John Pilger

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John Pilger.jpg
BornJohn Richard Pilger
9 October 1939
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died30 December 2023 (Age 84)
London, United Kingdom
Children • Sam Pilger
• Zoe Pilger
Member ofAmerican Herald Tribune, Justice for Megrahi
Interests“War on Terror”
John Pilger, an Australian crusading journalist, has achieved fame in spite of a refusal to kowtow to the establishment by avoiding controversial issues.

John Pilger, an Australian crusading journalist, has achieved fame in spite of a refusal to kowtow to the establishment by avoiding controversial issues. At the forefront of these issues, Pilger has championed the rights of whistleblower Julian Assange.


RIP John Pilger (died 30 December 2023)

John Pilger has twice won the UK's Journalist of the Year Award, and his documentaries have received academy awards in Britain and the US.[1] Noam Chomsky said of Pilger:

"John Pilger's work has been a beacon of light in often dark times. The realities he has brought to light have been a revelation, over and over again, and his courage and insight a constant inspiration." [2]

In Breaking the Silence: The Television Reporting of John Pilger, his appraisal of the journalist's documentaries, Anthony Hayward wrote,

"For more than a generation, he has been an ever stronger voice for those without a voice and a thorn in the side of authority and the Establishment. His work, particularly his television documentaries, has also made him rare in being a journalist who is universally known, a champion of those for whom he fights and the scourge of politicians and others whose actions he exposes."[3]

"War on Terror"

"Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the 'War on Terror'"

"Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the 'War on Terror'" is a 2003 Carlton Television documentary written and directed by John Pilger, produced by Christopher Martin and co-directed by Steve Connelly, in which Pilger describes how the United States created Al Qaeda and the Taliban.[4]

Six months after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and two years after the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, John Pilger’s documentary "Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror" highlighted the hypocrisy and double standards of the American and British adventures of 2001-3, which led to the deaths of more than a million people.

The film opens with a series of haunting war photographs. Over the carnage, George W Bush says, ‘The United States will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies, and freedom.’ His voice dissolves into the high-pitch of his co-conspirator, Tony Blair, who exalts his actions as ‘a fight for freedom’ and ‘a fight for justice’.

Pilger asks, ‘What are the real aims of this war and who are the most threatening terrorists?' In a remote village in Afghanistan, he interviews Orifa, who lost eight members of her family, including six children, when an American plane dropped a 500-pound bomb on her mud-brick home. This is juxtaposed with Bush telling Congress that the United States is ‘a friend to the Afghan people’. Few countries have been helped less by the United States – less than three per cent of all aid to Afghanistan is for reconstruction from war damage.

Kabul, the capital, is a maze of destruction, with cluster bombs not cleared from the city centre and families living in abandoned buildings. ‘I’ve spent much of my life in places of upheaval, but I’ve rarely seen such a ruined city as Kabul,’ says Pilger, standing in a shoe factory where the populations of two villages have squatted, destitute.

Most of the damage was inflicted not by the ‘official enemy’, the Taliban, but by warlords backed, trained and funded by the United States, who restored the poppy harvests and opium trade, which the Taliban had banned.

Recalling the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pilger reveals that President Jimmy Carter signed a secret presidential decree authorising the bank-rolling of the warlords, known as the mujahedin, to fight the Red Army. Among them, the CIA and Britain's MI6 trained Islamic extremists, including Osama bin Laden, as part of what was called Operation Cyclone. From this, says Pilger, ‘came the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and [the attacks of] September 11th’.

The Taliban were also the United States's secret friends. Shortly after they took power in Afghanistan, they were offered a bribe by the administration of President Bill Clinton if they backed a plan for an oil pipeline from central Asia through Afghanistan. However, when George W Bush became President, the connection between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban was an embarrassment, and the tie was cut.

For "War on Terror", read "War OF Terror"

Pilger's interviews with administration officials – described by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern as ‘the crazies’ – are perhaps the highlight of a film made when 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq were raw. He interviews Under Secretary of State John Bolton, who is today Donald Trump's National Security Adviser. Bolton tells Pilger that the United States has done more ‘to create conditions in which individuals can be free around the world than any other country’. When Pilger points to the US record of bombing countries into submission, Bolton says, ‘Are you a Labour Party member… or a Communist Party member?’ When Pilger replies that Tony Blair's Labour Party are his allies, he says, ‘Oh, really?’

