There are two things you can do when faced with the ghastliness and horror of the situation in Iraq ? of Bush, Cheney, Blair, Howard, Ruddock, Beazley, et al ? you can dig in the garden, or you can go on fighting.
Despite cancer and approaching old age, playwright and Nobel Laureate, Harold Pinter, has chosen to go on fighting.
Pinter, who was awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, has unrelentingly condemned the American invasion of Iraq, and has branded Bush and Blair as war criminals. His award has been roundly criticised by the American Right.
(I’m not sure if Pinter knows that Australian soldiers are in Iraq, or that Australia is part of the ‘coalition of the willing’Ã‚ – John Howard does not rate a mention in Pinter’s latest book of plays and poems, Death etc.)
Harold Pinter started to have plays performed in the late 1950s. The Birthday Party was produced in 1958; The Caretaker was staged in the West End two years later. Pinter was a master of ambiguity and the ?menacing silence?, and had a profound effect on contemporary theatre. His politics have always been radical. The bitterness of Death etc is at times quite overwhelming.
Thanks to Leahy
Iraq has become a dismal backdrop to Australian politics. However, it has become all but invisible before Howard?s IR and anti-terror legislation ? and now the Cronulla race riots, for which the Howard Government is responsible by creating a climate of fear, xenophobia and bigotry.
Like Vietnam before it, Iraq grinds on with death, mutilation and destruction. Body counts of dead Iraqis are not kept; they are expendable, but Western victims are not. As Pinter points out, beheading is ?barbaric? but the cluster bombs dropped by the Americans and the British, which maim and kill innocent children, are not. We grieve over our own dead, but we don?t grieve over Muslims of the Third World.
In passing, it has recently been revealed that an American?British consortium of oil companies is planning to gain control of Iraq?s oil reserves, and that plans by the Bush Administration to do so were in place well before the events of 9/11 (see ?The Spoils of War?, the UK Independent, 22 November, 2005). It is the old, imperial, colonial story.? Such reports are, of course, ignored by the Australian press.
Harold Pinter thinks that, for brutality and aggression since the last World War, the American record is little better than that of the Soviet Union. He cites US support for the Contras in Nicaragua, then US involvement in Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, Chile and, of course, Vietnam. He says the United States possesses 8000 active and operational nuclear warheads, of which 2000 are on hair trigger alert; and that we should remind ourselves that the US is on a permanent military footing.
Pinter argues that US foreign policy has rarely, if ever, concerned the direct invasion of a sovereign State; but favoured what is known as ?low intensity conflict,? where thousands of people still die, but slower than if a bomb was dropped on them. Low intensity conflict, according to Pinter, 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 and your friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed.
For proof of Pinter?s allegations, go to www.corpwatch.org.
The exception to this American reluctance to invade is Iraq, where Pinter says, ?we have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East.?
It would be all too easy to dismiss all this as the ravings of a demented anti-American madman. But it does not hurt to consider US foreign/military policy since World War II ? and further back than that. It seems we are willing to accept that Britain, the other European powers and the Soviet Union are capable of imperialism, but not the United States.
To its eternal shame, Australia has been a willing party to the invasion and occupation of Iraq ? to, as Pinter puts it, ?this bandit act, this act of State terrorism.? The Australian public has also accepted the Howard Government?s blatant lies about the children overboard and weapons of mass destruction. As Joseph Goebbels once said, the bigger the lie, the greater the chance of its acceptance.
In Australia, under the Howard Government?s new sedition laws, people like Harold Pinter can be sent to jail without trial.
The Australian media chose not to give much space to Harold Pinter?s award of the Nobel Prize.
We live in a relaxed and comfortable, but blind and bigoted society.
For the full text of Harold Pinter?s Nobel Prize acceptance speech go to www.HaroldPinter.org
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