General ramblings

Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Lecture

Here’s an excerpt from Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Acceptance speech:

In 1958 I wrote the following:

‘There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.’

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.
The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they’re interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.
Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don’t exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. ‘We don’t do body counts,’ said the American general Tommy Franks.

Last Saturday, I was at a pub with my neighbors and friends, having some beers and friendly conversation. All of us were desis- came to the US a couple of years back and have adopted this as the country of residence. I’m not sure exactly how and when we started talking about US politics. My friend was pointing out the general atrocities meted out by the Americans when it comes to other foreign countries. This instigated my neighbor who went on to say “We are not having this conversation. I came for dinner because I want to have some entertaining conversation. I’m not interested in talking to you about this”. It didn’t end there. He denied the fact that racism exists in the US. He denied the fact that having a non-Christian name is not normal in the US. He refused to believe that only recently, African-Americans were lynched in Springfield, MO. I’ve posted an excerpt from Harold Pinter’s speech here, hoping that even if a couple of people read my post, they’ll understand the seriousness of the political situation and become more informed about human rights. If this excerpt has piqued your interest even a little, I would strongly encourage you to watch the complete video or read the entire transcript. Thanks.


7 thoughts on “Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Lecture

  1. Your pub experience suggests that people, whose heads are buried deep in the sand (or elsewhere), abound in every country. Even if they do believe unpleasant things are happening, they convince themselves it will never happen to them. Which is generally true except when it does happen. One of these head-in-sand people is your neighbour. Hopefully he/ she won’t experience some of the unpleasantness him/herself.

  2. Dev says:

    Ruhi, on a different note, Harold Pinter, I feel, was one of the finest writers/screenwriters ever. His “servant” , directed by Joseph Losey, was such a masterpiece that it blew me away. They still teach the dynamic and complex screenplay of Servant in film schools. I am still discovering him & yet to see/read many of his works, but whatever i have seen or read of his has already made me permanent fan of him. Highly recommend films written by him to you..

  3. Shefaly- For his sake, I hope it doesn’t happen to him. What’s amazing is that without encountering similar situations, he had the nerve to reject my theory that I’d actually formulated based on real life experiences. It’s like telling me “How can you see when you are blind?”. I should have used the same line on him instead and he would be the theoretical blind person then. This also proves that a person who thinks that he is liberal politically might actually not be liberal in other tangential political thoughts and opinions.

    Dev- Thanks for letting me know. My knowledge of Pinter is limited to his books. I haven’t seen any of his screenplays. “Servant” looks like a must watch to me then!

    Indeay- You are quite welcome.

  4. I was not aware of the “full” picture until very recently when I saw Fahrenheit 9/11. I was shocked beyond any limits. There are also numerous videos about 9/11 on youtube which are equally shocking.
    This is a classic example of how you can recreate a Hitler. How was Bush different from him?

  5. Pingback: “The Price is Worth It”: Washington’s Widow-Makers on “the Iraq War” ‹ The Official Web Site of Paul L. Street

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