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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Friday, October 14, 2005

We bring torture and misery

British playwright Harold Pinter has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The following is an adaptation of a speech he delivered on winning the Wilfred Owen Award earlier this year:

"The great poet Wilfred Owen articulated the tragedy, the horror - and indeed the pity - of war in a way no other poet has. Yet we have learnt nothing. Nearly 100 years after his death the world has become more savage, more brutal, more pitiless.

"But the "free world" we are told, as embodied in the United States and Great Britain, is different to the rest of the world since our actions are dictated and sanctioned by a moral authority and a moral passion condoned by someone called God. Some people may find this difficult to comprehend but Osama Bin Laden finds it easy.

"What would Wilfred Owen make of the invasion of Iraq? A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of International Law. 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 upon thousands of innocent people.

"An independent and totally objective account of the Iraqi civilian dead in the medical magazine The Lancet estimates that the figure approaches 100,000. But neither the US or the UK bother to count the Iraqi dead. As General Tommy Franks of US Central Command memorably said: "We don't do body counts".

"We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it " bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East". But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos.

"You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections? Well, President Bush himself answered this question when he said: "We cannot accept that there can be free democratic elections in a country under foreign military occupation". I had to read that statement twice before I realised that he was talking about Lebanon and Syria.

"What do Bush and Blair actually see when they look at themselves in the mirror?

"I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and the actions of the American and British governments."


Blogger Shabadoo said...

Is this the same Pinter who was a big backer of the "Free Slobodan" movement? Bloody hypocrites...the left loves a strongman, so long as it's an anti-Western and anti-American strongman!

Friday, October 14, 2005 4:55:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...

No shaba

Life is somewhat more complex these days.

Strange exceptions, in the past, to your bland statement.

Stalin was widely revered by the US government and people during WW2 (as "Uncle Joe").

Equally Mao was the darling of the US government and many in the rightwing intelligentsia in the early 70s.

Name me one strongman who is popular with the Australian left these days? And we can discuss.

Friday, October 14, 2005 5:09:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

The world is more complex than good vs. evil, black vs. white, noble USA vs. evil terrorists?
I had no idea...

Friday, October 14, 2005 5:14:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...

Are AL

But it is YOU who works to make the simple Mid East dichotomy (of Israeli vs Arab) much much too complex for our simple minds.

Down the intellectuals!

Friday, October 14, 2005 5:53:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I assure you, I will continue doing so. It must be comforting for the blinkered to take intellectual cover under the American/Israel banner.
The so-called terrorism debate has skewed reason beyond recognition.

Friday, October 14, 2005 6:00:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...

AL I agree with your approach. And I've never bought the Israel/US axis argument.

When I referred to Israel as a "51st state" earlier on the blog I was just attempting to get a rise from bloggers - as I occasionally do - at first.

I'm always aware where US and Israeli sensitivities clash. eg "During the Six Day War, launched by Israel in 1967 with American connivance, Israeli jets with their markings painted over and an Israeli torpedo boat tried to destroy the unarmed US spyship USS Liberty and its crew which had been sent unescorted close to the Sinai coast." (36 dead)

So no worries, I'm with ya.

Friday, October 14, 2005 6:20:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

Gigolo Pete, you make my point for me: Stalin may have been an Ally in WW2, but the US government never trusted him, though there were plenty of people who "saw the future and it worked" - and they were largely of the Pinteresque lefty-intellectual class that abhored US capitalism and were looking for a new utopia -- Walter Duranty of the NY Times is most famous there, of course.

Mao, as well, had plenty of acolytes in the West, but as the truth came out he could hide less and less - though sympathetic journos like Edward Snow were again ready to trumpet his cause. (I just read the new Mao biography, which is fantastic, and horrifying, in the documentation of the death of 70 million + people for this one madman's aims...but of course, he remains a pop-culture/kitch icon for so many still).

Strongmen who are popular with the American left:

* Fidel Castro gets a regular tide of visitors from the left, and seeing him is a real pilgrimage for many in Hollywood;
* Hugo Chavez, with his thugs and repression and "election" is a darling of Jimmy Carter-ites, who are all too happy to certify his ballot-box stuffing as legit;

Need more?

