Banned in the USA: the Film You Didn’t See

Film Review

The War You Don’t See

Produced and directed by John Pilger

Americans now have the opportunity of seeing Australian John Pilger’s critically acclaimed The War You Don’t See on YouTube. The groundbreaking documentary was effectively banned in the US when Patrick Lannan, who funds the “liberal” Lannon Foundation, canceled the American premier (and all Pilger’s public appearances) in June 2010. Pilger provides the full background of this blatant act of censorship at his website. After watching the film, I believe its strong support of Julian Assange (who the US Department of Justice is attempting to prosecute) is the most likely reason it wasn’t shown in American theaters.

Pilger’s documentary centers around the clear propaganda role both the British and US press played in cheerleading the US/British invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. It includes a series of interviews in which Pilger confronts British and American journalists (including Dan Rather) and news executives regarding their failure to give air time to weapons inspectors and military/intelligence analysts who were publicly challenging the justification for these invasions. The Australian filmmaker focuses heavily on the fabricated evidence (Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and links to 9-11) that was used to convince American and British lawmakers to go along with an illegal attack on a defenceless nation (Iraq).

Making News Executives Squirm

Pilger also confronts the British news executives (from the BBC and ITV) for reporting — unchallenged — Israeli propagandist Mark Regev regarding the May 2010 Israeli attack (in international waters) of the international peace flotilla and murder of nine Turkish peace activists (including six who were executed in the back of the head at point blank range).

Although none of the news makers offer a satisfactory explanation for their actions, British news executives show obvious embarrassment when Pilger forces them to admit they knew about opposing views and failed to offer them equal air time. In my view, the main value of the film is reminding us how essential it is to hold journalists to account for their lack of objectivity. Too many activists (myself included) have allowed ourselves to become too cynical about the mainstream media to hold individual reporters and their editors and managers accountable when they function as government propagandists instead of journalists.

The War You Don’t See was released in Britain in December 2010, in the context of a Parliamentary investigation into the Blair government’s use of manufactured intelligence to ensnare the UK into a disastrous ten year foreign war. Government/corporate censorship is far more efficient in the US, and the odds of a similar Congressional investigation occurring in the US seem extremely low.

Edward Bernays: the Public is the Enemy

The film begins with a thumbnail history of modern war propaganda, which Pilger traces back to Edward Bernays, the father of public relations. Bernays, who began his career by helping Woodrow Wilson to “sell” World War I to the American people, talks in his famous book Propaganda about the public being the “enemy” which must be “countered.”

Independent Journalism is Hazardous to Your Health

The most powerful segment features the Wikileaks gunship video released in April 2010, followed by Pilger’s interview with a Pentagon spokesperson regarding this sadistic 2007 attack on unarmed Iraqi civilians. This is followed by excerpts of a public presentation by a GI on the ground at the time of assault, who was denied permission to medically evacuate two children injured in the attack.

The documentary also focuses heavily on the Pentagon’s deliberate use of “embedded” journalists to report the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the extreme threat (often from American forces) faced by independent, non-embedded journalists. According to Pilger, a record 240 independent journalists were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Palestine, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has killed ten independent journalists since 1992. The War You Don’t See includes footage of a recent IDF attack on a Palestinian cameraman, who miraculously survived, despite losing both legs.

Pilger goes on to talk about the deliberate bombing of Al Jazeera headquarters in Kabul and Baghdad, mainly because the Arab network was the only outlet reporting on civilian atrocities. This section features excellent Al Jazeera footage of home invasions of two civilian families — in one case by British and the other by American troops — who were brutally terrorized and subjected to torture tactics.

The Interview that Got the Film Banned

The film concludes with a brief interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who discusses the increasing secrecy and failure of democratic control over the military industrial intelligence complex. Assange presents his view that this complex consists of a network of thousands of players (government employees and contractors and defense lobbyists) who make major policy decisions in their own self-interest with virtually no government oversight.

Pilger and Assange also discuss the aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers by Obama, who has the worst record of First Amendment violations of any president. They also discuss the positive implications of the willingness of military and intelligence insiders to leak hundreds of thousands of classified documents. It shows clear dissent in the ranks about the blatant criminality that motivates US foreign policy decisions.

