I have been filming in the Marshall
Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, "Where is that?" If I offer
a clue by referring to "Bikini," they say, "You mean the swimsuit."
Few seem aware that the bikini
swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini
island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the
Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 -- the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs
every day for 12 years.
Bikini is silent today, mutated and
contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There
are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My
shoes registered "unsafe" on a Geiger counter.
Standing on the beach, I watched the
emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the
crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called "Bravo." The explosion poisoned
people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.
On my return journey, I stopped at
Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women's Health. On the cover was a
smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: "You, too, can have a
bikini body." A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed
women who had very different "bikini bodies"; each had suffered thyroid cancer
and other life-threatening cancers.
Unlike the smiling woman in the
magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a
rapacious superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.
I relate this experience as a warning
and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us. The founder of
modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as "the conscious
and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions" of democratic
societies. He called it an "invisible government."
How many people are aware that a
world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and
distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order,
the first missile.
In 2009, President Obama stood before
an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged
himself to make "the world free from nuclear weapons." People cheered and some
cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was all fake. He was lying.
The Obama administration has built
more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more
nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than
under any American president. The cost over 30 years is more than $1
A mini nuclear bomb is planned. It is
known as the B61 Model 12. There has never been anything like it. General James
Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said,
"Going smaller [makes using this nuclear] weapon more thinkable."
In the last 18 months, the
greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two -- led by the United
States -- is taking place along Russia's western frontier. Not since Hitler
invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable
threat to Russia.
Ukraine -- once part of the Soviet
Union -- has become a CIA theme park. Having orchestrated a coup in Kiev,
Washington effectively controls a regime that is next door and hostile to
Russia: a regime rotten with Nazis, literally. Prominent parliamentary figures
in Ukraine are the political descendants of the notorious OUN and UPA fascists.
They openly praise Hitler and call for the persecution and expulsion of the
Russian speaking minority.
This is seldom news in the West, or
it is inverted to suppress the truth. In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia --
next door to Russia -- the US military is deploying combat troops, tanks, heavy
weapons. This extreme provocation of the world's second nuclear power is met
with silence in the West.
What makes the prospect of nuclear
war even more dangerous is a
parallel campaign against China. Seldom a day passes when China is not
elevated to the status of a "threat." According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US
Pacific commander, China is "building a great wall of sand in the South China
What he is referring to is China
building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, which are the subject of a dispute
with the Philippines -- a dispute without priority until Washington pressured and
bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign
called "freedom of navigation."
What does this really mean? It means
freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of
China. Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same
off the coast of California.
I made a film called The War You Don't See, in which I
interviewed distinguished journalists in America and Britain: reporters such as
Dan Rather of CBS, Rageh Omar of the BBC, David Rose of the Observer.
All of them said that had journalists
and broadcasters done their job and questioned the propaganda that Saddam
Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; had the lies of George W. Bush
and Tony Blair not been amplified and echoed by journalists, the 2003 invasion
of Iraq might not have happened, and hundreds of thousands of men, women and
children would be alive today.
The propaganda laying the ground for
a war against Russia and/or China is no different in principle. To my
knowledge, no journalist in the Western "mainstream" -- a Dan Rather equivalent,
say -- asks why China is building
airstrips in the South China Sea. The answer ought to be glaringly
obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with
ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear-armed bombers.
This lethal arc extends from
Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and
Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and across Eurasia to
Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China. This
is not news. Silence by media; war by media.
In 2015, in high secrecy, the US and
Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history,
known as Talisman Sabre. Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan,
blocking sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca and the Lombok Straits, that
cut off China's access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle
East and Africa.
In the circus known as the American
presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist.
He is certainly odious; but he is also a media hate figure. That alone should
arouse our scepticism.
Trump's views on migration are
grotesque, but no more grotesque than those of David Cameron. It is not Trump
who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize
winner, Barack Obama. According to one prodigious liberal
commentator, Trump is "unleashing the dark forces of violence" in the United
States. Unleashing them?
This is the country where toddlers
shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans.
This is the country that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50
governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East,
causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people.
No country can equal this systemic
record of violence. Most of America's wars (almost all of them against
defenceless countries) have been launched not by Republican presidents but by
liberal Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.
In 1947, a series of National
Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign
policy as "a world substantially made over in [America's] own image." The
ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans. Or else. Heretics
would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared or crushed.
Donald Trump is a symptom of this,
but he is also a maverick. He says the invasion of Iraq was a crime; he doesn't
want to go to war with Russia and China. The danger to the rest of us is not
Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and
violence of a system whose
vaunted "exceptionalism" is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.
As presidential election day draws
near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her
crimes and lies -- just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president
and liberals swallowed his nonsense about "hope." And the drool goes on.
Described by the Guardian columnist Owen Jones as
"funny, charming, with a coolness that eludes practically every other
politician," Obama the other day sent drones to slaughter 150 people in Somalia.
He kills people usually on Tuesdays, according to the New York Times, when he is handed a
list of candidates for death by drone. So cool.
In the 2008 presidential campaign,
Hillary Clinton threatened to "totally obliterate" Iran with nuclear weapons.
As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the
democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya
in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was
publicly sodomised with a knife -- a murder made possible by American logistics --
Clinton gloated over his death: "We came, we saw, he died."
One of Clinton's closest allies is
Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State, who has attacked young women
for not supporting "Hillary." This is the same Madeleine Albright who
infamously celebrated on TV the death of half a million Iraqi children as "worth
Among Clinton's biggest backers are
the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle
East. She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet,
she is about to be ordained the women's candidate, to see off the evil Trump,
the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists: the likes of
Gloria Steinem in the US and Anne Summers in Australia.
A generation ago, a post-modern cult
now known as "identity politics" stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people
examining the causes and individuals they supported -- such as the fakery of
Obama and Clinton; such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece,
which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.
Self absorption, a kind of "me-ism," became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signaled the demise
of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality, racism
Today, the long sleep may be over.
The young are stirring again. Gradually. The thousands in Britain who supported
Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader are part of this awakening -- as are those who
rallied to support Senator Bernie Sanders.
In Britain last week, Jeremy Corbyn's
closest ally, his shadow treasurer John McDonnell, committed a Labour government
to pay off the debts of piratical banks and, in effect, to continue so-called
In the US, Bernie Sanders has
promised to support Clinton if or when she's nominated. He, too, has voted for
America's use of violence against countries when he thinks it's "right." He says
Obama has done "a great job."
In Australia, there is a kind of
mortuary politics, in which tedious parliamentary games are played out in the
media while refugees and Indigenous people are persecuted and inequality grows,
along with the danger of war. The government of Malcolm Turnbull has just
announced a so-called defence budget of $195 billion that is a drive to war.
There was no debate. Silence.
What has happened to the great
tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage,
imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just
and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre,
Where are those who will shatter the
silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?
This is an edited version of an
address by John Pilger at the University of Sydney, entitled A World War Has