on 10 July 2010
Having read 'Hidden Agendas', I was expecting the same level of open, honest, investigative journalism that exposes the plight of the weak and oppressed people of the world; a topic purposely never discussed in a heavily controlled/censored media. I could not have been more satisfied with this book meeting all my expectations and enlightening me about other issues I was not aware of. It is certainly one of those "can't put down" books, if only to stop to have some respite from the deeply saddening experiences that people recount and are still enduring, or the anger one feels at the complete indifference by people that have direct control over the situation.
I particularly like the fact that there are interviews with people from "both sides", and this further justifies the conclusions that are being made, without having to actually explicitly make them for you. It demonstrates the cruelty politicians, governments, corporations are prepared to inflict on masses of innocent people. The book champions the human spirit, and details how people are still prepared to fight even when the odds are greatly stacked against them.
The chapters can be read independently, and covers the Chagos Islands, Palestine, the growth of capitalism in India and Afghanistan.
The general conclusion one draws from each of these chapters is the underlying horror of imperialism, racism, greed, genocide that is inflicted by a few on the many.
We live in a world where the truth is a very rare commodity, and this book certainly manages to redress the balance.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
"This book is about empire". With this opening eye-grabber, John Pilger has once again risen above the mundane pattern of today's "mainstream" journalism. The book is an account of how the US is forging its global empire, aided and abetted by such allies as Great Britain and Israel. And that's not counting the client rulers of nations like Afghanistan and South Africa. The edifice is "global capitalism" supported by buttresses of military might and bearing giant billboards displaying the shibboleths "freedom" and "democratic ideals". With scathing revelations delivered with strictly expressive prose, Pilger relates his findings with almost surgical precision.
He structures the book around five nations. The first, even after all these years, is likely to be beyond many reader's ken. It is a little island group in the Indian Ocean - the Chagos Islands. Inhabited for generations by the descendents of former slaves, they were summarily and illegally deported from their home to make way for a massive US Air Force base. The base provides a launching site for long distance bombers to reach anywhere in Asia. Two thousand people - those that haven't died from "sadness" have pursured a legal challenge to be returned to their home. The High Court of Britain has accepted their plea, but under US pressure, says Pilger, the British have ignored the ruling.
From the Indian Ocean, Pilger travels to Palestine, one of "freedom's" most shocking contradictions. Displaced from their ancient homelands, thousands of Palestinians were herded into grubby refugee camps. Those that weren't slaughtered by the invaders at the beginning of the occupation, that is. Pilger describes Israeli racist policies and their implementation, killing children, usurping land and water supplies and blockading the population from medical care. Israelis, he notes, often refer to their de facto prisoners in dismissive terms, allowing the Israeli army to invade and crush homes and farms. Orchards, a major agricultural factor in the Palestinian community, seem to be particular targets. Pilger explains how the US has built up Israel's military to the point where it is the world's third most powerful. Its major task is to keep Palestinian freedom in check, as well as smashing the economic base of a people with no state and no means of protecting themselves. Is it any wonder, he asks, that acts of desperation have resulted.
Pilger makes a rather swift pass through India to describe how "global capitalism" has intensified the separation between rich and poor. A few urban centres maintain a facade of prosperity, securely enclosed within well-protected facilities. From these sites, Indians who have transformed themselves into IT "help desk" call centres, provide "support" for US workers unfamiliar with their office computers. Outside those high-tech enclaves, much of the remaining population suffers in grinding poverty. The "democratic" promise of Ghandi's struggle has been overthrown by leaders eager to follow what they deem the US model of "free enterprise". The process has economically divided the nation worse than it ever was under the Raj.
