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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 13 October 2013
Of the films by John Pilger which I have seen, 'The War On Democracy' is my favourite - because I think it is the one that best distils both his skills as a documentary film-maker and his knowledge and experience of Latin America. If, as I did, you come to this film in almost complete ignorance of the recent political history of the region, then 'The War On Democracy' will be a real eye-opener for you. Hopefully, it will also be the gateway through which you pass to a better understanding of the valuable political lessons to be drawn from the experience of Latin America, pretty much from the beginning of the twentieth century onwards. I would also say that another documentary by John Pilger, 'Nicaragua - A Nation's Right To Survive' (which can be found in the 'Documentaries That Changed The World' box set) will provide you with an essential complement to this work.

On a separate note (and if he hasn't already done so) I would like to see Mr Pilger make a retrospective documentary about the Vietnam War, giving us the political and historical context to the conflict, as well as describing its course, and including his personal experience of it. I think that would be an especially valuable piece of work.
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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 12 June 2016
John Pilger again patiently explaining the real story behind the oppressions and torture which normally the media confine to the margins of their reporting. As usual he elicits some chilling comments as the masks slip from interviewees. The one that will stay with me was the elderly woman in denial at the evidence of torture in her country saying why would the secret police bother to torture innocent people when they can just kill them instead.
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on 9 March 2013
I had no particular interest in or knowledge of Latin American politics, but boy was I gripped by this film. Having read the book The Shock Doctrine (another complete eye opener) it tells a similar story of how the idea of 'democracy' has been distorted and used as a cover by corporate powers to seize control over national assets of other countries. The film explains why a country like Venezuela, rich with natural resources, has most of its population living in slums with no education or health system while the rich minority thrive.

I don't buy into most conspiracy theories, but Pilger backs up his story with pretty solid evidence and a very rational explanation of what's happened and why. The recent death of Hugo Chavez now has a completely different meaning to me having seen this film. The scenes of the poor people coming down from the slums to the Venezuelan capital in droves when he was kidnapped and demanding their president back were incredibly powerful. He was truly a man of the people, wanting to get some equality into his country - but he was up against the mighty powers of the media, the wealthy minority and US corporate interests.

It does make you question everything that we in the West have been brought up to believe in. Is the US really wanting to spread its version of democracy around the world for altruistic reasons, or is there also another more sinister motive? With the American Dream turning into a nightmare where only the top 1% thrive, is that really the ideal model the rest of the world should follow?

For me, The War on Democracy has been a complete education and I can't recommend it highly enough.
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on 1 April 2016
Only those without a conscience and/or those who are self-centred and/or the sheeple WON'T want to watch this.
"All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing and look the other way"
Those who do not defend democracy do not deserve freedom nor democracy.
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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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on 11 November 2012
I really don't have much to add to the thoughtful reviews by others which rightly praise this excellent documentary.

It's humbling to see the dignity and courage of the people of Latin America in the face of repression by brutal regimes backed by our governments.

Anyone with a conscience will wish them well in their struggle for true democracy and self determination.

Their example should make us look at ourselves,our political leaders and what is done in our name.
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on 4 December 2009
I was rather sceptical about this prior to watching as i sort of expected yet another attack on the American government just for the sake of it (i always find it is such an easy scapegoat for people) but i was pleasantly surprised when i watched as it wasn't just an attack for the sake of it. It is a very educational and interesting documentary and i would definitely recommend it.
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on 26 June 2016
Must be seen. Another point of view on international politics and the actions of America which is rarely shown to the masses.
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