Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Turks haven't learned the British way of denying past atrocities

Turkish Government seems to be quite ridiculous in its handling of its past atrocity. They are prosecuting a world famous writer for telling the truth. Orhan Pamuk is on trial. This fearless writer talked about past Turkish government's direct involvement in "the Armenian genocide in the first world war and the killing of the Kurds in the past decade."

How dare he "denigrate Turkishness"? The Turkish "democratic" government wanted Mr. Pamuk to remaim quiet regarding its painful past. However, the "ridiculous" Turkish government's inept handling of this increasingly murky situation of their atrocious past is being more fomented by their sheer stupidity, for their arranging this trial against free speech. They should have taken heed from the British or the American Government. Perhaps the Chinese, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Israel, myriads of European and Middle-East nations along with other boastful governments around the world could have shown them the light in the tunnel, the magical tricks of erasing or suppressing past atrocities, genocides. How to sing the triumphant and benevolent songs of patriotism without ever washing old dried blood from one's wrinkled palms can be learnt from ample examples throughout our "civilized" history. Talk about sheer stupidity of Armenian genocide deniers!

George Monbiot's attached article tries to illuminate a few atrocities that occured in grandeur scale in the past, but with dilligent ploys and clever arrangements of collective erasure, implantation of false memories through fictional history among the "entertained" mass, the majority of world citizens remain completely unaware of their "civilization's" glorious "progressive" history.

Monbiot's one example is morbid to the core. Between 12 and 19 million innocent people died in India due to the murderous British colonial policies exclusively set aside for those "savages" and "peasants" in Indian sub-continent. When the peasants were starving and dying from that manufactured famine, "officials were ordered "to discourage relief works in every possible way". The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices"".

That was not end of this horrifying past episode. The survivors of that famine was put under the sharp edge of British colonial swords once again, "As millions died, the imperial government launched "a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought". The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan."

What happened to those who protested against the brutal British imperialism? In Kenya, the Kikuyu started their campaign against rooted colonial injustices. "The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps. Most of the remainder - more than a million - were held in "enclosed villages". Prisoners were questioned with the help of "slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes". British soldiers used a "metal castrating instrument" to cut off testicles and fingers. "By the time I cut his balls off," one settler boasted, "he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket." The soldiers were told they could shoot anyone they liked "provided they were black". Elkins's evidence suggests that more than 100,000 Kikuyu were either killed or died of disease and starvation in the camps."

One cannot just blames Europeans, or the slave owners in America or American current imperially ambitious government for all the atrocities of our world. Chinese Government kills and maims and imprison dissenters as it pleases while keeping world completely ignorant from their past and present atrocities. Indian Government's suppression of the poor, its displacement of hundreds of thousands of peasants, farmers, villagers from its "super dam" is being played down as well. Even Norendra Modi, the infamous Gujarat chief still vehemently denies any involvements of its Hindu extremists killing thousands and thousands of innocent Muslims from that bloody riots only few years past. Pakistan is in perpetual denial of its slaughters and genocide of innocent Bangladeshis from its 1971 war. For Russia, any dissenters to its Russian supremacist policy, against the Chechens and other minorities are either thrown at prison for infinity, or being simply eliminated after being termed as "terrorist" for advanced damage control. And Hindu or Ahmadiya minorities never get oppressed in green Bangladesh. Hyperboles in action!

Orhan Pamuk is on trial.

Saddam is on trial.

What about us? Shouldn't we be put on trial, as one big and happy human family, for our utter shamelessness in forgetting or ignoring historical truths?

Regards,
Sohel



The Turks haven't learned the British way of denying past atrocities


It is not illegal to discuss the millions who were killed under our empire. So why do so few people know about them?

George Monbiot
Tuesday December 27, 2005
The Guardian


In reading reports of the trial of the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, you are struck by two things. The first, of course, is the anachronistic brutality of the country's laws. Mr Pamuk, like scores of other writers and journalists, is being prosecuted for "denigrating Turkishness", which means that he dared to mention the Armenian genocide in the first world war and the killing of the Kurds in the past decade. The second is its staggering, blithering stupidity. If there is one course of action that could be calculated to turn these massacres into live issues, it is the trial of the country's foremost novelist for mentioning them.

As it prepares for accession, the Turkish government will discover that the other members of the EU have found a more effective means of suppression. Without legal coercion, without the use of baying mobs to drive writers from their homes, we have developed an almost infinite capacity to forget our own atrocities.

