by David Swanson
The Real News
Honoring both nonviolent human rights advocates and mass murderers has moved the prize away from advocacy for the elimination of standing armies. There is very little room in respectable corporate-controlled discourse these days for advocating the elimination of standing armies. Many people would consider the idea insane or treasonous. But that can't change the words in Nobel's will or the early tradition of awarding the prize to true advocates of peace.
Still, the winners have all had a few things in common and to their advantage. They have all had at least some tenuous, even if inverted, relationship to peace. At least until recently. In 2006 and 2007, Muhammad Yunus and Al Gore took home peace prizes for work with at best an indirect connection to peace. (Can you even imagine Al Gore working for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses?)
From 1901 to 2008 no peace prize was given to anyone who had neither done nor even pretended to do anything significant for peace nor done any other good and significant thing that some people might believe would indirectly contribute to peace. From 1901 to 2008, no prize was given to anyone who had just been placed in a position of great power promising to expand the world's largest military, to escalate a war, and to launch strikes into other nations without any war declarations. From 1901 to 2008, no peace laureate showed up to collect the winnings and gave a speech justifying and praising war. From 1901 to 2008, no laureate gave an acceptance speech rejecting a previous laureate's speech as too peaceful. All of these streaks would end in 2009.
The 1980 peace laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel has just written a letter to the 2009 laureate, President Barack Obama. The letter includes these words:
"I believe, Barack, that after following your erring way, you find yourself in a maze, unable to find the exit and you are burying yourself more and more in violence, devoured by the domination of power, and you think you possess all the power anyone could have, and that the world is at the feet of the USA. So large are the atrocities committed by different US governments in the world... It is a sad reality, but there is also the resistance of peoples who do not capitulate before the powerful. Bin Laden, alleged author of the attack of the Twin Towers, has been made the devil incarnate who terrorised [sic] the world, identified as the ‘axis of evil’ and this has served you to wage the wars that the military industrial complex needs to place its products of death…
"… I am not in any way defending bin Laden, I am against all terrorism, by both these armed groups and the terrorism of the State which your government exercises in various parts of the world, supporting dictators, imposing military bases and armed intervention, using violence to maintain yourself via terror at the hub of world power. Is there only one ‘axis of evil’? Peace is a practice of life in relations between persons and among peoples; it is a challenge to humanity's consciousness. Its path is difficult, daily and hopeful; where people build from their own lives and their own history. Peace can't be gifted, it is built. And this is what you're missing lad, courage to assume the historical responsibility with your people and with humanity. You cannot live in the labyrinth of fear and control, ignoring international treaties, pacts and protocols of governments which are signed and then transgressed once and again. How can you speak of peace if you don’t want to honour [sic] anything, except in the interests of your country? How can you talk about freedom when you keep innocent people in the prisons of Guantanamo, in the USA, in Iraq and in Afghanistan? How can you speak of human rights and the dignity of peoples when you perpetually violate them and block those who don’t share your ideology and must endure your abuses? How can you send military forces to Haiti after a devastating earthquake, instead of humanitarian aid to that suffering people? How can you speak of freedom if you massacre the peoples in the Middle East and foster endless conflict which bleeds the Palestinians and Israelis?"
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