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on 16 March 2008
Since watching John Pilger's first DVD collection, I have been eagerly waiting for this cinema documentary, The War On Democracy, to be released on DVD as well. I have just finished watching it several times, and while this film is not without its weak points, I can honestly say the wait has been worth it.

I got my money's worth during Pilger's confrontation with a former CIA chief, whose arrogance concerning the loss of innocent lives in Latin America is shocking, no matter how many times you watch it. When was the last time you saw a journalist (any journalist!) confront the CIA face-to face and demand to know: 'What right do you have to overthrow other countries' governments?'. Pilger does exactly that in this movie, and for me, this DVD paid for itself in those few moments alone.

There is stunning photography of the South American landscape in this film as well, the sheer beauty of which takes your breath away, and interviews with common people in Latin America whose courage is nothing short of inspiring. In one emotional scene, a priest in Bolivia breaks down and cries on camera as he remembers the government's massacre of innocent people. In another segment, we hear the horrific testimony of an American nun who was abducted and tortured in Guatemala in the late 1980s -- torture that she says was overseen by a fellow United States citizen. These are stories of common people that must be told, and yet the mainstream media companies whose so-called 'news' we watch, read and listen to every day continue to treat such people as invisible or as untouchables. Again, Pilger does a great public service in sharing their stories with us.

The weak points that I found in this movie concern Chile in particular. Why was there no mention in this film, for example, of the recent election of Michelle Bachelet, the first woman president of Chile? While Bachelet, a victim of torture herself under the brutal Pinochet regime, is admittedly not perfect, she surely represents a great leap forward from the dark days of 'the repression'. Yet she is not even mentioned in this film.

Also, Pilger makes one glaring mistake in this film (and on his website, which I checked) in reporting that the great Chilean balladeer Victor Jara was tortured and executed in the open-air National Stadium of Chile, which Pilger walks us through in this movie. Victor Jara, rather, saw his last days in Estadio Chile (Chile Stadium) a much smaller, indoor facility located in downtown Santiago, Chile. Thanks to efforts by Joan Jara, Victor's British widow, the name of the stadium where Victor was tortured and killed by Pinochet's thugs in 1973 is officially known today as Victor Jara Stadium. It was a bit disappointing to see that Pilger, who is usually quite accurate in his reporting, had not double-checked his facts on this point.

However, all things said, these weaknesses do not detract from what is overall a very powerful, very emotionally moving documentary. Pilger is correct in noting the trend of Latin American countries in rising up to face 'the empire' (as Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez refers to the U.S. in this film). Indeed, as we speak, more South American countries are rising up and will continue to rise up. If we are to understand more clearly how global imperial history is changing right before our eyes, we need more documentary films like this one -- and more brave journalists like John Pilger to help tell us the truth.
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on 1 January 2010
"You use virtually any method necessary to get what you want", asserts Major Joseph Blair, instructor in the early 1980s at the School of the Americas, Georgia, where the military personnel of US-sponsored Latin American dictatorships were "taught interrogation and torture techniques", the manuals now in the public domain.

"Torture?" asks Pilger.

"And killing. If there's someone you don't want, you kill them ... you assassinate them with one of your death squads."

From the gunning down of unarmed mourners at a funeral in El Salvador, through the US-backed campaign against the indigenous Mayan people of Guatemala (described by the United Nations as 'genocide'), the systematic massacre in one Salvadorian village of at least 200 defenceless women and children ("You could hear their screams for their mothers and fathers", testifies a survivor), to the gang rape of nuns orchestrated by a man identified as an American national in Guatemala's torture chambers, John Pilger's well researched narrative documents the United States' rampage, through its clients and proxies, of subversion, suppression, plunder, and murder throughout the Latin American continent since 1945, brutally overthrowing democratically elected governments in Guatemala, Venezuela, Chile, Nicaragua, and elsewhere.

"Is that OK to overthrow a democratically elected government?" asks Pilger of Duane Clarridge, head of the CIA's Latin American division in the early 1980s.

"It depends on what your national security interests are", comes Clarridge's response.

