Monday, October 12, 2009

Obama's Nobel Prize is richly deserved

David Seaton's News Links
There has been much controversy swirling around president Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, which I wont bore my readers by recapping. Basically the well intentioned criticism -- we can discount the ill intentioned -- boils down to, "why so soon, he hasn't done anything yet". They are all missing the point.

First, we should take a step back from the prize... it is very much a creature of the moment it is given. It is not some sort of universal "Mount Rushmore" of the good and the great: Mahatma Gandhi never received it and Henry Kissinger (a war criminal) and Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat (terrorists) did.

So the Nobel Peace Prize is not like being made a Saint in the Catholic Church and getting your own office in heaven.

What the prize does is to send a message.

If you look at the Nobel Peace Prizes awarded since 2001 you can see a pattern:
  • 2001 - United Nations, Kofi Annan 
  • 2002 - Jimmy Carter 
  • 2003 - Shirin Ebadi(first Muslim woman to win the prize) 
  • 2004 - Wangari Maathai (African woman ecologist) 
  • 2005 - International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei 
  • 2006 - Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank (micro-credit) 
  • 2007 - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Al Gore 
  • 2008 - Martti Ahtisaari (UN diplomat and peacemaker)  
The thread running though it all being, "the Nobel Committee abjures George Walker Bush and all his works".

So, Bush has gone, you say, why give the award to Obama so soon?

Bush is gone, but not what he did.

George W. Bush pulled the mask off the United States of America and Barack Obama is putting the mask back in place and that is why he has been given the prize.

What do I mean by "mask"?

Well, for anyone who has been reading Noam Chomsky for some time and paying attention, or who has recently read Naomi Klein's dot-connecting masterpiece, "The Shock Doctrine", it is no surprise to see the USA portrayed as a "rogue state": it has acted as one for decades.

In short: behind its mask of benevolent defender of democracy and human rights, the USA had been attacking and invading other countries and torturing people for a long, long, time.

But for much of the western world this was an "inconvenient truth"... unthinkable, bad for business and bad for morale, something not mentioned in polite, moderate-centrist, company.

From the vantage of international law, the USA is "like unto a whited sepulcher", which, to quote the King James Bible's protagonist, "indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness".

What changed?

Bush made Noam Chomsky a main-stream, best-selling author.

In the year 2001 destiny crossed 9-11 with George W. Bush and Bush in all his arrogant, incompetent, ignorant, meanness ripped off America's mask and kicked the top off the sepulcher and what was behind the mask was too ugly for the world to face every day on the news and all the maggots that came crawling out of the sepulcher stank unbearably.

And then the economy collapsed.

What Madelene Albright called "the indispensable nation" turned out to be "the unspeakable nation" and the corner stone of the world system turned out to be a grave stone... and no alternative is sight.

Well, you say, Iraq and Afghanistan are still at war and the USA is still killing civilians; Guantanamo and Bagram prisons are still in business, the international currency of reference, the US dollar, appears headed for collapse, even golden California is bankrupt. What has changed?

The magic of Obama has put the mask back on.

Air Wick has been hung in the sepulcher and Glade has been sprayed.

And all in only nine months.

However, the powerful forces that lay behind that which we chose to call "Bush" are mobilizing the AstroTurf of birthers and teabaggers and yet unknown McVeighs and Oswalds conspire against this mild attempt, this pretense of normalcy, and so the horrid face behind the benign mask is reappearing at the edges... and downwind the sepulcher still has quite a breath on it.

So the Nobel Committee is rushing to do its part in propping up the idea of an imagined return to a pre-Bush America: A certain idea of the civilized world.

If, in the future, having replaced the mask and chased the worms back into the sepulcher, President Obama actually manages to change some of the underlying reality itself, he will rank up there with M. K. Gandhi and require no further prize, for then he will be able to hand out the peace prizes, not a roomful of Norwegians. DS


Publius said...

Great and thought-provoking essay, even if I'm not sure I agree with it yet.
I don't believe that Obama will be "allowed" by history to go back to any halcyon days with the mask on. The concurrence of peak oil, resource wars and more will prevent that from happening. But maybe the Norwegians (not Swedes as you said) had a positive goal in mind.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Thanks, but it is the Swedes. As Casey Stengel said, "you could look it up".

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Thanks, but it is the Swedes. As Casey Stengel said, "you could look it up".

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Hey, I looked it up. Damn!
You are right.
Thanks twice.

Anonymous said...

and this is one of the points why Obamas prize was wrong, it immediately starts the US-Americans on their arrogant ways again.

Anansi said...

"it immediately starts the US-Americans on their arrogant ways again.

I don't think that their "arrogant ways" ever stopped, not so as you would notice anyway.

stunted said...

see William Pfaff's take @

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Pfaff is always good.