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

9.10.09

President Barack ObamaIs 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.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Cross-posted on Common Dreams and Foreign Policy Journal.

30 Responses

  1. Salaheddine says...

    Thats why its called the Nobel Peace Price and not the Nobel Do-everything-that-Andy-Worthington-Wants Prize. :-)

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Er, OK …

  3. Charles Gittings says...

    It’s not appropriate: he simply doesn’t deserve it.

    Regards,

    Charly

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Charly, for being so succinct!

  5. Zaine Ridling says...

    Keen observations by Andy. Obama should return the prize, and use it as an opportunity for the Nobel committee to reward accomplishment, not for suggesting possible positive behaviors in the future. Truly a “jump the shark” moment for the Nobel prize, as it cheapens past winners.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Zaine. Good to hear from you. Lots of comments around the ‘net indicating that people think it should be based on achievement rather than on promise — or something even vaguer: the hope of promise, perhaps …

  7. Lear K says...

    The Noble peace prize has been a joke!Menachem Begin ,self-confessed terrorist,was awrded the Noble Peace prize.Every time the Arabs sign on the so called peace process the more losses to recieve in return.

  8. Vabby says...

    I just find your article completely misrepresenting much of the issues. The two wars were inherited. You call for removal but remember what we did to Pakistan when we went in during he 80s messed them up and then just shoved our way out?! We left them in a mess and the President seems to be taking logical removal of soldiers to give time for adjustment. I did this for my mum when I told her I was moving 10,000 miles away, it forces a chance for stabilization with the understanding tha we will leave them. As for Afghanistan, he’s stated the issue is under current review. Bush had 8 years to do this and Obama has been working on removing us for 9 months. But he’s working on getting us out (even though Afghanistan was his first move). As for Gitmo, you stated he signed it to be closed. But when you’re being undermined by Congress, remember there is a division of power in this nation. You can’t get everything you when you want it. Unlke Bush, he won’t ramrod to get things done—-he respects his fellow colleagues—-which is to the dismay of Progressives. However he’s working on it. As for prosecutions. Not to long ago it was stated that AG Holder is going to appoint a special prosecutor and Obama himself said that he won’t stop Holder from doing what he needs to do even though he wants to look ahead. This is not Black/White.

    Lastly…you find it undeserving.

    However, he has done a considerable amount of good for our nation that people seem to forget it.

    Here is a minor list…minor because there has lots, lots more. Urban Affairs department he created is not mentioned, nor his proposals towards gay marriage.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/10/9/791412/-30+-Reasons-Obama-deserves-the-Nobel-Peace-Prize

    This is not even counting the things he did for the nation BEFORE he joined the Government body as a community organizer. Or the things he’s done once joined as a Senator. I find your article lacking to the say the least and ignorant of other key issues. When he’s actively working on the issues you do mention.

  9. Ricardo Kolbe says...

    Sir, I firmly believe that it was an intelligent and courageous move to bolster his attempt to better the US positions in many fields: to end the many wars in the Midddle East (Israeli/US war against the Pals. for 40 years, the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, to stabilize the situation in the Gulf), to achieve an A-bomb free zone in Mid-East, and many other aspects of world wide interest. And all this against the people of the old admin. and lobbyists.

  10. Torpedo says...

    So much for the Nobel Peace prize.

    It’s now about as valuable as an Honorary degree.

    Absolutely unbelievable that a war criminal should receive this.

    I guess this was the consolation prize for him not being able to help the cause, to get the summer olympics in Chicago, in 2016.

    What a farce.

  11. Nadorn says...

    Really, Vabby?

    Iraq continues, Afghanistan has been ramped up and much rattling has been done toward Iran. One of his first acts in office was to authorize a drone attack that killed 4 kids in Pakistan. His Guantanamo promises collapsed after trying at it for a little bit, and his efforts to end the wars have been milquetoast if not non-existent. He’s made speeches and signed orders that he’s apparently made no attempt to enforce, but that’s about it.

  12. Hacklheber says...

    I’m sorry to say so but that DailyKos article is a fraking joke.

    Lots of rather vague stuff like speeches given, ordering of this and that and promises towards XY. Many things are not even relevant to a Peace Price. And then we have things like “Secured $5 billion in aid commitments “to bolster [Pakistan's] economy and help it fight terror and Islamic radicalism”. How exactly are the illuminated minds at DailyKos expecting that this money will be spent? Hint: it’s not going into building hospitals in Jetta.

    No mention of Obama’s aggravated warmongering towards Iran. No mention of the fact that Gitmo will stay open. AfPak escalation? Wouldn’t want to spoil the party, eh.

    Fact is, Obama still has to take first baby steps towards earning this.

    But then again, Kissinger got a Nobel Peace Price too. Can’t remember what it was for. Seeing the light and deciding that killing more Vietnamese would not be strategically useful I think.

