John Pilger’s 2000 documentary on the effects of economic sanctions on Iraq remains an important testament to the pre-Iraq war history of international crimes against the Iraqi people.
Following footage of George H.W. Bush’s convincing announcement that “You, the people of Iraq, are not our enemy. We do not seek your destruction,” Pilger narrates from Iraq:
What happens when modern civilized life is taken away? Imagine all the things we take for granted are suddenly not available, or severely limited: clean water, fresh food, soap, paper, pencils, books, light bulbs, life-saving drugs. Telephone calls to the outside world are extremely difficult, computers no longer work, when you fall ill you must sell your furniture to buy medicine, when you have a tooth out there’s no anesthetic. No country will trade with yours, and your money is almost worthless. Soon your children become beggars. It’s as if the world has condemned your whole society to a slow death, and all because of a dispute between governments over which you have no control. That’s what has happened here in Iraq, where almost 10 years of extraordinary isolation, imposed by the U.N. and enforced by America and Britain, have killed more people than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, including half a million young children.”
The great Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger writes from Cuba:
On my first day in Cuba, in 1967, I waited in a bus queue that was really a conga line. Ahead of me were two large, funny females resplendent in frills of blinding yellow; one of them had an especially long bongo under her arm. When the bus arrived, painted in Cuba’s colours for its inaugural service, they announced that the gringo had not long arrived from London and was therefore personally responsible for this breach in the American blockade. It was an honour I could not refuse.
The bus was a Leyland, made in Lancashire, one of 400 shipped to Cuba in defiance of Washington, which had declared war on the revolution of Fidel Castro. With the Internationale and Love Me Do played to a bongo beat – the Beatles having been “admitted to the Revolution” – we lurched through Havana’s crooked streets. Such a fond memory now accompanies me on my return to Cuba; yet looking back at what I wrote then, I find I used the word “melancholy” more than once. For all the natural warmth of Cubans, the hardship of their imposed isolation left smiles diminished and eyes averted once the music had stopped.
Beyond the nationalised American department stores – the windows empty except for electric fires from China of which Cubans had no need – and the flickering necklace of lights of an almost deserted port, there was the silhouette of an American spy ship, USS Oxford, policing Cuba’s punishment. In 1968, the revolution added its own folly by summarily banning all small businesses, including the paladares, Havana’s lively bars and restaurants. The Soviet era had begun.
At 7.30 A.M. on April the 17th, 1975, the war in Cambodia was over. It was a unique war, for no country has ever experienced such concentrated bombing. On this, perhaps the most gentle and graceful land in all of Asia, President Nixon and Mr. Kissinger unleashed 100,000 tons of bombs, the equivalent of five Hiroshimas”.
In early June, ZCommunications received the following open letter from independent filmmaker and journalist John Pilgerto Noam Chomsky and the general public. Pilger was to speak on 15 June at the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe. See Patrick Lannan’s subsequent explanation for the cancellation here.
* * *
I am writing to you and a number of other friends mostly in the US to alert you to the extraordinary banning of my film on war and media, ‘The War You Don’t See’, and the abrupt cancellation of a major event at the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe in which David Barsamian and I were to discuss free speech, US foreign policy and censorship in the media.
Lannan invited me and David over a year ago and welcomed my proposal that they also host the US premiere of ‘The War You Don’t See’, in which US and British broadcasters describe the often hidden part played by the media in the promotion of war, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film has been widely acclaimed in the UK and Australia; the trailer and reviews are on my website www.johnpilger.com.
The banning and cancellation, which have shocked David and me, are on the personal orders of Patrick Lannan, whose wealth funds the Lannan Foundation as a liberal centre of discussion of politics and the arts. Some of you will have been there and will know the Lannan Foundation as a valuable supporter of liberal causes. Indeed, I was invited in 2002 to present a Lannan award to the broadcaster Amy Goodman.
In 2010 Time magazine defied the judgment of its readers to select Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over Julian Assange as its person of the year. In a readers’ poll Assange had secured 382,000 votes to Zuckerberg’s 18,000. It had been some years since Facebook was big news; some therefore suggested Time had really chosen 2007’s person of the year. Explaining his choice, Time managing editor Richard Stengel confidently declared that ‘Assange might not even be on anybody’s radar six months from now…I think Assange will be a footnote five years from now.’ This was a day before Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight. It was also before Tahrir Square. It’s over six months since Stengel’s daring prediction yet Assange still remains on the radar and his list of media partners has expanded to over 60—and its growing. Wikileaks has yet to release a much anticipated tranche of documents on the banking sector. It is safe to assume that Wikileaks will be with us for some time to come. But given the present state of publishing, it is likelier that Time will be a footnote five years from now. Here are some recent interviews with Assange:
‘Breaking Australia’s silence: WikiLeaks and freedom’ was a public forum held on 16 March 2011 at the Sydney Town Hall. The event was staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty, Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney.
Chaired by Mary Kostakidis, it featured speeches by John Pilger, Andrew Wilkie MP (the only serving Western intelligence officer to expose the truth about the Iraq invasion) and Julian Burnside QC, defender of universal human rights under the law.
The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator but a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development, the IMF and World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people’s triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.”
The article begins with Pilger’s 2003 interview with former elite CIA officer Ray McGovern. McGovern responds to Pilger’s question about Norman Mailer‘s assertion that America has entered a pre-fascist state:
Well … I hope he’s right, because there are others saying we are already in a fascist mode.”
Filmmaker and journalist John Pilger discusses his latest film, The War You Don’t See, the media’s role in conflict and his defence of WikiLeaks on Al Jazeera’s Listening Post.
The rest of the show investigates the role of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the brainchild of a former Israeli intelligence officer and a US-based organisation that specialises in providing (mis)translations of Arabic-language broadcasts to American journalists and plays a central role in shaping the public’s (mis)perceptions of the Middle East.
Update: John Pilger writes in The Independentdefending Assange against a defamatory piece published by the Guardian.
by Dennis Bernstein
An interview with John Pilger
Dennis Bernstein (DB): Let me get your overview here of Julian Assange and what is happening to him. How do you see this?
John Pilger (JP): Well, it’s a very complicated and very suspicious case, of course. Today [Thursday] we saw a pinch of justice, that’s all. But his bail is weighted down with conditions. He’s virtually under a kind of house arrest. Now if he wasn’t Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, none of this would have happened. I doubt whether there would be any prosecution, we’d be having this conversation.
And we learned today [Thursday] that the Swedes had not initiated this appeal against bail that was heard today in the London court. It was the British. Why were they doing it? Were they doing it on behalf of the U.S.? I don’t know the answer to those questions. But suspicions really do mount in this case.
A new John Pilger documentary is always a media event. For over four decades he has set the bar for incisive and intrepid investigative journalism. In The War You Don’t See, his latest, Pilger indicts the mainstream media for its responsibility in enabling wars by sanitizing its image and glorifying its aims.