The last two segments of Pilger's account vividly demonstrate the dual primary thrusts of empire - economic and military. South Africa, suffering for half a century under the truncheon of apartheid, emerged with a grand promise of freedom under Nelson Mandela. Finally freed after a generation within the walls of Robben Island prison, he exemplified what a crusader for freedom could achieve. The achievement proved hollow as Pilger graphically describes the Truth and Reconciliation hearings he attended. Police and army thugs, whose ranks reached to the highest level went free, absolved from punishment. Worse, none of the victims of their brutality received a jot of compensation. Far worse, was the selling out of South Africa's resources to the new wave of foreign investors from the UK and US. Part of the investment deal left any regulations about miner's safety in limbo or worse. Another part was the granting of mineral rights on any parcel of land the firms chose. Displacement of the population by uncaring capitalists remains an ongoing process, Pilger declares.
Finally, the military arm of imperialism exhibits the most glaring hypocrisies in Afghanistan. Pilger recounts the sordid history of British rule, Soviet invasion and, finally, the US vengence against innocent people for the World Trade Centre attacks. It makes gut-wrenching reading. Villages, single homes and people in the open have been attacked by high-speed bombers and helicopters. Once airily described as eliminating "terrorists", now the handing over of power to war-lords, has demonstrated to Afghanis who the real "terrorists" are. Confronting US officials with the fact that three times the number of those killed on 9/11, Pilger was simply dismissed by those who didn't want to hear the statistics. Yet, the numbers and policies are damning, but the US public remains generally unaware of how many have died - indirectly killed by taxpayers, Pilger reminds us.
This is a book that can stir people to anger. Pilger may not wish his readers to be angry, but he wants them to be informed. If you can close this book without feeling shame, then you are lucky. Or perhaps you should return to the first page and read it again. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
on 10 July 2006
I cannot recommend this book more. It is an insightful, thought provoking and an incredibly moving account of the harsh realities of unrestricted Western power. For those of you who question the 'Looney Left' for their radical views I implore you to read this book. It is written with compassion and enthusiasm for the cause of those people who have no voice and no power to reject brutal colonisation (Israel on Palestinians) or heartless forced ejection (Diego Garcia).
I challenge anybody who has a conscience to read this and not feel moved to try and do something to help those who have no rights, no future and no life.
John Pilger's previous books include one called 'Heroes'. I believe Pilger himself can call himself one now.
on 20 March 2008
This book gets to the very heart of the way injustice is perpetrated in the world. In the best traditions of investigative journalism, Pilger examines in depth a number of ongoing situations in the world involving exploitation and injustice. The first of these relates to the plight group of islanders evicted from their Chagos island home using blatant deceit and brute force and given so little compensation that they were consigned to a life of penury in Mauritius. Why? So the British could give their American allies an island paradise as a new military base. The fact that most of us have never even heard of the Chagos islanders demonstrates the complicity of the world media in selectively reporting the news we often naively assume to have at least a modicum of impartiality.
The true shock of the book comes with the following chapters, however, where we are systematically shown the perspectives of those who have suffered most in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Afghanistan and since the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Did you think the average black South African has more opportunities to get ahead since the end of apartheid? or that the average Afghan woman is much better off since the ousting of the Taliban? I did - but completely erroneously as it turns out.
Pilger combines a concise summary of the facts with vivid snapshots of the situation on the ground in each location. He gives us excerpts from interviews with the victims that allow the reader to get a very personal perspective and juxtaposes these with excerpts from interviews with those responsible for the decisions that brought about the suffering. The combination is powerful and enlightening.
If I were to criticize the book it would be to say firstly that the chapter in India does not have the depth of the other chapters and adds little to the book. Secondly, Pilger very occasionally commits the same sin of telling only part of the truth that he accuses other journalists of. For example, he relates that the US has intervened 72 times in the affairs of other nations, including the overthrow of democratically elected social democracies such as in Guatemala, Brazil, Iran and Chile. I doubt that some of those governments would really have qualified as having been democratically elected by the standards that Pilger himself would apply to democracy. To be fair, this is a rare occurrence in the book and does not in any way detract from the substance of what Pilger has to say.
