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William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Pinter's Nobel Prize speech is as good as everyone is saying. At some point I must have lost interest in the way that artists come upon their work-- the work is more interesting to me now. This means that the first bit of what Pinter has to say impressed me as simply being more of the sort of thing I no longer care about: how do you get your ideas? Do you write in longhand, or type? To what extent is your work autobiographical?

But when the old man gets going, he really starts to roar:

"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."

It gets stronger, and, I'm ashamed to say, I believe he's right. The United States has, over the course of my lifetime, acted as though it has "had carte blanche to do what it liked." We have "supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War." We have "exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good."

The fact that our country is being called out on this is notable. Pinter says, "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 say, who will stand up and lead us away from what we have become? I survey the contenders, and I don't see anyone out there with the moral authority to do it-- and yes, I'm looking at you, Hillary Clinton-- my US Senator. You too, John Kerry. John Edwards, step out into the light where we can see you. Howard Dean had the guts to say this horrible war was wrong, Al Gore is on record, but they were, and are, for the most part still voices in the wilderness.

Pinter's speech is going to get a lot of play, I think, and I have a feeling that a lot of it will be along the lines of "Where'd he be today if America hadn't pulled England's fat out of the fire in WWII?" Well, whatever moral authority our segrigated armed forces bought us by defeating fascism seems pretty depleted today. You don't get to stay right-- you have to keep on doing the right thing. Otherwise you get left. You get called out for what you are, and then being the richest, and the most powerful starts to mean less and less, because you are out there all alone. And then you are the old Soviet Union, that collapses like a wet cardboard box. It doesn't have to be like that, but it will be, very soon, if we don't stop carrying on the way we have. The Islamic world has had it with the US. Asia is pretty fed up, too. The only friends we had were Europe, and Pinter has just made it pretty clear that they no longer stand with us. Who stands up and says, "Enough"?

I couldn't do what I do if I didn't believe that the process can be fixed, but it won't fix itself. We need to hear what people like Pinter are telling us, and we need to decide that what we have become is not what we want to be. Over the past five years I've been saying, "There must have been Germans who felt like this." I believe it today more than ever.

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