Sunday, January 14, 2024

John Pilger: A Life of Fearless Journaling – OffGuardian - Daniel Broudy

(I have no doubts as I make this prediction: "The longer it takes us Americans - and especially American churchgoers -  to awake from our long inattentive slumber and seared consciences from seeing what our Satanic government has and is doing throughout the world, the closer we will come to experiencing ourselves the same tragic human destruction that we have ALLOWED OUR government to spread around the world." - CL)

It’s a strange thing about human affairs, our natural need to feel belonging, and how, if given time to pause and parse what we think we know about the world, we can begin to see through the grand illusions made to manage human perception and to maintain a mediated, tightly controlled false sense of reality.

Such facts moved John Pilger for decades, and his work bore witness to the question of whether belonging in a world of lies should be something citizens should ever tolerate.

Since the tender age of 12, John was interested in journalism when he started his first newspaper, “The Messenger,” which he admitted “wasn’t very good, but it was a rather good effort.” His political awakening came when he finally left his “comfortable western country” to see “countries that were devastated … in terms of impoverishment, in terms of what war had done to them.”

Over his career, he consistently broke through the glossy exterior of numerous falsehoods broadcast and put into print for mass consumption.

From Vietnam to Iraq, Syria to Diego Garcia and well beyond, he journaled the bizarre illusions upheld by empires in his ceaseless efforts to demythologize corporate news narratives and to offer a view of the empirical world unadorned by fear or favor, political cant, obfuscation, and doublespeak. He probed coercive power structures and prodded his readers to pause and think, and that sense of unblinking service to his vocation changed many hearts and minds and opened many up to contemplate how thoroughly craven the power-hungry are.

Because of John’s work, I too was coaxed out of the corporate media echo chambers which had confused and obscured my own view of the world. In late December 1989, we witnessed from Howard Air Force Base the AC-130 gunships circling over Panama City pulverizing El Chorrillo, the site of General Manuel Noriega’s La Comandancia. It was a nighttime assault that George H.W. Bush would announce to the world as “Operation Just Cause,” and, as analysts, we were keen to cut through the clouds of political confusion to better understand what was real and what was staged since war was (and has always been) the best theatre in which to see emerge all the key ID features of mass deception.

When word came to our small detachment of analysts that the fiercest fighting had subsided, a small squad of us were ordered into the city into the confines of the battered headquarters to determine what our analysis was able to achieve for the blunt edge of American cannon fire in close quarters. Four of us mounted a modified Humvee and made our way into Chorrillo.

Seated in the back, we surveyed blocks of the smoldering city and the faces of bystanders. We moved past local women and men stoic and wandering, it seemed, without aim. On a street corner, a boy stood motionless, his forefinger searching a nostril, his cheek crosshatched by soot from nearby buildings set ablaze.

As we neared Noriega’s main headquarters, I sought to locate something in the expressions of the people that would square with the popular CNN portrayal of events that followed the intense tactical operation. Framed for television audiences in America were gathered groups of jubilant Panamanians cheering on the troops, but we found not a trace of elation and relief in their faces. Where was the euphoria?

The closer we drew to our destination the more incredulous it seemed. Ornate rows of thick palms that had lined certain streets like Doric columns along the route lay shattered and singed. Occasional stray cats and dogs roamed about inspecting the splattered remains of their own kind. Huge concrete structures that once stood proud were distilled in mounds of powdered masonry, rubble, and twisted rebar while wooden edifices lay in heaps of smoldering ash.

Finally, the Humvee came to a halt. We dismounted, filed into the headquarters, picking our way past wreckage and fallen walls, and found a route into the remains of La Comandancia. Though the bodies had been removed, the caustic whiff of rotting flesh still hung in the humid air and merged with the fabric of our BDUs.

The blood-spattered walls and floors were like a vast Rorschach splotch testing my curiosity to comprehend the effects of state violence on flesh and bone. As the dust of crumbled walls and a posy of gunpowder floated around us, our trek through the confines brought us to a dimly-lit room where on one wall hung a lonely metal crucifix, like “humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” Suddenly there surrounding me were all the palpable ironies of sacrifice to state power.

In early March 1990, hardly more than a month after the final run of airborne artillery had pounded Chorrillo and the fog of confusion began lifting, I stumbled upon a scene whose sights, sounds, and scents I have not been able to fully erase from memory. During a morning run through Corozal, the imprinted odor of the deceased, still haunting me from Chorrillo, began pursuing me again. It captured my full attention along the route when I peered behind a mysterious tarpaulin barrier where I espied the rotting bodies that had been shoveled into black vinyl bags.

The exposed and bloated limbs of some seemed to be inviting my attention to the great hole from where they had come. I averted my gaze to see just beyond the burial site, rippling in the breeze, an outline of palm leaves on trees set against a cobalt sky as the acrid scent of bodies fused with my memory. I turned like a tin soldier and moved on, breathing not a word to myself. Did my mind really register what my eyes had beheld? Had I made some sort of subconscious attempt to delete the images? In a dream that night, the eyes in a mass of ghost-white faces fixed their gaze upon me from the darkness of a deep grave. With arms outstretched, they summoned me to join them.

Before the discovery of mirror neurons, skeptics who had never seen the effects of shrapnel and cannon fire on human flesh would refer to men and women living out the consequences of combat horror as contending with “battle fatigue.”

Other euphemisms since propagated by mass media now cloud the minds of the general public fully alienated from the horrors that replay in the minds of all unfortunate souls caught up in the maelstrom of launched missiles, bombs and bayonets. The political powers in privileged offices, who prevail over the sensibilities of common people — bearing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — roam free from their own complicity in normalizing the term “disorder” and the unlimited decades-long campaigns of bombing, strafing, psychologically torturing, injecting, and herding populations into total conformity and submission.

