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Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel Acceptance Speech

Playwright Harold Pinter is ill with cancer. He was too ill to travel to Stockholm to give his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature in person, so he presented it by video. During his speech he called Tony Blair and George Bush war criminals.

In a hoarse voice, he accused America of massacring innocent people all over the world in the name of democracy. He 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?"

...Pinter said the justification for invading Iraq was based on "a tapestry of lies" and went on: "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'."

He went on to accuse America of supporting "every Right wing military dictatorship in the world" since the end of the Second World War. He added: "It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain."

Pinter spent more than half his speech critizing Britain and America.

Pinter expanded his critique to include “the majority of politicians” who, he said, weave “a vast tapestry of lies” to keep themselves in power. He concluded by calling for an “unflinching, unswerving and fierce intellectual determination as citizens to define the real truth of our lives and our societies. 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.”

The TL sis is in Stockholm for his speech and the remainder of events this week. She has been the Bibliographical Editor of the Pinter Review since 1987 and is the author of Pinter in Play: Critical Strategies and the Plays of Harold Pinter (1990; Durham and London: Duke UP, 1995). She was really disapppointed when he had to cancel his personal appearance, but went anyway to honor him.

You can listen to his nobel lecture here.

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  • Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#1)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:46 PM EST
    From the post:
    He went on to accuse America of supporting "every Right wing military dictatorship in the world" since the end of the Second World War
    This would be funny if it wasn't so sad. First, he fails to mention our support for a dictatorship called the Soviet Union in WWII, and our opposition to that same dictatorship after WWII in something called the Cold War. We will throw in our opposition to North Korea and the People's Republic of China and North Vietnam. None of these, of course, are "Right Wing" dictatorships. I wonder why he ignores them. And given that geopolitics drove us to support various dictatorships in the referenced war against the Soviet Union; I wonder why he doesn't mention that? Why does he not mention why we did that? As we are now doing what he apparently wanted us to do, overthrowing a Right Wing dictatorship, I wonder why he is not supporting our efforts in Iraq? I mean, it doesn't make sense. Someone quits doing what you have criticized them for, and you condemn them? The Nobel Prize has now become a joke.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:46 PM EST
    I would think he doesn't want the US overthrowing any foreign govt.'s...it isn't our place. The only govt. we have the right to overthrow is our own. He doesn't want us to support tyrants, and the only tyrants we support are of the right wing variety.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#3)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:46 PM EST
    I wonder why Jim ignores this:
    Pinter expanded his critique to include “the majority of politicians” who, he said, weave “a vast tapestry of lies” to keep themselves in power. He concluded by calling for an “unflinching, unswerving and fierce intellectual determination as citizens to define the real truth of our lives and our societies. 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.”
    Seems spot-on to me. And, yes, bravo to you for your non sequitur about how we oppose left-wing dictators. Doesn't change the fact that we did terrible things, however.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#4)
    by Slado on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:46 PM EST
    It's fine for a writer and now Nobel winner to have such lofty goals and ideals. But having such beliefs doesn't make them practical or realistic. Politicians have to make decisions. Those decisions can be critizied for why or how that were made but to talk in the abstract and lump 50 years of policies, several differnt presidents and prime ministers, hundreds of other governments and the Cold War into a simple argument, that really is just an attempt to attack current administrations, doesn't do anyone any good and just makes this guy look silly, on this matter.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#5)
    by glanton on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:46 PM EST
    The Nobel Prize has now become a joke.
    Jim, it's a prize for literature. Are you familiar with his plays? If not, how can you call the prize a joke? His views on American politics have nothing to do with it.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#6)
    by desertswine on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    God Bless America Here they go again, The Yanks in their armoured parade Chanting their ballads of joy As they gallop across the big world Praising America's God. The gutters are clogged with the dead The ones who couldn't join in The others refusing to sing The ones who are losing their voice The ones who've forgotten the tune. The riders have whips which cut. Your head rolls onto the sand Your head is a pool in the dirt Your head is a stain in the dust Your eyes have gone out and your nose Sniffs only the pong of the dead And all the dead air is alive With the smell of America's God. Harold Pinter January 2003

