Friday, January 25, 2013

Obama’s Peace

Should President Barack Obama return his Nobel Peace Prize? That’s the sobering question posed in a stunningly serious satire posted on the online humor site TFE.

“Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, said today that President Obama ‘really ought to consider’ returning his Nobel Peace Prize Medal immediately, including the ‘really nice’ case it came in,” the thought-provoking piece by Tony Hendra, a former National Lampoon editor, began. 

“Jagland, flanked by the other four members of the Committee, said they’d never before asked for the return of a Peace Prize, ‘even from a damnable war-criminal like Kissinger,’ but that the 10% drawdown in US troops in Afghanistan the President announced last week capped a period of ‘non-Peace-Prize-winner-type behavior’ in 2011.  ‘Guantanamo’s still open. There's bombing Libya. There's blowing bin Laden away rather than putting him on trial. Now a few US troops go home, but the US will be occupying Afghanistan until 2014 and beyond. Don’t even get me started on Yemen!’

“The Committee awarded Obama the coveted prize in 2009 after he made a series of speeches in the first months of his presidency, which convinced the Peace Prize Committee that he was: ‘creating a new climate of...multilateral emphasis on the role of the United Nations...of dialogue and negotiations as instruments for resolving international conflicts...and a vision of world free of nuclear arms.’” 

In a  final twist that cuts knife-edge close to the reality of Obama’s unrelenting lethal actions chasing the ghost of bin Laden around the world, the TFE piece concludes: “The White House had no comment. It later announced an aggressive new covert CIA initiative to identify and apprehend Al Qaeda operatives in Scandinavia.” 

Indeed, what are peaceful folks around the world to make of an American president who gives soaring speeches promoting peaceful actions and secretly issues orders for drone missile attacks on homes and vehicles in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere that may or may not contain people on a White House-approved “kill list”—but which in many cases kill children and other bystanders, according to a report by researchers at Stanford and New York University law schools.

Can you imagine the outrage that would rise across America if some other country sent in drones to blow up targeted enemies strolling amid Times Square crowds, stuck in Los Angeles traffic and hanging out in suburban homes.

“A new report on targeted killing by C.I.A. drones in Pakistan’s tribal area concludes that the strikes have killed more civilians than American officials have acknowledged, alienated Pakistani public opinion and set a dangerous precedent under international law,” The New York Times reported last September.

“The report, by human rights researchers at the Stanford and New York University law schools, urges the United States to ‘conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices’ including ‘short- and long-term costs and benefits.’ It also calls on the administration to make public still-secret legal opinions justifying the strikes.”

Needless to say, Obama’s secret drone missile warfare opinions and orders were not addressed in his reelection inaugural speech on Monday. Instead, as American troops continued to kill and die in Afghanistan (and kill themselves in the war zone and at home) at a rate exceeding the carnage during the Bush administration, Obama gave another soaring paean to peace:

“We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.  Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage.  Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty.  The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm.  But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

“We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law.  We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully - not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.  America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.  We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.  And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice - not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes:  tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.” 

That is the vision the Nobel Peace Prize committee honored at the beginning of Obama’s first term in office. Satire aside, that award really ought to be rescinded if Obama continues waging secretive, morally obtuse war operations in his second term.

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