The connotations associated with PTSD call up images of the clinical as if to pretend that recurrent moments of torment follow logically from some mysterious inexplicable mental malfunction in the host. Like all other forms of euphemism, the sterile abbreviation, seems to me, enables the major hustlers of war and creative economic destruction to collaborate with their congregants in the corporate media and to go on agitating the irrational fear and loathing needed to mobilize men and women to send off to new planned invasions.

In 1992, John Pilger’s documentary “War By Other Means” dared me as a warrior to revisit memories of the violence visited upon Panamanian people, especially those in the poorest neighborhoods of the city. “It’s been the poor of the world who have financed the rich,” noted John, “and not the other way around.” So, I had to return, in my mind, to parts of the old city, before the ordnance and flames came to dissolve the elements and dispossess so many local people of their homes and livelihoods, the places where we used to gather routinely with friends for lobster tails and Piña Coladas.

“Instead of soldiers dying,” John observed, “it’s children dying. […] It’s like a colonial war in which people and resources are controlled not by viceroys and occupying armies, but more sophisticated means, of which, the principal weapon is debt.” John’s measured tone had a way of penetrating and moving the cold disinterested hearts of his audience.

I was promptly transported to a time when my father recounted to me stories he’d heard as a teen about the exploits of General Smedley D. Butler, a self-described strongman for the big banking houses of Brown Brothers and National City Bank, a man who knew the costs of war rendered “a horrible accounting [in] newly placed gravestones, mangled bodies, shattered minds, broken hearts and homes, economic instability, depression and all its attendant miseries, [and] back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.”

My father, a veteran of WWII, recalled the time he had heard about General Butler explaining in a 1933 speech how the brutal cycle of financing rolls onward and into all the forms of antidemocratic development in nations ripe for “investment” opportunities:

I helped in the raping of half a dozen central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. Looking back on it…I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best [Capone] could do was operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents. I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscleman for big business, for Wall Street and the big bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.”

The Great Depression of the 1930s and its associated suffering had clearly made my dad more enthusiastic than many of his peers to understand the extent to which the real economy was not guided so much by some invisible hand of the market but by those who controlled the levers of finance and investment, who powered the Treasury’s printing press pumping out all those glorious “legal notes” of questionable value.

John Pilger’s work reassured me that the lessons I had learned as a child were not misplaced, that the post-WWII era, with the rise of the IMF and World Bank, triggered the

“process of coercing most of humanity into debt as a means of controlling their resources, their labor, and their governments … almost half a century ago. It was not called colonialism … a term made defunct by WWII. There were new ‘hopeful’ euphemisms. Indeed, this was the beginning of what President [H.W.] Bush now calls the ‘New World Order’.”

It’s no wonder why John’s incisive analysis remains prescient decades after publication. A mere glance at the state of the world today should apprise the conscious onlooker of how his 1992 reporting on debt as a weapon of war is illustrated in the big pharma capture of governments around the world. Funded by the World Bank, the Covid-19 operation has served as a powerful trigger of controlling the careful demolition of the old world and paving the way for a “New Normal” — outfitted with all the newfangled levers of technocratic control, the biometric IDs and programmable CBDCs to be imposed upon a new class of debt slaves, told “what they can and cannot own” and herded safely and securely into 15-minute cities.

When John and his film crew came to Okinawa to shoot The Coming War on China in 2015, I had the pleasure of being invited to the effort. John knew the weird irony of shooting a film about an approaching war on location in an island in the Pacific whose major American presence was signified by the name, Camp Smedley D. Butler.

We talked a lot about how the old world began disintegrating so rapidly after 9/11, like three New York City skyscrapers reduced to dust in their own carbon footprint, after former General Wesley Clark divulged the Pentagon plan to pacify 7 countries in 5 years. At the time, we could hardly imagine that in just a few short years of filming that the whole world would appear to go mad, that all the institutions we knew and relied on would mutate from a global infection of some malignant public-private pathological condition.

Given the major themes the film would address, the excesses and rank abuses of state power, it did not occur to us at the time, when discussing the hideous clandestine “medical” experiments with radiological weapons, tested on unsuspecting human beings throughout the Marshall Islands for years following WWII, that the world would see a similar experiment launched under the guise of “The Science.”

Since the global rollout of the weapons needed to establish that New World Order imagined by George H.W. Bush, it has not been easy to observe the pointless disintegration of nations, national boundaries, identities, and sovereignty — bodily or otherwise.

Nowadays, with the financialization and commodification of everything, it would seem to be an overwhelming and futile effort to try to mount some sort of defense against the multi-pronged government-backed wars being waged across the planet against food and nature, against the sky and water, against society and economy, against human identity and family, against civil and human rights, against the human genome and the human psyche. If the investment companies, banks, and insurance companies have made a killing on the Covid-19 operation, it is easy to see how “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

It’s easy to see, furthermore, how John’s Coming War on China serves as an apt metaphor for a war on all of humanity. His recent passing in late December, sad as it is, reminds us to keep standing for and defending the empirical world, no matter who is selling the lies and deceptions. Surely, John Pilger would approve!

Daniel Broudy, Ph.D., is a professor of applied linguistics at Okinawa Christian University. His latest book, co-authored with Miyume Tanji, is Okinawa Under Occupation: McDonaldization and Resistance to Neoliberal Propaganda (Palgrave, 2017).