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December 8, 2005
Occasionally, an award recipient will chuck the clichés and park the platitudes and actually say something meaningful, something daring.
Such a thing happened on December 7 in Stockholm, when Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize-winner for Literature, delivered an amazing, taped address.
Taped, because he was too ill to deliver it in person.
But he was by no means weak.
He let Bush have it.
But it wasn’t just Bush.
It was Blair and Britain too, a country he called America’s “own bleating little lamb tagging behind it” on a leash.
Pinter asked, “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?”
He said that was “more than enough,” adding, “Therefore, it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice.”
May I live so long!
Pinter not only assailed the Iraq War, which he called “a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law.”
He also denounced the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
And he confronted the crimes of the U.S. empire since World War II, noting that “the United States supported and in many cases engendered every rightwing military dictatorship in the world,” all the while “masquerading as a force for universal good.”
Like Noam Chomsky with style, he ran down the crimes of the United States in Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Chile.
“Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries,” he said. “. . . And they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it. 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.”
Pinter’s theme was the abuse of language, and the abuse of power, by politicians, who, he said, “are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies.”
At the end of his speech, he urged all of us to see through that tapestry.
He demanded an “unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens to define the real truth of our lives and our societies.”
That is our charge.