by Paul Smith
The Nobel Peace Prize was recently awarded to President Obama, which immediately sent the right-wing up in arms, bemoaning that the award was bestowed undeservedly.
However, what Obama’s critics fail to realize is that the Nobel Peace Prize is largely a trivial empty gesture, one which has been given out many times over the years to undeserved candidates while those of worthy merit were overlooked.
To understand the farce that is the Nobel Peace Prize, one only need look at its history.
The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, and were named after Swedish chemist and inventor Alfred Nobel, who left his massive fortune for just such a purpose. So, how did Nobel accumulate his enormous wealth?
Nobel invented dynamite. Oh, and he also sold and manufactured weapons.
That’s right – the most prestigious award recognizing the promotion of peace in the world was named after someone who was responsible for the deaths of countless people, setting the stage for the theater of the absurd to come.
One of the earliest controversial recipients of the Prize was Theodore Roosevelt, who got the award for helping to negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.
While Roosevelt may have been a decent president, and certainly did play a role in the peace process, he also was entangled in numerous military interventions, such as the violent suppression of a revolt in the Philippines in 1904.
In 1945, Cordell Hull, Secretary of State during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, was awarded the Prize for his work with the United Nations.
But in 1939, Hull was involved with the controversial turning away of the German ship, the MS St. Louis, a boat that was holding 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany trying to gain entrance to the U.S. The ship was denied entry and sent back to Germany where most of the refugees died in the Holocaust.
Menachem Begin, who was Prime Minister of Israel, was given the Prize in 1978 for his work securing peace between his country and Egypt.
However, Begin was embroiled with numerous wars and violent incidents over his life, including personally leading a commando raid on a Palestinian Village in 1948 where 107 villagers, including women and children, were killed in what became known as the Deir Yassin massacre.
In 1994, PLO leader Yasser Arafat, Foreign Minister of Israel Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin were all given the Nobel Peace Prize for their attempt at a peace agreement during the Oslo Accords.
These three men were so utterly consumed in decades of conflict, war, and the killing of each other’s people that the Prize almost seemed like a poor attempt at ironic humor.
But perhaps the most controversial recipient in my opinion was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who received the Prize in 1973 for his work on the Vietnam Peace Accords – and at a time when the Vietnam War hadn’t even ended yet. Not to mention the fact that Kissinger had actually helped to escalate the war as he urged President Nixon to expand aerial bombing into Laos and Cambodia.
Meanwhile, Kissinger was also heavily involved with Operation Condor, the brutal and horrendous campaign of political assassinations, kidnappings, and interventions in South America in the 1970s. Many historians cite him as personally making the call to assassinate Salvador Allende, the president of Chile in 1973, and installing the atrocious regime of Augusto Pinochet.
Kissinger also helped give operational support to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Indonesian near-genocidal campaign against East Timor, and countless other military interventions and wars across the globe – a man of peace this was certainly not.
But what is also absurd about the Nobel Peace Prize is who has not received it. While there have been numerous curious omissions over the years, such as Caesar Chavez, perhaps the most criminally overlooked was Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi, one of the most famous symbols of peace in human history, was nominated for the Prize five times, and five times the Nobel committee decided he was unworthy.
Also, for some inexplicable reason, the Nobel committee (which is made up of only five people from Norway) feels that the award itself is not reward enough for acts done in the name of peace. Recipients of the Prize also receive $1 million – because nothing says peace and prosperity like a wheel barrel full of cold hard cash.
Sort of seems like the wrong message to send, no? Apparently everyone should do all they can to promote peace in the world, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it might just make you filthy rich.
So, did President Obama deserve the award? Probably not, but honestly, who cares? The Nobel Peace Prize is meaningless.