Wednesday, June 13, 2007

John Pilger: Washington’s war on democracy

May 7th, 2007 by Critical Times Pablo Navarrete John Pilger is an award-winning journalist, author and documentary filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s. He has been a foreign correspondent and a front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam War in 1967. He is an impassioned critic of foreign military and economic adventures by Western governments. “It is too easy”, Pilger says, “for Western journalists to see humanity in terms of its usefulness to ‘our’ interests and to follow government agendas that ordain good and bad tyrants, worthy and unworthy victims and present ‘our’ policies as always benign when the opposite is usually true. It’s the journalist’s job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own society.” Pilger also believes a journalist ought to be a guardian of the public memory and often quotes Milan Kundera: “The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”(...)
Could you begin by telling us what your new film The War on Democracy is about?

I happened to watch [US President] George Bush’s second inauguration address in which he pledged to “bring democracy to the world”. He mentioned the words “democracy” and “liberty” 21 times. It was a very important speech because, unlike the purple prose of previous presidents (Ronald Reagan excluded), he left no doubt that he was stripping noble concepts like “democracy” and “liberty” of their true meaning — government, for, by and of the people. I wanted to make a film that illuminated this disguised truth — that the United States has long waged a war on democracy behind a facade of propaganda designed to contort the intellect and morality of Americans and the rest of us. For many of your readers, this is known. However, for others in the West, the propaganda that has masked Washington’s ambitions has been entrenched, with its roots in the incessant celebration of World War II, the “good war”, then “victory” in the Cold War. For these people, the “goodness” of US power represents “us”. Thanks to Bush and his cabal, and to [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, the scales have fallen from millions of eyes. I would like The War on Democracy to contribute something to this awakening.(...) The film investigates the 2002 coup d’etat against Chavez and casts it in a contemporary context. It also describes the differences between Venezuela and Cuba, and the shift in economic and political power since Chavez was first elected. In Bolivia, the recent, tumultuous past is told through quite remarkable testimony from ordinary people, including those who fought against the piracy of their resources. In Chile, the film looks behind the mask of this apparently modern, prosperous “model of democracy and finds powerful, active ghosts. In the United States, the testimony of those who ran the “backyard” echo those who run that other backyard, Iraq; sometimes they are the same people. Chris Martin (my fellow director) and I believe The War on Democracy is well timed. We hope people will see it as another way of seeing the world: as a metaphor for understanding a wider war on democracy and the universal struggle of ordinary people, from Venezuela to Vietnam, Palestine to Guatemala. As you say, Latin America has often been described as the US’s backyard.

How important is Latin America for the US in the global context?
Latin America’s strategic importance is often dismissed. That’s because it is so important. Read Greg Grandin’s recent, excellent history (I interview him in the film) in which he makes the case that Latin America has been Washington’s “workshop” for developing and honing and rewarding its imperial impulses elsewhere. For example, when the US “retreated” from South-East Asia, where did its “democracy builders” go to reclaim their “vision”? Latin America. The result was the murderous assaults on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the darkness of “Operation Condor” in the southern cone. This was Ronald Reagan’s “war on terror”, which of course was a war of terror that provided basic training for those now running the Bush/Cheney “long war” in the Middle East and elsewhere.(...)

For more information visit or Reprinted from] From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #708 9 May 2007. At the Barbican 15 - 28 June 2007 Cinema 1 / Cinema 2 Tickets: £7 online / £8.50 full price / £6 members/concessions

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