Harold Pinter, “Art, truth and politics,” Acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature, reprinted in The Guardian, December 8, 2005.
In 2005, Harold Pinter, British playwright, screenwriter and actor, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s to his eternal credit that he used the platform of his acceptance speech (sent in by video recording because his health was in decline) to draw attention to what he saw as vital questions of truth and ethics of the era when the award was given to him. He passed away exactly three years later in December 2008.
2005 was only fifteen years ago, and it is odd how it seems distant now. GW Bush is remembered fondly and befriended by his former liberal enemies. The shocking and awesome savagery of the war on terror then has been forgotten and surpassed. At the time, the respectable Western elite Nobel audience was relatively more receptive to the sort of savage critique of American foreign policy that Pinter gave.It was a rare opening that lasted until about the time when Edward Snowden was chased into exile in Russia. The text of Pinter’s speech was reprinted in The Guardian, something which I believe would not happen today under the current ownership that has done so much to cheerlead for NATO and neglect dissenting voices on topics such as Russia, Syria and Libya. The opposition to GW Bush’s war on terror grew strong enough from 2005-2008 to propel Mr. Hope-and-Change Barack Obama to the White House. Then little changed and assassination by drone became normalized while the Anglo-American elites went back to sleep—until this month when they were stunned—shocked, shocked, I tell you—that Donald Trump would carry out a gangland style drone assassination on a high-ranking official of an “adversary” nation—killed apparently Jimmy Hoffa-style after he had been lured to a meeting for peace talks with Saudi Arabia. At this time I can recommend nothing better than to go back and read Harold Pinter’s 2005 speech, or better still, listen to his voice delivering it.
Pinter’s speech should be in the public domain, but the Nobel Foundation claims copyright. The Guardian reprint includes the copyright notice. I will post just a couple of excerpts here, most crucially the first one that hits at the venal collaboration and silence of all the allied governments and NATO partners that fail to protest, sanction or break off relations with the United States when it engages in the sort of reckless criminal behavior exemplified by the murder of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3rd, 2020:
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”…
And one more excerpt:
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…
© The Nobel Foundation 2005
Read the rest at the link at the top, or go to the video.