Sunday, April 01, 2007


Judging by the language in the essay, famed Brit playwright Harold Pinter wrote it sometime during the year before the Iraq invasion. I think I might have even linked to it back during the early days of Real Art. Why ZNet chose to rerun it Friday, without any sort of contextualization, is beyond me. However, this passage struck me as continuing to be important today:

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.

Click here for the rest.

Gore Vidal sometimes refers to the US as "The United States of Amnesia." That is, Americans have very little understanding of their past, and consequently have very little understanding of the present. Our decades of imperial aggression stand as a pretty good example of this. However, I don't really think it's as much about forgetting as it is about remembering. That is, they don't teach this shit in the schools, so everybody who has come of age after the Vietnam and Reagan eras can't remember because they never knew in the first place. Furthermore, while I can't say much about Vietnam because I was only a kid when we finally pulled out, I can say that US press coverage of the dirty wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and elsewhere in Central America was extraordinarily biased toward the official US version of events: many Americans had no idea at the time how bad things got down there, and how we were responsible for a great deal of it, and they continue to have no idea today. Likewise with the death toll coming out of the economic sanctions against Iraq in the 90s. Likewise with how brutally our client state Israel deals with the Palestinians.

You can't forget what you didn't know in the first place.

However, none of that changes Pinter's (and Vidal's) central point: the US government commits countless vile atrocities in the name of the American people, and we're totally, and blissfully, unaware of most of it. I mean, okay, at this point Iraq has gone so horribly wrong that it's impossible to ignore. But what's happening to Palestinians in the Occupied territories lately? I have no idea, myself. How is East Timor doing? There were more US supported massacres a few years ago, but I have no idea how things are now.

This is how the hawks get away with it, and the public schools and press are willing accomplices.