Saturday, 9 August 2008

Pilger on Hiroshima

Just as I am ambivalent to towards RObert Fisk, I have mised feelings towards John Pilger. Yes, he has done some great work, probing dirty little secrets and nasty little brutalities carried out to further Western imperialism and the advancement of capitalism. But he's also overly shrill and gets caught up in his own rhetoric, occasionally disappearing up his own metaphor.

Writing about Hiroshima, he shows his best and worst qualities, but the crime he's writing about, and the lies that have coalesced around it, are important enough to overlook his occasional loss of restraint:
In the immediate aftermath of the bomb, the allied occupation authorities banned all mention of radiation poisoning and insisted that people had been killed or injured only by the bomb's blast. It was the first big lie. "No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin" said the front page of the New York Times, a classic of disinformation and journalistic abdication, which the Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett put right with his scoop of the century. "I write this as a warning to the world," reported Burchett in the Daily Express, having reached Hiroshima after a perilous journey, the first correspondent to dare. He described hospital wards filled with people with no visible injuries but who were dying from what he called "an atomic plague". For telling this truth, his press accreditation was withdrawn, he was pilloried and smeared - and vindicated. (1)
The same cycle of lies, disinformation and bullying is happening again, of course, whenever someone pokes a camera into a children's ward in Iraq to film or reports on the sick children and mutant babies (2) resulting from our use of depleted uranium munitions.

His final lines, delivered apropos of possible nuclear action against Iran, can be applied to myriad crimes being conducted in our name by our leaders, around the world - in Iraq, Afghanistan, by complicity in China, Africa, in the Caucases, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan:
The question begs: are the rest of us to be mere bystanders, claiming, as good Germans did, that "we did not know"? Do we hide ever more behind what Richard
Falk has called "a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted violence"?
We know what is going on, or we have the means to know and we don't try to find out. This makes us culpable. Every medal hung around a proud athelete's neck in Beijing is tainted by the brutality of the Beijing regime and supports tryanny and violence in Darfur and Zimbabwe. Every Hollywood film watched, every CD sold, is an acknowledgement that Iraq and Guantanamo don't matter all that much. We can't plead ignorance.
1 - "The lies of Hiroshima live on, props in the war crimes of the 20th century," by John Pilger in The Guardian, 6th of August, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/06/secondworldwar.warcrimes)
2 - "Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium," by Larry Johnson in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, 12th of November, 2002. (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/95178_du12.shtml)
3 - Pilger, op. cit.

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