It’s not as much of a travesty as when Henry Kissinger, a war criminal of the first order who was an architect of the latter stages of the Indochina War, and was personally responsible for the slaughter of well over a million innocent people, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, while that war was still raging, but the awarding of the latest Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama is travesty enough.
We’re talking about a man whose practically first act upon taking office early this year was to escalate the ugly and pointless war in Afghanistan with the addition of some 20,000 troops, and who, even as the Nobel committee was discussing his award, was meeting with his military and political advisors to consider expanding that war even further, both in Afghanistan and across the border into Pakistan.
The Nobel Committee claimed that during Obama’s short period as president, the US “is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.”
Well, certainly when compared to the prior presidency of George W. Bush, that statement is correct, but that’s not saying much. After all, under President Obama, Guantanamo’s terrorist prison is still in operation and is holding people whom even the government admits are guilty of nothing. Under President Obama, the US has also blocked the Goldstone Report which condemns Israel of war crimes in its recent assault on Gaza. And under Obama, the US military in Afghanistan has continued to slaughter disproportionate numbers of civilians through its wanton use of aerial bombardment, pilotless Predator drones, and antipersonnel weaponry.
President Obama may have, as the Nobel Committee states, put forward a vision of nuclear disarmament, but his administration at the same time continues to refuse to sign the international anti-landmine treaty (putting America in the wretched company of just Russia, India and China). And under Obama, the US continues its role as not only the leading producer and exporter of arms, but also as the major initiator of wars in the world. Under Obama the US continues to outspend the rest of the world’s nations combined on its military. And don’t forget, Obama, like President Bush before him, continues to threaten to attack Iran, over that nation’s alleged nuclear weapons program—a program the very existence of which remains highly debatable.
As for climate change policy, President Obama in practice has taken a largely hands-off approach to getting Congress to act, not using his considerable political clout to force action on climate change legislation. It is now conceded that the US will go to the international climate conference in December with no bill passed to limit or reduce the nation’s CO2 emissions. Nor is the Obama administration likely to push for any significant program of CO2 reductions in the future.
Nominations for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize closed on Feb. 1, less than two weeks after Obama took the oath of office as President, but the Nobel Committee in Norway had a good nine months since then to observe this president’s actions—and his lack of actions—on the key issues weighing on the decision. In the end, committee members were bamboozled by this president’s rhetoric of hope just as were the American people during the election campaign. As the committee wrote in announcing its decision: “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
If Nobel Peace prizes are being awarded to people who are simply giving the world hope, surely the judges could have found any number of worthy speechifiers. Hell, even the dictatorial leaders of China and North Korea can make flowery speeches about peace and human dignity. More to the point, the committee had under consideration at least two far more deserving nominees for the award who were actually acting at great personal risk to further peace and human rights: Chinese freedom-fighter Hu Jia and Afghani women’s rights advocate Simi Samar. It is an insult to the memory of former award winners like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jody Williams, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi the Dalai Lama, Lech Walesa, and others who put their lives and careers on the line to struggle for peace and human dignity to give this award to a man who has accomplished so little, and who, in fact, in his short time in office, has managed to expand one war, to block the international condemnation of the brutality of another, and who has done nothing to reverse his own country’s leading role as a promoter of war and international violence.
Henry Kissinger hung his blood-drenched Nobel Peace Award on his office wall on Wall Street and continued to make obscene sums of money off human suffering in his dotage. One can only hope (ah, that intoxicating word!) that President Obama will take his award seriously, and will use his new status as official man of peace to halt America’s campaign of violence in Afghanistan, calling a regional peace conference to settle that conflict instead of simply expanding the war, that he will announce a major cut in American military spending and a halt to arms exports, that he will sign the landmine treaty and voluntarily end the production and use of antipersonnel weapons of all kinds, and that he will finally have the US join the International Criminal Court of Justice.
Right. Now that’s the audacity of hope.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at email@example.com