Atrocities? Which atrocities? When a Turkish writer uses that word, everyone in Turkey knows what he is talking about, even if they deny it vehemently. But most British people will stare at you blankly. So let me give you two examples, both of which are as well documented as the Armenian genocide.

In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy. When an El NiƱo drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered "to discourage relief works in every possible way". The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices". The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.

As millions died, the imperial government launched "a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought". The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places that had produced a crop surplus, the government's export policies, like Stalin's in Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the north-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceeding three years, at least 1.25m died.

Three recent books - Britain's Gulag by Caroline Elkins, Histories of the Hanged by David Anderson, and Web of Deceit by Mark Curtis - show how white settlers and British troops suppressed the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s. Thrown off their best land and deprived of political rights, the Kikuyu started to organise - some of them violently - against colonial rule. The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps. Most of the remainder - more than a million - were held in "enclosed villages". Prisoners were questioned with the help of "slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes". British soldiers used a "metal castrating instrument" to cut off testicles and fingers. "By the time I cut his balls off," one settler boasted, "he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket." The soldiers were told they could shoot anyone they liked "provided they were black". Elkins's evidence suggests that more than 100,000 Kikuyu were either killed or died of disease and starvation in the camps. David Anderson documents the hanging of 1,090 suspected rebels: far more than the French executed in Algeria. Thousands more were summarily executed by soldiers, who claimed they had "failed to halt" when challenged.

These are just two examples of at least 20 such atrocities overseen and organised by the British government or British colonial settlers; they include, for example, the Tasmanian genocide, the use of collective punishment in Malaya, the bombing of villages in Oman, the dirty war in North Yemen, the evacuation of Diego Garcia. Some of them might trigger a vague, brainstem memory in a few thousand readers, but most people would have no idea what I'm talking about. Max Hastings, on the opposite page, laments our "relative lack of interest" in Stalin and Mao's crimes. But at least we are aware that they happened.

In the Express we can read the historian Andrew Roberts arguing that for "the vast majority of its half-millennium-long history, the British empire was an exemplary force for good ... the British gave up their empire largely without bloodshed, after having tried to educate their successor governments in the ways of democracy and representative institutions" (presumably by locking up their future leaders). In the Sunday Telegraph, he insists that "the British empire delivered astonishing growth rates, at least in those places fortunate enough to be coloured pink on the globe". (Compare this to Mike Davis's central finding, that "there was no increase in India's per capita income from 1757 to 1947", or to Prasannan Parthasarathi's demonstration that "South Indian labourers had higher earnings than their British counterparts in the 18th century and lived lives of greater financial security.") In the Daily Telegraph, John Keegan asserts that "the empire became in its last years highly benevolent and moralistic". The Victorians "set out to bring civilisation and good government to their colonies and to leave when they were no longer welcome. In almost every country, once coloured red on the map, they stuck to their resolve".

There is one, rightly sacred Holocaust in European history. All the others can be denied, ignored, or belittled. As Mark Curtis points out, the dominant system of thought in Britain "promotes one key concept that underpins everything else - the idea of Britain's basic benevolence ... Criticism of foreign policies is certainly possible, and normal, but within narrow limits which show 'exceptions' to, or 'mistakes' in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence". This idea, I fear, is the true "sense of British cultural identity" whose alleged loss Max laments today. No judge or censor is required to enforce it. The men who own the papers simply commission the stories they want to read.

Turkey's accession to the European Union, now jeopardised by the trial of Orhan Pamuk, requires not that it comes to terms with its atrocities; only that it permits its writers to rage impotently against them. If the government wants the genocide of the Armenians to be forgotten, it should drop its censorship laws and let people say what they want. It needs only allow Richard Desmond and the Barclay brothers to buy up the country's newspapers, and the past will never trouble it again.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Aspartame and Runaway Mockeries

A colleague of my will be flying back to Prince Edward Island tomorrow. His father-in-law just passed away early this morning. A forty six year old man, six feet three inches tall, apparently healthy, and just got remarried and had a new born baby. Only three months ago cancerous tumors were found in his kidney. And in the last ninety days, tumors had spread to his entire stomach, lungs and other parts of his body. Strong morphine drips struggled to keep unbearable pain at bay. Gathering family surrounded him. They laughed amidst pain. Even the dying man himself wanted to taste his favorite drink, beer, so the wife bought a six pack for him. The man drank half a can and said, "Uh....I love this taste"! When her husband died later that day, she gave away the remaining five cans of beer to his friends and family, and asked them to celebrate the deceased's life rather than pouring tears in grief.