    Great....another poet/playwrite who knows how to solve all the worlds problems. Does anyone else find it funny when these playwrites and movie producers and songwriters, who live and work in a world of pure make believe, come out and tell us how we should really be living. I want to go back to the times when these so called artists traveled from town to town on horse and buggy trying to sell tonic to the village idiot.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#8)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    He presents no new evidence and no new arguments. He's just one more voice complaining, albeit more eloquently than most. As a human being, he's certainly entitled to his opinion. But I haven't seen anything to make me value his opinion over that of, say, my neighbor Steve the bus driver.

    Great....another poet/playwrite who knows how to solve all the worlds problems. Does anyone else find it funny when these playwrites and movie producers and songwriters, who live and work in a world of pure make believe, come out and tell us how we should really be living.
    1) He, nor any artist I know of, has said he can solve the world's problems. 2) Artists live in the same world we all do, maybe it hurts them more. 3) Guernica, Imagine, The Thinker, Flander's Field, The Red Badge of Courage. I guess no artists have no right to comment, or any effect on behavior. "A prophet is not without honor save in his own country" I'd like to close with:
    "All wars are planned by older men In council rooms apart, Who call for greater armament And map the battle chart.

    But out along the shattered field Where golden dreams turn gray, How very young the faces were Where all the dead men lay.

    Portly and solemn in their pride, The elders cast their vote For this or that, or something else, That sounds the martial note.

    But where their sightless eyes stare out Beyond life's vanished toys, I've noticed nearly all the dead Were hardly more than boys."

    ~Grantland Rice


    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#10)
    by Al on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    The right's rationale for supporting vicious military dictatorships up until the 80's at least, is "the ends (defeating the Soviet Union) justifies the means (supporting genocidal thugs against people that don't vote in American elections). The surviving citizens of those countries wonder why they should be cannon fodder in a conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union that the two waged by proxy. I also wonder why the Cold War stopped with the collapse of the Soviet Union. For some reason, the right doesn't have a problem with communist China. But I'm sure Jim has some "geopolitical" explanation for that.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#11)
    by desertswine on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    It's not just Nobel literature laureates: Nobel Winners Slam Bush On Science

