Pilger Exposes Dirty US War on Democracy Spanning Latin America and Africa

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Terry Bell

South Africa is in the midst of a war against democracy, campaigning journalist and film-maker John Pilger said last week. He was referring to the ongoing battle about macro-economic policy and international trade and political relations.

Pilger maintains that the message in his latest, award-winning film The War on Democracy, has as much a bearing on South Africa as it does on Latin America, which is its prime focus. The film, the first Pilger has made for cinema, will be a highlight at the annual Tri Continental Film Festival, which opens in Johannesburg on Friday. It will also show in Cape Town on Friday, Pretoria on August 29 and Durban on September 5.

Pilger's thesis is that the countries of the world are increasingly subject to the imperial power of the United States, which sees its national and economic interests as paramount and will subvert governments, sponsor death squads and otherwise enforce regimes that "attempt to control the lives and resources of the people".

Festival organisers, as part of their "outreach" programme, plan to screen the film, named best documentary at the One World Media awards, to trade union and community groups around the country.

Says Pilger: "It applies as much to South Africa as it does to Latin America. It's about people opposing corrupt power and reclaiming their right to a democracy that's not just elections, or even a fine constitution, but calling to account those privileged to represent them."

This view comes through clearly in the film, for although Pilger is impressed with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales, he notes that "history is crowded with heroes who offered new beginnings"; that the "games and deals and plunder always beckon".

But, having awakened and given confidence to the poor and marginalised in their shacks on the hillsides outside the large cities, he also feels that if such leaders succumb to the temptations of high office, "their biggest threat may not be from Washington, but from the people on the hillsides".

However, an interview with Chavez reveals a man of warmth, charm, and apparently unshakeable commitment to the poor.

It is with the use of personal interviews combined with historical film clips ranging from Guatemala and Nicaragua to Cuba and Chile and over more than half a century, that Pilger paints a chilling picture of the machinations of a US "empire" and the consequences of these. The use of the media, in many ways pioneered during the 1973 coup in Chile, is well illustrated, as is the fact that journalists can play a vital role in exposing the facts behind deliberate propaganda. …