by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
At the Nobel announcement of this year's peace prize a reporter asked the Nobel spokesman “why”, since the man had only been in office less than a year, and had done so little to merit the honor. The spokesman replied that the prize had been given not so much for anything Obama had done, but in the spirit of hope and encouragement, for what he might do. Maybe.
In the real world Barack Obama is a politician. The Nobel Peace Prize is highly political too, handed out with equanimity to bloodthirsty warmongers and genuine peacemakers alike, according to the politics of the moment. Henry Kissinger got one less than a year after breaking off peace talks to end the Vietnam war to bomb Hanoi over the 1972 Christmas holidays. Dr. King's receipt of the prize on the other hand, contributed mightily to his eventual public opposition to the imperial war in Vietnam.
Black Agenda Report salutes the European journalist who posed the key question at the Nobel press conference. Corporate American media being the great force for openness and accountability that it is, the query would have been a career-killer for any American reporter who dared utter it. In that same spirit of reality-based reporting and commentary we offer these top ten reasons the president ought to reconsider accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.
Reason Number Ten: The president is escalating, not ending the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Like his Republican opponent John McCain, Barack Obama ran not as the peace candidate on Afghanistan, but the war candidate, promising to up the ante with drone attacks and cross-border forays into Afghanistan. The main difference between Obama and McCain on that issue was that McCain said we should escalate the war in that part of the world because we were winning, while Obama contended we must escalate it because we were winning. This is one promise Obama has kept. His first military strike inside the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater was ordered within 36 hours of his inauguration. The president is reportedly now considering the deployment of 40,000 or more additional US forces to Afghanistan.
Furthermore, Obama's puppet Afghan president is the brother of the country's and possibly the planet's biggest opium dealer. That's no small thing, since Afghanistan supplies 90% of the world's opium, most of which is refined into heroin for addicts at home and around the world. To be fair, Obama did inherit the puppet regime from his predecessor, who also begat the tradition of the United States funding its puppet regimes and mercenary armies abroad with drug profits. We did it in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, where many of our local generals were the opium lords who ran the refineries and exported the crop. The Reagan regime also paid for its bloody contra war in Nicaragua with a mixture of illicit arms sales and profits from the cocaine trade too. So despite being hailed as a '”transformative leader” President Obama continues a proud and corrupt tradition of dubious and drug-soaked allies to carry on the wars at the fringes of America's global empire.
Reason Number Nine: President Obama is still peddling lies about Iran building nuclear weapons.
When Iran announced that it planned to exercise its treaty right to diversify its energy sources and build a plant for enriching uranium within the guidelines of applicable international agreements, President Obama sank nearly to the level of his predecessors in trying to sell to the world the spectre of an imaginary nuclear threat. The fact that the president's own intelligence agencies and the relevant international bodies affirm that there is no Iranian nuclear threat didn't stop the president warlike rhetoric of sanctions and drastic measures directed against Iran. The last president who sold us imaginary tales of Middle Eastern nukes used those tales to justify a genocidal war that has killed more than 1.5 million Iraqis along with a few thousand Americans, at a cost estimated in the trillions of dollars.
Reason Number Eight: Barack Obama's first budget called for expanding, not shrinking the army and marine corps.
The military has two jobs, breaking things and killing people. It's no secret that with no real military rivals anywhere on earth for the last twenty years, the United States, with five percent of the world's population has outspent the rest of the planet combined on military hardware, personnel, bases, research and operations. President Obama ran for office pledging to expand the US army and marines by 90 to 120 thousand pairs of boots, the better to fight multiple wars in far-flung corners of a world where the US maintains more than 800 military bases in over 100 countries.
Reason Number Seven: President Obama retained Robert Gates, a bloodthirsty Reaganite war criminal as Secretary of Defense.
In a 1948 rebranding, the US renamed its Department of War the Department of Defense. Nothing else changed but the name. Barack Obama is the first president in more than two centuries of US history to keep the Secretary of War installed by a predecessor of the opposite party. The current Secretary of War, Robert Gates has a history of bloodstained treachery stretching back to his betrayal of Jimmy Carter when he served on Carter's National Security Administration team. Gates allegedly assured Iran they'd get a better deal from Reagan if they kept the hostages till the new president took office. Gates was rewarded with the post of deputy director at the Reagan era CIA, where he doctored intelligence and ran murderous secret operations around the world till the end of the first Bush administration. When 1993 Democrats decided to “look forward” and not prosecute the crimes of Reagan-Bush misrule, Gates slunk off to private life until his recall a decade later by the second Bush. The Pentagon under Robert Gates has 2.1 million uniformed employees and millions more contractors, civilian employees, armies of spooks, lobbyists and propagandists and dozens of secret budgets.
