Nobel Laureate flays Bush

By Haroon Siddiqui
Asheville Global Report No. 386 June 8-14, 2006

Jun. 1- Gunter Grass, celebrated German novelist,
playwright, poet, essayist, sculptor and commentator,
is a living legend. When this Nobel Laureate speaks,
people listen.

His address in Berlin to the annual Congress of
International PEN, the worldwide organization of
writers, had been much anticipated, especially given
his long admonition to intellectuals to speak up on the
political and moral issues of the day.

He himself has done so all his life, most famously
against the Nazi past and contemporary neo-Nazism and

Grass, at 78 still spry and energetic, quickly gets
into his topic, “The hubris of the world’s only
superpower,” and proceeds to offer a sweeping critique.

His words find resonance among the writers gathered,
including another Nobel Laureate, South African
novelist Nadine Gordimer.

“Armed force is used by this superpower to defeat the
terrorism it is itself responsible for,” Grass says,
citing Osama bin Laden, the by-product of US support
for Afghan jihadists in the 1980s. “The war [on Iraq],
deliberately started in blatant disdain of the laws of
civilized societies, produces still more terror.”

Yet George W. Bush is searching for new enemies and

“Dictatorships, and there are plenty to choose from,
are referred to as rogue states and threatened
vociferously with military strikes, including the
deployment of nuclear weapons. But it only further
stabilizes the fundamentalist power systems in those

“Whether the term ‘axis of evil’ is used to refer to
Iran or North Korea or Syria, politics could not be
more stupid and hence more dangerous. Yet the entire
world is watching and pretending to be powerless.”

Grass quotes liberally from the blistering speech given
last year by British playwright Harold Pinter in
accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature: “The United
States supported and, in many cases, engendered every
right-wing military dictatorship in the world after
World War II – Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil,
Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El
Salvador and, of course, Chile…

“Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place in those
countries… but you wouldn’t know it. The crimes of
the US have been systematic, constant, vicious, and
remorseless but very few people have actually talked
about them.

“You have to hand it to America. It has exercised quite
a clinical manipulation of power worldwide while
masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s
brilliant, even witty, a highly successful act of
hypnosis. How many people do you have to kill before
you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a
war criminal?”

Having cited Pinter, Grass adds his own condemnation of
“the hypocritical method of keeping the body count” in
Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Although we meticulously keep count of the victims of
terror attacks – terrible though their number is –
nobody bothers to count the dead caused by American
bombs or rocket attacks.”

The death toll from America’s “three Gulf Wars,” as he
called it – “the first one having been fought by Saddam
Hussein against Iran, with support from the United
States” – runs into hundreds of thousands.

“In Western evaluation, not only are there first-,
second- or third class citizens among the living, but
also among the dead.”

As for Bush and Tony Blair, he says, “whenever their
lies lack persuasive power, they put God into harness.
Hypocrisy is written all over their faces. They are
like the priests and missionaries of old who used to
bless weapons and carry death with their Bibles into
distant countries.”

The enormity of US-initiated death, destruction and
torture, places a burden on the citizens of democracy
to be more vigilant: “Who wanted this war? What are the
lies that have disguised its true purpose? Who profits
from it? Whose shares go up because of it?”

In a post-speech interview, I ask Grass about
governments ignoring the electorate between elections,
as those did in Britain, Italy and Spain, which joined
the war on Iraq despite overwhelming public opposition.

“In the last 10 years, lobbies have become stronger
than the government, in the US and other democracies,”
Grass responds. “They cannot change policy, for
example, on health without the pharmaceutical industry,
or farming policy without the farm groups. Lobbies are
too powerful,” the most powerful being the ones wanting

Source: Toronto Star

Robert S. Rodvik
Author/media analyst

“Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.”
George Orwell – 1984

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