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Paul Rigby
10-21-2008, 05:35 PM
http://www.onealcompton.com/index.php?modulo=pinter

Harold Pinter – Nobel Lecture

Art, Truth & Politics

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.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.'

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn't give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

'Dark' I took to be a description of someone's hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), 'Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs.' So since B calls A 'Dad' it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

'Dark.' A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. 'Fat or thin?' the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, 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, upon which we feed.

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 before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

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.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America 's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua . I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: 'Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua . My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.'

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. 'Father,' he said, 'let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.' There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: 'But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?'

Seitz was imperturbable. 'I don't agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,' he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: 'The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.'

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador .

I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua . There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala . The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia , USA . That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. 'Democracy' had prevailed.

But this 'policy' was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia , Greece , Uruguay , Brazil , Paraguay , Haiti , Turkey , the Philippines , Guatemala , El Salvador , and, of course, Chile . The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place 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. 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.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US .

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain .

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

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.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, 'I'm Explaining a Few Things':

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!*

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda's poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein's Iraq . I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden , of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China ? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called 'Death'.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

Magda Hassan
12-29-2008, 04:14 AM
Harold Pinter

ANNIVERSARY OF NATO BOMBING OF SERBIA

I'd like to read you an extract from Eve-Ann Prentice's powerful and important book about the NATO action in Serbia One Woman's War.

"The little old lady looked as if she had three eyes. On closer inspection, it was the effect of the shrapnel which had drilled into her forehead and killed her. One of her shoes had been torn off and the radishes she had just bought at the market lay like splashes of blood near her outstretched hand.

At first, the dead had seemed almost camouflaged among the rubble, splintered trees and broken glass but once you began to notice them, the bodies were everywhere, some covered in table cloths and blankets, others simply lying exposed where they had fallen. There was barely a square inch of wall, tree, car or human being which had not been raked by shrapnel. Houses which had been pretty hours before, with picket fences and window boxes bursting with blooms were now riddled with scars from the strafing. Widows in black leant on their garden gates, whimpering into handkerchiefs, as they surveyed their dead neighbours lying amid the broken glass, gashed trees, smouldering cars and crumpled bicycles. Plastic bags lay strewn near many of the dead, spilling parcels of fruit, eggs and vegetables, fresh from the market but now never to be eaten.

It was Friday 7th May 1999 in the southern city of Nis and NATO had made a mistake. Instead of hitting a military building near the airport about three miles away the bombers had dropped their lethal load in a tangle of back streets close to the city centre. At least thirty-three people were killed and scores more suffered catastrophic injuries; hands, feet and arms shredded or blown away altogether, abdomens and chests ripped open by shards of flying metal.

This had been no "ordinary" shelling, if such a thing exists. The area had been hit by cluster bombs, devices designed to cause a deadly spray of hot metal fragments when they explode. The Yugoslav government had accused the Alliance of using these weapons in other attacks which had cut down civilians but the suggestion had been mostly laughed to scorn in the West."

The bombing of Nis was no 'mistake'. General Wesley K Clark declared, as the NATO bombing began: "We are going to systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately - unless President Milosevic complies with the demands of the international community - destroy these forces and their facilities and support". Milosevic's 'forces', as we know, included television stations, schools, hospitals, theatres, old people's homes - and the market-place in Nis. It was in fact a fundamental feature of NATO policy to terrorise the civilian population.

I would ask you to compare those images of the market place in Nis with the photographs of Tony Blair with his new- born baby which were all over the front pages recently. What a nice looking dad and what a pretty baby. Most readers would not have connected the proud father with the man who launched cluster bombs and missiles containing depleted uranium into Serbia. As we know from the effects of depleted uranium used on Iraq, there will be babies born in Serbia in the near future who won't look quite so pretty as little Leo but they won't get their pictures in the papers either.

The United States was determined to wage war against Serbia for one reason and one reason only - to assert its domination over Europe. And it seems very clear that it won't stop there. In showing its contempt for the United Nations and International Law the United States has opened up the way for more "moral outrage", more "humanitarian intervention", more demonstrations of its total indifference to the fate of thousands upon thousands of people, more lies, more bullshit, more casual sadism, more destruction.

And the government of Great Britain follows suit with an eagerness which can only merit our disgust. We are confronted by a brutal, ruthless and malignant machine. This machine must be recognised for what it is and resisted.

