Interview with Stefan Hertmans

“It is a terrible paradox of democracy: freedom can turn against itself. Media plays an important role in this.”

In this new guest contribution, Salome Kobalava speaks to Stefan Hertmans.  Stefan, born in Ghent in Belgium, is a leading Dutch-language writer and poet, head of a study centre at University College Ghent and affiliated researcher of the Ghent University.

Winner of several major literary prizes, he has published novels, collections of short stories, essays on literature and philosophy, theatre texts, and poetry. His works are widely translated around Europe into a number of languages.

Recently, Hertmans visited Tbilisi where the interview took place.  The conversation proved so profound that right after the interview, Salome determined it must be disseminated  and read by as many people as possible.

Here, Hertmans talks about contemporary literature, the role of writers in society, democracy and the media.

By Salome Kobalava

Q: What makes contemporary literature so different from what we had, let’s say, before WWII?  Have principles, values or attitudes changed, and what has changed?

A: I think that the most important change has been the evolution into a general existentialism. Existentialism inWestern Europe means that religion as a theme has lost its leading significance and has become less important. Religion as a topic might come back, but since WW II, post-modernist literature has become mainly agnostic. In post-modernist literature writers and philosophers are dealing with social problems, existentialist problems. Characters of the novel have to stand for their own responsibilities, for their own deeds. Questions like guilt, morals, social feeling, empathy, selfishness, hate, love, freedom – these are the great themes of post-modern literature.

Existentialism has influenced modern literature most: Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre and deconstructionist philosophers such as Jacques Derrida, as well as the insights of modern psychology. If you mix all these elements into a cocktail, you get today’s western modern man or woman who is free to act, responsible for his/her own self, who tries to live in a complex reality. On the formal level, the novel emancipated into a genre in which practically everything is possible. Many writers experimented with the liberty that the novel offers.

Q: Has the role of books and the place of a writer in society changed in the past decades?

A: Yes, the role of a book has changed, certainly in capitalist societies. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, we were confronted with writers from Eastern Europe who said: “You guys in Western Europe can do whatever you want, but they do not listen to you”. Which means, I can write anything and will not be persecuted or censored? But the problem is that this freedom also means that writers do not play a vital political role anymore: they have been banished to a cultural playground.

What writers try to do in post-modern literature is to open up again and reach a broader public. The question is: how to regain social impact in modern democracies, in this supermarket of populist opinions without selling your soul to the devil? You have two choices: to become a commercial writer and produce soap-like novels. In order to become heard and perceived, you can appear on television, write in newspapers and magazines. But you always have to try to stand your ground as an intellectual.  I chose to remain a more essayistic, philosophical author and I try to gain authority by participating in important social and political debates without begging for the spotlights. Of course today we have so many ways to communicate publicly: via Facebook, blogs, websites, debates, manifestations, internet forums, publishing critical comments in newspapers.  This is another way to try to stay present in the polyphony of a rapidly changing world. But let’s not forget that the first task of a writer is an artistic one. That also is a message: not all communication needs to be functional. Imagination and beauty are fundamental cultural rights.

Q: In the literary debate you took part in here, in Tbilisi, the existence of European Literature was questioned. What is your opinion, do you also question it, do you think European Literature does not exist?

A: It is not clear where the limits of European Literature are, that is the point. How do you confine European literature, can you separate it from western literature in general? As to my opinion, there is no such thing as a clear-cut European literature. The proof is any international festival. Wherever you go, any author you ask what his/her examples of great authors are, they all give the same answers: authors like Philip Roth, Nabokov, Borges, Joyce, Flaubert, Mann, Proust, Marquez and not to forget the huge new American authors such as Richard Powers, Paul Auster etc. I think that this ecumenism of literature cannot be called specifically European literature: it is western literature.

Nowadays we see that great Arabic, Indian, Japanese and Chinese authors have more and more impact on world literature. In earlier days, these literatures originated from collective stories, but they have also emancipated into critical individualist authors. Individualistic does not need to be negative. It can mean that one wants to remain critical and oppose any form of collective pressure. Just as Voltaire said : “Neither God nor Master”. It is the task of the writer to be as good as he can and defend the freedom of speech against power in any form. At the same time this gives him an important social responsibility: morally, politically, in questions of love or friendship. Western literature has tried to mould this modern man, who does not need god to tell him what is good but has his own consciousness and judgment. Our literatures work from the individual to the collective body, while in more authoritarian regimes they have had to work from the collective to the individual.