  13. Obama wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize + Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize: OK, He’s A Nice Guy, But … by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad http://www.andyworthington.co.uk 9 October [...]

  14. Little Brother says...

    Herewith a cross-post from Glenn Greenwald’s Salon article on this abomination. It’s not that I can’t think of anything else to say– but to borrow an expression from my hero Mark Twain, to properly express my thoughts I require asbestos paper, and a pen warmed up in Hell.
    ______________________________________________________

    Oh. My. God.

    I learned about this travesty very early this morning, before it spread across the Internets.

    So I’ve been holding this in all day, and must unload it before reading either the article or the comments:

    You’ve got to give Obama a lot of credit!

    I understand that he broke a four-way tie with Ehud Olmert, Roberto Micheletti, and the sentimental favorited, Ariel Sharon.

    But I can’t really blame the Nobel Committee.

    The Prizes ‘n Pageant racket is highly competitive, and the Nobel group is trying very hard to break into the Olympian niche traditionally monopolized by Amerikan awards, e.g. the Grammys and the Golden Globes.

    Finally, a salient bit of history according to Kurt Vonnegut: supposedly when the Nobel Prize was mentioned to writer and iconoclast Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Céline remarked, “A Nobel? Where’s mine? Every Vaseline-ass in Europe has one!”

    Today, of course, Céline’s bitter remark proves to have been eclipsed by progress: it’s not just Europe any more!

  15. John says...

    Let’s base the assessment of Obama on facts, not on whether or not one thinks he is a nice guy. Obama did indeed inherit the 2 undeclared wars (which he as a Senator voted to fund – a great promoter of peace, indeed…). He was always vocal about his strong support for the war in Afghanistan during the election campaign (lots of peace talk). He executed an increase in the number of US troops in Afghanistan, as President (a great sign of someone who really supports peace, and wants the war to end). Obama has been vocal about opposing the reduction of US troops in Afghanistan. What he is reviewing is not the reduction of US troops, but the increase: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1009/p02s16-usmi.html
    Yes, Obama inherited the 2 wars. Richard Nixon, too inherited a war from the previous administration, and continued it for 4 years. It did end (tens of thousands of US casualties later), but does that makes Richard Nixon a “peace president”? Maybe he should have recieved the Nobel Peace Preize. With respect to Iraq, Obama did promise during the election campaign that he would let the generals guide the policy on Iraq. To those people who actually paid attention to what he was saying, what that meant, that the war in Iraq would continue, under the Obama administration. He never promised during the election campaign, that all US troops would be pulled out of Iraq. Obama, as President did move the troops out of the cities, but they continue to remain in Iraq, ready for orders to go back in, if “the situation arises”. So, no reduction of US troops in Iraq, and an increase of US troops in Afghanistan to battle Al Qaeda (ah… no… according to General McCrystal there is no Al Queda in Afghanistan). I’m not sure what exactly is Obama “working on”. He did promise to close down Guantanamo. It is true that we do not know if some of the Guantanamo prisoners have been moved to Bagram (Obama is blocking the release of the information on prisoners), that would answer that question. What we do know, however is that Obama is fighting tooth and nail to block the habeas corpus review for the Bagram prisoners (just as the Bush Administration did it with respect to Guantanamo). With respect to the torture investigation, Attorney General Holder made it clear that none of the Bush Administration officials would be prosecuted. As Senator, Obama voted to legalize warrantless wiretapping and grant immunity to telephone companies from prosecution. He also voted to renew the authorization of the Patriot Act in the Senate. It must come as a complete shock to some of the Obama supporters, that he is supporting the same policies, as President. One can only beg the question, “Where were you during the election campaign”?

  16. Duglarri says...

    I’m with Nadorn; Obama’s agreement to unleash that drone strike on Pakistan on the day he was inaugurated signaled that he would be the willing instrument of the military, not the other way around. And that was a war crime. Though it’s hard to describe, inasmuch as it was an attack on the territory of… an ally. At the very least it was murder.

    Drone attacks anywhere outside war zones are war crimes.

    It was said of Prussia under Frederick that some countries had an army, while Prussia was an army that happened to have a country.

    With Obama’s pliant obedience to his masters in uniform, America has now become the Prussia of the 21st century.

    A Nobel prize for the puppet of the Pentagon is breathtaking.

  17. Sauros says...

    The Nobel Committee are simply trying to convey this message: “It’s the thought that counts!” Peace has never really been popular. What has always been popular is talking about how much you love and desire peace, while meticulously planning for the inevitability of war. We need to resurrect the arguments T. Roosevelt and Machiavelli made against peace. Ultimately, peace is not beneficial. Where would society be without war? Without it, there’d be no need for standing armies, and my investments in the defense industry would become worthless. I love war. Peace sells, but who’s buying?

