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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

MUST SEE VIDEO -- War Made Easy

War Made Easy brings to the screen Norman Solomon's insightful analysis of the strategies used by administrations, both Democratic and Republican, to promote their agendas for war from Vietnam to Iraq. By familiarizing viewers with the techniques of war propaganda, War Made Easy encourages viewers to think critically about the messages put out by today's spin doctors - messages which are designed to promote and prolong a policy of militarism under the guise of the "war on terror." Based on the book by the same title.

Film website:


1 hr 10 min - Aug 28, 2007

How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.
Narrated by Sean Penn


Norman Solomon: War Made Easy
Media critic Norman Solomon discusses pro-war propaganda generated by U.S. governments during military operations and the influence the media has on public opinion. From the invasion of the Dominican Republic to the current war in Iraq Solomon explores ways the media is used to bolster support for military intervention.

War Made Easy reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Narrated by actor and activist Sean Penn, the film exhumes remarkable archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George W. Bush, revealing in stunning detail how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of successive presidential administrations.

War Made Easy gives special attention to parallels between the Vietnam war and the war in Iraq. Guided by media critic Norman Solomon’s meticulous research and tough-minded analysis, the film presents disturbing examples of propaganda and media complicity from the present alongside rare footage of political leaders and leading journalists from the past, including Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, dissident Senator Wayne Morse, and news correspondents Walter Cronkite and Morley Safer.

Norman Solomon’s work has been praised by the Los Angeles Times as “brutally persuasive” and essential “for those who would like greater context with their bitter morning coffee.” This film now offers a chance to see that context on the screen.

Approx. 72 minutes
English subtitles
Color | Stereo | NTSC | All Region Encoded DVD

Directed & Written by: Loretta Alper & Jeremy Earp
Produced by: Loretta Alper
Co-produced & Edited by: Andrew Killoy
Executive Producers: Jeremy Earp & Sut Jhally
Associate Producer: Jason Young
Sound: Peter Acker, Armadillo Media Group
Motion Graphics: Andrew Killoy & Sweet & Fizzy
Additional Music: John Van Eps & Leigh Philips
Narrated by: Sean Penn
Based on the book by Norman Solomon

What's changed in the rhetoric of war since the 1960s? A new film, War Made Easy, explores how media and government spin from the Vietnam era to today has kept America at war.

The film has been adapted from the critically acclaimed book by Norman Solomon, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," which was published in 2005.

Norman Solomon is a nationally syndicated columnist on media and politics. He has been writing the weekly "Media Beat" column since 1992. AlterNet spoke with him about the film.

Q: How exactly did this project get off the ground?

A: I'm a writer who's done a lot of radio and occasionally TV, but I'm not a filmmaker. The experience of writing this book was a pretty mind-blowing process for me, and when it was published, I thought about the dimension of archival footage and the media onslaught in favor of war, both past, present and future, for that matter. I'd really admired the Media Education Foundation for a long time. For instance, their film -- Hijacking Catastrophe -- I thought was superb on the neocons' global agenda. So when I talked with people at MEF, they decided to make a film based on the War Made Easy book, and I was thrilled. Eighteen months later, the film is launching this summer, and I'm just really excited about how the analytical, the informational, and the emotional are accessed in this documentary.

Q: How has the response been to the film so far?

A: My hopes have been largely fulfilled during the several screenings I've been to on both the East and West coasts. People are leaving the movie with grief and anger but also motivation to stop the war in Iraq and to prevent the wars that are gleams in the eyes of top officials in Washington.

Q: Why do you think there's so much resistance amongst the media to draw parallels between Iraq and Vietnam?

A: Any geographer will tell you Iraq isn't Vietnam. But the United States is still the United States. The overwhelming issue is how our country continues to drag itself and so much of the world into one horrific conflagration after another.

The pundits and reporters who have the highest profile in this country tend to be eager to see every discredited war as an aberration, and they did the same thing during the Vietnam War. When it became incontrovertible that the war was based on a series of mendacious maneuvers, the response was, "Well, yeah, but that's not what we're like. This is an anomaly." And we're still getting that. It's because "Bush is weird, and Cheney's weird." You even get that from some liberal pundits.

Q: President Bush has said that history will ultimately judge whether of not the Iraq War was a success or failure. Do you believe we'll one day hear people saying this war was a success (as some have with Vietnam) or will people universally deem this a failure?

A: Well, both. It is one of the most horrific war choices ever made out of Washington. There will always be people in Washington and in the media who try to justify the war, or they will say if it had been done differently it would've been potentially a good use of U.S. military power. One of the key points of the film is that the whole argument against a quagmire is a very narrow one, because it begs the question of whether a war based on imperial assumptions and presumptions of empire can be justified? And how can you competently execute an immoral war? How can you do a better job of managing a war that should never have been launched in the first place?

Those kind of questions are not popular amongst the elite media. Quite frankly, if this war had resulted in a military triumph in the middle of 2003, you wouldn't have the July 8 editorial in the New York Times saying it's time to pull the troops out. They would be celebrating this war along with the rest of the media. I think War Made Easy really draws a thread across the last 50 years of U.S. foreign policy and the American warfare state, to find the patterns that have inflicted so much suffering. It's what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism," and it hasn't stopped yet.

Q: How has the way the mainstream press covered war changed or not changed since the Vietnam war?

A: The style has changed but not the substance. There's still a reliance on official sources, an echoing of the White House's rationale for war, a reluctance to challenge the prerogatives of empire. These have been virtual constants.