Q: Who are your favourite authors and who has influenced you most?

A: I find it impossible to choose a favorite author, it is every single one in my library at home. However, great German poets of the 18th century have had a great impact on me and my poetry, which I think is the most important part of my literary work. In modern poetry Paul Celan – the Rumanian poet, who wrote in German, has had a definite impact on my way of writing and the hope I have for poetry in tomorrow’s world. In prose writing, authors of great importance to me are Flaubert, Kafka, Borges, Nabokov, but also a stubborn loner like Peter Handke, who has the courage to constantly go against the fashionable trends.

Q: Can you recall your favourite literary character?

A:  It is a bit absurd I know, but Gogol’s Nose is the character that comes to my mind at the moment (laughs).

Q: How important is literature, how does it help humanity and civilization become better or does it help at all?

A: I sacredly believe in the meaning of literature. I have been at a few festivals in Latin Americawhere people are still fighting for human rights. In Mexicoor in Colombiaand dangerous cities like Bogota, Medellinplunged in drug wars, people live with fear. They consider even the simplest poem as a symbol of freedom. In places like that, you feel and see that literature is terribly important to people as long as they do not have social stability. This means that literature helps, it teaches humanistic values. To me, literature still remains the tool that has a great function of humanizing society. However, writers do not have that penetration into masses as they had in the beginning of 20th century. The cinema industry has taken over.

If you look back on the 20s and 30s of the past century, novel writers like Thomas Mann were asked to become president. In the second half of the century, Mario Vargas Llosa was in the running for presidency, and the Chzech author Vaclav Havel indeed became president. In our societies however, it is hardly imaginable that novel writers could regain political importance to that degree.

As the function and task of literature is empathy, understanding and beauty, it helps people to learn how to live in dignity, how to be less cruel and more disposed to humanism. Even if this may sound naïve, I think it is important to cling to that idea.

Q: You mentioned cinematography, which has become the rival of literature and even the conqueror, in the sense that it is winning a much wider audience. Cinema relates to media, what is your opinion of media overall?

A: Nowadays the power of the media is so immense that writers have to strive to find their place in it. There is a new force born with media-populism. It comes from television and can be very dangerous as it teaches and indoctrinates people to vote for let’s say, a good looking clown  who knows how to sell himself.

The most terrible example of this media-catastrophe is of course Silvio Berlusconi. He abuses 17 year old girls but he is still there in power because he acts out the sympathetic movie-macho. Why is he still there? Because people find him appealing. This means that in democracy, if you let things on the loose, it can become antidemocratic. It is a terrible paradox of democracy: freedom can turn against itself. Media plays an important role in this. They have the task to be critical for their own impact. Authors can confront media with the moral side of public action.

With the arrival of the new media such as Facebook, Twitter and other internet forums, everybody can interact with newspapers and get his or her views published. These media have shown how important they are for democratic movements. The Arab revolution is a good example.

In my country populist parties preached a radical anti-Islamic policy and argued that Islam could never become democratic, and look: all of the sudden we saw people in jeans, Facebooking and Twittering in the Arab world, people like you and me, standing out against dictators. This proves that the media have a fantastic power to emancipate, but it can also be abused. Therefore we must remain watchdogs.

Salome Kobalava is a journalist with Georgia Today. Interview published here with full permission.  

Photograph courtesy of Leli Blagonravova

The views expressed in this post are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the blog’s administrators.


Last weekend’s fairytale for grown-ups

By David Lobzhanidze

The prince finds his princess and marries her; meanwhile in another part of the world the villain is defeated and killed. Yet, this is not just another fairytale scenario we used to read as children. This is the real world events of last weekend.

Two days after the pomp and ceremony of the Royal wedding in London, Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was killed as a result of a successful raid carried out by US Special Forces in Pakistan.

The American President and his closest advisors, such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, watched a live feed from a camera mounted on the helmet of one of the US SEALS who carried out the operation codenamed “Geronimo”.  Yet, those who did not have the same luxury still raise questions about bin Laden’s death.

The doubts were fuelled more by a fake photo, first broadcasted by a Pakistani TV station, which later went viral on various media outlets as well as the internet.