My father died of cancer too. His was in his gall-bladder that had spread to his entire stomach. Doctors gave him six months to live, a direct death pronouncement at the shocked face of my father, and he died in six months. Last month was his death anniversary. Years have passed. So many changes and turns have appeared, disappeared in our life. But the pain is still raw underneath all these visible greetings and amusements. A poet he was. A small framed man. While drifting in and out of his consciousness, dripping morphine tube in his left arm. His eyes became dreamy as more painful days gone by. As if, he was very much content on that single hospital bed. He liked those colorful buttons on the rails of his bed, that shifted bed's position, upright to flat and back. Various angles. Even the television could be controlled from that cozy bed of his in that gloomy hospital room. He died in a morning.

Death cannot be stopped. Mortals die. There is no surprise in it. But there are indeed shocks and surprises when it becomes clear, that for greed and power, powerful men and women ignore scientific evidences and use their immense influence and directives releasing harmful food elements to billions of unsuspecting civilians throughout the world.

People die from bombs and cancers. People die from diseases and starvations. People die from natural disasters that may have direct or indirect link to disastrous energy policies of rich and poor nations. We all shall die from one cause or another. It would be less gloomy death if these thugs, the double breasted suite wearing high and low profile criminals could be exposed and tried at the highest court of our law. They say justice is blind. But the criminals have ways evading justice. Ignoring International Court is one of their ways. Billions of dollars are spent for fight against "terror", war is raged over spreading "freedom" (or controlling dwindling natural resources). Silent murderers laugh at our face, at our absolute surrender to runaway mockeries.

Regards,
Sohel


Safety of artificial sweetener called into question by MP

Examples cited in the Commons of the 6,000 products with aspartame

Felicity Lawrence, consumer affairs correspondent
Thursday December 15, 2005
The Guardian


In 1977 Donald Rumsfeld, now George Bush's defence secretary but then chief executive of the pharmaceutical company GD Searle, publicly stated that he would "call in his markers" to win a licence for aspartame, the sweetener that had been discovered by chance in Searle's laboratories, according to Roger Williams in the Commons yesterday.

Mr Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said in an adjournment debate that there was much controversy about aspartame's safety at the time but "Rumsfeld appears to have honoured his pledge". In fact, "the history of the approval of aspartame puts public health regulators and politicians to shame".

The sweetener is now used in 6,000 products, from crisps such as Walkers prawn cocktail, to soft drinks including Diet Coke and Robinson's fruit squash, chewing gums such as Orbit, and vitamins pills and medicines. Yet the science on which it was given approval was "biased, inconclusive, and incompetent". "There is compelling and reliable evidence for this carcinogenic substance to be banned from the UK food and drinks market."

On the day of his inauguration as president in 1981, with Mr Rumsfeld on his transition team, Ronald Reagan personally wrote an executive order suspending the head of the US Food and Drug Administration's powers on aspartame, Mr Williams further claimed. One month later Mr Reagan appointed a new head of the regulatory authority, Arthur Hayes, who granted a licence for the sweetener.

"The history of aspartame's approval is littered with examples showing that if key decision makers found against aspartame's safety, they were discredited or replaced by industry sympathisers, who were recompensed with lucrative jobs."

The MP said he was using his parliamentary privilege to highlight "the strong scientific evidence" that the components of aspartame and their metabolites can cause very serious toxic effects on humans, and that long-term aspartame use can cause cancer.

Searle had originally submitted a host of studies to the FDA in 1970s in the hope of getting aspartame approved. But when flaws were revealed in the science behind another Searle product, Flagyl, the FDA set up a taskforce to investigate 15 of the key studies submitted by Searle on aspartame. Dr Jerome Bressler was commissioned by the FDA to investigate three of these studies. He had found 52 major discrepancies in Searle's clinical conduct of the studies, Mr Williams told the Commons. Tumours contracted by rats were removed before dissection but not reported; one record shows an animal in the experiment was alive, then dead, then alive again, then dead again.

MPs were told that because it lacked funds, the FDA submitted 12 other studies to be analysed by a research body that was under contract to Searle at the time. It declared all 12 studies authentic.

Doubts about aspartame among FDA scientists were overruled by the FDA's administration and it was given approval. Many other countries soon followed suit and approved aspartame on the basis of the same flawed studies, Mr Williams said. In 1996 a review of aspartame research found that every single industry-funded study found aspartame safe. But 92% of independent studies identified one or more problems with its safety.

