Al Gore’s Peace Prize

Put this one up on the shelf of shame, right next to Henry Kissinger’s, or the peace prize they gave to Kofi Annan and the entire UN in 2001, sandwiched between the UN’s okay for the bombing of Serbia, the killing of untold numbers of Iraqis, many of them babies and children in the years of sanctions, and its greenlight for the bombing of Baghdad in 2003. In 1998 the Nobel crowd gave the prize to Medecins Sans Frontieres, whose co-founder Bernard Kouchner is now France’s foreign secretary urging the bombing of Iran. Like Gore, Kouchner was a rabid advocate of the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and onslaughts on Serbia.

The UN often has an inside track on the “Peace” prize. The UN Peace-Keeping Forces got it in 1988. In 1986 another enthusiast for attacking Iraq and Iran, Elie Wiesel, carried off the trophy. Aside from Kissinger, probably the biggest killer of all to have got the peace prize was Norman Borlaug, whose “green revolution” wheat strains led to the death of peasants by the million.

When Gore goes to get the prize he shares with the pr hucksters and falsifiers at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Gore should be forced to march through a gauntlet of widows and orphans, Serbs, Iraqis, Palestinians, Colombians, and other victims of the Clinton era.

Back in Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign Gore was told to earn his keep with constant pummeling of George Bush Sr for having been soft on Saddam. Gore duly criss-crossed the country yoking Saddam and Bush in fervid denunciation, his press aides passing out speeches flatteringly footnoted with references to the work of the journalists covering his campaign. Gore charged that Bush had given Saddam “one of those milquetoast routines George Bush is so famous for”. “The cover-up of Bush’s arming of Saddam was”, Gore shouted, “bigger than Watergate ever was.” Right before the 2000 election Gore called for expansion of the no-fly zones in Iraq and said that any Iraqi plane venturing into such zones should be shot down.

In early January, 1993, Thomas Friedman interviewed president elect Clinton and asked about Saddam. Clinton amiably responded, “I always tell everybody, I’m a Baptist. I believe in deathbed conversions. If he wants a different relationship with the US and UN, all he has to do is change his behavior.” This elicited cries of outrage from the national security establishment, and its prime respresentative,vice president-elect Gore, who announced that there could never be normal relations with Iraq so long as Saddam remained in power. He reiterated the call for a coup, if not by the Iraqi military then by the CIA (which in point of fact had been in receipt of a ‘presidential finding’ from Bush, three months after the guns of the Gulf War fell silent, authorizing it ‘to create conditions for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power’).

Vice president Al Gore was then given authority in the Clinton Administration for Iraq policy. On April 14, 1993, Bush went to Kuwait, whose regime duly arrested 17 people charged with plotting to kill Bush with a bomb placed in a Toyota Landcruiser.

Again the national security establishment mustered in support of a plan to hold Saddam accountable and bombard Baghdad, a plan hotly advocated by Gore and his national security advisor, Leon Feurth. The two individuals most reluctant to endorse this plan were Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. “Do we have to take this action?” Clinton muttered to his national security team as the cruise missiles on two carriers in the Persian Gulf were being programmed.

Eight of the 23 missiles hit the residential Mansour suburb of Baghdad, one of them killing Leila al-Attar, a prominent Iraqi artist. According to Clinton’s pollster Stan Greenberg, the bombing of Baghdad caused an uptick of 11 points in Clinton’s popularity, a lesson Clinton and Gore did not forget. Years later, in the 2000 campaign, Gore out-hawked George Bush Jr on the subject of finishing the job in Iraq.

On June 29, 2000, Gore was in Chicago to talk about “energy policy incentives for cities”. Danny Muller of Voices in the Wilderness went to Navy Pier, where the event was being held. Gore was at the podium amid wild ovations. Muller remembers the scene: “I raised my voice and asked ‘Mr. Gore, why should anyone vote for an administration that kills 5,000 innocent children a month through sanctions in Iraq?’ Gore stopped. And he laughed. He actually laughed. He said he would discuss this later in the day. I responded by saying that every ten minutes a child dies in Iraq due to sanctions and we do not have the time to wait.”

Muller was still protesting as Gore’s security goons hauled him off.

The specific reason why this man of blood shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the IPCC is for their joint agitprop on the supposed threat of anthropogenic global warming. Bogus science topped off with toxic alarmism. It’s as ridiculous as as if Goebbels got the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938, sharing it with the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for his work in publicizing the threat to race purity posed by Jews, Slavs and gypsies. (The peace prize actually went that year to the Nansen Committee for Refugees. Gore certainly played his part in creating Iraq’s current 4 million refugees, among the greatest displacements of the past hundred years.)

The notorious “man-made” greenhouse gasses comprise about .26 per cent of the total greenhouse gas component of the earth’s atmosphere and the influence of this component remains entirely unproven, as I have pointed out on this site many times,and will be doing so again in reflections that will be published early next year in my forthcoming book, A Short History of Fear. Gore’s contribution to the debate has been an appalling mishmash of cooked statistics, demagoguery about “scientific consensus” and New Age hocus pocus about spiritual renewal. Anyone who has studied the antics of his co-winner of the peace prize, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will know that the IPCC’s prime role every three years has been to ignore the work–some of it respectable scientific research–of its expert panels and issue entirely mendacious and to issue alarmist press releases designed to win headlines in the New York Times.

