Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama's Nobel Prize

Since April Fools Day is months away, my first thought, when I turned on the radio this morning and heard that Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize was that The Onion had taken over NPR. But it’s for real. They gave the prize to a man who, as I write these words, is meeting with advisors to decide not how to withdraw America’s army of occupation from Afghanistan, but instead how many more troops to send there; to the anti-(Iraq)War candidate who has continued the indefinite occupation of that country; to a leader whose motto might as well be “trillions for ‘defense’ (war),” but not one penny more to the national debt for “reforming” (sort of) health care.

But, then, I realized that this morning’s news is not as bizarre as appears. After all, the Nobel Committee, decades ago, gave the prize to the war criminal Henry Kissinger and then to the likes of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. [The great comedian-song writer Tom Lehrer once said that he stopped writing songs when Kissinger won the prize because, after that, there was nothing left to satirize.] Obama isn’t even the first sitting President to win the Nobel. He is preceded in that “honor” by two of our most stalwart imperialists: Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt.

Just as I never expected much from Obama, but am still mightily disappointed, those who have learned not to expect much from the Nobel Committee should still be outraged. More often than not, this eminently “political” prize is awarded to deserving (or, at least not, patently undeserving) people; more often than not, the award does register a worthwhile point. But giving it now to Obama as he ponders how to continue the empire’s perpetual warfare regime demeans the Committee’s less Onion-like efforts. This is why this award deserves derision, and why the Nobel Committee deserves condemnation.

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