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The War Your Don’t See

Year: 2010
Production Co: Dartmouth Films
Director: Alan Lowery/John Pilger
Producer: Alan Lowery/John Pilger
Writer: John Pilger
Cast: John Pilger, Dan Rather, Julian Assange

This is one I've had on my list for the longest time, but John Pilger isn't a well (or mainstream) enough known figure on the same political side as Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, etc to warrant his work being easy to find. Which means I was delighted recently to see that he makes all his films available on his own website, immediately making it a priority watch.

The focus is the invasion of Iraq by American-led forces in the early 2000s (which gives you an idea how long I've had it on my list), but the theme is about how even when the political powers that be – let alone the media – talk about their military adventurism, it's all carefully stage-managed and sanitised for the audience back home.

Of course an institution as huge, lumbering, unwieldy and frankly not skilled enough to do that right like the industrialised governments of the West can't help the truth from slipping out even when it's too big for the mainstream press to ignore, and the Iraq war was full of examples.

Pilger brings up the stories you know like the errant drone strikes that destroy weddings or peaceful gatherings and kills families and children when the US government were assuring us they were killing compounds full of suicide bombers (giving us the Ministry of Truth-like phrase 'collateral damage'), or the treatment of prisoners the Abu Ghraib scandal uncovered.

But the film takes that sentiment and asserts that it's a feature rather than a bug of modern warmaking. It opens with the infamous Wikileaks video of a US gunship blowing away a street full of unarmed civilians, then goes on to make Pilger's case – governments lie to us about wars and the mainstream media is complicit for parroting everything they tell us without question.

The talking heads he features range from reporters embedded with the western militaries who now consider that they (and their audiences) were duped to those still trying to defend themselves against the accusations Pilger makes of their not questioning hard enough.

I've read a few reviews since that accuse Pilger of unfairly painting the whole issue in black and white, that the government and the media in their sway are automatically the bad guys.

But there's two things to consider. First, he's attacking the media for sleeping on the job, and the criticisms have all come from critics (the media). Coincidence? Second, you only had to peel the curtain back the tiniest bit on the War on Terror narrative, the entire mess of fabricated links between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 and the endless drumbeat to control Iraq to know that most of it was bullshit in service of the West's oil aims.

There probably is indeed a fog of war (as endless scholars and soldiers have acknowledged) that discounts Pilger's straight-arrow beliefs to a small extent, but if you look just a little under the surface of wars from Vietnam – which he also mentions – on down, you know history mostly proves him right.

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