Questioned on the carnage wrought on the civilian populations of America's client dictatorships in Latin America, Clarridge peremptorily replies: "That's just tough ... and if you don't like it, lump it. Get used to it, world ... if our interests are threatened, we're gonna do it". And what are those interests? The US-sponsored coup to oust Chavez as President of oil-rich Venezuela rehearses a typical story: read 'economic interests', 'security' a code word for rapacious greed by the large corporations who, it becomes clear (but have we ever doubted it? presidential candidate Ron Paul indeed made it a platform of his 2008 campaign), effectively own the US government.

Challenging George W. Bush's assessment in the wake of 9/11 that the US was attacked because "they hate our freedoms", Osama bin Laden poignantly retorted: "Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example." For it has rather been a succession of US administrations, hand-in-glove with powerful monied elites, who have ruthlessly demonstrated beyond question a hatred of freedom, a hatred of democracy, a contempt for human rights and human dignity, where these conflict with America's economic "interests".

Sister Dianna Ortiz, an America nun and missionary who survived torture and gang-rape by the military in Guatemala, reflects painfully on her own experiences in 1989: "I've heard people say that what happened in Abu Ghraib is an isolated incident, and I have to just shake my head and say, 'Are we on the same planet? Aren't you aware of our history? Isn't history taught in the classroom?'" John Pilger's courageous and shocking film, The War On Democracy, should unquestionably be on that History curriculum.
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on 17 September 2007
I watched this documentary on TV recently, and I have to say it was simply one of the best programs I have ever had the priviledge to see. John Pilger's gift is to take the truth and hold it up to your face so starkly that only a moron or corrupt politician could fail to be moved. Indeed I was almost moved to tears by parts of the program, and also angered that so much evil, and that's not too strong a word, is being done in our name by governments who drip feed us pap and misinformation.

I have been watching DVDs of Noam Chomsky recently too, and he tells of similar injustices meted out by the West on those less fortunate. I would urge everyone with a conscience to wake the hell up, stop watching SKY news which re-runs trivia every 15 minutes, and look around you. I have even started watching Al Jazeera for the news, and it has so much more depth and scope to proper issues that it boggles the mind. One of the major points Pilger makes is that the media are privately owned, and the garbage we get fed to us is simply to mis-inform and lie to us. Your government is lying to you every day people!

Pilger's books and documentaries dont make for a comfortable evening's viewing or reading. He strips away the facade of our supposed decency in the West and makes us examine the true extent of our leaders' underhand, duplicitous and evil doings in the name of supposed "democracy". It's all a lie, and as any history student will tell you, if you tell a big enough lie, people will believe it.

Hugo Chavez comes across as a good, decent well-intentioned man. He speaks with humility and good grace. Compare that with the lying, draft-dodging, incompetent, war-mongering, ingrate currently residing in the Whitehouse. Christ! The times they are a-changing.
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on 20 August 2007
I have just finished watching one of the most inspiring documentaries I think I have ever seen: John Pilger's "The War on Democracy" shown tonight on UK Channel Three (ITV), at over one and a half hours.

If you can, watch this film (or DVD when it is issued)!

It will have you punching the air, and sheading tears, cursing the rich even while your jaw hits the floor at the courage of the poor and the fight-back we are seeing in Latin America -- surely the most hopeful place on earth at the moment.

John finishes with a warning to his viewers "To those who are used to seeing the world through the eyes of media owned by the rich and powerful, I warn you the people of the world are rising up..."

It then ends with Sam Cooke's 'I know change is a coming."

Gob-smakcing DVD/TV at its very best.
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on 9 May 2008
What does American corporate media not want you to know? More than ever before we need spirited debate about our country's actions around the world, especially those being done in secret by the U.S. government and private U.S. contractors. Few American sources delve into the issues that Pilger refuses to drop. He's been hot on the trail of political and corporate greed for 40 years. We should listen to him. Because those debates cannot happen if we're ignorant of the facts.
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on 22 August 2007
Immeadiately after watching this brilliant, MAGNIFICENT documentary by the great John Pilger, i came looking to buy it on DVD, only to find it isn't out for another two months :(

Nevertheless, this is a brilliant documentary, highlighting how the western media has never shown America's near constant scheming in Latin America.

We are shown by pilger's interview by an insidious former CIA Latin America chief that America's actions are 'justified' for 'national security' and their support of the monster that was General Pinochet in Chile was good as 'it sorted out the country' and that his massachres of his political opponents were 'justified in sorting that country out' i.e. turning it into a laissez faire playground for Corporations.

