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John Pilger's new film foretolds armed conflict

CONTROVERSIAL: John Pilger is an Australian journalist who has been a strong critic of American, Australian and British foreign policy, which he considers to be driven by an imperialist agenda. He won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2009. This is a still from Pilger's documentary film The Coming War on China (2016).
CONTROVERSIAL: John Pilger is an Australian journalist who has been a strong critic of American, Australian and British foreign policy, which he considers to be driven by an imperialist agenda. He won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2009. This is a still from Pilger's documentary film The Coming War on China (2016).

THE Coming War on China is a documentary film by Australian journalist John Pilger.

The film premiered in the UK last December 2016.

In the documentary, according to Pilger, "the evidence and witnesses warn that nuclear war is no longer a shadow, but a contingency."

Pilger argues that the greatest build-up of American-led military forces since the Second World War is well under way.

To remind audiences of the horror of a nuclear conflict, Pilger explains the "unconscionable tale" of the Marshall Islanders since 1946, when the US first tested nuclear weapons on Bikini Atoll.

The islanders, Pilger claims, were effectively guinea pigs for the effects of radiation.

Pilger also claims that American military bases in the region are threatening China with a 'giant noose' around its territory.

Ahead of the film screening in Byron Bay, we asked John Pilger about his point of view on China and the USA.

Your film's premise is that we must fear both America and China in case of a war because both countries are nuclear superpowers. Am I reading this correctly?

The film's premise is spelt out at the beginning: that America and China may well be on the road to war, and that 'we' -that is, the public - should break a virtual silence on the prospect and consequences of what could develop into nuclear war.

The threat is principally from the United States which, in the 21st century, feels its dominance challenged and is reacting by rattling the sabres of its huge military. America is no long top dog, that's its problem; unfortunately the dangers belong to all of us.

Do you think Australia - given ANZUS and our commercial ties with Asia- is in a very uncomfortable position in the middle of this dispute? How do you rate the current Australian Government's handling of our foreign policy in Asia?

Yes, Australia faces a conundrum.

On the one hand, its political, military and intelligence establishment is integrated with US power - as well as much of its media.

On the other hand, China is Australia's biggest trader: the buyer of Australian resources, in large part the underwriter of the Australian economy.

We should not have to choose, of course; but pressure from Washington is intense.

New US bases have been established here; US generals and admirals visit frequently and try and re-awaken old fears that the 'yellow peril' is about to fall down us as if by the force of gravity.

In fact, Australia has no enemies, though its history suggests it willingly adopts those of distant imperial powers. Is this happening all over again?

What was the main obstacle to complete this film? Was it access to US official sources? Did you try to speak to official Chinese sources?

The main obstacle to completing the film was raising the necessary funds, and filming in extreme conditions in the Marshall Islands, where one of us went down with a dreadful mosquito-borne disease.

This was one of the hardest 'shoots' I've experienced.

Access to official - or in China's case, semi-official - sources wasn't difficult, but it required patience.

The only official source to turn us down was the Pentagon, with which we corresponded for more than six months. In the end, we secured interviews at a very high level in both the US and China.

As an international issue still developing, it is impossible to have all the pieces of the puzzle, but is there any piece of information you wish you could have unveiled for the completion of this film?

There is nothing significant that should have been in the film and isn't. The research was extraordinary; we gathered a wealth of material.

Do you think the premise of your film, that is the almost inevitable war on China, is mainly fuelled by the war industry or by the lack of accountability of the political class in countries like the US and Australia?

The film does not say war is inevitable; nothing is irreversible. And yes, lack of accountability is a major factor, especially the privilege, secrecy and power of the US armaments and 'security' industries.

President Obama initiated a $1 trillion program to increase America's nuclear arsenal.

Most of that will be unaccountable, yet it could be the reason nuclear war breaks out.

Topics:  byron bay documentary film john pilger northern rivers entertainment the coming war on china whatson



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