Of all Pilger's films about American foreign policy, "Breaking the Silence" achieved something of a ‘cult’ status as counter-history and was shown across the United States – thanks in part to Ray McGovern, who took the film on a tour of campuses and small towns. ‘We warn people,’ he said, ‘about the crazies.’ Nothing, he might add today, has changed.[5]

"War OF Terror"

Concluding an interview for the Media Workers Against the War Conference "The First Casualty? War, Truth & the Media Today", at the London School of Economics on 17 November 2007, John Pilger said:

Yes, a lot of journalists put "Terrorism" and "War on Terror" in inverted commas but after a while they weary of that. It's as if there really is a "War on Terror". And there isn't a "War on Terror". There is a "War OF Terror".[6]

"The War You Don't See"

In his 2010 film "The War You Don't See", John Pilger returns to the subject of war reporting and its critical role in the making of wars. This ‘drum beat’ was the theme of Pilger's 1983 documentary "Frontline: The Search for Truth in Wartime", a history of war journalism from the Crimea in the 19th century (‘the last British war without censorship’) to Margaret Thatcher's Falklands War in 1982.

"The War You Don’t See" analyses propaganda as a weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan. The title refers to censorship by omission – ‘the most virulent form of censorship,’ said Pilger – and the collusion of journalists in nominally free societies such as Britain and the United States.

The film begins with shocking footage from Iraq in 2007. An American Apache gunship opens fire on a Baghdad street, killing in cold blood two Reuters journalists, along with Iraqi civilians. There is no provocation – the victims are unarmed. One of the Apache crew comments ‘Nice’ as he murders people at a safe distance. Titled ‘Collateral Murder’, the video was leaked to WikiLeaks by soldier Bradley (later Chelsea) Manning.

Previously unscreened footage shows a 2004 attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah by American and British forces that left thousands dead. An independent American journalist’s report and photographs of mass graves never appeared in corporate media. In occupied Palestine, reports Pilger, the intimidation and killing of non-Western journalists by the Israelis are seldom reported.

"The War You Don't See" marks the rise of WikiLeaks, whose founder and editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, tells Pilger that his organisation gives ‘conscientious objectors’ within ‘power systems’ a means of informing the public directly, a landmark in journalism:

"The lives of countless men, women and children depend on the truth," concludes Pilger, "or their blood is on those of us who are meant to keep the record straight."[7]

Freeing Julian Assange: the last chapter

Freeing Julian Assange: the last chapter

One of the epic miscarriages of justice of our time is unravelling. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - the international tribunal that adjudicates and decides whether governments comply with their human rights obligations - has ruled that Julian Assange has been detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden.

After five years of fighting to clear his name - having been smeared relentlessly yet charged with no crime - Assange is closer to justice and vindication, and perhaps freedom, than at any time since he was arrested and held in London under a European Extradition Warrant, itself now discredited by Parliament.

The UN Working Group bases its judgements on the European Convention on Human Rights and three other treaties that are binding on all its signatories. Both Britain and Sweden participated in the 16-month long UN investigation and submitted evidence and defended their position before the tribunal. It would fly contemptuously in the face of international law if they did not comply with the judgement and allow Assange to leave the refuge granted him by the Ecuadorean government in its London embassy.

In previous, celebrated cases ruled upon by the Working Group - Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia, detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian in Iran - both Britain and Sweden have given support to the tribunal. The difference now is that Assange's persecution and confinement endures in the heart of London.

The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden. The Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the case, saying, "I don't believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape" and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and "railroading" her, protesting she "did not want to accuse JA of anything". A second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it.

The Assange case is rooted across the Atlantic in Pentagon-dominated Washington, obsessed with pursuing and prosecuting whistleblowers, especially Assange for having exposed, in WikiLeaks, US capital crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of civilians and a contempt for sovereignty and international law. None of this truth-telling is illegal under the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as "part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal".

Obama, the betrayer, has since prosecuted more whistleblowers than all the US presidents combined. The courageous Chelsea Manning is serving 35 years in prison, having been tortured during her long pre-trial detention.

The prospect of a similar fate has hung over Assange like a Damocles sword. According to documents released by Edward Snowden, Assange is on a "Manhunt target list". Vice-President Joe Biden has called him a "cyber terrorist". In Alexandra, Virginia, a secret grand jury has attempted to concoct a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted in a court. Even though he is not an American, he is currently being fitted up with an espionage law dredged up from a century ago when it was used to silence conscientious objectors during the First World War; the Espionage Act of 1917 has provisions of both life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Assange's ability to defend himself in this Kafkaesque world has been handicapped by the US declaring his case a state secret. A federal court has blocked the release of all information about what is known as the "national security" investigation of WikiLeaks.

