In an open letter, over 1040 illustrious members of PEN International have offered their unconditional and uncritical support to NATO via its current proxy, Ukraine, that has just entered a NATO-instigated war with Russia. Russia, definitely the lesser land-grabber of the two is condemned in the letter while NATO, representing the strategic interests of the USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Belgium and the rest of the 24 member countries, is not even named. Judging from the re-tweets, it is supported by various PEN subsidiaries including PEN Canada, and many famous and infamous writers.
‘PEN President Burhan Sonmez, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, and Nobel Laureates Orhan Pamuk, Svetlana Alexievich, Maria Ressa, join 1040+ in signing an open letter in support of the people of #Ukraine, condemning the senseless war waged by #Putin:’
The letter addressed to ‘our friends and colleagues in Ukraine’, is short and sweet invoking peace, non-violence, free expression, free assembly, and democracy. These ideals are interspersed with a litany of ‘we stand united’, ‘peace must prevail’, ‘the rights of Ukraine’s people to debate their future allegiance and history without Moscow’s interference’, ‘free and safe Europe’, ‘free and independent Ukraine’, and ‘we stand by you and feel your pain’.
But can these lofty words hide the real intent of this letter as it gives open support to the land-grabbing operations of US-led NATO? Since the signatories are all literate and resourceful, they must be aware of the ongoing global power struggle between Russia and the USA. If so, the signatories are not supporting peace, they are pitching for one block to establish its supremacy over the other.
If the intent of this letter was ‘peace’ and ‘peace must prevail’, it would have mentioned NATO’s role in the region and in this war. If it was to support ‘writers, journalists, artists, and all the people of Ukraine’, it would have differentiated between the Government and the People of Ukraine. If ‘an end to proganda that is fuelling the violence’ was desired, there must have been some mention of how the ‘Western’ media, including this letter, is demonizing Russia and Putin. If the concept of the independence of people ‘to debate their future allegiance and history without Moscow’s interference’ was cherished, there must have been some mention of, for example, the rights of Irish people to debate their future allegiance and history without UK’s interference, or the rights of Indigenous people in Canada and the USA to be able to do the same, or the rights of the peoples of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Serbia- the list, as you know, is long.
I tweeted my first reaction to this letter:
Allow me to expand on the latter part of it. If Russia had convinced, for example, Mexico to sign a defence pact with it and Mexico was set to do it, would the USA not attack Mexico to prevent it? And, would Russia not get any part of the responsibility or blame for the war in Mexico? If so, then why does NATO not merit the same credit in Ukraine?
All of us who live in the ‘Western’ countries are beneficiaries of the past and present land-grabbing operations of NATO and some of its member countries before NATO. So, if individuals or groups feel compelled to support the NATO group, it would be understandable since their interests are tied to it. For example, if I was living in Pakistan, and India had attacked, I would have supported Pakistan’s Armed Forces, an institution that I am dead against for not allowing democratic processes to develop in the country, and, I’ll also wish for it to successfully repel that attack. I would do that simply because I want to live in a safe home and for that the status quo, however corrupt and un-just, must stay protected against an outside invasion. And while I give my critical and time-limited support to an exploitative agency, I will not overlook its destructive role in Pakistani politics nor will I cloak my support in high ideals of ‘patriotism’ or ‘nationalism’.
So, feel free to support the NATO group of land-grabbers if you want, but then, acknowledge it and say it for what it is instead of cloaking it in high ideals and omitting relevant and important information.
Much like the propaganda materials provided by governments and their agencies, this letter does not distinguish between ‘people’ and ‘governments’. In this World, no ‘people’ of any country want war- their governments and international power-holders do. Russian people don’t want war, their government does. Ukrainian people don’t want war, their government does. American people don’t want war, their government does. Whoever lumps them together gives all power to the governments, and leaves nothing for the people.
No wonder, this open letter reads like a press release drafted by functionaries in Washington rather than a position statement written by independent intellectuals.
This reminds me of another open letter though not as ‘unprecedented’ since it only had over 150 signatories, that also obliterated facts to suit their concept of free expression. Here’s my respose to it:
And here’s an ode to NATO. Pardon my crude expression in it, the utter sophistication of the subject matter necessitated it.
March 6, 2022