Obama’s decision not to release the real death photos on Wednesday, when he was forced to insist that he was “absolutely certain” that bin Laden was dead, will have inspired the imagination of the world’s conspiracy theorists.  However, the commander-in-chief said it was a matter of “national security” not to do so. He also said the images are too graphic to be seen by the public.

Despite the President’s decision, some of his senior advisors were pushing him to release the gruesome final shots.

Perhaps bin Laden’s swift sea burial can be backed up by a reasonable explanation: the desire not to attract too many spectators, while also satisfying the need to bury him within 24 hours in accordance with Islamic tradition.   Yet, many still delayed celebrations in case the liquidation of the world’s most wanted terrorist was just an elaborate hoax.

Since it seems the decision is final, and photos are not to be published, numerous theories have emerged. One such account suggests that the Al Qaida leader was killed a long time ago and his body was kept secret to allow the US to justify the continued war against terrorism.  This version of events supports the idea that the death was concealed to allow for the increased allocation of military spending in pursuit of national interests.  Now, some suggest, with an election looming, the announcement of the death has become a political weapon for Obama.

Despite various doubts regarding bin Laden’s death, it is still legitimate to say that Republican candidates definitely have something to fear about the upcoming presidential elections of 2012. Obama continues to accomplish “Herculean labours.” Now he has a Nobel Prize and the defeat of bin Laden under his belt.   This will certainly be in the minds of American voters, none of whom will ever forget the tragedy on 9/11.

While most of the relatives of 9/11 victims feel at least some sort of relief, many will understand that the “battle” is not over yet and the terrorist problem is a complex one with no easy solution.

One may argue that it is even more important to understand terrorism and fight its root causes rather than just tackle the surface level problems. Anti-terrorist operations may be successful and bring some sort of relief to the victims. However, it is much less of a certainty to assume that terrorism can be defeated in any significant way if it is not tackled in depth and correctly.

It is true to say that Barack Obama’s “Herculean labour” was accomplished triumphantly and that the “terrorism hydra” is now beheaded (unless you are one of the aforementioned conspiracy theorists). Yet, what is crucial is that we consider how many more heads the “hydra” may have. The key question is: who will be the new villain to threaten all that is good in the land of princes and dreams? And, of course, will we all live happily ever after?

Apple tax: an introduction

In this introduction to a new series of posts, guest blogger Graeme Thorburn reveals how your favourite technology firms may be stifling the market and impeding genuine progress in the field of computer science.

By Graeme Thorburn

Have you heard about the recession? Of course you have. You’ve been hit with wage freezes, increases in V.A.T., insanely high fuel costs and an assault on your senses every time you turn on your television, computer or smartphone.

There’s the rub though. How much money have you spent making sure that despite the worst economic climate since the 1920’s, you’re tooled up with the latest gadgets to ensure this stream of misery does not escape you?  Don’t bother telling me the answer, I know. Lots.

If you are under 30, you’ll more than likely have a laptop, smartphone, MP3 player and possibly a desktop too. Couple this with games consoles, Blu-Ray players, HD televisions and all the other bits and bobs which make up our digital revolution and we’re talking four figure sums here. 5 figures if you’re an early adopter. That’s an awful lot of money.

The technology industry is booming due to the promise of a better, more interactive world through an almost infinite number of devices thrown at us in the hope that a few of them will match Apple, the new dominant force in computing.

Wait a minute, don’t Apple have a minority share of the personal computer market? Well yes, but they are the undisputed kings of slickly designed data retention and delivery devices, the delivery method, and the psychology behind making you buy them and still feel like you’re not going with the flow.

This is the new measure of a technology company’s power. Forget looking at the  PC, laptop and phone as separate devices, they are merging into one and at the current rate, Apple will dominate the lot. 10 years ago was a lifetime in technology. Microsoft was at the top of the tree, there were still alternatives to  Google (BING doesn’t count, before you start), and Apple were seen as the cool  fresh new brand with their innovative take on the portable hard disk – the ipod.

Skip forward to today and Apple are hard-balling companies as big as Amazon  for a share of revenue from ebooks downloaded onto their devices. They  recently asked for a 30% cut from anyone downloading an ebook onto an Apple  device from the Amazon site. The ipad is seen as Apple’s intent to do to ebooks  what the ipod did for music. The only problem with that is that Amazon have t  heir own device, the Kindle, which retails at around a quarter of the price of the  ipad.

That is frankly a worrying demand, as it shows that Apple have their eyes firmly on domination of both the delivery of media to your device, and the device itself. It’s very 90’s Microsoft and shows Apple now trying to take a bite out of everyone else thanks to their now excellent financial position.

