Progressive Spotlight: Jeremy Scahill.
Summary: The Intercept co-founder is one of the most important journalists of his generation. His work exposing imperialism, human rights abuses, war crimes, and much more is critical for anyone who wants to understand American hegemony.
The investigative journalist, documentarian, and author is perhaps the go-to source for all things American imperialism. And whenever we’re talking about the United States’ global escapades, hegemony is lurking around every corner.
We also think it’s important to get one thing out of the way before we dive into Scahill’s background. We don’t know him personally, but we’d go as far as to say he’d likely bristle at being tied to any specific political ideology, even if we collectively agree that his being on the side of human rights and an adversary of the military-industrial complex would align with him progressive values.
Beyond his principles, Scahill’s resume itself suggests political leanings that, while perhaps not explicitly “progressive,” appear to meet the eye test.
He famously got his start on Democracy Now!, the independent daily news program spearheaded by Amy Goodman, a legendary journalist in her own right.
Before he became a best-selling author, Scahill served as a producer and correspondent for the program, providing crucial shoe-leather reporting inside conflict zones. This includes his work during the NATO-led bombing in Yugoslavia, which killed upwards of 500 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.
“The extent of the civilian damage in Yugoslavia is unimaginable,” Scahill said during a 1999 segment for Democracy Now! describing NATO’s air raid. “I mean, you see hospitals, schools that have been cluster-bombed, marketplaces, bridges, all sorts of buildings, individual homes, gas stations.”
Providing coverage that rarely made its way onto mainstream news, Scahill produced a series for Democracy Now! called the “Iraq War Journals,” which gave a rare glimpse of the country before George W. Bush’s brutal invasion—all built on a lie. Scahill was there the day Saddam Hussein emptied Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison—which would later become the site of shocking human rights abuses by the U.S. and a symbol of American war crimes.
These and other abuses continued to play a central role in Scahill’s work.
He rose to journalistic fame with his 2007 book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, which won the prestigious George Polk Award. He followed that up with Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, which he published as both a book and a documentary. For anyone who has followed the tragedy that is America’s response to 9/11, Dirty Wars, is this era’s defining work.
This quote from an official involved in America’s illegal extraordinary rendition program effectively characterized this period perfectly:
“If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job.”
Scahill is perhaps now most famous for being the co-founder of The Intercept, along with Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras. The outlet’s seminal work is “The Drone Papers.” Based on a trove of classified documents, it meticulously breaks down how drones effectively became the dominant way in which the U.S. was prosecuting wars, how strikes were based on faulty intelligence, and included rare insights into the executive branch’s notorious “kill list.”
Tragically, Scahill’s professional career coincides with seemingly increasingly horrific military abuses.
The latest mass tragedy is occurring in Gaza, where thousands upon thousands of Palestinians have been killed by a far-right Israeli government recently accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Scahill’s reporting on the war has been indispensable, as he’s put the horrors occurring daily there into much-needed context.
While the corporate media continues to mislead the public and provide biased coverage of U.S. hegemony, including its role in the Palestinian slaughter, Scahill continues to remind us all that the Empire is often the cause of so much human suffering.
Rashed Mian is the managing editor of News Beat. Mian previously covered civil liberties and the Muslim American community for Long Island Press. Mian graduated with a degree in journalism from Hofstra University. Mian is interested in under-reported stories that impact disenfranchised communities as well as issues related to civil liberties.