John Pilger: This conflict is repeating the historical patterns of imperialism

Veteran investigative journalist John Pilger is warning that the extension of the Afghanistan war into Pakistan has grim echoes of the past.

“There are striking parallels between US actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan with spread of Vietnam war into Cambodia and Laos,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Indeed, there is an historical pattern — whenever an imperial power gets stuck in one region, it will try to attack another, often disastrously. Caesar and Napoleon did just that.

“The Americans in Vietnam, deeply frustrated by a resistance they never bargained on, sought an easy conquest in Cambodia on a flimsy pretext. That was in 1970.

“The US invasion and carpet bombing of Cambodia acted as a catalyst for the rise and rise of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge forces. Without US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and president Richard Nixon, Pol Pot would not have succeeded.”

The Khmer Rouge emerged out of the chaos of the US war on Cambodia. Their rule was marked by brutality and mass murder. John Pilger warns that the US and its allies could do the same to Pakistan today.

“What George Bush and Dick Cheney are likely to achieve in Pakistan is the rise and rise of the Taliban and the rapid radicalising of ‘mainstream’ Islamic forces within the country.”

Pilger says the impact of these new wars is “likely to favour tough guy John McCain”. But he adds, “The longing for relief from war and insecurity in the US cannot be underestimated — and Barack Obama is likely to be the beneficiary of that, however undeserved.”

John Pilger will be presenting his film about Afghanistan, Breaking the Silence, in London on Friday of this week at a Socialist Worker Appeal event. He will be taking questions from the audience after the showing.

One reason why John made a film about Afghanistan was the difficulty of getting serious documentaries onto TV these days.

“In every survey of what the public wants from TV in Britain, the one constant is the demand for documentaries that make sense of the world,” says John.

“But TV bosses inevitably perceive ‘public taste’ in relation to ‘the market’. Big Brother may be mortally wounded in the ratings, but successors are being planned that are mutations of that form.

“That said, there are some marvellous documentary makers coming up, bypassing TV and heading straight for the cinema — which is where documentary began.”

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