Pinter demands war crimes trial for Blair

by David Fickling

Guardian Unlimited (, December 7, 2005

The Nobel prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter has called for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes, in his acceptance speech to the Nobel committee.

The 5,000-word speech excoriates the US government over Guantánamo Bay and its attempts to destabilise Nicaragua in the 1980s.

But he saves his most savage comments for the UK, described as "pathetic and supine" and a "bleating little lamb" tagging along behind the US in its support for the Iraq war.

"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law," he said.

"The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public ... a formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

"We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people, and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'."

The 75-year-old will not be attending Saturday's award ceremony at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm because of poor health. He will be sending his publisher, Stephen Page, in his place to receive the 10m kroner prize.

But the author of The Caretaker and The Birthday Party has recorded a video of himself reading the speech, looking frail in a wheelchair with a red blanket over his legs.

In recent years he has been treated for cancer, and appeared with a bandaged head earlier this year when it was announced that he had been awarded the prize.

One of the original "angry young men" who revolutionised British theatre in the 1950s, he has lost none of his fury in the speech.

"How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought," he said.

"Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the international criminal court of justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the international criminal court of justice ...

"But Tony Blair has ratified the court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the court have his address if they're interested: it is Number 10, Downing Street, London."

He also discusses his early plays, the creative process, and the ambiguity of language.

Beginning with a 1958 quote in which he claims that "a thing is not necessarily either true or false", he says that sometimes a writer has to escape questions about the uncertainty of truth and stand up for what they think is right.

"I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art

"So as a writer I stand by them, but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: what is true, what is false?"

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