Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Harold Pinter on the world’s Unpeople

Harold Pinter is a contemporary playwright, political activist and voice of conscience. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature a year and a half ago and his acceptance address ‘Art, Truth and Politics‘ is well worth a read.

The brief article below is a simpler piece yet powerful in its simplicity. It is the text of a speech given at Turin University upon being awarded an honorary doctorate in November 2002. In this address, he starts by affirming how his own recent brush with cancer has made him value life all the more. It has also compelled him to reflect upon what he calls the public nightmare of this Bushzarro era, with a trajectory that he predicts will only lead to catastrophe if left unchallenged. Only slightly truncated, it can be read in full here here and here.

Pinter does well to remind us not only of the folly of the programme of the neocons in which Bush is but one actor, but also to remind us of the value of human life—the equal value of human life cf. the corporate media’s undeclared coverage calculus that “one American life equals ten European lives, equals ten thousand African lives.”


The US is at this moment developing advanced systems of “weapons of mass destruction” and it prepared to use them where it sees fit. It has more of them than the rest of the world put together. It has walked away from international agreements on biological and chemical weapons, refusing to allow inspection of its own factories. The hypocrisy behind its public declarations and its own actions is almost a joke.

The United States believes that the three thousand deaths in New York are the only deaths that count, the only deaths that matter. They are American deaths. Other deaths are unreal, abstract, of no consequence.

The three thousand deaths in Afghanistan are never referred to.

The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead through US and British sanctions which have deprived them of essential medicines are never referred to.

The effect of depleted uranium, used by America in the Gulf War, is never referred to. Radiation levels in Iraq are appallingly high. Babies are born with no brain, no eyes, no genitals. Where they do have ears, mouths or rectums, all that issues from these orifices is blood.

The two hundred thousand deaths in East Timor in 1975 brought about by the Indonesian government but inspired and supported by the United States are never referred to.

The half a million deaths in Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina and Haiti, in actions supported and subsidised by the United States are never referred to.

The millions of deaths in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are no longer referred to.

The desperate plight of the Palestinian people, the central factor in world unrest, is hardly referred to.

But what a misjudgement of the present and what a misreading of history this is.


People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only don’t forget. They strike back.

The atrocity in New York was predictable and inevitable. It was an act of retaliation against constant and systematic manifestations of state terrorism on the part of the United States over many years, in all parts of the world.

In Britain the public is now being warned to be “vigilant” in preparation for potential terrorist acts. The language is in itself preposterous.

How will – or can – public vigilance be embodied? Wearing a scarf over your mouth to keep out poison gas? However, terrorist attacks are quite likely, the inevitable result of our Prime Minister’s contemptible and shameful subservience to the United States. Apparently a terrorist poison gas attack on the London Underground system was recently prevented. But such an act may indeed take place. Thousands of school children travel on the London Underground every day. If there is a poison gas attack from which they die, the responsibility will rest entirely on the shoulders of our Prime Minister. Needless to say, the Prime Minister does not travel on the underground himself.

The planned war against Iraq is in fact a plan for premeditated murder of thousands of civilians in order, apparently, to rescue them from their dictator.

The United States and Britain are pursuing a course which can lead only to an escalation of violence throughout the world and finally to catastrophe.

It is obvious, however, that the United States is bursting at the seams to attack Iraq. I believe that it will do this – not just to take control of Iraqi oil – but because the US administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal. Bombs are its only vocabulary. Many Americans, we know, are horrified by the posture of their government but seem to be helpless.

Unless Europe finds the solidarity, intelligence, courage and will to challenge and resist US power Europe itself will deserve Alexander Herzen’s definition (as quoted in the Guardian newspaper in London recently) “We are not the doctors. We are the disease”.

Harold Pinter

The Assassinated Press

2 comments on “Harold Pinter on the world’s Unpeople

  1. Servant
    5 April, 2007

    How much does it cost to make the world safe for Zionism?

    That’s what this is all about isn’t it? Making the world safe for Zionism? What about the rest of us? Don’t we count?

    Because Israel lives inside a fortress, we do too?

    Where there be “terrorists” if we weren’t trying shove Israel up the world’s ass?

    Because Israel and the U.S. ignore UN agreements, we all have police with machine guns at the airports?

    Because Israel wants to starve Palestinians off their own land, the whole world has to get permission from the United States to get on an airplane?

    Because Israel wants to live behind a wall, we all have to go through metal detectors, turn on laptops, throw away bottles of lotion and tooth paste?

    Why do we have to go through x-ray machines that can see our naked bodies through our clothes? Will they take our naked pictures and store them in a database? How will we know?

    All to make the world safe for Israel?

    Because Israel cannot make a place for the people who were displaced by it’s creation, everyone else has to live in terror?

    Now we have facial recognition programs scanning people in stadiums comparing citizens to mug shots in an image database.

    We have ubiquitous cameras watch us all walk down the street.

    Let’s see

    How many billions have we spent?

    How many hundreds of thousands of lives have been destroyed?

    How many homes have been destroyed?

    How many hospitals? How many bridges?

    How many cluster bomb-lets are just waiting to fall out of fruit trees in Lebanon – like the sin fruit from the tree of knowledge?

    How many are little bomb-lets still waiting for lawn mowers to run over them?

    All to make the world safe for Zionists.

    How many people – men, women and children – are languishing in prison because Israel’s vision of freedom accommodates only Jews?

    We should send the bill for all these costs to Israel.

    Someone should add up all the costs and demand repayment of the what the world has suffered because someone thought Israel was a good idea.

    Think again. How much does it cost?

    Is it worth it?

  2. peoplesgeography
    5 April, 2007

    Well cataloged. The cost is definitely not worth it. The steep and ill-advised path to the abyss Israel has set upon and is dragging the whole world down is not happening uncontested. We will get off this horrific course.

    Ressentiment must have had a Presentiment about my forthcoming posts, right on this topic.

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"