John Pilger “The War on Democracy”

John Pilger is somewhat of a romantic and this comes across in his 2007 documentary charting the American Empire’s attempts to crush South American Democracy since 1945. In content there is not a lot here that you could not read about in far more detail in Chomsky’s brilliant “Deterring Democracy”. However, Chomsky is a hardened realist who would probably not put quite such a shine on recent events. For it is the very idea that Latin America must not be self-governed – under ANY circumstance that is so very frightening. The struggle has been bitter and countless lives have been lost. In fact this is a very painful documentary to watch. The “12” rating on the back actually says “Contains real images of human suffering”. Be warned – it does. Dreadful suffering. Unimaginable suffering. Entire nations and peoples suffering. Awful stories of torture under Pinochet. This movie moved me to tears. It is hard to watch such suffering and not get angry. However, as we say, Pilger retains some romance for Latin America. He sees the nobility in their endurance and resistance. He relishes the tales of the people who fought back against empire – and won. His work is at its most compelling when he presents the undeniable evidence of Washington’s complicity in the destruction of hope in an entire continent. The truth is admitted to by a long string of CIA Agents who seem almost gleefully happy to tell Pilger about their contempt for other people’s Democracy. Then we have the tortured American Nun. She recognised one of her torturers as a fellow American citizen. In tears she gasps at the US Media’s charade that made out that Abu Ghraib was an isolated incidence. “What kind of history do we teach in our schools?” she cries. Indeed. America is blind to its own crimes. Pilger gets to interview Hugo Chavez to cut through the American Media’s grossly distorted view of him. Sadly, although obviously intelligent, we get no great impression of who ‘Chavez-the-man’ is. I am sure an interview with Stalin would have been equally unenlightening. Few, however, could not be moved by how the people of the barrios love him – and for good reason. The Venezuelan middle classes hate him only because they have lost political power. Oddly they seem to have lost nothing else and their TV Stations throw out hateful polemic out against Chavez on a daily basis. What censorship?! His poor have a constitution and a leader they elected. They have democracy, at last. One day in 2002 it was nearly snuffed out in a coupe. The people of the barrios rose up against the replacement dictator (in the payroll of America’s “Endowment for Democracy” – truly a fine piece of Orwellian doublespeak). Pilger glosses over the fact that it was the Army who over-threw the coupe, not really the people. As Chavez is a former Army Officer this maybe explains his true power-base. American undermined 50 elected Governments since 1945 and directly attacked 30 countries. Pilger listed those Latin American states so attacked in his lifetime. It left you wondering – was there anywhere left that Washington had not bombed? And so to Chile where Pilger is highly effective in covering the rise of Washington’s man – Pinochet. Sadly the coverage of the post-Pinochet era of “economic violence” at the hands of Bush’s “Chicago Boys” pails into insignificance in comparison to the death squads of the Pinochet fascist regime. The economic horror should really have been left to another documentary. Finally we end up in Bolivia with a story of hope as the indigenous people fought, and won, not only over the Bechtel takeover of their Water, but also for the election of an Indigenous President. This is a great documentary, sometimes painful to watch, mostly inspiring, thoroughly convincing, a touch weak in places, but always on the money. If you buy one Pilger DVD make it this. To learn more go to

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.

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