decision to include his own insights in the investigation of how U.S. national security policies are playing out abroad.
"The original idea was that I was going to be kind of a tour guide through this archipelago of covert war sites," Scahill says. But David Riker, a feature film writer and friend of Scahill's brought in to help cut down the footage, pushed "Dirty Wars" into a more personal direction.
"He said, instead of just giving the facts and figures about this village you're going into, and the details of what happened, what if you actually open yourself up to allow the viewer inside your emotions or your head, and you actually share with people how you see it."
The film takes on national security issues like drone strikes, extra judicial assassinations and the administration's "kill list."
"There's a presumption that those in power are telling the truth, which as journalists the opposite perception should be true. We should assume that governments are trying to spin us and we're going to verify what they're saying," Scahill argues.
In addition to being the national security correspondent for The Nation and contributing to a host of similar publications and programs, Scahill may be best known for his inside look at security contractors in the 2007 book "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army."
Throughout the documentary, Scahill darts around various counterterrorism battlefields, interviewing people – many of them civilians – claiming to be victims of covert American military strikes. The documentary also explores the policy responsible for creating counterterrorism protocol and the people in the U.S. who implement it (alas, very few are actually willing to speak about it on camera).
"I think our goal was to tell a story in a way that would be accessible to people even if they don't follow this on such a granular level," Scahill says, including his point of view being a part of that approach.
"I don't pretend to be an objective journalist, in fact I think there are very few, if any, journalists that can actually claim that they're objective," he says. "The standard should be, are we transparent? Do we let people know where we are coming from? Are our facts in order? And then let them judge for themselves if they want to trust you as a narrator or a storyteller."
"Dirty Wars" makes some pretty substantial claims about America's war on terror, suggesting that the Obama administration has seen a dangerous transformation of the Joint Special Operations Command, an elite, covert military force that answers directly to the White House.
"The idea that this force would set [kill] lists, develop the intelligence on them and then hunt them down in any country across the globe — that this president would empower them to a greater degree than the neo-cons or [Dick] Cheney or [Don] Rumsfeld — when I first understood the scope of it was completely jarring to me," Scahill says.
The final thesis of "Dirty Wars" is that JSOC and other controversial decisions made under Obama may be creating more terrorists than they are eliminating.
"I think we are going to look back and say he laid the groundwork for perpetual war," says Scahill.
Scahill and Rowley started discussing the idea of making a film in late 2009, initially planning to focus on Afghanistan when they started filming in 2010. What they uncovered led them from Yemen to Somalia and back to Yemen (after the successful September 2011 drone strike on U.S. citizen and alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki).
"I am a little terrified about the film coming out," Scahill says. "There are things I saw in the film that it's still hard for me to hear in my own words, because I think a lot of war reporters think that they can steel themselves and jump from one thing to the next. They don't have to pause to absorb what they've seen or experienced or they people that they met."
"Dirty Wars" is set to open in theaters June 7 in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.