on 6 July 2007
This is a shattering, first hand investigation of some of the greatest injustices still being perpetrated in today's world. The fact that most of them are given little or no mainstream media coverage is a damning indictment of the type of selective reporting we have in this country. I wonder how many people have ever even heard of the Chagos islands, let alone are aware of one of the most outrageous and criminal acts of territorial theft to take place in the second half of the twentieth century. This crime, originally committed by Wilson on behalf of Britain's US masters, has been covered up and ignored by every succesive British government, up to and including Blair's. It is fascinating and appalling reading. And how many people believe that now apartheid has officially finished in South Africa, everything in that country is fine, and everyone is benefiting from 'democracy' and 'the free market'? When we are sickened by acts of terror perpetrated by Palestinians, how many of us feel the same sense of bitter outrage when dozens of innocent Palestinian schoolchildren are slaughtered by random missile attacks by US supplied Israeli F-16 aircraft? The answer is probably not very many, as these things get very little coverage. And when they are reported, it's done in a sanitised, watered down way.
Anyone familiar with the work of Noam Chomsky will find Pilger's book complements his writings, but whereas Chomsky is academic and heavily ironic, Pilger is an investigative journalist who really shows you firsthand the reality of situations. It is a very powerful piece of work, but sadly, those who should read it probably won't, and will continue to live in blissful ignorance.
I'm sorry I have only given it four stars, and not five. I'm a very tight reviewer, and for me 5 stars is the sort of holy grail of writing; it can't be improved on. Someone may come up with a more important and powerful piece of investigative journalism than 'Freedom next time' one day, but it will be damned hard to do so.
on 9 August 2006
Yet another excellent piece of work. This book puts so many of our modern day journalists to shame. Rather than echoing the official government line, Pilger probes and questions the decisions and motives of influential individuals and parties who have such an impact upon the everyday lives of multitudes of people. It is easy for people in their comfortable Western lives to feel so detached from the suffering that is going on elsewhere in the world. Yet Pilger writes with a passion and belief that enables the reader to empathise with such people. His style of writing encourages the reader to consider unpalatable questions about the motives of our leaders and politicians. John Pilger presents a challenge to the reader to stand up for what is right and just.
on 22 November 2008
Interested in human rights? Interested in finding out about what some "democratic" governments can do and get away with doing when people just don't know? Well then stop what you are doing, go to your library or book shop and get this book.
In 'Freedom Next Time', Pilger details five harrowing accounts of appalling, shameful and disgraceful human right abuses: Diego Garcia, Palestine, South Africa, Afghanistan and India.
The abuses are systematic and on a grand scale. They reflect problems of governance and the pernicious consequence of mass ignorance which facilitates either bad action or inaction. He chronicles each account by first explaining the particulars of the background of the problem and then presenting the details of his own very thorough investigations.
The chapters in the book correspond to different documentaries Pilger has done which are also available now on his various DVDs (which are also excellent). The difference is that the book goes into more detail.
It's not just a book of facts, there's an underlying socio-political point in 'Freedom Next Time': democratic governments can be complicit in human right abuses if something suits their geo-political needs and people are disinterested about what happens in other parts of the world - usually quite far away from their own doorstep.
The only criticism I'd have is that I thought his in South Africa chapter. I thought his account of Mandela veered slightly from balanced objectivity. Yes, there may have been some non - ideal things that someone widely regarded as a human rights hero had to do, while in political office, but isn't that always the sad reality? Tough decisions may have to be made. There may be times when there may only be a lesser of two evils, and isn't only naive idealism preventing us from accepting that?
But the book's positives far outweigh pedantic negatives. For example - sticking with South Africa - Pilger details the shocking abuses of workers in the South African mines. This was something that I myself, only found out about after a trip to South Africa when the miners were currently on strike, because the working conditions were so unsafe and so many of them were dieing while producing gold which let's face it was mainly for Western Jewelry. It was melancholic reality that stuck in my head and I was irritated why most Western media and people - who let's face it end up buying Jewelry coming from mines like these - were just blissfully unaware of it.
There's a shocking sad reality to life. When people don't know, either because of ignorance or apathy, they won't be able to care. When they don't care, democratic governments won't do anything. It's essential that we engage ourselves in these issues. Yes, unfortunately ignorance is bliss but as the journalist Molly Ivins once said ignorance can also be "root of evil".
