It Never Happened
By Harold Pinter
Z magazine, February 1997
Can it be true? Are the other "major powers" in the
world finally moving towards a position where their contempt for
the assertion of U.S. power is actually being embodied in action?
For the fourth year running the United Nations has voted for
the motion condemning the U.S. embargo of Cuba, this time by 137
votes (including Great Britain) to 3. The countries against the
motion were the U.S., Israel, and Uzbekistan. The European Union
is taking the U.S. to the World Trade Organization panel, arguing
that the Helms/Burton bill is illegal. Fourteen out of fifteen
members of the Security Council (including Great Britain) voted
against the U.S. veto of Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The U.S. was on
How can any country stand out against such a consensus?: 137-3;
14-1. How can any country, in the light of such blanket condemnation
of its policies and actions, not pause to take a little thought,
not subject itself to even the mildest and most tentative critical
scrutiny? The answer is quite simple. If you believe you still
call all the shots you just don't give a shit. You say, without
beating about the bush: Yes, sure, I am biased and arrogant and
in many respects ignorant but so what? I possess the economic
and military might to back me to the hilt and I don't care who
knows it. When I say that I also occupy the moral high ground,
you'd better believe it.
The U.S. is without a doubt the greatest show on the road.
Brutal, indifferent, scornful, and ruthless it may be but it's
also very smart. As a salesperson it's out on its own. And its
most saleable commodity is self-love. It's a winner. The U.S.
has actually educated it self to be in love with itself. Listen
to Clinton-and before him, Bush and before him, Reagan and before
him, all the others-say on television the words: "The American
People" as in the sentence "I say to the American People
it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American People
and I ask the American People to trust their president in the
action he is about to take on behalf of the American People."
A nation weeps. It's a pretty brilliant stratagem. Language is
actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words The American
People provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You
don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion
may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties
but you don't know that. Nobody tells you. So the status quo remains
where it is and Father Christmas remains American and America
remains the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Except, of course, for the one and a half million people in
prison, the 50 million living under the poverty line, those about
to be gassed, injected or electrocuted in the 38 out of 52 states
which carry the death penalty. They don't feel quite the same
about this cushion of reassurance, but nobody listens to them
anyway. As they are mostly poor and black they are essentially
subversive. They are subversive because where they are resentful
and critical and degraded and angry, they threaten the stability
of the state. The one thing they can have is God. If they want
"Him." God belongs to every American. Successive American
presidents have made this quite clear.
Sometimes you look back in recent history and you ask: Did
all that really happen? Were half a million "Communists"
massacred in Indonesia in 1965? Were 200,000 people killed in
East Timor in 1975 by Indonesian invaders? Have 300,000 people
died in Central America since 1960? Has the persecution of the
Kurdish people in Turkey reached levels approaching genocide?
Are countless Iraqi children dying every month for lack of food
and medicine brought about by UN sanctions? Did the military coups
in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile result in levels of repression
and depth of suffering comparable to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia,
and the Khmer Rouge? Has the U.S. to one degree or another inspired,
engendered, subsidized, and sustained all these states of affairs?
The answer is yes. It has and it does. But you wouldn't know it.
It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was
happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no
interest . The crimes of the U.S. throughout the world have been
systematic, constant, clinical, remorseless, and fully documented
but nobody talks about them. No body ever has . Of course, it'
s probably more than a newspaper or TV channel's life is worth
to do so. It must be said, that as the absolute necessity of economic
control is at the bottom of all this, any innocent bystander who
happens to raise his / her head must be kicked in the teeth. This
is entirely logical.
Perhaps the story that really takes the biscuit or beats the
band or finally makes the cat laugh is the story of Haiti, a story
virtually ignored by the world for decades. Haiti suffered under
the grisly Duvalier dictatorships and their paramilitary force,
the Ton Ton Macoutes, for 29 years. By 1986 popular feeling was
so powerful that the Duvalier regime collapsed. Other military
dictatorships followed but in 1990 the first actual democratic
election in Haiti took place. Aristide was elected with 67 percent
of the vote. His platform: To bring the Haitian people from misery
to dignity." Eight months later there was a coup d'etat.
For three years the military again ruled. During this period,
5,000 people were killed. The U.S. was finally forced to act.
It led a UN force to the island, to "restore democracy."
What it actually did was to restore the status quo. To give
the generals various modes of asylum and protection and to effectively
neutralize Aristide. His economic policies, for which the people
had elected him, were discarded. The IMF and the World Bank moved
in. They insisted on the application of a structural adjustment
policy which threatens all hope of equitable development and progress
in the country. People in Haiti refer to this plan as the "Death
Plan." It will destroy the country's peasant economy . As
a rider, the U.S. army took from the Haitian army headquarters
160,000 pages of documents. The U.S. government refuses to return
these documents. Why? Guess. The documents show the extent of
CIA involvement in the coup which overthrew Aristide in 1991.
Lastly, an elegy. Curtains are drawn, lights go out. It never
happened. In 1979 the Sandinistas triumphed in a remarkable popular
revolution against the Somoza dictatorship. They went on to address
their poverty stricken country with unprecedented vigor and sense
of purpose. They introduced a literacy campaign and health provisions
for all citizens which were unheard of in the region, if not throughout
the whole continent. The Sandinistas had plenty of faults but
they were thoughtful, intelligent, decent, and without malice.
They created an active, spontaneous, pluralistic society. The
U.S. destroyed, through all means at its disposal and at the cost
of 30,000 dead, the whole damn thing. And they're proud of it.
The general thrust these days is: "Oh, come on, it's
all in the past, nobody's interested any more, it didn't work,
everyone knows what the Americans are like, but stop being naive,
this is the world, there's nothing to be done about it and anyway
fuck it, who cares?" But let me put it this way-the dead
are still looking at us, waiting for us to acknowledge our part
in their murder.
Policy and Pentagon