To say that because the US State Department was in love with a dictator means nothing - witness Maddy Albright's suck-ups to Kim in NK!

Again and again, lefties fall in love with strongmen who 'can get things done' and remake society...always, of course, with disastrous results. But that doesn't mean they won't keep trying!

Friday, October 14, 2005 7:16:00 pm  
Blogger Pete's Blog said...

OK shaba

I reckon you've done your research and argued your points...well.

Though you still haven't come up with a "strongman" that AUSTRALIA leftists currently admire.

I put that down to we Australians not being easily fooled.

To make a global generalisation the same "strongmen" are often widely admired by self proclaimed intellectuals (who tend to place themselves on the left) because such admiration is just one part of an "intellectuals" deluded outlook.

That's not to say there are authentic intellectuals out there - but rare.

But non-leftists also get it wrong. Hence Hitler and particularly Mussolini were widely admired by the "center" and conservatives (pre WW2) until their full agenda/atrocities became apparent. Even Marcos and Suharto were popular.

The same with "weak socialists" and the "hard left" regarding the communist leaders you mentioned.

I also read the Mao biog and its all the more impressive because its not written in the standard, souless, academic way.

My main point is that its deluded for anybody of any political shade to admire a "strongman". But "intellectuals" (usually overseas) keep on doing it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005 12:46:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

The main problem with Pinter's speech is his connection of "free world" and "actions dictated by God"

The free world is free because it's actions are controlled by the people who live in it. If they state that they are guided by a God-given morality, so be it, but it is not free because of "action dictated by God", but because of action directed by people, no matter what their moral guideline may be. And the realization that these morals do not override ethics.

Muslims are very moral, but their ethics are in question.

Saturday, October 15, 2005 4:04:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

"Hugo Chavez, with his thugs and repression and "election" is a darling of Jimmy Carter-ites, who are all too happy to certify his ballot-box stuffing as legit"


I'd be fascinated to see what you woudl regard as legit. The man happens to be the most democratically elected leader in the world. He managed this in spite of money pouring in from Washington to fund the campaigns of his opponents. nto to mentiothat the media in venesueal is probably more free than in most western countries.

Then you have that failed coup against him that was appluaded by the US State Department.

Perhaps your inclined to believe that
Hosny Mubarak's election was an ideal model. Here;s a man who won a greater percentgae of a vote from an election he declared to be legitimate than the ones he admitted to rigging.

as for Catro, the guy makes no pretentions abotu being democratically elected. But hen again, he can boast to having a lower infant mortality rate than the US.

Saturday, October 15, 2005 5:32:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

"My main point is that its deluded for anybody of any political shade to admire a "strongman". But "intellectuals" (usually overseas) keep on doing it."

Until the early 90's, Sadam Hussein was the darling of who exactly? What about Islam Karamoz, Jordan's King Abdullah, Hosni Mubarak, Allende?

Saturday, October 15, 2005 5:37:00 am  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Time and again the motive and outcomes of the invasion of Iraq are lambasted by high profile individuals, notably intellectuals. This speech is an excellent example.

And given the reception to such ideas amongst the ranters and moaners of the media and the web, Pinter's speech demonstrates courage and conviction. His efforts should be applauded.

Yet despite such principled and public dissent the war-mongers are without shame. This is indeed a crisis. Has non-violent protest against war finally met its match in media-military-political hegemony? Democracy, international law, a swag of world bodies - none of these things were able to stop the invasion or end the occupation. What now? It is not enough to simply sit around and wait for the military project to implode.

Addamo, thanks for effortlessly cutting Shabadoo's tangental bullshit to little pieces. Shabadoo's just another abusive commenter whose ignorance is matched only by their desire to disagree with Loewenstein and their ability to cut and paste the rantings of their internet idols.

Saturday, October 15, 2005 12:09:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

And for the record, Pinter has never supported Milosevic, as claimed by some ignorant fools.

Read on:

Being against that war - as I was - was principled and proper.

Saturday, October 15, 2005 1:58:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

I've only seen small samples of Pinter's work, none of which looked particularly Nobel Prize-inspiring.

Does anyone know who a few of the other candidates were?

Sunday, October 16, 2005 11:43:00 pm  

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