In terms of content, beyond style and technology, the changes have been implemented more in response to grassroots pressure. In other words, the anti-war protesting that people have done from 2002 until today has had a cumulative effect on our society, and while the news media are slow to react to grassroots pressure against the war, they are still within shouting distance. There is a huge disconnect between anti-[war sentiment in the grassroots and what we get from the likes of not only Fox, but CNN, NPR and PBS.

Q: What do you make of the analysis of President Bush's state of mind with regards to war? It is widely believe that LBJ was at least privately tortured about his leadership and the war's toll.

A: For people in Vietnam or for people in Iraq, or for U.S. soldiers who are sent to those countries to kill and be killed, it really didn't matter whether LBJ or George W. Bush felt remorseful or gleeful as the war went on. It's really about policies that affect peoples' lives. The media spin has been refined and of course adapted to changes like the advent of cable television. But one of the really stunning things about the archival footage that's been unearthed and put together for the War Made Easy film is the continuity of the propaganda messages to justify the morally and logically unjustifiable.

From the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 to WMD in 2002 -- the rhetoric that Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon used against withdrawing troops from Vietnam is often word for word the same catch phrases and code words that George W. Bush has been using. "You can't cut and run," "You must stay the course." These are ways of vilifying the opponents of the war in no uncertain terms.

Q: Why is it that so many Americans can fall for the same rhetoric that gets us involved in imperial wars, when it is often so transparent?

A: George Orwell said it well, "Those who control the past, control the future. Those who control the present, control the past." The arguments over Vietnam have not only been about a war in the past, it's been an argument over a war in the present and prospectively future wars as well.

The so-called Vietnam syndrome is something we talk at length about in the film because it's a catchphrase that's used in a negative way by media and war advocates in Washington to try to justify continuing an insane war that's so destructive. It's basically a way to say, if you're against the war, you're a wimp and you don't have fortitude. As one TV pundit said, "You're a weenie." The epithet of the Vietnam syndrome is based on a series of myths that we unpack in the film.

Q: What makes your film unique and worth seeing?

A: You'll see a panorama of techniques from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, from Walter Cronkite to Bill O'Reilly, that show how we're being scammed in the same ways from one war to another, from one decade to another. I think it's the scope of the film, which uses unarguable TV footage and historical film segments to show just how pernicious and how deep these patterns are.

It's really, for a lot of people, mind-blowing when it's laid end to end from 1964 to 2007. The film, I think, in its unique way conveys not by talking at people but by showing people that we have been subjected to a colossal scam. The results have been so terrible that we better get wise to it and find ways to resist, or the future that we want for the future generations is gravely imperiled.

The War On Democracy by John Pilger

The War On Democracy by John Pilger. Aug 22, 2007. View it on ...

Watch video
- 94 min -

The War on Democracy is a 2007 documentary film directed by Christopher Martin and John Pilger. Focusing on the political state of Latin America, the film is a rebuke of both the United States' intervention in foreign countries' domestic politics, and its war on terrorism. The film was first released in the United Kingdom on June 15, 2007. It has also been shown on the British terrestrial channel ITV 1 on Monday 20th August at 11pm.

Set both in Latin America and the United States, the film explores the historic and current relationship of Washington with countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile. Pilger claims that the film "...tells a universal story... analysing and revealing, through vivid testimony, the story of great power behind its venerable myths. It allows us to understand the true nature of the so-called "war on terror". According to Pilger, the film’s message is that the greed and power of empire is not invincible and that people power is always the "seed beneath the snow".

Pilger interviews several ex-CIA agents who purportedly took part in secret campaigns against democratic countries and who he claims are profiting from the war in Iraq. He investigates the School of the Americas in the U.S. state of Georgia, where General Pinochet’s torture squads were reportedly trained along with tyrants and death-squad leaders in Haiti, El Salvador, Brazil and Argentina.

The film uses archive footage to support its claim that democracy has been wiped out in country after country in Latin America since the 1950s. Testimonies from those who fought for democracy in Chile and Bolivia are also used.

Segments filmed in Bolivia show that for the last five years huge popular movements have demanded that multinational companies be refused to access the country's natural reserves of gas, or to buy up the water supply. In Bolivia, Pilger interviews people who say that their country's resources, including their water and rainwater, were asset stripped by multinational interests. He describes how they threw out a foreign water consortium and reclaimed their water supply. The narrative leads to the landslide election of the country's first indigenous President.

In Chile, Pilger talks to women who survived the pogroms of General Augusto Pinochet, in remembrance of colleagues who perished at the hands of the dictator. He walks with Sara de Witt through the grounds of the torture house in which she was tortured and survived. Pilger also investigates the "model democracy" that Chile has become and claims that there is a fa├žade of prosperity and that Pinochet’s legacy is still alive.

The film also tells the story of an American nun, Dianna Ortiz, who tells how she was tortured and gang raped in the late 1980s by a gang reportedly led by a fellow American clearly in league with the U.S.-backed regime, at a time when the Reagan administration was supplying the military regime with planes and guns. Ortiz asks whether the American people are aware of the role their country plays in subverting innocent nations under the guise of a "war on terror". Former CIA agent and Watergate scandal conspirator Howard Hunt, who describes how he and others overthrew the previously democratically elected government. Hunt describes how he organised "a little harmless bombing". Duane Clarridge, former head of CIA operations in South America is also interviewed.

Pilger traveled through Venezuela with its president, Hugo Chavez, who he regards as the only leader of an oil-producing nation who has used its resources democratically for the education and health of its people. The Venezuelan segment of the film features the coup of 2002, captured in archival footage. The film holds that the 2002 coup against Chavez was backed by rich and powerful interests under U.S. support and that Chavez was brought back to power by the Venezuelan people. Pilger describes the advances in Venezuela’s new social democracy, but he also questions Chavez on why there are still poor people in such an oil-rich country.

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