Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The War on Democracy

Last night John Pilger's 'The War on Democracy' aired on C4. An hour and fourty minutes long, I missed the first half hour but I don't think the film was really made for the likes of me anyway. The history of the fifty-so interventions and coups by various US administrations in their Latin American backyard, first under the guise of anti-Communism, later as part of today's US paradigm of "Spread a little Minimal Democracy", isn't one I'm in great need of reminding of. And a reminder is what most of this film is.

Moving, at times gut-wrenching because of the eye witness testimonies, the film will be received by those previously unaware of the US's horrendous record of interventionism in America Latina perhaps with incredulity, perhaps with a feeling that Pilger must be an anti-American conspiracy theorist. But the official (US even) record doesn't lie: it's all there.

The film ended perhaps on a lighter, optimistic note regarding the emergence of democratically elected governments of Venezuela and Bolivia which enjoy huge popular support without being propped up by the old oligarchies, so favoured by the US in the past. For the moment, the US seems to refrain from intervening (although Pilger hints at US involvement in the short-lived attempt at ousting Chavez, an attempt that spectacularly backfired when millions came out in support of their president) but no one can tell what will happen if these popular movements spread to other Latin American countries.

Watch the trailer for The War on Democracy here.

6 Comments:

At 10:50 AM, Blogger David said...

Gert, you write:

"The film ended perhaps on a lighter, optimistic note regarding the emergence of democratically elected governments of Venezuela and Bolivia which enjoy huge popular support without being propped up by the old oligarchies, so favoured by the US in the past."

This is Pilger's trap. He depicts Chavez as a progressive leader loved by his people. And he tries to depict, as he did last year in the Guardian, any anti-Chavez sentiment as right-wing and anti-progressive. But in fact, the story is far more complex than Pilger wants his audience to realize. His writings have always relied on a facile anti-imperialism that drove many similar-minded Leftists in the arms of Khomeini in the 1970s. And which have driven, quite shamefully, other Leftists to support the "resistance" movement in Iraq. (He said so in 2004). Pilger has also once referred to Hezbollah as "humanity at its noblest".

Chavez is not shy about closing down dissent, according to a series of Human Rights Watch reports and their 2007 Annual Report. He has done little to build democratic institutions and many of his policies (namely denying a licence to a private-owned TV station) are designed to consolidate and solidify his hold on society. Venezuela is also home to highest homicide rate in the world - 10,000 per year which has risen significantly since Chavez came to power. It has also been reported that official anti-Semitism is on the rise perhaps explained by Chavez's close relationship with the late Argentine Holocaust denier Norberto Ceresole, who was close with French fascist Robert Faurisson (who was once defended by Chomsky).

Chavez is not worthy of such left-wing solidarity. There is no problem stating that some of his policies have done good but this must be alongside demands for political reform as well.

Its troubling that some on the Left fail to learn their lessons. They identified with the rhetoric of Khomeini in the 1970s who espoused a hatred for America. They saw this as progressive failing to realize that his lack of democratic credentials would mean disaster for Iran. Other, and more serious, Leftists were able to distinguish between an opposition to the Shah and a support for Khomeini and did not fall into the trap of a facile anti-imperialism.

Pilger's view of the world needs to repudiated and solidarity for real democrats and progressive in Venezuela, Iraq, etc must be supported.

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger David said...

One more thing. You write: 'But the official (US even) record doesn't lie: it's all there.'

Where exactly? You mean in the archives. I am assuming from your statement you have dug through millions of US policy documents and determined that Pilger is correct. Am I right to assume this?

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Gert said...

David:

"Chavez is not worthy of such left-wing solidarity. There is no problem stating that some of his policies have done good but this must be alongside demands for political reform as well."

I seriously doubt that there will ever be a candidate for the presidency of a Latin American country that would be acceptable for the Right and the Left. This is certainly true of the American Right and Left (there is such a thing?)

"Its troubling that some on the Left fail to learn their lessons.
Pilger's view of the world needs to repudiated and solidarity for real democrats and progressive in Venezuela, Iraq, etc must be supported."


Pilger's view needs to be repudiated? Again, who are the real democrats and progressives that you're referring to?

"I am assuming from your statement you have dug through millions of US policy documents and determined that Pilger is correct. Am I right to assume this?"

I'm assuming from your statement that you're suffering from another bout of facetiousness. It's a ridiculous and unnecessary demand. Tell me, when you do bit of academic research on a particular piece of history in a particular part of the world, do you then feel the need to sift through the thousands of pieces of evidence already available or do you award yourself the "luxury" of relying on peer-reviewed work by others that have gone there before?

You give me the impression that you would prefer nothing more than to disprove some of these "allegations" levelled at the poor old US of A...

 
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