Born 10 October 1930, died 24 December 2008, Harold Pinter is the extraordinary playwright whose pen laid down the words for The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964) Betrayal (1978) and countless other works for the stage and screen. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.
Here are excerpts from his Noble Lecture "Art, Truth and Politics”:
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?
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.
Pinter’s activism began as a conscientious objector in 1946. He campaigned for nuclear disarmament and against apartheid before speaking out powerfully against the first Gulf War, the bombing of Kosovo, the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the moral bankruptcy of the Bush administration. He is believed to be the only Nobel Award winner to label the American president a “mass murderer.”
Truly, we may never see his like again. RIP.