Harold Pinter

This speech was given at the Committee for Peace in the Balkans Conference at The Conway Hall June 10th 2000 http://www.haroldpinter.org/home/balk.html

The following is a story about Pinter's statement on the bombing of Serbia: Playwright Harold Pinter presents a powerful case in opposition to NATO bombardment of Serbia

By Ann Talbot
7 May 1999

Playwright Harold Pinter, an outspoken opponent of NATO's war against Serbia, presented a coherent and well-argued case opposing the military action on BBC 2 television last Tuesday evening. Using news footage and interviews specially recorded for the programme, Pinter showed how the media are being manipulated, and that the humanitarian justification for the war is false.

In a powerful condemnation of the war, Pinter described the NATO onslaught against Serbia as "a bandit action, committed with no serious consideration of the consequences, ill-judged, ill-thought, miscalculated, an act of deplorable machismo".

Pinter was shown questioning British Defence Minister George Robertson at a news conference. The playwright, citing the Geneva Convention outlawing military attacks on civilian targets, demanded to know how the bombing of a Serbian TV station could be described as anything other than murder. "Mr. Pinter has obviously got a new occupation now but I know his views," was the arrogant reply from Robertson. He justified the bombing by claiming that such targets were the "brains behind the brutality", and "part and parcel of the apparatus that is driving ethnic genocide".

Such claims--which have been used repeatedly to justify whatever horrors NATO perpetrates--were challenged in the programme. Former Labour Foreign Secretary Dennis Healey rejected the idea that the expulsion of the Kosovar Albanians was the same as genocide. He pointed out that NATO's actions were contrary to the United Nations charter, which Britain had signed. NATO was bombing a fellow UN member, without UN authority.

Jake Lynch of Sky News explained how the news media are being manipulated to support the aggressive war drive. When NATO bombed a refugee convoy there was a delay of several days before the cockpit video, normally shown at the next daily press conference, was released to the media. This was to enable NATO to cause the maximum confusion, he explained. First NATO claimed there had been two separate incidents. The next day this was amended to one incident, and then later a US Brigadier General cited the figure of two again.

Lynch said this was a graphic exercise in news management. When the video was eventually shown, an audible murmur went round the press conference--"that's a tractor". Lynch pointed out that if it had been shown straight away, without the lavishly composed graphics, the "PR impact would have been much more negative for NATO". Reporters were sent to Brussels to report the war, not to help NATO, yet there was a slippage in journalistic technique. NATO "confirms" things have happened; Belgrade only ever "claims" things.

Pinter gave a detailed account of the bombing of the Serbian television station. He showed the letter in which NATO spokesman Jamie Shea had assured the International Federation of Journalists only days before the bombing that the television station would not be attacked. Philip Knightley, author of The First Casualty--History of Propaganda, explained why the TV station was targeted: "NATO didn't want it revealed that it had bombed a civilian convoy and left to itself would never have revealed it until the war was over. But they were forced to admit to the bombing of the civilian convoy because Serbian TV said that it had happened, then took Western reporters in a bus to show them the results of it."

NATO had rightly described the murder of an anti-Milosevic journalist as a brutal act of repression, Pinter said, yet they have never expressed any regret for the killing of those people who were told they were safe at the TV station. "Both are ugly murders of human beings who propagate words or images that somebody else doesn't like."

Turning to the refugee crisis Pinter showed that there is a direct correlation between the number of refugees and the amount of popular support for NATO bombing. He derided the talk of moral authority, demanding to know "who bestowed it on the NATO countries?... Bombs and power--that's your moral authority." The moral position of the US was highly ambiguous, he went on. "When human rights groups discovered US jets used by the Turkish airforce to bomb Kurdish villages within its own territory the Clinton administration found ways to evade laws requiring suspension of arms deliveries. 1.4 million Kurds fled Turkish repression from 1990 to 1994. Yet Turkey is invited to the top of the table at NATO's birthday party."

The US denied that genocide was taking place in Rwanda--with 800,000 dead--because it was not in the interests of the United States to be part of a UN intervention force. But it calls the Serbian ethnic cleansing "genocide" because it was politically expedient to do so, he continued. He also made clear his disgust for Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Under the rhetoric, Blair's real character has become clear. There's nothing like a missile, there's nothing like power, it was really worth waiting for!"