Thankfully we have elucidating, enlightening and conscientious focused people like Pilger to help us wake up from time to time.
on 24 December 2007
WHAT a BOOK !!! and what an honour for it to grace my 1000th review.I live in Mauritius and I regularly see these Chagos Islanders protesting in front of the British Embassy that is near my car park. These guys have been robbed big time. Can u imagine being displaced from your homeland on some flimsy excuse that it is going to be used for US and UK military excuses. Pilger goes for the jugular and draws blood as from Page 1 itself. I would wholly recommend watching his documentary about Diego Garcia which is a very subtle accompaniment to the book.
Over two thousand Chagossian's were deported to Mauritius, dropped off with barely the cloths on their backs, currently living in abject poverty without compensation from the British government despite being British citizens. What is startling is the massive cover-up by the government and the silence of most journalists over three decades, allowing (them) to get away with it.
In chapter 2, The Last Taboo, chronicles the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Pilger devotes a lot of space to this subject, giving a well-rounded assessment of the `conflict', revealing terrorism on both sides of the equation. One point that should be stressed is that Israel is the leading country in denying and transgressing against numerous UN resolutions. One resolution being the right of the Palestinians to return to their homelands. Between 1948 and 2000, Israel has defied the UN and the International community 135 times, never seen before in UN history.
The effect of economic globalism in India is examined showing the widening gap between rich and poor that continues at an alarming rate.
Pilger also analysis South Africa since the end of Apartheid; having been banned from entering the country for thirty years, returns to discover that economically not much has changed, and those that committed unspeakable atrocities, have essentially gotten away with it. Again, a few are benefiting economically while the majority remain in poverty, dieing like flies from starvation and disease.
The last chapter, Liberating Afghanistan, is an appalling situation of lies, death and destruction. To say the least, Afghanistan is a convoluted mess. According to Pilger, the Afghanis' felt safer under the Taliban regime than the numerous warlords that are currently creating havoc across the country. The unreported innocent deaths from American bombing (10,000) are a terrible travesty beyond words. However, the true purpose of the "forgotten war", which has been reported by many others, including Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and author Gore Vidal, is the `oil and gas junta' as the oil lobby in Washington is now called, building a pipeline through to the oil and gas rich Caspian sea. This was the true purpose and the prize has been won. This is an example of incestuous collusion between corporations and government. Who is part of this deal? - a consortium of Enron, Amoco, British Petroleum, Chevron, Exxon and Mobil. Dick Cheney, former Chairman of Halliburton, James Baker, former secretary of State under Bush senior and Condoleezza Rice, once vice-president of Chevron Oil. Does anyone smell a rat?
This a hard book to read as man's inhumanity to man, the appalling lies and silence from the mainstream media, and the amount of innocent deaths around the globe for the betterment of the few, is hard to take. Pilger has never held back with the truth, despite numerous death threats over his career, banned from countries and standing up to those that perpetrate these crimes against humanity.
on 9 December 2010
Having read other John Pilger books, including "Hidden Agendas" and "The New Rulers of the World", Pilger continues to excel in "Freedom Next Time" exposing what is really going on the world and telling you what the mainstream news won't. If you have never read any of Mr Pilgers books then this a good one to start with. The chapters about Palestine, Diego Garcia, Afghanistan and South Africa are very well researched and in depth raising awareness of the plight of ordinary people affected by the tragic events in these countries while his interviews with politicians very revealing, exposing there lies and hypocrisy. The chapter on India though is far too short, feeling as though it was put in as an afterthought. Overall though a good read.
on 30 November 2014
This is a book that everyone should read. It is well written (if a bit longer than strictly required in places) and covers some of the most embarrassing issue plaguing the narrative we live through.
For UK readers, the first chapter has special value both highlighting the subservience of UK's rulers to the US im actual facts rather than impressions and the dirty corners that make it possible to by bypass parliament,showing that the state system of one of the exporters of democracy in 500lbs parcels falling from the sky is systemically undemocratic.