The War You Don’t See

I have never met anyone who sincerely wishes other people harm. I believe this experience of mine must be common to all of us. We have never met anyone who wishes to vaporise others by lobbing a megaton nuclear weapon at them. We have never met anyone who would be fine with the idea that it is OK to spend resources on acquiring weapons which could have been alternatively used for feeding, clothing, and educating the hundreds of millions of humans deprived of a human existence.

I am certain that except for some notable exceptions, the vast majority of humans want to just live and let live. Among the general population, one category of notable exceptions would consist of those who are mentally pathologically sick. I will call that category “pathologically insane”. This cannot constitute more than a very very small fraction of a percent. They are sick and powerless to inflict much harm beyond the odd homicide or two. The other category of notable exception to the general benevolence of humanity I label “institutionally insane.”

The institutionally insane category consists of people who are outwardly quite sane. They are intelligent, well-groomed, have friends and families that they care for, are educated, well-respected members of society. That description would of course fit a significant percentage of humans. But those in the institutionally insane category have a bit more: first, they are powerful in ways that average humans are not. They have the power, which they derive through their position in some institution, to direct vast amounts of resources to whatever purpose they see fit.

And second, they have somehow lost the moral compass which normally guides average humans away from wishing and doing harm to others. Lacking common human morality, these powerful people use the institutionally provided resources to cause unimaginable harm to humanity.

Who are these people? They are the leaders of countries. They are the generals in those mega-powerful institutions called the armed forces of countries rich and poor. They are the captains of industries that supply the hardware for wars. They are the heads of research institutions that create and constantly upgrade the weapons of mass destruction.

If you start to think about it seriously, this is a crazy way of organizing the world. There are armies that are constantly arming themselves against armies. Every leader of every country and every general of every army will declare that they are only engaged in defense and are totally opposed to any offense. So if no one is really in favor of attacking anyone else, isn’t it insane that they still keep escalating the mega-tonnage of their weapons?

Why is the world caught in the grips of such madness? How did it arise? How will humanity get out of it? Is it even possible? Or is humanity marching towards a precipice and will eventually go over it and commit suicide? Will that finally satisfy the weapons manufacturers and the political leaders of advanced industrial nations?

I have my own answers to those questions. For now, if you have any interest in pondering these matters, I recommend this John Pilger documentary. It is about the “war you don’t see.” It draws from his experience as a war correspondent. He concentrates mainly on US and British TV reporting of wars.

He asks, “What is the role of the media in rapacious wars like Iraq and Afghanistan? Why do many journalists speak the drums of war, regardless of the lies of many governments? And how are the crimes of war reported and justified, when there are crimes?”

Near the start of the documentary, Pilger quotes Edward Bernays, a pioneer of modern propaganda and the inventor of the term “public relations.” Bernays wrote, “The intelligent manipulations of the masses is an invisible government which is a true ruling power in our country.”

John Pilger – The War You Don’t See from The War We Don't See on Vimeo.

The documentary is over an hour and a half, and well worth every minute of it. (You will find it on YouTube in seven smaller bits here.)

We need to remember this. People are bamboozled into supporting insanity — a constant state of war that the world is in — through misinformation and propaganda. That people can be brainwashed is not the most surprising thing. See how insanely people behave after being brainwashed into believing that if they kill non-believers they will end up enjoying virgins in heaven since that is what their one and only true god has decreed for all eternity.

The desert religions’ creators have known for centuries what Bernays realized.

At the risk being branded a bore, let me repeat what I have been saying. At last we have a way out of this madness. We have a way of knowing the truth. Truth shall set you free, goes the cliche. Actually it can — provided we are willing to sit down and listen attentively.

The way out is the education of the public about what is really going on behind the scenes. We have to remove our veil of ignorance and see how the institutionally insane are forcing the average sane humans to support their insanity.

We have a small window of opportunity. Thanks to the internet, and the world wide web, and brave tellers of truth, and whistle-blowers, and leaks, thousands of teachers and activities, we finally have a hope of putting an end to this insanity.

I close with a quote from John Pilger:

“We journalists… have to be brave enough to defy those who seek our collusion in selling their latest bloody adventure in someone else’s country… That means always challenging the official story, however patriotic that story may appear, however seductive and insidious it is. For propaganda relies on us in the media to aim its deceptions not at a far away country but at you at home… In this age of endless imperial war, the lives of countless men, women and children depend on the truth or their blood is on us… Those whose job it is to keep the record straight ought to be the voice of people, not power.”

[Hat tip: Thanks to Dinesh Dharme for the pointing me to the post on]

Author: Atanu Dey


12 thoughts on “The War You Don’t See”

  1. Atanu,

    This video kept me awake till this time in India. Not sure what to say. I dont think anyone else including the sponsores of such insanity would be in any position to defend anything other than being simply candid in admitting what has happened was not right and that makes them men of great hearts, great aura and great reverence with chapters dedicated in history books portraying them as the saviours of humanity and the hard decisions their leaders had to take.

    To quote Churchill, “peace is the period between two successive wars”.


  2. Atanu,

    Quick question, and you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to. Since you are a US citizen, whom did you vote for in the last Presidential election (and why), if you did vote?



  3. Atanu,
    After watching the video I found myself less than impressed. The video appears to confirm all the speculations about military-industrial-media complex yet the prescription it shows is rather simple-minded.

    The complex problem of peace and war has many faces and propaganda is only part of the war campaign. That stupid “war-on-terror” is a classic example of what happens when you go to war without an adequate planning for propaganda. Face it, as long as war exist, propaganda would.

    That brings us to an important question: why does war happen? Would peace be so desirable without the war? Roman Cicero, after observing Spartan society after the fall of Sparta, noted: Si vis pacem, para bellum (if you wish for peace, prepare for war). An ever increasing demand for war materials is not the beginning of war, it is an effort to keep the balance of power which will maintain peace. Those western politicians who keep on increasing the defense budget do not belong to a tribe of psychopaths, they are charged to ensure security of their electorate and they place pragmatism over morality and ideology.

    An over-the-top demand for peace (to the extent of endangering the lives of your own soldiers) achieves nothing. An absolute demand for peace results in an absolute loss of capacity in fighting the war. Who should know it better than us? Will Durant noted in the context of Mahamedan invasion of India (emphasis mine):
    It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within. ... For four hundred years (600-1000 A.D.) India invited conquest; and at last it came.

    Your thoughts?


  4. To add to Sid’s point this documentary mentioned the Gaza flotilla incident also, as if it is comparable to the enormity of Iraq war. The British liberals are so ridiculously pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian that its almost laughable.
    This journalist is making this appeals to be bold to everyone yet does not have the courage to say that Israel-Patestine issue should not be promoted as some kind of existential threat to civilization type issue. Its a minor territorial dispute affecting region less than 1/5th size of Gujarat. The reason it is not resolved is because all parties are religious extremists.


  5. It was horrible to watch the sad plight of the people, but it did not contain much we do not already know in general if not the specifics, I was not surprised by it…


  6. I have never met anyone who sincerely wishes other people harm.

    Well then maybe you haven’t spoken to military people and even their kids . I have seen twelve year old kids of military men talk about how they want to drop a nuclear bomb on Pakistan . Maybe they ( military people ) just have to be this way since their counterparts in the perceived enemy country possibly think in the same way . This is an unfortunate cycle we are stuck in .

    they place …. pragmatism over morality and ideology

    For rich industrialized countries it *might* be a practical or pragmatic need to spend lavishly on the military . Will you agree that it is not a “pragmatic investment” for an impoverished country like India to top the arms-import chart ? When we have approximately 800 million impoverished people is the bigger enemy outside the country or something within ? We should have a better internal security / police force instead .

    These are the figures for recent years – Defence expenditure 2.5% of GDP , Public spending on Education : 2.88% of GDP .

    One might argue that a lot of this is the consequence of a vicious cycle , but that does not change the fact that this is a cycle of madness and stupidity .


  7. @Prasant Bh,

    When we have approximately 800 million impoverished people is the bigger enemy outside the country or something within ? We should have a better internal security / police force instead .

    India’s military spending can not be placed in the category of military spending by the first world countries. For countries like USA/UK there is no direct threat from the neighbors. India has two powerful neighbors who have gone to war with India in the past and they have done so after over-turning all the peace agreements created to prevent these sort of conflicts. Even if today they promise not to invoke war there is no guarantee that the promises would not be broken. India’s military spending is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
    Developing your human capital so that they live with relative comfort is the duty of the government. But it is also necessary for the government to ensure that it does not loose it’s land. What is the point of developing good human capital if there is no mechanism to prevent the enslavement of this capital?


  8. India is a large enough country that if it follows sound economic principles it can afford the defense budget that it has. China has larger military budget AND is able to improve its human capital and grow the economy at the same time.
    When will India stop making excuses and follow sound responsible economic steps??
    Real interest rates are negative for more than couple of years, still they wont raise rates. Inflation is rampant. Large portion of Banks portfolio is going to real estate. Real estate bubble fueling is an extremely unwise use of capital in a country that needs to expand its manufacturing base.


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