Pinter revealed the US record of complicity with ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. The greatest single act of displacement and ethnic cleansing in the entire Yugoslav war was that of 200,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995. He showed an extract from an interview with the then US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, who said of this episode, "It always had the prospect of simplifying matters." Pinter explained that the "operation was carried out by officers trained by NPRI, an organisation of US army veteran commanders and was armed with a great deal of US weaponry, in an attack of which the US had full knowledge." Its purpose was "creating convenient ethnically-pure maps without committing US ground forces."

In his memoirs, US Ambassador Holbrook admits to encouraging Croatian assaults on the Serbs, telling the Croatians to hurry up before the Serbs regroup, and then merely rebuking the Croatian leader, Franjo Tudjman, during their cosy chats. Madeline Albright, then US ambassador to the UN, timed the release of aerial photos of mass graves of Muslims killed by Serbs at Srebrenica for the same day as the Croats were expelling the Serbs, in order to divert the world media's attention. These photos had been taken weeks before by a US spy satellite but were held back in order to mask one atrocity with another.

Pinter also showed the cynical way in which the US government deals with the UN. In 1995 the bombing of the Bosnian Serbs needed direct authority from the UN, but Secretary General Boutros Boutros Gali was unwilling to grant it. So Madeline Albright by-passed the secretary general, getting permission from his deputy Kofi Annan, while Boutros Boutros Gali could not be contacted as he was on a commercial flight. Kofi Annan effectively secured himself the secretary general's job that day, Pinter declared. Now, the US did not even bother to contact the UN.

The US had exacerbated the situation in Kosovo, Pinter argued. He pointed out that over the course of 10 years, before the West had begun negotiating with the hard line KLA and despite the fact that war was often raging in other parts of former Yugoslavia, Kosovo saw tension but little bloodshed. In fact, a comparable number of people were killed there as in Northern Ireland. However, once the KLA began their uprising 2,000 died in one year of violence.

Mark Almond of Oxford University, and a writer on Balkan history, was interviewed about the Rambouillet talks. "In a little-noticed annexe to the agreement, NATO insisted that its forces should be allowed to have freedom of movement over the whole of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo. There was no real constraint over what sort of forces there would be, and, to a great extent, what their activities would be." Pinter explained what this meant: whether "you are a dictator, the prime minister of a democratic country, or even Mrs. Thatcher, and your sovereign territory is going to be occupied, you might as well resist or your time in power is over."

Almond said there was a cynical aspect to the build-up of the crisis, with "deliberate provocation of reprisals by the KLA". He went on, "This aspect has been neglected in the press. It wasn't simply unprovoked and meaningless racial violence on the part of the Serbs--though we've seen quite a lot of that too--but a complex struggle for power over Kosovo, in which the loss of lives of ordinary Kosovo Albanians and others were really treated as pawns."

Showing video footage of crowds on a bridge over the Danube inside Serbia, Pinter commented, "Only two years ago hundreds of thousands of young people were out on the streets against Milosevic. Our blundering policy of bombing now finds them linking hands on bridges waiting to be hit." He warned that if ground troops were sent in, civilian casualties would mount and Kosovo would be made a wasteland. "By the time NATO land forces will have finished their work there will be nothing left to liberate". This was the "crazed logic of escalation," he said.

Pinter brought together academics, politicians and relief workers in condemning the war against Serbia. The programme showed that opposition to it runs deep.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/may1999/pint-m07.shtml


Nobel-winning playwright Harold Pinter dies at 78

Another AP story on Pinter's death had the following statement:"Off-stage he was also highly political: Pinter turned down former Prime Minister John Major's offer of a knighthood and strongly attacked Blair when NATO bombed Serbia. He later referred to Blair a "deluded idiot" for supporting Bush's war in Iraq. He said he deeply regretted having voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Tony Blair in 1997."

Nobel-winning playwright Harold Pinter dies at 78

Nobel-winning playwright Harold Pinter dies at 78
By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer –

LONDON – Harold Pinter, praised as the most influential British playwright of his generation and a longtime voice of political protest, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 78.

Pinter, whose distinctive contribution to the stage was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, died on Wednesday, according to his second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser.

"Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles," the Nobel Academy said when it announced Pinter's award. "With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution."

The Nobel Prize gave Pinter a global platform which he seized enthusiastically to denounce U.S. President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law," Pinter said in his Nobel lecture, which he recorded rather than traveling to Stockholm .