Mr Williams outlined to MPs the evidence that the breakdown products of aspartame include suspected carcinogens and toxic molecules that damage nerve cells. But the final nail in the coffin for the sweetener, he said, was a new, "monumental" peer-reviewed study, that should have "set alarm bells ringing in health departments around the world".

This vast study, conducted by the Italian-based European Ramazzini Foundation, demonstrated that aspartame caused a significant increase in lymphomas and leukaemias, malignant tumours of the kidneys in female rats and malignant tumours of peripheral and cranial nerves in male rats. These tumours occurred at doses that were well below the acceptable daily intake recommended by the regulatory authorities in the EU and US.

The public health minister, Caroline Flint, responding for the government, said it took the issue very seriously and would look at any new evidence. But she added that the use of food additives was very strictly controlled at EU level. The safety of aspartame had been very extensively reviewed many times and the current advice remained that it does not cause cancer and is safe.

Artificial sweeteners help in the control of obesity, she said. Acceptable daily intakes were set at a very conservative level. Moreover, the UK's expert committee on toxicity had reviewed the initial data from the Ramazzini Foundation and had not been convinced by its interpretations, but the European Food Safety Authority would conduct a review when it had the full data.

The trade associations for confectionery, snack, soft drink and pill manufacturers and the sweetener industry's Aspartame Information Service said aspartame had been used safely for many years and evidence for its safety had been reviewed and approved many times by regulators around the world, including by the WHO, the FDA, the UN expert committee on food additives and the EU scientific committee for food.

They pointed out that the European Food Safety Authority has said that "based on current evidence, it does not recommend that consumers who wish to choose foods containing aspartame make any changes to their dietary habits".

The compounds

Aspartame breaks down into three components - a methyl ester and two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartic acid, according to Roger Williams during the parliamentary debate.

The sweetener industry repeatedly pointed out that these compounds occur naturally in food and drink, yet that statement hid the complex science that makes each one harmful to humans when found in aspartame, he added. In food, phenylalanine and aspartic acid are bound to other amino acids in long, complex chains of proteins so that they are not absorbed in a way that could cause damage. But in aspartame they are not, and enzymes in the gut can easily split them apart.

Once phenylalanine is released in its free form, it is metabolised into diketopiperazine, a suspected carcinogen. Aspartic acid in its free form becomes an excitotoxin, a toxic molecule that stimulates nerve cells to the point of damage or death.

The third component of aspartame, methyl ester, was the most harmful, Mr Williams said. It is metabolised by the body into methanol, a well-known poison. In the US, the environmental protection agency defines safe consumption of methanol as no more than 7.8mg a day. Anyone drinking three cans of a drink sweetened with aspartame a day was consuming about 56mg of methanol, the MP said.

The public health minister, Caroline Flint, responded by saying that studies had shown methanol levels were not increased by the ingestion of aspartame.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,11026,1667772,00.html

Another Article on this subject can be found from the following link:
ASPARTAME - The Shocking Story of the World's Bestselling Sweetener
http://www.wnho.net/the_ecologist_aspartame_report.htm

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture -- Art, Truth and Politics

Our muffed ego, inflated arrogance spiced by willful ignorance. Can they be shattered? Can the subdued conscience be invigorated once more from the last throe of dignity that left for the humanity? Our oblivious bias, shutting the eyes and ears from seeing and hearing "blood in the streets", shrieks from an orphan or bombed apart child, widow, men, women; can eyes be plied open, and dirts in ears be cleared away?

Read Pablo Neruda's following lines from a poem:

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!

Harold Pinter's health will not allow him to attend Nobel prize ceremony in Stockholm this year, but his pen did not stay silent. At this advanced age of his life while achieving the most coveted literary award from our contemporary world, he has nothing to lose. His following Nobel lecture that's been delivered by video remains as the testament of this fearless writer's pure conscience, proudly and defiantly atop the devious mercantile and ruthless hawks' disgraced distortions.

Regards,
Sohel


This is the text of the lecture to be given by Harold Pinter when he receives the 2005 Nobel prize for literature on Saturday. Forbidden by doctors from going to Stockholm to receive the £720,000 prize, the ailing playwright and poet has delivered his speech by video

Wednesday December 7, 2005

Harold Pinter
Nobel laureate Harold Pinter. Photograph: Max Nash/AP
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.

* Extract from "I'm Explaining a Few Things" translated by Nathaniel Tarn, from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, published by Jonathan Cape, London 1970. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited.


Source Link:
http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,6109,1661516,00.html