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Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror  

This is the latest documentary by veteran journalist/documentarian John Pilger.   The screening I attended was sponsored by my neighborhood peace group.   To my mind, Pilger’s work has long been the embodiment of what journalism should be, in that it challenges official doctrine and obstinately insists on the truth.    

“Breaking the Silence” is an eye-opener even for someone like myself who has always found the Bush administration, well, rather less than creditable (to use the mildest possible language).   For example, I didn’t know that more innocent people were killed in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan than were killed in 9/11.   Further, Pilger’s film reveals that Afghan life hasn’t gotten any better since the fall of the Taliban, now that the U.S.-backed National Alliance warlords are securely in power.   The film highlights the case of the excellent woman leader Dr. Sima Samar (“a physician who refused to deny treatment to women during the Taliban years”), who, after briefly being held up by Bush as an example of change, was forced out of the post-Taliban government and now “lives in constant fear for her life”.  

Another interesting fact: I had known that the U.S. trained and armed the Islamic militias (“mujahedin”) that went on to become the Taliban and Al Qaeda (ostensibly to beat back the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan), but Pilger’s film demonstrates that our support actually pre-dated the Soviet invasion.   In discussing Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and 9/11, the writer Chalmers Johnson has used the term “blowback”, which he describes as “a CIA term” which refers to “the unintended consequences of the US government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people”.   Pilger’s film dramatizes this “blowback”, showing how Bin Laden & Co. are a CIA creation that came back to bite us on the backside.    

Amongst many other interviews, Pilger talks to Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer and friend of former president Bush Sr.   McGovern lets on to Pilger that in his day the likes of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle were regarded as dangerous “nutcases” that you kept at arm’s length.   W. has made such men architects of policy.  

The film also offers a chilling look at the US prisons in Bagram (Afghanistan) and   Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) where prisoners are held incommunicado and without charge; and at the US Army’s School of the Americas, in Fort Benning, Georgia, where we provide military training to repressive forces that do much to destabilize the world and engender hatred towards us (and, not incidentally, where some of our future enemies obtain their murderous skills)--more “blowback”.

The above really just scratches the surface.   I can’t recommend this one highly enough to anyone interested in connecting the dots in regards to the “war on terror”.   According to Pilger’s website, it “has won the gold award in the political category at the prestigious 2004 WorldMedia Festival, the only global competition for all media.”   It’s available on video/DVD from Bullfrog Films at P.O. Box 149, Oley, PA 19547,   Tel: 610/779-8226 , Fax: 610/370-1978,

- Aug 17, 2004

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