12 thoughts on “Banned in the USA: the Film You Didn’t See

  1. I like what you are writing about Pilger’s documentary and link it with the video. It is an indictment of the way the western government operate. I live in Australia now and at the time of the Iraqi war took part in a peaceful rally attended by about 350 000 people. Next morning our Prime Minister. John Howard, denounced us as the “mob”. He was, of course, part of the “coalition of the willing”. For me he is a war criminal.

    Seeing the footage of the home invasion in Iraq and the little, crying, terrorised girl emerging from the house with her raised arms brought tears to my eyes. (There exist a similar scene with a Jewish boy in the Warsaw Ghetto being terrorised by SS men.) I remembered my own war time experience in 1945 in Berlin when a Russian political commissar came up to me and put my arms down and told me, that they are not making war against children.

    In WW II such hatred was not shown generally towards us Germans. The Iraqi people did not do anything towards the western powers, did not start the war, did not commit any atrocities toward the West. Still they were attacked and we know why.

    Thank you for your blog and the voice with which you speak.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your profoundly moving comment.

      When Bush was gearing up to attack Iraq, I had just emigrated to New Zealand. We, too, had a very strong anti-war network determined to prevent our prime minister, Helen Clark, from joining the coalition of the willing.

      I think she wanted to join but fortunately was dissuaded by 3 months of large anti-war protests.

      Later we learned she had secretly sent New Zealand army engineers to Iraq, despite having no Parliamentary approval to commit New Zealand to this illegal war of aggression.

      Good point about the anger and brutality towards the Iraqi people being totally unjustified.

      Liked by 1 person

    Have you seen this film, Stuart? I reckon this film is very thought provoking too. It was shown here in Australia on SBS TV the other day. I just noticed a review on John Pilger’s website.

    The War You Don’t See
    My husband Peter downloaded this and we saw it together. It took us at least two hours to watch it for Peter stopped it a number of times for various comments and discussions about the subject. A lot of it we kind of knew already. But to watch all of this the way John Pilger presented it had an impact on us. Makes you really think about restricted freedoms in reporting and how everything is controlled by interest groups. Some public figures truly do not like that they are caught in the system. I wonder what these interest groups who control the military industrial intelligence complex get out of it in the end. WW III? Don’t they care if our civilization gets destroyed? Don’t they care at all?


    • No, I haven’t seen Utopia. It sounds excellent.

      I reckon the global elite has tunnel vision about the bleak prospects civilization faces. They’re so used to looking after their narrow interests that they can’t see the bigger picture. Quite possibly they tell themselves that someone will invent a technological fix for the ecological devastation that’s happening – possibly a special underground bunker for themselves and their families or maybe a colony on the moon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for another great post Dr. Bramhall. With the way things are going, many of US will be banned in the USA. The atrocities just keep on piling up and I cannot understand how ‘humans’ can still consider themselves to be ‘human’ after having killed so many other innocent ‘humans’ and for what? Capitalism? Oil? Other resources? Cheaper labor?

    What’s even more sad is that we’ve got those who willingly join the military to do the killing of these innocent ‘humans’. I understand about poverty, but what’s right and wrong should figure into all of this and not just say, “it’s a job!” I’d flip burgers before I’d pick up a weapon and kill innocent people for some rich a$$holes. But that’s me.

    Thanks again and as always, I’m mad as hell!!!


    • Hi Shelby, I think there’s pretty good evidence that most of the people who make these decisions are either sociopaths or people under their control (i.e. afraid of going to prison on trumped up charges or being murdered). I’m reading a book called Presidential Puppetry right now that describes a vast trail of bodies of conscientious officials who tried to expose wrongdoing in Washington.

      I miss your posts and hopefully you’ll start posting against soon.


  4. Pingback: Banned in the USA: the Film You Didn’t See | Puppet Master's Slave Market

  5. Thanks for enlightening me on this movie. I wasn’t aware of it and know why J. Pilger’s movie was out of mainstream. I have seen other movies of his. They are hard to watch. I would prefer to watch nice fantasy movies made by Hollywood. Truth is stranger than fiction. Some of us think quickly and get to see the real culprits responsible for WW3…yes, I believe we are at war. A different war. A sneaky war. A secret war. A complex war. Pitting one side against the other in the dark of night, from Ireland to Middle East to South America, you name it. And if it’s not a conventional war, it’s an economic war. A social war. A gender war. A drug war. A moral war. All roads lead to Rome. Cheers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.