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#12)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    When Pinter complains about Bush's mismangling of the English language, I'll take him as seriously as Prize-winning scientists' complaining about his science policies.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#13)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    Al - You have never heard me say anything nice about the PRC. We would do well to keep a close eye on Walmart's vendor of choice. I again note. Since we have ceased our support, and are now actively engaged in deposing a despicable dictator, why do you oppose our activity? And did you cheer when Carter cut the legs out from under the Shah? Glanton - The last sentence in my comment had nothing to do with anything beyond noting that the Nobel seems 100% dedicated to honoring critics of America. Personally, I think they should have honored John D. MacDonald, creator of Travis McGee. He sold more books and wrote more readable copy. Plus his philsophy makes a great deal of sense. scar - So whar? He failed to acknowledge our reformation and our attempts to do good. Or is it that he believes that nothing is larger than himself, and that the proper position is to oppose anything that might endanger "self?" desertswine – See my comment to scar. Thank you. You prove my point. Rocker - As long as artists don't receive taxpayer money I believe they have the absolute right to compose, paint, sing, write, sculpt.... whatever. And I reserve to my right to comment on what I see, read and hear.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#14)
    by Al on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    Jim, not saying anything nice about the People's Republic doesn't count as fighting a dictatorship to establish a democracy. In any case, your comment about Walmart shows where your true loyalty lies. I'm not sure where you're going with Carter and the Shah. But if you want to know, neither the Shah nor the ayatollahs have my sympathy. Did you applaud when Reagan secretly sold weapons to the Ayatollahs? I'll say this about Carter, though: He did oppose the military dictatorship in my native Argentina, unlike Nixon before him and Reagan after him.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#16)
    by john horse on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    I learned of Pinter's opposition to the Iraq occupation through Talkleft because of a certain blogger who was also an admirer of Pinter. I am sorry that he has been stricken with cancer. By the way, every word he said is true.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#17)
    by glanton on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:47 PM EST
    the Nobel seems 100% dedicated to honoring critics of America.
    Yes, it can seem that way at times. But to seem, as they say, is not to be. In general I would guess that the artistic and scientific prizes have less to do with contemporary politics than does, say, the Peace Prize. And as for that one, heck, even the elder Bush admitted that Carter deserved the one he got, though he was deeply suspicious of the timing. I dunno. Pinter's career pretty stellar, he broke some ground as a playwright especially, certain moments in Betrayal, for example, leave you breathless and have nothing to do with politics. Re John McDonald, recommend any titles? I'd be happy to give him a read.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#18)
    by Al on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:48 PM EST
    Jim, I understood all too well your comment about Walmart. And of course you realize there is a very long way from "snarky" to "fighting for democracy". You pretend not to understand that I find the Shah and the Ayatollahs equally distasteful. How the Iranians deal with all of them is of course their affair. I don't think the US has ever done anything in defense of the Iranian people, be it under the Shah or under the Ayatollahs. But I'm still curious to know how you feel about the Iran-Contra affair.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#19)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:48 PM EST
    Glanton - Just go to Amazon and put in John D. MacDonald's name. Beware. If you enjoy Pinter you probably will not like Travis McGee... ;-) Al - I thought it a great piece of geopolitics. We got two of our enemies fighting and got one of them to finance the Contras...Triple play.

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#20)
    by bad Jim on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:48 PM EST
    MacDonald died in 1986. Only live people are eligible for Nobel prizes.

    and got one of them to finance the Contras...Triple play.
    The king of misanthropes...celebrating Saddam's gassing of the Iranians and celebrating the Dirty War in Central America. The contras were a bunch of drug-running banditos, in case anyone forgot. As for my literary contribution... Let us kill off youth For the sake of truth. We who are old know what truth is— Truth is a bundle of vicious lies Tied together and sterilized— A war-maker’s bait for unwise youth To kill off each other For the sake of Truth. -Langston Hughes

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#22)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:48 PM EST
    bad jim - Macdonald is dead but Travis McGee will live forever. et al - I invite you to study the early lives of MacDonald and Pinter. Then compare the theme of their work. Ernie - Since you like poetry, and returning to your theme of serving, which apparently you did not: .
    ..gentlemen in England abed will curse the fact that they are not here (and) hold their manhood cheap when any speaks who fought with us on St Crispin day.. (Henry V)


    The only difference between PPJ and Ann Coulter, is that Ann Coulter is manlier.

    I'm always amazed at those who quote, the bard, as if by rote, not knowing Willy fed from the government teat and in their ignorance hit 'post' and not 'delete'. St Swithen's Day was for a King, He sought to inspire his privileged ring, Not caring the yeoman's death's it would cause, The blood that runs give Kings no pause. These days Kings no longer lead and fight, they just dispatch young men to their plight, They lead not in battle, only prattle, But still trumpet, as if they knew, Dead or Alive, Axis of Evil, Crusade! Crusade! and Hullabaloo! iambic pentameter is not my meter, I'm strictly 4/4, and not the band leader, But this I know, hear me far and near, a previous poster holds his manhood far too close, and far too dear;-)

    Re: Harold Pinter Blasts Blair and Bush in Nobel A (none / 0) (#25)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:50 PM EST
    bignut12 - Well sweetie, you never complained. Now you compare me to Coulter. Gasp! I mean, really. Rocker - Cute. Now, what's your point? That the quote wasn't spot on for Edger?

    A little about the Contras (among PPJ's favorite terrorists) from Pinter's Nobel speech: 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. -----------------------------