  18. Hacklheber says...

    “Where would society be without war?”

    Probably exploring the outer reaches of the Orion Nebula or something.

  19. Dar says...

    Heads of states and related officials shouldn’t even qualify for the prize.

    Only civilians for whom the pursuit of peace is a life-long commitment, often with personal life-endangerment.

  20. Donovan says...

    Except for the science categories, the Nobel is pretty much worthless and everybody knows it. In Literature, Faulkner wanted to throw it in their faces when he got it in 1950 (he didn’t want an award that Sinclair Lewis got and Dreiser and Sherwoon Anderson didn’t, and the only reason he accepted was because of pressure from the State Department); and Doris Lessing clearly couldn’t have cared less when she got it two years ago. In the Peace category it’s been a sad joke since at least Kissinger got it, so those Scandinavians are just weird and I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  21. Jazz4 says...

    You’re right on the money, President Obama does Not deserve the Peace Prize as he presides over two wars and his Administration will spend over $600 Billion anually for the Military even as many citizens are unemployed, uninsured and homeless.

  22. sal says...

    I wonder what the world would be like if all prizes, awards, acknowlegdements etc were based on words rather than action…

  23. Dr. Maria Elena Tan-Llanos says...

    The advancement of times have weakened the cognitive capabilities of those “ONCE BEFORE” wise people to the same group of people who have “NOW” reached senility of judgments. I hope they “SHALL NOT BE FOREVER” lost in going through the right direction toward the GIFT OF CHOOSING deserving people worthy of the NOBEL PRIZE for contributing to the cause for PEACE ON EARTH AND GOODWILL TO MEN. — Dr. Maria Elena Tan-Llanos, St. Paul University, QC (PHILIPPINES)

  24. Adam Ellis says...

    I don’t think Obama deserved to win…yet. It’s a well done so far and keep going from the Nobel Committee. They want Obama to deliver on his promises and have awarded him ahead of actually achieveing anything!! I have written a blog post on the topic, ‘Will the real President Obama please stand up?’ if anyone wants to take a look http://wp.me/pCIZY-Y

  25. Will Shirley says...

    I like the part about looking at what he’s actually done rather than list his great promises. Congress handed Barack unlimited absolute power, the same power they gave George. He can do anything anywhere to anybody so long as he claims it relates to national security AND he doesn’t have to explain himself to anybody. That’s the end of separation of powers. Now Obama is the government. Patriot Act makes it possible for him to blow the whistle on Afghanistan, send in the FBI, eliminate the CIA, pursue Osama to the ends of the earth while simply killing any prisoner left in Gitmo. He can issue “shoot on sight” orders, without trials or courts. All this power was given freely, although in violation of the Constitution, and Obama is using it, just not to stop the wars but to expand them. We’re still bombing weddings, still shooting kids. Prisoners still have no civil nor human rights. The Nobel Peace Prize is appropriate in that he is likely expecting that by killing everybody who disagrees with us there will be world peace, and the Norwegians agree. On the other hand he continues the practice of sending weapons to the Mideast to continue the killing there. Maybe they could rename it: the Nobel Not Evil, Not Actively Psychotic Prize.

  26. the talking dog says...

    I wonder what the world would be like if all prizes, awards, acknowledgments etc were based on words rather than action…

    Well, the world is almost like that now (and O’s Nobel tells us its moving a lot closer to it still– as, of course, did O’s election). The Hollywood/Madison Avenue world of image over substance has been with us a while; frankly, it triumphed a long time ago… now it just seems to be mopping up whatever it hadn’t already conquered.

    The despised George W. Bush released over 500 prisoners from GTMO, often with sketchy and questionable information; the beloved Obama, who has far superior information about who he is holding (including 30 court orders to release prisoners)… has released a pathetic 20. But Obama talks pretty, and Bush doesn’t… so that’s that.

  27. Jason Leopold and Andy Worthington on closing Guantanamo Bay Prison « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] topic is the announcement of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, which PBC refers to as a “premature ejaculation.” Leopold details recent court action in the [...]

  28. Obama’s Nobel Prize Inspires Conservative Outrage And Confusion | News says...

    [...] Obama’s supporters raised questions about whether the reward was deserved, with progressives pointing to the ongoing wars in Iraq and [...]

  29. Peace Activist says...

    Hi All,
    I would convey my thoughts and opinion that maybe the US Presidency does not entail all the power and authority one may presume. I’m sure that there are people of immense fanacial, political and military power around the President, all surreptitiously looking towards furthering their own interests.

  30. umm maryam says...

    thanks andy. isnt it orwellian? in that case obama certainly does deserve it, although he may have bigger shoes to fill! (kissinger?)

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