Of course Al Gore has been a shil for nuclear power ever since he came of age as a political harlot for the Oakridge nuclear laboratory in his home state of Tennessee. The practical beneficiary of the baseless hysteria over “anthropogenic global warming” is the nuclear power industry. This very fall, as Peter Montague describes at length in our current CounterPunch newsletter, this industry is reaping the fruits of Al Gore’s campaigning. Congress has finally knocked aside the regulatory licensing processes that have somewhat protected the public across recent decades. The starting gun has sounded, and just about the moment Gore and his co-conspirators at the IPCC collect their prizes, the bulldozers will be breaking ground for the new nuclear plants soon to spring like Amanita phalloides–just as deadly–across the American landscape.

Toothless in Babylon

The way things are headed, in two or three months we’ll have 95 percent of the American people wanting a pullout from the war in Iraq and 95 percent of Congress obediently voting funds to keep the troops there. At the start of October, only 27 percent of Americans wanted Congress to greenlight the $190 billion Bush has requested to go on fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Washington Post summed up its latest poll, conducted with ABC TV, thus: “Most Americans do not believe Congress has gone far enough in opposing the war.”

Here we are in the gray dawn of the twenty-first century, but only a handful of senators and reps dare stand up to be counted on matters of war and peace. The Kyl-Lieberman bill recommending that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards be placed on the US government’s blacklist as a “terrorist organization” was clearly hatched as a way for Bush to attack Iran without seeking Congressional approval. It cantered through the Senate with only twenty-five opposing. The House approved a similar measure with only sixteen no’s, jusy 12 of them Democrats. Notoriously, Hillary Clinton voted for Kyl-Lieberman, then amid a hail of criticism, tried to fix up a fudge vote for the record, sigining on to an amended version drafted by Senator James Webb.

The day before the Senate vote, in the Democratic debate at Dartmouth College candidates Clinton, Obama and Edwards all refused to commit to having all US troops out of Iraq by the end of their first White House term-December 2013. The shortest timeline for withdrawal is offered in Senator Russell Feingold’s bill, which requires troops to be out of Iraq by June 30, 2008. That bill has only twelve Senate co-sponsors, Clinton and Obama conspicuous by their absence.

The Petraeus hearings showed us the feeble state of the anti-war forces on the Hill. A few senators grandstanding for their one-liners to be flashed up on CNN doesn’t add up to anything more than popgun combat. No one laid a glove on Petraeus, and that failure is very significant. Winslow Wheeler worked on the Hill for thirty-one years as a staffer for various senators from both sides of the aisle, also for the GAO. These days he’s the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington. As CounterPunchers well know, his regular bulletins on defense matters, particularly military budgets and appropriations, are always knowledgeable and succinct. He really knows how the system works.

In the wake of Petraeus’s easy victories in both the Senate and House hearings, Wheeler looked back at the 1972 hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, taking testimony from Secretary of State William Rogers on the war in Vietnam. The committee’s chairman, William Fulbright, took Rogers apart, exposing time after time the Secretary’s evasions and lies. Fulbright, Wheeler recalled,

“knew all the facts, uncovered by an assiduous professional staff that discovered a whole lot more than what the Defense and State departments wanted them to know.” As the bruised Rogers and his entourage filed out, Wheeler heard one of the Secretary’s staff hiss angrily to an underling, “Find out how that son of a bitch found all that out.”

Petraeus endured no such relentless interrogation. There were no angry hisses, only smiles at the conclusion of his claims for the success thus far of his Surge. Yet the facts that the senators and representatives could and should have thrown at him were all available, many of them supplied to the relevant Congressional staffers by Wheeler’s organization in the form of body counts, information from the United Nations and other sources, plus polling data from the people best qualified to assess whether their security had been enhanced by the Surge-namely, Iraqis.

But the senators and reps didn’t use the material as Fulbright would have done. Beyond a few brief interrogatory flurries, they mostly stuck to their scripted speeches. As Wheeler concludes,

All that was politicking, not oversight. Oversightmeans finding out exactly what the executive branch is doing and what is going on in the world. Only that, not posturing, provides a sound foundation for competent legislation and the political coalitions needed to enact it. Put simply, if you do not know with some precision what the problem is, you are not going to solve it. And if you don’t have the data, mere rhetoric will not always save you, especially when you fail to refute the opposing case.

How good is the staff work on the Hill these days? Ideally, in the battles that matter, it should be a blend of savage investigative zeal and experience in what stones to turn over and where to dig out the paydirt. How many battle-scarred oldtimers are there, like Wheeler or Jake Lewis, who remember how it was done? How many eager reporters are there for them to leak to? The Clinton era did dreadful damage to conscientious and effective oversight. The Democrats were out of power on the Hill for a decade, until 2007. I know of one 50-year-old who recently and successfully applied for a good staff job on an important committee who thinks he got the job partly because there weren’t that many applicants.

And even if you have a terrific staff rustling up devastating data, you still need a senator or rep with the wits and moxy to turn the material into an effective interrogation. These days you can sit and watch C-SPAN all year long and rarely see anything beyond camera-preening by the likes of Chuck Schumer. Arlen Specter can take out the razor when he wants to. So can Feingold. So can a can few of the Republican ex-prosecutors. Not many others. You can chart Ted Kennedy’s decline in effectiveness by the decline in the quality of his staff. Dig out a clip of Jack Brooks of Texas Roasting someone in the witness chair, to see how it used to be done. The place just isn’t what it used to be.

Footnote: The history of Al Gore’s warmongering on Iraq is laid out in Al Gore: A User’s Manual co-written by your CounterPunch co-editors, Cockburn and St Clair. A shorter version of the second item, Toothless in Babylon, first ran in print edition of The Nation.



Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.