Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize and Barack Obama: Another Unsavoury Joke

Just like millions of people across the world, the news that US President Barack Obama has been awarded Nobel Peace Prize caught Yenning with a shocking surprise. By selecting Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize selection committee has seriously demeaned the aura and honour associated with the universally coveted Nobel Peace Prize. By doing so, the selection committee has exposed its vulnerability to American lobby and/or its preferential orientation towards the West. It is astonishing how the selection committee overlooked the fact that President Barack Obama is heading two wars at present in Iraq and Afghanistan, started by his predecessor George Walker Bush. How could the selection committee pass their verdict in favour of a man who is in office less than nine months, and only for 12 days before the Nobel nomination deadline last February ? Had the award been named ‘Nobel Oratory Prize’, Barack Obama could be a probable contender, if not the winner.
He won ! For What !
This was the question every sane person asked when the American President was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The American people were more surprised than they were elated. The general observation is that Obama got the prize more for his promise than performance. President Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda, both at home and abroad, are barely underway, much less finished. He has no standout moment of victory, forget about outstanding achievement. Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to those whose contributions to the cause of harmony and peace on the face of this earth is both outstanding and unquestionable or so that say. Yenning finds it rather hard to guess on what basis Barack Obama was graded above all other contenders. Yes, he did promise closure of the notorious US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, bringing an end to Iraq war and banned torture and other extreme interrogation techniques on terrorists. The American President also promised new efforts to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He proclaimed that battling climate change is a priority and that he wants a nuclear-free world. How sweet these promises are and how enchanting were his speeches. But on the ground very little has been moved or achieved.
Obama’s promise of closing down the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison is unlikely to be realised within January 2010, deadline set by the President himself. The American president is also ostensibly slow to bring home American troops from war zones. Political observers and military analysts figured that US military presence in Iraq would remain until at least 2012, that too only if both the US and Iraq comply with the agreements signed between the two on American troops withdrawal. He did push for new efforts to make peace between Israel and Palestinians. But he received little cooperation from the two sides. Notwithstanding the niceties of his rhetoric, Barack Obama has not made any significant amendment in the US policy towards Israel or for that matter Palestine. The US Congress is still not in favour of any policy shift towards Israel, not under any leadership including Barack Obama, despite the fact that US policy vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine is largely responsible for antagonising more than half of the Muslim world. Barack Obama’s promise of battling climate change is also not very promising, at least in the coming years, considering the fact that a fundamental legislation has been kept freezed in the US Congress. This is quite disheartening as the US is heading into crucial international negotiations on global climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark in December while the legislation which should serve as prime mover of all international negotiations has been stalled by the Congress. Again, the US President talked about nuclear-free world in his speech at Prague in April this year. But in action, Barack Obama has moved very little to bring other nations and US lawmakers to ratify the web of treaties and agreements needed to make his promise a reality. Rather increasing number of countries are arming themselves with nuclear weapons. Apart from the US and Russia, many other countries like China, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea have stockpiled nuclear weapons.
We appreciate all efforts to lessen nuclear weapons on this face of the Earth even if they can’t free this only known human habitable planet from nuclear weapons. But Yenning is of the opinion that it’s too early and too immature on the part of the Nobel Committee to select Barack Obama for Nobel Peace Prize who has been in office for barely nine months. Now it's anybody’s guess whether Barack Obama’s reputation and pride of being the President of the world’s strongest nation has been restored or not by becoming a Nobel Laureate after he suffered a humiliating experience at Zurich where his presence and lobby could not win the 2016 Summer Olympics for US city, Chicago. The fact that Chicago ended behind all other final contending cities was a severe blow to the prestige of the world’s most powerful man. The changed rhetoric of Obama in comparison to George W Bush was enough for the Nobel Committee but not so for the International Olympic Committee and its members.
Dubitable Nobel Peace Prize winners
In a number of cases, controversies shrouded Nobel Peace Prize and its recipients were often most dubitable. Elihu Root, Woodrow Wilson, Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter etc are some of the controversial Nobel Peace Laureates who seriously undermined and devalued the honour carried by Nobel Peace Prize.
Elihu Root : The former US Secretary of State and War received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912. He founded the Council on Foreign Relations, presided over the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But he was also the author of US policy in Philippines following the Spanish-American war, perhaps the darkest chapter in the history of American imperialism.
Woodrow Wilson: This American President of World War I fame was one of the authors of the Treaty of Versailles and a founder of the League of Nations. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his vision of lasting world peace. Unfortunately, neither the Treaty of Versailles nor the League of Nations could secure world peace, much to the disappointment of the Nobel Committee. The treaty only gave rise of Nazism and the league was inert against the rise of Hitler.
Henry Kissinger : This former US Secretary of State and national security advisor won the award in 1973. Before receiving the award, he was implicated in the escalation of America’s Vietnam war strategy and accused of supporting right wing dictators to advance American cold war policy at the expense of democracy and human rights in their countries. Ironically, Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize for working to end US involvement in Vietnam and correct policy errors there. In another word, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for rectifying his blunders and other acts of fait accompli.
Does Sharmila stand a chance ?
Yes, Sharmila is no head of state nor an international figure of any stature. She has not achieved the only goal of her life. Yet, she has struggled and sacrificed all her life for the cause of peace and protection of human rights in this wretched part of democratic India. It is also true Barack Obama’s agenda are far more nobler and greater in scope than Sharmila’s goal. Nonetheless at the present stage, this ordinary Manipuri woman of the humblest origin has struggled and sacrificed a lot more than the 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate American President. Mind you! We are not proposing Sharmila for Nobel Peace Prize. Frankly, Yenning never hopes for Nobel Prize in Sharmila’s name. But as sons of the soil, we cannot help but acknowledge her outstanding and unquestionable sacrifice for upholding human rights in conflict-tormented Manipur. Though she is struggling throughout the past decade for repeal of a single draconian Act enacted by the Government of India here, her sacrifice is momentous and her struggle unsurpassed throughout the world. We can proudly say, had Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (later Bapuji) been alive, he would have certainly bowed his head in shame before our very ordinary Irom Sharmila Chanu. Lo! MK Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi, who pioneered and championed non-violent protest movements across the world, too never figured in the Nobel Committee’s frame of mind for conferring Nobel Peace Prize. Yet believers in Mahatma Gandhi’s doctrines can take solace in the fact that his American follower Martin Luther King Jr was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. One need not delve any deeper to find out why Nobel Peace Prize eluded Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle, though peaceful, was directed against British imperialism, whose interests at that time identified with those of the US and contemporary European powers. Though not exactly alike, Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle for democracy in Myanmar is as much peaceful as Mahatma Gandhi’s movement and she has been conferred the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. As much as she deserved the honour, Aung San Suu Kyi was helped in not lesser degree by the US Government’s disapproval of the military junta in Myanmar. The not so friendly diplomatic relation between China and the US was one major factor that moved Dalai Lama within the league of Nobel Laureates in 1989.
What is Sharmila’s chance ? Well, one can only hope the Indo-US diplomatic relations suddenly turn sour and remain so for quite a period of time. Then we can expect Nobel Peace Prize for the Iron Lady. Never mind. Nobel Peace Prize does not necessarily mean recognition of one’s outstanding contribution to the cause of peace and harmony. Any American President can get it !
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, October 25, 2009

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