The web of pretences

It is 12 January 2003 and US president Bush has rallied his troops for what he calls “The first war of the 21st century”. What is your view of this crisis, where, briefly, do you stand? This is the question we are putting to people around the world, especially those with their own public reputation and following. Our aim, to help create a truly global debate all can identify with.
Günter Grass
12 January 2003

Against whom is it being waged, this war that purports to be no more than a threat, not a fact? Against a terrible dictator, they tell us.

But Saddam Hussein, like so many other dictators, used to be on the side of the democratic superpower and her allies. Iraq waged war on Iran with Western weapons for eight years. Why? Because the country next door to the dictator’s was ruled by a dictator who was perceived at the time to be the most dangerous enemy.

But in the meantime Saddam Hussein has got hold of weapons of mass destruction, the warmongers claim. Not only does this accusation remain to be proven, but the western countries which make it have their own arsenal of weapons of mass destruction – and this accusation is easy to prove.

They promise that once the dictator has been overthrown, they will bring democracy to Iraq. However, the dictator’s neighbours, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – Western allies which are being used as military bases - are themselves ruled by dictators. Will they become the target of more wars to be waged in the name of democracy?

Of course, these questions are pointless; in its arrogance, the superpower can answer them all. But everyone knows, or at least has an inkling, that the real issue is oil. Or, to be precise: once again, the issue is oil. The web of pretences which usually conceals the interests of the world’s last remaining superpower and her chorus of allies has been worn away to expose the true interests of power. They are revealed in all their hubris as shameless, a danger to the public interest. The president of the United States of America today embodies this danger that faces us all.

©Günter Grass, 2003 and the German Press Agency.

Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.

See also Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 2.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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