War is Not Peace

Eloquence in Oslo cannot change the realities of war.

As President Obama neared the close of his Nobel address, he called for “the continued expansion of our moral imagination.” Yet his speech was tightly circumscribed by the policies that his oratory labored to justify.

Lofty rationales easily tell us that warfare is striving for the noble goal of peace. But the rationales scarcely intersect with actual war. The oratory sugarcoats the poisons, helping to kill hope in the name of it.

A few months ago, when I visited an Afghan office for women’s empowerment, staffers took me to a pilot project in one of Kabul’s poorest neighborhoods. There, women were learning small-scale business skills while also gaining personal strength and mutual support.

Two-dozen women, who ranged in age from early 20s to late 50s, talked with enthusiasm about the workshops. They were desperate to change their lives. When it was time to leave, I had a question: What should I tell people in the United States, if they ask what Afghan women want most of all?

After several women spoke, the translator summed up. “They all said that the first priority is peace.”

In Afghanistan, after 30 years under the murderous twin shadows of poverty and war, the only lifeline is peace.

From President Obama, we hear that peace is the ultimate goal. But “peace” is a fixture on a strategic horizon that keeps moving as the military keeps marching.

Just a couple of days before Obama stepped to the podium in Oslo, the general running the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan spoke to a congressional committee in Washington about the president’s recent pledge to begin withdrawal of U.S. troops in July 2011. “I don’t believe that is a deadline at all,” Stanley McChrystal said.

War is not peace. It never has been. It never will be.

Actual policy always, in the real world, profoundly trumps even the best rhetoric. And so, for instance, when President Obama’s Nobel speech proclaimed that “America cannot act alone” and called for “standards that govern the use of force,” the ringing declaration clashed with the announcement last month that he will not sign the international Mine Ban Treaty.

As Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams pointed out, “Obama’s position on land mines calls into question his expressed views on multilateralism, respect for international humanitarian law and disarmament. How can he, with total credibility, lead the world to nuclear disarmament when his own country won’t give up even land mines?”

At the outset of his speech in Oslo, the president spoke of his “acute sense of the cost of armed conflict.” Well, there’s acute and then there’s acute. I think of the people I met and saw in Kabul who are missing limbs, and the countless more whose lives have been shattered by war.

In the name of pragmatism, Obama spoke of “the world as it is” and threw a cloak of justification over the grisly escalation in Afghanistan by insisting that “war is sometimes necessary” — but generalities do nothing to mitigate the horrors of war being endured by others.

President Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize while delivering — to the world as it is — a pro-war speech. The context instantly turned the speech’s insights into flackery for more war.

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of Made Love, Got War.



More articles by:

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Do We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Ali Mohsin
A Disheartening Week for American Death Penalty Opponents
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then