Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Obama and the Peace Prize: Contradictions, Strange Choices News

Obama and the Peace Prize: Contradictions, strange choices

By Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer-
Updated Dec 21, 2009 - 9:45:08 AM

( - President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize Dec. 10 in Oslo, Sweden, where he delivered a speech expounding on the contrasts of war and peace.

The award was granted in October creating controversy about his qualifications for the prestigious honor. President Obama shares the distinction with past Laureates, Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa.

Reactions to the announcement and acceptance speech was both positive and negative, with questions on whether it's too soon for Mr. Obama to receive the prize because he's at the beginning of his presidency. Furthermore, critics question accepting the prize while engaging two wars with an escalation of 30,000 troops for Afghanistan.

Some observers say the choice was an affirmation of hope in America's new global posture of inclusiveness under Mr. Obama.

“They're trying to give some credibility to him because he's the first American president since Jimmy Carter to actually look at what's necessary to establish peace, where other American presidents wouldn't even talk,” said broadcaster and community leader Bob Law in a telephone interview.

“It's as Gil Scott Heron who said ‘when America, Britain and France talk about peace, they meant, a piece of Angola and a piece of Mozambique, their piece,' ” Mr. Law said.

In an October interview, journalist George Curry said the critical questions around Mr. Obama being chosen are valid. “Should a person conducting two wars be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize? That is a legitimate question,” opined Mr. Curry.

According to the nomination process, candidate names must be submitted by Feb. 1. Alfred Nobel, the award founder willed that the prize is given for accomplishments in the previous year.

“He had not been in office two weeks when the nomination was closed on this, so what did he accomplish in that time?” asked Mr. Curry.

“Congratulating and celebrating” the honor, Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University scholar and author, underscored the dilemma of being a war president with a peace prize.

“It's difficult for any head of empire to be under the pressure of peace because you are head of the largest army in the world,” said Dr. West, speaking in Los Angeles, in remarks posted on line by www.Fora.TV.

In Oslo, President Obama's central theme was on “just war,” suggesting armed conflict is justified under certain conditions like “last resort” or “self-defense.” The speech dubbed the “Obama doctrine” resonated with Mr. Obama's most avid foes on the political right like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who praised the speech.

Some eyebrows were raised when Obama described his acceptance of the prize—as compared to non-violence advocates Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi—as “a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.”

Zaki Baruti, of the Universal African Peoples Organization, disagreed with President Obama's comparison. “One of the substantive things Gandhi and Dr. King were trying to effect was great social change by justice and equality, where as Obama is simply fulfilling ambitions of empire,” Mr. Baruti said.

Notwithstanding Mr. Obama's effort to justify accepting the peace prize eight days after announcing a troop escalation in Afghanistan, historically the move is not a unique contradiction to the award.

In 1973, then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was granted the prize. But inquiries have since arisen about Mr. Kissinger as a possible war “criminal at large” for his role in the bombing of North Vietnam, Cambodia and covert support for the overthrow and assassination of Chile's President Salvador Allende in 1973.

The 1978 recipient was Menechem Begin, a Zionist terrorist and former Prime Minister of Israel, jointly shared with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Peace still eludes occupied Palestine.

In 1993, the prize went to President Nelson Mandela for his struggle and sacrifice to overcome racist White minority in South Africa. But the veracity of the choice was compromised in the eyes of many when it was shared with F.W. de Klerk, who served in the apartheid regime as a cabinet member and head of the state.

Such incongruity has existed since the beginning of the prize with the 1906 laureate, President Theodore Roosevelt. Mr. Roosevelt was chosen for mediating the end of the Russia-Japan war, although he has proven to be one of history's most ardent warmongers.

The most overlooked contradiction of the prize may be the deadly contributions of founder Alfred Nobel, who became wealthy as an inventor and manufacturer of the high explosives nitroglycerin and dynamite. He was one of the largest manufacturers of war making materials of his time.

In a historical context, the Obama selection is only the latest in a long line of contradictions and strange choices.

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