"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 asked, in a hoarse voice.

Weakened by cancer and bandaged from a fall on a slippery pavement, Pinter seemed a vulnerable old man when he emerged from his London home to speak about the Nobel Award.

Though he had been looking forward to giving a Nobel lecture — "the longest speech I will ever have made" — he first canceled plans to attend the awards, then announced he would skip the lecture as well on his doctor's advice.

Pinter wrote 32 plays; one novel, "The Dwarfs," in 1990; and put his hand to 22 screenplays including "The Quiller Memorandum" (1965) and "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1980). He admitted, and said he deeply regretted, voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Tony Blair in 1997.

Pinter fulminated against what he saw as the overweening arrogance of American power, and belittled Blair as seeming like a "deluded idiot" in support of Bush's war in Iraq .

In his Nobel lecture, Pinter accused the United States of supporting "every right-wing military dictatorship in the world" after World War II.

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them," he said.

The United States , he added, "also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain ."

Most prolific between 1957 and 1965, Pinter relished the juxtaposition of brutality and the banal and turned the conversational pause into an emotional minefield.

His characters' internal fears and longings, their guilt and difficult sexual drives are set against the neat lives they have constructed in order to try to survive.

Usually enclosed in one room, they organize their lives as a sort of grim game and their actions often contradict their words. Gradually, the layers are peeled back to reveal the characters' nakedness.

The protection promised by the room usually disappears and the language begins to disintegrate.

Pinter once said of language, "The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear. It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness."

Pinter's influence was felt in the United States in the plays of Sam Shepard and David Mamet and throughout British literature.

"With his earliest work, he stood alone in British theater up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers too," British playwright Tom Stoppard said when the Nobel Prize was announced.

"Not only has Harold Pinter written some of the outstanding plays of his time, he has also blown fresh air into the musty attic of conventional English literature, by insisting that everything he does has a public and political dimension," added British playwright David Hare, who also writes politically charged dramas.

The working-class milieu of plays like "The Birthday Party" and "The Homecoming" reflected Pinter's early life as the son of a Jewish tailor from London 's East End . He began his career in the provinces as an actor.

In his first major play, "The Birthday Party" (1958), intruders enter the retreat of Stanley, a young man who is hiding from childhood guilt. He becomes violent, telling them, "You stink of sin, you contaminate womankind."

And in "The Caretaker," a manipulative old man threatens the fragile relationship of two brothers while "The Homecoming" explores the hidden rage and confused sexuality of an all-male household by inserting a woman.

In "Silence and Landscape," Pinter moved from exploring the dark underbelly of human life to showing the simultaneous levels of fantasy and reality that equally occupy the individual.

In the 1980s, Pinter's only stage plays were one-acts: "A Kind of Alaska " (1982), "One for the Road" (1984) and the 20-minute "Mountain Language" (1988).

During the late 1980s, his work became more overtly political; he said he had a responsibility to pursue his role as "a citizen of the world in which I live, (and) insist upon taking responsibility."

In March 2005 Pinter announced his retirement as a playwright to concentrate on politics. But he created a radio play, "Voices," that was broadcast on BBC radio to mark his 75th birthday.

"I have written 29 plays and I think that's really enough," Pinter said . "I think the world has had enough of my plays."

Pinter had a son, Daniel, from his marriage to actress Vivien Merchant, which ended in divorce in 1980. That year he married the writer Fraser.

"It was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years. He will never be forgotten," Fraser said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081225/ap_on_re_eu/eu_britain_obit_pinter

Peter Lemkin
12-29-2008, 07:09 AM
Pinter was noble long before his Nobel speech - A great humanitarian; unafraid to speak truth to power and a great political playwrite....sad he has died!

Myra Bronstein
12-30-2008, 04:17 AM
Pinter was noble long before his Nobel speech - A great humanitarian; unafraid to speak truth to power and a great political playwrite....sad he has died!

Oh yeah. This is a huge loss. He was a major, intrepid, highly respected voice of reason and dissent. When I read the news of his death I was too upset to even post about it.

Paul Rigby
02-21-2017, 08:42 PM
The "Blind Sheik" And The CIA - Media Again Bury U.S. Support For Radical Islamism

February 20, 2017

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/02/the-blind-sheik-and-the-cia-media-bury-us-support-for-radical-islamism.html#comments


Two days ago the Takfiri Islamist leader Omar Abdul-Rahman , the so called "Blind Sheik", died in a U.S. prison. He had been found guilty of involvement in the 1993 attempt to bring down the World Trade Center in New York and of other crimes.