As a previous reviewer has just said, in his interview with Hugo Chavez, the leader of Venuezuela comes across as a intelligent and down to earth man, exactly the opposite of virtually all the world's CEOs and leaders of state, not the stalinist monster the conservative press is fond of portraying him as.

The stories of the failed coup in Venezuela in '02 and Bolivia's recent revolution are heart warming, and great demonstrations of how powerful the people can be.

In fact, the failed coup in '02 reads like something from a Hollywood political thriller - at an anti Chavez political rally, Anti Chavez elements in the police fire upon the anti chevez supporters and frame it on chavez supporters, chavez is illegally deposed and the illegal new government made up of corporation loving corrupt fat cats proclaim a new regeime, only for the truth to come out and the people to come out onto the streets, in support of chavez. And amazingly, Chavez appears via helicoptor, and takes the presidency back!

But perhaps Pilger's big message is to not believe america's crusade for 'democracy' - democracy to the CIA and Bush administration is when nations have parties that have virtually little difference to each other and follow laissez faire economics that leave the poor behind.

As pilger says, 'The people of the world, despite the media's determination to ignore it, are fed up of the American Empire."

Buy it!
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on 4 August 2008
John Pilger has produced many outstanding and disturbing investigative films and "War On Democracy" stunningly and excrutiatingly exposes the effects of American hegemony in Latin America and how Latin America is fighting back against corporatocracy. It is a "must watch" piece of investigative journalism. It will not surprise you to learn that this DVD, together with "Documentaries That Changed The World", also by John Pilger, is not available in the United States as it it doesn't represent their government's current "interests", which seems to have recently included the incremental silencing of dissenting voices and control of the media. I look forward to a John Pilger investigation into the Middle East. If you would like to read more of the plight of Latin America, I can also recommend "The Secret History Of The American Empire" - John Perkins, which can also be found on Amazon.
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on 21 August 2007
I saw this on ITV last night. John Pilger has produced another brilliant, fascinating, gripping documentary which should be seen by all who can. It is one of those pieces of documentary film that you feel privaleged to be able to see. I sat savouring every minute, knowing that it is all too rare that you see television like this that really strives to reach truth and and expose injustice.

It will be one of those DVDs that you will want to pass around your friends not only because it is a brilliantly shot documentary but because just to watch it you feel you are in some way participating in REAl grassroots democracy and showing solidarity with the people of Latin America.
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on 21 August 2007
Occasionally you see something on television that makes you sit up and take notice of what is going on in the world. John Pilger and Chris Martin's 'The War On Democracy' is such a film.

I cannot claim to having had any interest in Latin American politics, so its impact on me was all the greater. It tells the incredible but true story of how Washington has over the years destabilized democratically elected governments such as those of Chile and Venezuela by fermenting dissent. This insidious process started under Nixon, and ( surprise, surprise ) has continued to the present day under Bush.

Pilger extracts an stunning admission from an unrepentant C.I.A. bigwig, who cites 'national security interests' as justification for his loathsome behaviour, I came close to kicking in the television screen. Hugo Chavez, president of Venuezuela, himself the victim of an attempted coup, is interviewed, and comes across as intelligent and articulate - unlike Bush. Remember Margaret Thatcher's old tea-drinking pal General Augusto Pinochet? Here we learn first-hand from some of the people he tortured the truth about the man 'we can do business with'.

'Fahrenheit 9/11' was impressive, but I think this was better, being more focused and in depth.

If you want to know why Bush is currently the most hated man on Earth, get this D.V.D.
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on 19 September 2011
I found this dvd deeply disturbing and very upsetting, but the truth often is. It reminds me very much of John Perkins autobiography 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman.' It makes me sick to listen to much of that mainstream propoganda I listen to every time I switch on the news. It also sickens me to know how many people swallow that fox news crap. All I can do is advice everyone I know and some to research the truth into what's really going on out there....we have access to the internet, youtube, etc..... a message to everybody, PLEASE WATCH THIS DVD!!! LEARN THE TRUTH!!! SPREAD THE WORD!!! DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH INTO WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON BEHIND CLOSED DOORS!! We can't let these heartless corporates get away with this anymore...
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