They also ludicrously tried to patent the “App”, which essentially is just a delivery system for software. It is obvious that Apple see charging for delivery of media content as key to their future success and are playing some real dirty tricks to get it.  It’s all there right before your eyes folks, except it’s hidden in the technology section, where you will generally only go when a shiny new thing is announced and you watch the promo video and gasp at the possibilities it offers.

Technology is no longer cool. It’s fashionable. This is frightening, because that now means that massive amounts of money are now being pumped into making sure you have the right device in your hand, and if you don’t you’re a social pariah. Even my mother now wants an iphone. Two years ago she had never even opened a laptop.

Now the point about this is not to denigrate Apple for climbing to the top of the tree instead of dropping off it like their name, which has only recently become their own after they settled with the Beatles’ record label, would suggest.

They have done magnificently well at transforming technology into the mainstream consciousness. They seek to make devices slick, easy to use and navigate and they do a sterling job at this. They are a true success story, having gone to the brink of extinction after sacking the mercurial Steve Jobs and forcing him out of his own company to be replaced by the CEO of Pepsi, who did a miserable job. I bet Mr Jobs feels pretty great about that.  Anyone would in that situation.

However, I cannot help but feel that this massive new influx of those who previously would not have seen a new electronic device as something to get excited about is to the detriment of the obsessives, geeks and nerds of the internet forums who for years have been furrowing away, creating solutions to problems which the big companies could or would not address.

These people have all ended up doing very well in IT, so don’t feel sorry for them, or think that I am looking back at the days of DOS and Windows 98 with any form of nostalgia.  It was rubbish back then. Nothing worked properly, and in order to find out what was wrong, inexplicable error messages had to be decoded, usually by trawling the internet for a solution.  Many a time I typed in this inexplicable text into my browser’s search and found in every case that someone else had the same issue and had moaned about it on a forum and after some digging I’d eventually fix what was wrong.

“Hark” I hear you cry! “My Macbook never crashes so I never have to look for solutions for anything, and what does all your moaning have to do with tech forums anyway?” Well bully for you Mr. or Mrs. two thousand pound laptop.  But you are missing out on a thriving community of technical specialists, nerds, frustrated users and PC gamers who have collectively combined, evolved and improved just like our fabled computers of yesteryear. They can make or break hardware with their praise or condemnation and are a rich source of information for anyone willing to dig. The technology companies fear and court them, and these guys are the real masters of technology.

It’s only when you delve into this world that you realise that all is not well in the technology market, and that this digital future is being built upon the corpses of viable technology, precious metal and silicone.

The more environmentally conscious and poorer people of 2011 might be startled to know that not only are companies wilfully disregarding technology which could be used to enhance an existing computer’s life, they are also keeping prices high and maintaining a policy of ensuring you have to buy a new computer every two or three years.

This flies in the face of the paring back, making do and making things last attitude we are expected to adopt in these tough times. If you look though, if you really look, you’ll realise that the answers to fighting back at technology companies and their lies resides in these forums, if you are prepared to dig.

If you’re not prepared to dig, please allow me to pull out some little nuggets which should make you ponder if Apple themselves share the values of their core customer base, if the microchip companies really want you to only have one device for all purposes, and if we really are hurtling towards a brighter future, or being blinded with fancy, shiny new things whilst being mugged.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the blog’s administrators.

Interview with Dr Douglas Chalmers

In our first video post, Ronan Martin is joined by Dr Douglas Chalmers.  Douglas has a background in economics and is a lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University where he teaches media ethics.

In this in-depth interview, Douglas covers issues such as the increasing monopolisation of the media, the role of the internet in journalism – as well as in the recent Arab uprisings – and the significance of the Wikileaks revelations.

The discussion was filmed at Caledonian University in the journalism department’s custom built TV newsroom.

Despite a slight technical hitch with camera 1 at the beginning – and a rather troublesome and intrusive earpiece! – we are pleased to have had such a productive discussion on our first attempt.

On leaving Libya

Temo Kighuradze is a reporter for PIK TV, Georgia.  Recently he travelled to cover the uprising in Libya.  He has kindly granted us access to his personal photos, which we publish below alongside a translation of his first hand account of the conflict.

Temo specialises in conflict reporting and has reported on the Russia-Georgia war, as well as from Afghanistan.

