A Nobel War Prize Speech by a War President

EDITORIAL, 14 Dec 2009

#92 | Johan Galtung

President Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance lecture in Oslo 10 December 2009–the Human Rights Day!–added tragedy to the comedy.  It was vintage Orwell, war is peace, serving outdated thoughts by nations trying to legitimize their warfare, with the eloquence and charm that came through to many of that persuasion.  A reactionary speech, more becoming to war college graduation in a militaristic country like the USA; and a total travesty of the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize, intended to go beyond that kind of mentality.

But the Norwegian party to this pre-arranged plot to abuse the Nobel prize to justify the three wars in which the USA, and the West generally, have gotten embroiled, carries most of the shame, particularly the two NATO prime ministers, one president of the Nobel committee.  That they were out to save themselves, as did you, Obama; and harvested applause from the usual suspects, was obvious.  Mutual self-praise, totally genuine.  And therapeutic.

Let us look at some points, starting with his very uninformed remarks about the nonviolence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Nonviolence was their tactic, born out of a realism realistic enough to know the human capacity for violence, and an idealism idealistic enough to also know the human capacity for love, compassion, finding solutions.  Their strategic goal was conflict solution, presented clearly and persuasively as swaraj, freedom from colonialism for one, and a dream of integration of races for the other–the dream of which you, Obama, admit you are a part.  It was politics by other means; brilliantly conceived and executed.  The conflicts were protracted and deeply entrenched. But solutions nevertheless emerged that accommodated all parties relatively well, without much trauma.  Their relations changed.  And so did the parties themselves.  As is typical of nonviolence.

Would not work against Hitler and Al Qaeda, you proclaim.  So, how about the end of the Cold War, like in Leipzig DDR fall 1989, organized by the churches in the name of Gandhi and ML King Jr?  The Berlin wall fell a month later, followed by the Soviet Empire. Nonviolence was a key factor as in Poland and Bulgaria.

Not Hitler?  It liberated Jews from the Gestapo in Berlin February 1943.  But to stop Hitler the underlying conflict, which above all was over the Versailles Treaty, had to be solved.   A review conference in 1924, modifying or abrogating that very ill conceived treaty, would have deprived Hitler of most support.

And that leads straight into the fundamental flaw in the construction of your speech: the absence of any effort to understand 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq, beyond armed combat of people unwilling to lay down their arms.  And yet Spanish premier Zapatero managed when exposed to his 9/11, Once M, 11 March 2004, handling four aspects of the complex conflict with Morocco.

Where is your conflict analysis?  Why do you think there were many Saudis in the planes used as bombs 9/11?  What had the USA done?  How do you think Afghans react to five European invasions in 150 years?  Like you: the USA is evil, war is necessary.  Your lecture confirms that “thinking”.  They have grievances and could have used nonviolence; but you are an example of the opposite.

    There is evil in the world, you say, declaring some wars necessary.  Again a substitute for thinking, like medical science declaring diseases unavoidable, necessary evils.  Your hosts are deeply involved, including Norwegian arms and oil industry; like the USA for bases, oil and pipelines in Afghanistan and Iraq much prior to 9/11.  You used the word “war” 44 times (your hosts even deny there is a war), but you did not speak much peace.  To touch human hearts and minds you must possess these qualities yourself.

At one point you speak the truth, when you say you have no final solution to the problem of war.  Nobody does, but many of your Nobel colleagues are at least searching where you fall back on the tired formula of “just wars”.  How about just diseases? Or slavery?  colonialism?  Fortunately, some were not stopped by medieval ideas of inherent evil and possession by Satan–thoughts always present in the deeply status quo oriented mind–but gave social evils what they deserve: a good riddance.  You not.

You call for “continued expansion of moral imagination”, and offer none.  Instead you offer jingoistic US war propaganda.  No mention of the soon 250 military interventions around the world, including in Germany and Japan whose fascisms were promoted from early on by your country.  Interventions for freedom?  A few, but generally for maintaining a US grip, in the name of “enlightened self-interest”, for US business so biased that it needs military protection.  No mention of US material breaches of laws of war pointed to by yourself, eloquently, in your campaign for a change we can believe in.  But then you betrayed your voters by leaping away from one promise after the other.  Like today.

And now you continue bleeding the people of the region, with more civilian and US losses than ever, even with drones operated by CIA, which then in turn subcontracts to civilians, beyond any military control you seem to believe in.  When a way out could have been a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Central Asia, modeled on the Helsinki conference 1972-75.  Instead you escalate.  As Toby Keith, a part of this Nobel party, puts it in the song Courtesy of the White, Red and Blue:  “And you’ll be sorry that you messed with The U.S. of A; Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass; It’s the American Way.”  Oh yes, the US imperial way.

A continuity we can believe in.  And much of the world hates.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Dec 2009.

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