Freedom Next Time – Resisting the Empire. John Pilger. Nation Books,
John Pilger is one of the foremost journalists today who, in the current vernacular, ‘walks the walk’. He has been to most of the world’s hotspots, and whether or not the standard media has considered them ‘hot’, has revealed much of the truth behind the cynical and disguised if not hidden rhetoric of politicians, businessmen, and, discouragingly, former freedom fighters. In Freedom Next Time, Pilger explores five countries, exposing the contradictions between the actions viewed by the people of the land and the words of rationalization supplied by the politicians.
Pilger starts very directly and succinctly, stating with his very opening line, “This book is about empire, its facades and the enduring struggle of people for their freedom.” He examines two empires working in unison, the American, globally powerful after a quick post war ascendancy, accompanied with a heavy dose of remnant British Imperialism, the two combining in all areas to some degree or other. The introduction discusses the changes of viewpoint created within the media, the dichotomy of ‘ours’ and ‘the other’, formed in part by the spin of what is reported as newsworthy and what is ignored. The current American government’s political devices are reminiscent of approaching fascism, especially as one considers George Bush’s considerable powers with his ‘presidential signing statements’ most recently used with “The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive,” giving him virtual unitary power over all facets of government in an emergency (signed May 9, 2007). The current liberalism cloaks a renewed pride in empire, the rhetoric of bringing freedom, democracy, and capitalist free-market structures to the world (mostly the latter).
Freedom Next Time is a story of the majority of people looking for their own individual peace and security, away from the grip of encroaching empires, in spite of the weaknesses of their own governments. And it is, ironically, the people, the public, who hold considerable power, if only they were well informed. The ‘leaders’ of the new militaristic neoliberalism know “that if power was truly invincible it would not fear the people so much as to expend vast resources trying to distract and deceive them.”
With his directions clearly stated and outlined, Pilger starts with the mostly unheard of Chagossians. More than three decades ago, the British and the Americans conspired, colluded, to give the American forces the
Used as a prime military base, its location in the centre of the Indian Ocean gives it paramount strategic importance to the
The longest section of the work is “The Last Taboo”, that taboo being to recognize the ongoing occupation and conflict in
Many familiar arguments and much historical information is provided to support the idea of the last taboo: the brutal assault on Jenin; the defiance of UN resolutions; the warlike nature of many Israeli leaders – Begin, Shamir, and Sharon – the latter responsible for several notable massacres, including Sabra and Chatila; the “gross acts of vandalism….to destroy the infrastructure of organised society”, the violence, the attacks on children, women, the elderly, the murder and incarceration of adults; home demolitions and roadblocks; the reversal of the argument of occupation such that the Palestinians become the perpetrators of the violence (a similar imperial story in most areas from South Africa to Iraq); military connections with South Africa’s apartheid regime, along with many comparisons to the actuality of apartheid; and on. What differentiates Pilger’s work from others is his extensive record of interviews with a variety of people within the upper echelons of Israeli society, interviews that clearly show their racist and ‘victimizing’ perspectives.
Israel/Palestine is a prime example of how media bias serves the purpose of those in power. The BBC news is seen as having “an overwhelming bias towards the policies of the State of Israel,” again the perpetrator becoming the victim, their attacks being part of the ‘war on terror’. One of the larger media constructions still remains the so called ‘peace process’, a powerfully flawed process that eventually led to the ‘disengagement plan’ whose actual purpose was “to distract attention from international criticism of Israel’s construction of a wall across the West Bank [ruled illegal by the ICJ]” and “designed to freeze the peace process” such as to “ensure permanent Israeli control over the entire Land of Israel while foreclosing the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.”
The comparisons with apartheid
Before discussing the idea that “Apartheid did not die”, Pilger takes a brief tour into
This provides Pilger with an excellent sequitur into conditions in
With apartheid legally abolished, the unfortunate record is that of continuing black oppression. The leaders of apartheid, including the much beloved Nelson Mandela, have been co-opted into the neoliberal economic policies of the ruling white class, the “inclusion of a small group of blacks in the country’s white corporate masonry….has allowed white and foreign capital to fulfil its legal obligations under new corporate charters.” This means, as elsewhere, low wages, poor working conditions, union stripping, poor social services including health and education for the masses, and alternately the increasing wealth and control of the corporate elite. Those blacks that ‘succeeded’, “proved they could be as ruthless as their former white masters in labour relations, cronyism and the pursuit of profit, hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost in mergers and ‘restructuring’.” The latter, as is too frequent in African oppression, as a result of “World Bank-supported tyrants.”
The British remain in the picture, as the “Old symbiotic relationship with
Probably the same motives could be applied to “Liberating Afghanistan” with the current government described as a “faÃ§ade”. The usual – well perhaps not so usual for mainstream media – history of American and British complicity in the Afghani problems is provided.
The theme of the facades of imperialism and the enduring struggle for freedom is well supported throughout Freedom Next Time. While I sometimes wondered what timeline I was on while reading some of the anecdotal material, that perhaps demonstrates again the similarities of empires past and present, the militaristic grab for wealth and power at the expense of the people of the land. John Pilger’s writing is clear and accessible, presenting a picture to the reader of people struggling against the almost overwhelming power of the global corporate elite. Perhaps ‘next time’, a different story will be available because of that enduring struggle.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to