Despite his military expertise and focus on strategy, Temo was particularly moved by the spirit of the Libyan people.

His story was originally published in Russian on March 13th 2011 on his personal blog at

Please be aware that some of the photographs below may be too graphic for some readers.

By Temo Kighuradze

I am now safely en route to Egypt and I can post.

First of all I would like to say that the Libyans are the most amazing people I have ever met. I have never experienced such hospitality on my travels and never seen struggling people show such sympathy for one another.

Though their country is in hell, they greet everyone and invite them to their homes. Taxi drivers don’t cheat when they get to know their passenger is a foreigner. Sometimes they even refuse to take any money at all! This is unbelievable.

I counted at least 15 people who approached us and offered to be drivers, guides or translators  for free.  When I asked them why they were doing this, they said they simply wanted us to tell others what’s happening in Libya. They don’t need anything else from us.

The second thing to mention is the role of western states.  It is true that many of those who organize protests and work with the people are educated in American and European Universities. In my opinion, the synthesis of western education and the nation’s inherent decency is what is saving eastern Libya from total chaos.

There is no police or city council to speak of. Internet access is unavailable and banks are out of service in the revolting cities. Power is in the people’s hands: kids are regulating the traffic and bands of comrades collect rubbish in the street. This is an example of the kind of civil responsibility that we read about in books. And if this “provocation” comes from USA then I want similar provocation in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Much worse is the condition of the opposition army. Mostly it consists of volunteers who have no military experience. The professional army fled in the first days of the conflict.  Later the new opposition authority returned some of them to train the younger fighters.

The military equipment would not look out of place in a museum. I have seen some American rifles from the Korean war as well as old Soviet machine guns. But the most interesting sight was the use of a German “Sturmgewehr” assault rifle, a favourite in Nazi Germany.

Armoured vehicles come in the shape of the T-55 and BMP – 1, again a throwback to the Soviet era. Most of them are not even able to move. They are mostly used for firing from a fixed position.  A captured airstrip is also at the opposition forces’ disposal, along with several SU – 24 aircraft and a couple of “Mirage” fighters. However, there is a lack of trained pilots.

I am finished for today.  There are 700 kilometres between me and Cairo.  I shudder to think how many more there are between me and Tbilisi.


Demonstration in Bengazi. People gather in the main square. The corpses of soldiers are brought here.


Banners thank France, which recognizes the government of rebels.


It is hard to believe, but sometimes these kind of daggers are also used in combat zones.

Corpses of 9 opposition members, burnt alive. The bags contain the remains of their bodies.

The corpse of one of Gaddafi's mercenaries. He was axed to death.


Temo witnessed the arrival of this patient who had three gunshot wounds and a tear in the stomach.


Opposition forces in the town of Ras Lanuf.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the blog’s administrators.

The butcher’s apron now has an easy-wipe coating

By Ronan Martin

At the height of its colonial prowess, Britain’s dependence on bloodshed and brutality was well renowned.  From neighbouring Ireland, to territories as far afield as South America and Africa, millions of people knew the Union Jack as the “butcher’s apron”.  It was so stained through with blood that attempts to wash it clean would have been futile.

Things have changed a bit over the centuries and, with notable exceptions such as Iraq, Britain’s complicity in crimes against foreign populations is much harder to identify.  But although direct brutality and violence isn’t as frequent, support for brutal regimes continues almost unashamedly and with a sense of arrogance even.  Now, the stakes are slightly different too.  Economic motives have replaced territorial conquest at the heart of unethical policy.

In recent weeks we have seen both faces of David Cameron’s Conservative government.  At first we saw the polished TV performance we have come to expect from world leaders.  Cameron joined figureheads such as Barack Obama to condemn violence in the Arab world, particularly the brutal repression of reformists in Libya.  Yet, we also witnessed the unsavoury nature of British interest in the region.

Amidst turmoil and uncertainty in Egypt, Cameron became the first Western leader to visit the country. The visit was part of a tour across the Middle East that the prime minister had already scheduled.  Did he come with a convoy of experts in the democratic process or a team of leading peacemakers?  Not quite. Cameron was in the region with a group of arms dealers who were no doubt dribbling at the mouth at the prospect of further tension in the area.  Of course, in Whitehall-speak this was a mission to promote British “business” and strengthen “security ties”.  Words like “defence” are often used in place of “aggression” when the country’s reputation is at stake.  It is, quite frankly, Orwellian.