The supporting act in this charade has been played by the second Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny. Until recently, Ny had refused to comply with a routine European procedure that required her to travel to London to question Assange and so advance the case that James Catlin, one of Assange's barristers, called "a laughing stock ... it's as if they make it up as they go along". Indeed, even before Assange had left Sweden for London in 2010, Marianne Ny made no attempt to question him. In the years since, she has never properly explained, even to her own judicial authorities, why she has not completed the case she so enthusiastically re-ignited - just as the she has never explained why she has refused to give Assange a guarantee that he will not be extradited on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In 2010, the Independent in London revealed that the two governments had discussed Assange's onward extradition.

Then there is tiny, brave Ecuador. One of the reasons Ecuador granted Julian Assange political asylum was that his own government, in Australia, had offered him none of the help to which he had a legal right and so abandoned him. Australia's collusion with the United States against its own citizen is evident in leaked documents; no more faithful vassals has America than the obeisant politicians of the Antipodes.

Four years ago, in Sydney, I spent several hours with the Liberal Member of the Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull. We discussed the threats to Assange and their wider implications for freedom of speech and justice, and why Australia was obliged to stand by him. Turnbull is now the Prime Minister of Australia and, as I write, is attending an international conference on Syria hosted by the Cameron government - about 15 minutes' cab ride from the room that Julian Assange has occupied for three and a half years in the small Ecuadorean embassy just along from Harrods. The Syria connection is relevant if unreported; it was WikiLeaks that revealed that the United States had long planned to overthrow the Assad government in Syria. Today, as he meets and greets, Prime Minister Turnbull has an opportunity to contribute a modicum of purpose and truth to the conference by speaking up for his unjustly imprisoned compatriot, for whom he showed such concern when we met. All he need do is quote the judgement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Will he reclaim this shred of Australia's reputation in the decent world?

What is certain is that the decent world owes much to Julian Assange. He told us how indecent power behaves in secret, how it lies and manipulates and engages in great acts of violence, sustaining wars that kill and maim and turn millions into the refugees now in the news. Telling us this truth alone earns Assange his freedom, whereas justice is his right.[8]


