Saturday, November 16, 2002


Ramona Koval Wednesday August 28, 2002 The Guardian

"RK: You spoke before about the joy you had in writing that latest poem. Language has been your passion during all your life, and relating the idea of war and people's words in war, and I know that the abuse of language and meaning is something that has incensed you over the years - phrases like "humanitarian intervention" and "civilised world" and "axis of evil" over the last year and the one that we've all just begun to hear recently, and that's "regime change".
HP: My favourite of them all is "freedom-loving people". When I hear Bush say that "on behalf of all freedom-loving people we are going to continue to fight terrorism" and so on, I wonder what a "freedom-hating people" look like, I've never met such a people myself or can't even conceive of it. In other words, he is talking rubbish. That is the kind of rhetoric which you are referring to, which is commonplace really in what we call the western world. I think that when you look at a man like our prime minister - who I gather is a very sincere and serious Christian - he, we understand at the moment, is considering another bombing of Iraq, which would be an act of premeditated murder because if you bomb Iraq, you're not just going to kill Saddam Hussein. In fact, you won't do that anyway; he has his resources.

What you will do, as usual, is kill thousands of totally innocent people. How Tony Blair can work that one out morally himself is actually beyond me. I just wish he would decide if he was a Christian or he wasn't a Christian. If you say, "I'm going to bomb these damn people and I don't give a shit", then you bomb them, but that's not a Christian attitude as far as I'm concerned.

If you take a Christian posture, you cannot say that. So I think that what we're talking about there is an extraordinary, fundamental hypocrisy and a distortion of language altogether which is, in itself, extremely destructive. Because language leads us, doesn't it? Politically it leads us into all sorts of fields. But what I find really dangerous and disgusting is where the kind of language we've recently heard - "humanitarian intervention", don't forget "freedom" and "democracy" and all the rest of it - actually is justifying a simply assertive act to control power and maintain power. And the question of destroying human beings while that is happening seems to be irrelevant.

There's a little story I must tell you. In the bombing of Serbia two years ago, there was a market place in a country village called Nis. And I am actually reporting an eyewitness to this event. A woman was sitting with her five-year-old daughter on a bench in the marketplace, having a sandwich. And out of the blue, bombs fell, American bombs. The marketplace was chaos. About 40 or 50 people were killed immediately. And this woman looked for her daughter who had been blown out of her arms. She saw the daughter's head in the gutter.

Now that head of that little girl would be never recognised by Prime Minister Blair or President Clinton. In fact, the death and the cutting off of the head of the girl would be totally irrelevant to those people. I would contend, and I really believe this to be so, that Clinton and Blair should be arraigned as war criminals. Because not only did they do it illegally, illegitimately - in my view, immorally - they justified it by talking about "humanitarian intervention". And that kind of crap, I think we've had enough of it. "