The obituaries of Omar Abdul-Rahman in U.S. media are an example of white washing of the U.S. exploitation of radical Islamism for its imperial purposes. While extensively documented in earlier media and official reports the CIA's facilitation and involvement with Abdul-Rahman is seemingly stricken from history.

Since the 1970s Omar Abdul-Rahman was involved in the growth of radical Sunni Islamism:

Founded in 1976, Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt (FIBE) is part of the banking empire built by Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Faisal. Several of the founding members are leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the β€œBlind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.
Financed by Saudi sources Abdul-Rahman created various groups of radicals in Egypt and gets deeply involved with Al-Qaeda, recruiting fighters for Afghanistan in cooperation with the CIA and the Pakistani secret services. He was the ideological leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Islamic radical organization in Egypt responsible for several terrorist attacks. He traveled to the U.S. several timed between 1986 and 1990 to further his violent ideology. His visas were issued by CIA agents despite his appearance on a State Department terrorism watch list. In 1990 he moves to the U.S. where he preached his violent Islam and continued to recruit fighters for radical causes.

In December 1990 the New York Times reported:

The 52-year-old religious leader, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, entered the country more than five months ago despite being on a State Department list of people with ties to terrorist groups, the authorities said. He illegally obtained a tourist visa from a consul in the United States Embassy in Khartoum, the Sudan, in May, according to records of the Federal Immigration and Naturalization Service and State Department officials.
In July 1993 the NYT reported that "illegally obtained tourist visa" was not illegal at all:

Central Intelligence Agency officers reviewed all seven applications made by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman to enter the United States between 1986 and 1990 and only once turned him down because of his connections to terrorism, Government officials said today.
...
Mr. Abdel Rahman helped to recruit Arab Muslims to fight in the American-backed war in Afghanistan, and his lawyer and Egyptian officials have said he was helped by the C.I.A. to enter the United States.
...
American officials had acknowledged last week that the diplomat at the United States Embassy in Khartoum who signed the May 1990 visa request that allowed Mr. Abdel Rahman to enter the United States was in fact a C.I.A. officer.
Several attempts to remove Abdel-Rahman from the U.S. mysteriously failed. In 1991 he was inexplicably granted a Green Card despite still being blacklisted.

His involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing was a typical "blowback" from the CIA's chronic support of radical takfiri Islamism, supported by Saudi Arabia, whenever it helps its "regime change" plans here or there. Over the last years such CIA support led to the growth of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

After the recent death of Omar Abdul-Rahman several obituaries appeared in U.S. media. But none of them mention or dig into his deep and long CIA connections and the continuing CIA support for radical Islamism.

There is zero mentioning of the CIA and the visa shenanigans in his NYT obit, despite its earlier reporting. Neither the Associated Press nor AFP mention any connection to the CIA. The British service Reuters buries the visa story in one sentence in the 12th paragraph.

That the deep involvement over the years of the CIA (and FBI) in the crimes Omar Abdul-Rahman is now swept under the carpet and forgotten is not just coincidentally. It is a distinct feature of U.S. political culture.

The British poet Harold Pinter referred to this in his 2005 Nobel lecture:

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest.
I have called this chronic forgetfulness the concept of immaculate conception of U.S. (foreign) policy. There never is an acknowledged history of U.S. misdeeds that may have led to this or that current blowback. When there is one it immediately gets buried, pushed out of sight, never to be talked about. The same applies to partisan policies within the U.S.

Currently the fake "resistance" against a Trump presidency blasts his policy of seeking better relations with Russia, his temporary travel ban reference to seven specific countries and his words against media leaks. But it was the Secretary of State Clinton who initiated a "reset" with Russia, it was the Obama administration that set a ban on those seven countries and it was the Obama justice department that used the espionage act against journalists for publishing leaked material. That all is now forgotten and not to be talked about.

Likewise the deep CIA connection with Omar Abdul-Rahman is now scrubbed from any of the semi-official media reporting. This at the same time the CIA continues its involvement with radical Islamists in Syria and elsewhere.

Pinter continued his lecture:

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.
...
To not be taken in by the "immaculate conception" mechanism I recommend to reread or watch Pinter's lecture every once a while.