Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize: OK, He’s A Nice Guy, But …

Is it really appropriate for the Nobel Peace Prize — granted “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” — to be given to a man who, as Commander-in-Chief, is still presiding over two wars, in which, as the announcement was made, civilians may well have been dying as the result of his orders?

Is it really appropriate for the Nobel Peace Prize to be given to a man who would rather look forward than backwards when it comes to decisions, taken at the highest levels of the previous administration, to turn America from a country that upheld the universal torture ban into a country that sought to redefine torture so that it could torture “high-value detainees” in a network of secret prisons around the world?

Is it really appropriate for the Nobel Peace Prize to be given to a man who, although he ordered the closure of Guantánamo and recognizes that it “set back the moral authority” that, in his opinion, “is America’s strongest currency in the world,” and also that it “became a symbol that helped al-Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause,” endorses indefinite detention without charge or trial for some of the 221 prisoners still held in the prison?

Is it really appropriate for the Nobel Peace Prize to be given to a man who, through the Justice Department, is appealing a ruling extending the habeas corpus rights granted by the Supreme Court to the prisoners at Guantánamo to foreign prisoners seized in other countries and “rendered” to the US prison at Bagram airbase — where some of these men have been held for six years — even though the judge ruled that “the detainees themselves as well as the rationale for detention are essentially the same”?

Is it really appropriate to give the Nobel Peace Prize to a man who, although he revoked some of the Bush administration’s vilest executive orders and swore to uphold the universal torture ban, appears to be actively involved in the rendition of prisoners to the US prison at Bagram airbase?

Is it really appropriate for the Nobel Peace Prize to be given to a man who, although professing his admiration for the Geneva Conventions, has chosen to introduce Guantánamo-style reviews for the 600 or so Afghan prisoners held at Bagram, rather than the competent tribunals stipulated in Article 5 of the Geneva Conventions, and who, as a result, appears to be endorsing the Bush administration’s unilateral rewriting of the Conventions?

In conclusion, although I realize that less deserving men have been given the Nobel Peace Prize in previous years — Henry Kissinger, anyone? — and although I reiterate that Barack Obama seems to be a nice guy, and that his election victory last November lifted a cloud of tyranny from the United States, I also have to note another ironic subtext to the award: that it will, sadly, serve only to inflame the rabid wing of the Republican party, which is predisposed to believe a Democratic President is soft on national security issues, and who would only have respect for the Nobel Committee if it introduced a Nobel War Prize and handed it to Dick Cheney.

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Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington is a historian, writer and author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison (2007) and two books on modern British social history. Contact him at andy@andyworthington.co.uk. 

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  • Outernationalist

    I’m sure Alfred Nobel, like so many times before, is again tossing and turning in his grave. What a shame that ‘peace’ has been bought by the capitalists of the world and now awarded on corporate basis…

  • Ponderer

    The contradicitions, ironies, paradoxes, or simply double standards, as articulated by Andy can all be understood and tolerated, albeit with loss of some moral/ethical integrity, when we begin to realize that, just like the UN and its abominable Security Council, which Qadafi quite aptly refers to as the ‘terror council’, the Noble prize rigmarole, is set up by the Westerners to aggrandize the Western culture, the West in general., and when the West shows it barbaric nature, as with America’s illegal bloody wars, to ameliorate the perceptions and image of the West. Thus instead of a war crimes tribunal to prosecute, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeldt, and all the rest of the rotten bunch, we have a happy ending a la Hollywood, every one goes home happy and jubilant, even the war criminals- and, oh yes before I forget, the guy who is supposed to cover up he white guys’ war crimes gets his Noble. It is a happy happy world, unless you happen to live in Southern Iraq where pulverized Depleted Uranium gurantees you and your children to come down with strange horrific illnesses and defomities.

  • Yep! Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama makes a mockery of the entire Nobel Awards Program. The Nobel Awards Institution has been reduced to a political tool which, except for the cash grant is hardly worth making the trip to Oslo or wherever it is the recipients must go to pick up the award. And, unless they are in dire need of the funds, may not be worth the embarrassment of standing next to some of the people they might be expected to stand next to.

    Well said Andy. Well done.