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The US comes out of its closet: Pinter

Thousands of people have been killed by the US just for dreaming of freedom. So who are the "freedom loving people" President Bush talks about? asks Harold Pinter, one of the world's most celebrated contemporary playwrights and essayists, in an essay in the special issue of The Little Magazine on terror in the context of September 11 and the Afghan War.

It will come as no surprise, I'm sure, when I say that how we use language has always been, for me, a major preoccupation. Recently, I have been particularly interested in the term "humanitarian intervention" as use by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to justify its bombing of Serbia.

"Humanitarian intervention" is a comparatively new concept. But President George W Bush is also following in the great American presidential tradition by referring to "freedom-loving people" (I must say I would be fascinated to meet "a freedom-hating people"). President Bush possesses quite a few "freedom-loving" people himself, not only in his own Texas prisons, but throughout the whole of the United States, in what can accurately be described as a vast gulag - two million prisoners, in fact, a remarkable proportion of them Black. Rape of young prisoners, both male and female, is commonplace. So is the use of weapons of torture as defined by Amnesty International - stun guns, stun belts, restraint chairs. Prison is a great industry in the United States - just behind pornography, when it comes to profits.

There have been, and remain, considerable sections of mankind for whom the mere articulation of the word "freedom" has resulted in torture and death. I'm referring to the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people throughout Guatemala, El Salvador, Turkey, Israel, Haiti, Brazil, Greece, Uruguay, East Timor, Nicaragua, South Korea, Argentina, Chile, the Philippines and Indonesia, for example, killed in all cases by forces inspired and subsidised by the United States. Why did they die? They died because to one degree or another, they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression that is their birthright. On behalf of the dead, we must regard the breathtaking discrepancy between US government language and US government action with the absolute contempt it merits.

The United States has in fact - since the end of the Second World War - pursued a brilliant, even witty, strategy. It has exercised a sustained, systematic, remorseless and quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good. But at least now - it can be said - the US has come out if its closet. The smile is still there, of course (all US presidents have always had wonderful smiles), but the posture is infinitely more naked and more blatant than it has ever been. The Bush administration, as we all know, has rejected the Kyoto agreement, has refused to sign an agreement which would regulate the trade in small arms, has distanced itself from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Biological Weapons Convention. In relation to the latter, the US made it quite clear that it would agree to the banning of the biological weapons factory on American soil. The US has also refused to ratify the proposed International Criminal Court of Justice. It is bringing into operation the American Service Members Protection Act, which will permit the authorisation of military force to free any American soldier taken into International Criminal Court custody. 

Arrogant, indifferent, contemptuous of international law, both dismissive and manipulative of the United Nations, this is now the most dangerous power the world has ever known - the authentic "rogue state", but a "rogue state" of colossal military and economic might. And Europe - especially the United Kingdom - is both compliant and complicit, or as Cassius in Julius Caesar put it: we "peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves".

There is, however, as we have seen, a profound revulsion and disgust with the manifestations of US power and global capitalism, which is growing throughout the world and becoming a formidable force in its own right. But we are free. And I believe that this brutal and malignant world machine must be recognised for what it is and resisted.


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