Just like US helicopters are used to rain down misery on the people of Gaza, British bullets and “defence” technology find a welcome home in states where governments are unstable and wary of their own populations.  As has always been the case, the UK’s interests come first.  The success and stability of our arms trade is more important than preventing further bloodshed in the Arab world.

Cameron’s public denouncement of the violent suppression of Libya’s protesters is little more than a face-saving exercise when we consider that Britain has, up until the last week or so, sold arms to Gaddafi. The UK has now withdrawn export licences to Libya due to the escalation of violence there.

But, shouldn’t there now be a pause for reflection?  The region is being shaken by numerous uprisings and the future is anything but certain. Shouldn’t Cameron and co take a breather until they can determine the future political landscape of the region?  Who knows where the bullets will go, what they will be used for or who will fall victim to them?

Sarah Waldron of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said:   “It’s an absolute disgrace that the Prime Minister has taken these arms dealers with him. People across the Middle East are dying for democracy at the same time as the Government seems intent on flogging their wares to those very regimes that are suppressing these values.”

The truth is that the UK’s interests will always be the top priority, bloodshed or not.  If you can get away with selling arms to dubious regimes in the name of “defence”, then blame it all on those regimes when the arms are used to devastating effect:  you better believe that’s what Britain will continue to do.

The Union Jack is still a butcher’s apron but now it comes with an easy-wipe coating.  When it becomes blood-soaked, in the name of forging “security ties” or promoting “defence”, it is quickly wiped clean before it can become blood-stained.  Just withdraw the licence and move on.  Yet, with the future of so many Arab nations now in the balance, Cameron will be hoping that a democratic surge will not create governments made up of people with a more accurate understanding of Britain’s role in the world than his own population. Perhaps there was more than just business behind his trip.

When the truth is found to be lies…

By David Lobzhanidze

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, (codenamed “Curveball”) admitted just a week ago that the information he was giving to the CIA was nothing but lies.  But Rafid was not punished for this.  Instead he gained asylum to Germany.

His allegations convinced the Washington administration to wage war against a dictator who supposedly possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

It is probably unlikely that somebody promised Curveball asylum and a German passport in exchange for a pack of lies.  But, at the same time it is difficult to believe that CIA and the German secret service (BND)  could not tell a  lie from the truth.

Justifying the invasion of Iraq, Colin Powell, then one of the world’s most influential men, referred to Curveball as an engineer who had witnessed the existence of WMD.

Now, Colin Powell demands answers from the CIA.  The irony is that lies did not stop the US and allied forces invading Iraq with the supposed aim of finding WMD that never existed. Now, the truth can send a man to a prison.

Clearly Curveball is no angel.  It would be naive and illogical  to assume that he lied simply to free his people from a ruthless dictator.  It is more realistic to assume that his primary motive was to gain asylum in Germany.  Recently, Curveball stated he was creating a political party and was returning to Iraq. It is no surprise that, given he has now been exposed as lying with regards to WMD, many Iraqis oppose his return.

However, there is still more than meets the eye.  In recent coverage it has been widely suggested that Curveball’s claims formed the primary justification for war in Iraq.  Were his claims really given so much weight before the invasion?

It seems that somebody wants to wash their hands and blame everything on Curveball.  One could imagine Washington officials saying “Hey, it is not our fault. Here’s the guy who lied.  Hang him we’ll all move on”.  It may seem absurd that we should not be surprised to see somebody saying that it was actually Curveball who started the war, not the Bush administration.

The late Howard Zinn, American historian and author, rejects the myth of human nature which suggests that we long for war.  On the contrary, he argues that it requires a lot of propaganda to persuade people that war is inevitable.  For Zinn, people are naturally rather peaceful creatures as opposed to aggressors.

The US administration had to persuade its own people as well as the international community that war was absolutely necessary, that Iraq possessed WMD and was a rogue state posing a threat to the world.  The US was duty bound to protect the world.  It used numerous reports and questionable evidence to back up and justify the invasion.  We all know what happened next.

However, instead of being forced to accept responsibility, the US has been handed a scapegoat.  His name is Curveball and we are led to believe that he fooled two very powerful organisations, the CIA and the BND.  Can this be true?  If so, the power of these institutions can be questioned and their competence must be scrutinised too.

Watch Curveball’s confession to The Guardian: