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Confronting John Pilger By: Jamie Weinstein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 22, 2004

Last week I wrote about the impending arrival of John Pilger to the Cornell campus and how it would mark a dark chapter in the catalogues of Cornell’s magnificent history. I also promised to hold him to account for his anti-American comments. 

So when I went to a screening where Pilger was giving a viewing of his latest documentary, I intended to do just that. I sat through his latest flick patiently waiting for the question and answer segment to take Pilger to task. 

When the documentary ended and the lights went on again, the Q and A period began. The few questions before mine as well as the many questions after mine were quite laudatory of Pilger. Indeed, the entire audience was fawning over him.


When I was finally called upon I made it clear that my question was not going to be as friendly as the rest. I proceeded to ask Pilger whether he stands by comments he made in an interview on Australian TV in which he indicated he supported an American loss in Iraq. Additionally, I asked him, if he thought an American university should bestow honor upon and bring to campus a man who openly called for a loss for American sons and daughters in Iraq.


Pilger stated that I was not representing his comments accurately. Furthermore, he claimed that he was talking about Australian troops in the interview and what he actually said was that from an Iraqi perspective they were legitimate targets as occupiers. He then declined to answer the second part of my question.


I agree that Pilger did legitimate attacks on Coalition Forces by Iraqi insurgents and terrorists in the interview. But the problem with Pilger's response is that he failed to recognize that he also called for an American defeat in Iraq, which was the subject of my question. Let’s take a look at the transcript from Australian TV:


TONY JONES: John Pilger, do you still maintain that the world depends on what you call "the Iraqi resistance" to inflict a military defeat on the coalition forces?

Well, certainly, historically, we've always depended on resistances to get rid of occupiers, to get rid of invaders.

And what we have in Iraq now is I suppose the equivalent of a kind of Vichy Government being set up.

And a resistance is always atrocious, it's always bloody.

It always involves terrorism.

You can imagine if Australia was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War the kind of resistance there would have been, and so on.

We've seen that all over the world.

Now, I think the situation in Iraq is so dire that unless the United States is defeated there that we're likely to see an attack on Iran, we're likely to see an attack on North Korea and all the way down the road it could be even an attack on China within a decade, so I think what happens in Iraq now is incredibly important.

TONY JONES: You mean defeated militarily?



Now it seems to me that Pilger is calling for an American defeat in IraqWith this in mind, I waited until the program ended so that I could go up to Pilger and demand again that he answer my question.


There were two things I sought to ask Pilger after the program. The first was too request that he recognize that he did in fact call for an American loss in Iraq and to see if he still wanted to stand by it. The second was to ask in light of his answer, if he would have been the guy in 1945 legitimizing German attacks on American troops during the American occupation of Germany after World War II?


I approached Pilger and waited as other people praised him and made idle chatter. I even allowed other people to jump in front of me. Finally, there was an opening.


I proceeded to begin to ask my questions as Pilger turned his back and said he answered me already. As he walked away with his back toward me, I told him he didn’t and that I was a student at Cornell University and he had an obligation as a “professor” to answer my questions.


Pilger just continued to walk away from me and out of Kaufman Auditorium, the site of his event. I followed him because I really couldn’t believe he was being this cowardly. After all, Pilger makes a living by supposedly confronting powerful people with difficult questions and making these powerbrokers answer them.


Now, when a 21-year-old student turns the tables on him, he walks away.


I want to make clear that I tried not to make a scene. I simply wanted to hold Pilger to account and have him answer my questions. But he refused to even look me in the eye. 


Pilger has written some of the most outrageous and vile things about America and other free Western countries. If one can be safely called anti-American, I think John Pilger would qualify. When I attempted to hold him accountable for what he has written and said, he evaded me.


Welcoming John Pilger to campus, Cornell Professor Brett de Bary thanked the Cornell Class of 1956 which made his visit possible. You see without their donations, the H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professorship program would not exist. The question is would the members of the Class of ’56 have donated their money had they known the likes of John Pilger—and Cynthia McKinney—would be brought with it?


 I, for one, think not.  

Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.

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