Documents by John Pilger

TitleDocument typePublication dateSubject(s)Description
Document:Australia - The Forgotten Couparticle16 March 2014US/Sponsored Regime-change efforts since 1945
Australia/1975 coup d'état
The November 1975 dismissal of duly elected Australian Prime minister Gough Whitlam by Queen Elizabeth's governor general Sir John Kerr. And Australians STILL think they live in an independent democratic country
Document:Break the silence: a world war is beckoningarticle13 May 20142014 Ukraine coup
The risk that western sponsored events in Ukraine in Spring 2014 and persistent western lies about the situation, will lead to war with Russia
Document:Eye Witness to the Agony of Julian AssangeArticle2 October 2020Craig Murray
Julian Assange
Vanessa Baraitser
Stella Moris
In the Assange trial, the defendant was caged behind thick glass, and had to crawl on his knees to a slit in the glass, overseen by his guard, to make contact with his lawyers. His message, whispered barely audibly through face masks, was then passed by post-it the length of the court to where his barristers were arguing the case against his extradition to an American hellhole.
Document:From Pol Pot to ISIS: Anything that flies on everything that movesarticle8 October 2014Iraq
Islamic State
Khymer Rouge
The parallels between the rise to power of Cambodia's Khymer Rouge under Pol Pot in the 1970's and that of ISIS in the Iraq/Syria of 2014.
Document:Gaza Under Firearticle8 January 2009Gaza War (2008–09)
Document:Good war - Bad wararticle12 February 2014North Korea
A short readable expose of how the myth of the "Good War" is used by the Western Establishment to fashion our 'reality' - focussing on the largely forgotten devastation visited upon the Korean peninsular by the US and its victorious World War II allies.
Document:Hacking on a Scale you can Barely Imaginearticle6 December 2012Mass surveillance
On the glaring omissions and hypocrisies of the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards, noting especially the vast covert programs of interception and permanent storage of every item of electronic communication on the planet for later data-mining wherever the state might deem it expedient to re-construct the life and movements of targetted individuals.
Document:How Britain Wages Wararticle8 July 2008Baha Mousa
Document:Is media just another word for control?audio transcript2 January 2014Propaganda
Social control
This is a transcript of John Pilger's contribution to a special edition of BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme, on 2 January 2014, guest-edited by the artist and musician Polly Harvey.
Document:Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not BetrayedArticle18 February 2020Wikileaks
Julian Assange
Gareth Peirce
Saudi Arabia
Islamic State
John Podesta
Hillary Clinton
Keir Starmer
David Leigh
Malcolm Turnbull
Julia Gillard
Scott Morrison
John Shipton
Nils Melzer
Sarah Ferguson
Stefania Maurizi
Sarah Ferguson's interview made no mention of a leaked document, revealed by WikiLeaks, called 'Libya Tick Tock', prepared for Hillary Clinton, which described her as the central figure driving the destruction of the Libyan state in 2011. This resulted in 40,000 deaths, the arrival of ISIS in North Africa and the European refugee and migrant crisis.
Document:The Assange Arrest is a Warning From HistoryArticle12 April 2019Wikileaks
Julian Assange
Sarah Tisdall
Chelsea Manning
The Guardian
Alan Rusbridger
Katharine Viner
Hillary Clinton
David Leigh
Paul Manafort
Luke Harding
Scott Morrison
Leni Riefenstahl
Lenín Moreno
Leni Riefenstahl, close friend of Adolf Hitler, whose films helped cast the Nazi spell over Germany told me that the message in her films, the propaganda, was dependent not on “orders from above” but on what she called the “submissive void” of the public: "When people no longer ask serious questions, they are submissive and malleable. Anything can happen.”
Document:The Egyptian Revolt is Coming Homearticle9 February 20112011 Egyptian Revolution
Document:The Long Secret AlliancearticleSeptember 1997Cambodia
Khmer Rouge
Pol Pot
The suppressed history of US sponsorship of the genocidal Pol Pot Khymer Rouge regime in Cambodia through the 1970-80's
Document:The Party Game is Overarticle4 November 2010Economic justice
Document:The Word We Dare Not Speakarticle24 February 20112003 Iraq War
Document:The World War on Democracyarticle19 January 2012Chagos ArchipelagoAn illustration of the true nature of 'Globalisation' by recounting the story of the Chagos Islanders and their Machiavellian abuse at the hands of the UK government.
Document:The brutal past and present are another country in secret Australiaarticle5 November 2013Aboriginal peoples
Australian Apartheid
Document:The forbidden truth is an insurrection in Britainarticle18 August 20112011 England riots
An alternative perspective on the UK London Riots from an author unafraid to make the obvious connection between the England riots and the rampant culture of corruption and greed in the UK Establishment.
Document:The political trial of a caring man and the end of justice in Americaarticle8 November 2012"War on Terror"
Rafil Dhafir
The story of a particularly egregious example of the blind sanctimonious viciousness that the US judicial system reserves for Muslims deemed to have impeded US foreign policy objectives.
Document:The problem of Greece is not only a tragedy. It is a liearticle13 July 20152015 Greek debt crisisJohn Pilger's take of the agreement announced on 12 July 2015 between the EU/ECB and the Syriza government about Greece's debts
Document:The real invasion of Africa is not newsarticle31 January 2013The Great Game
The Grand Chessboard
The real character of renewed US and Western involvement in Africa
Document:Utopiainterview15 November 2013Australia
Australian apartheid
Aboriginal peoples
Document:Why Wikileaks must be protectedarticle19 August 2010Wikileaks
Document:Protecting Libyan civilians? - Pap for the gulliblearticle10 April 20112011 Attacks on LibyaThe CIA is behind the rebellion in Libya. The front of "humanitarian intervention" is sheer window dressing to try to excuse the Euro-American Attack on Libya.


Quotes by John Pilger

Australian Strategic Policy Institute“ASPI has played a leading role – some would say, the leading role – in driving Australia’s mendacious and self-destructive and often absurd China-bashing campaign. The current Coalition government, perhaps the most right-wing and incompetent in Australia’s recent history, has relied upon the ASPI to disseminate Washington’s desperate strategic policies, into which much of the Australian political class, along with its intelligence and military structures, has been integrated.””2016
BBC“The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over. So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.”16 June 2007Information Clearing House


Event Participated in

International Festival of Whistleblowing Dissent and Accountability8 May 20218 May 2021InternetWhistleblowing event held in 2021.


Event Witnessed

Ambassador Hotel
Los Angeles
The assassination of Robert Kennedy, who had resolved to bring to track down and prosecute the killers of him brother, JFK, once he had himself become president.


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Assange Must Not Also Die in Jailblog post13 August 2019Craig MurrayMany of the same people who are relieved by Jeffrey Epstein’s death would like to see Julian Assange dead too.
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  1. "John Pilger - New Statesman"
  2. Noam Chomsky, introduction to The New Rulers of the World by John Pilger, April 2002
  3. Breaking the Silence: The Television Reporting of John Pilger, Anthony Hayward (Network, 2008)
  4. "Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror"
  5. "Breaking The Silence: Truth And Lies In The War On Terror"
  6. "John Pilger on Iraq and Terrorism"
  7. "The War You Don't See"
  8. "Freeing Julian Assange: the last chapter"

External Links