Reason Number Six: In the Americas, the US Still Blockades Cuba, Threatens Venezuela, & Funds The Longest and Bloodiest War in South America since the Genocide of Native Americans in Colombia
All of these are legacy policies President Obama inherited. He has renounced none of them and continued each and every one. Obama still punishes Cuba for the crime of self-rule by keeping intact travel bans and a fifty year blockade of the island only 90 miles from Florida, separating families, choking trade and disrupting cultural ties. Colombia continues to be one of the world's top recipients, after Israel and Egypt, of US military aid, which it utilizes to prosecute a decades-long civil war in which Afro-Colombians and been particularly victimized. More than a million Colombians are displaced by the war and hundreds of thousands have died. And under President Obama, the US is now building two military bases in Colombia near the Venezuelan border.
Reason Number Five: The US government, in and out of uniform still practices torture and maintains a global gulag of law-free secret prisons.
From stateside military brigs Carolinas to dungeons in Eastern Europe, torture chambers in Egypt and black holes in ships at sea or remote Diego Garcia, where the US military has allowed no journalists for twenty years, US civil servants are committing lawless and unspeakable acts of torture and degradation. They've been doing it for some time now in our name and on our dime. It didn't start with George Bush and apparently it will not end with Barack Obama. In the spirit of 1993 Democrats who declined to investigate or prosecute the decade of rampant criminality on the part of three Reagan-Bush administrations, Nobel laureate Barack Obama has adopted a don't ask don't tell don't prosecute policy on war crimes, international kidnapping and torture committed by US agents in or out of uniform. Let's look to the future, the president has told us, crimes are in the past. But aren't all crimes in the past?
Reason Number Four: The president has utterly disregarded his campaign pledge to withdraw one combat brigade per month from Iraq.
Comedian Bill Maher says people should try to remember that Barack Obama is their president, not their boyfriend. When your boyfriend lies it's a private matter whether you forgive, forget or believe him the next time. Presidents act with your money and in your name. When they lie it's a very public affair. Although close and lawyerly scrutiny of his statements reveals he probably never intended to withdraw from Iraq, Candidate Obama deliberately gave the impression he would bring home some or most of the troops because he knew that was what the electorate wanted in a Democratic candidate for president. By now President Obama should have withdrawn more than half a dozen combat brigades from Iraq, but there are few signs of that happening. An Iraqi referendum on whether the US must leave by a date certain is supposed to occur in 2010 under the current Status of Forces Agreement, but it is doubtful that this will ever occur.
Reason Number Three: The US Continues to Ignore Israeli nukes, while it acts as banker, diplomatic cover, and armorer its brutal Israel's sixty year occupation of Palestine.
Despite being in violation of more UN resolutions than any nation on earth, Israel is the top recipient of US economic and military aid. The optimism in the Arab world that greeted Obama's swearing in has given way to resignation and despair as the bloody occupation endures, the choking of Gaza and the taking of Palestinian land and resources on the West Bank continues. The Obama administration has even blocked the investigation of Israeli war crimes in its military assault against the nearly helpless civilian population of Gaza last year. Israel still conducts military exercises to underline the nuclear threat it poses to every other state in the region, a nuclear threat President Obama is not even inclined to acknowledge, let alone address in the meaningful fashion of a peacemaker. This is the same Barack Obama who used to attend Palestinian community events as a state senator in Chicago. Barack Obama has been captured by the office of president rather than the other way around.
Reason Number Two: The US is Funnelling Billions Into Expanding Its Military Presence Across the African Continent.
In recent years the US has given military aid to more than fifty of the fifty four nations on the African continent, invariably backing at least one, and often two or more sides in every case of invasion or civil war. As Glen Ford pointed out only last week, the US has just concluded a joint training exercise with personnel from dozens of African armies, all of which are being made to look to Uncle Sam as their paymaster, armorer and training resource. The US intends to grab the lion's share of African oil, water, agricultural and mineral resources in the coming century. The rape of the Congo, in which more than five million have perished in the last decade, has been perpetrated to make central Africa safe for business. Congolese resources are flowing to the US and its allies, so five million dead there is not considered a genocide. But neighboring Darfur, where the Chinese are pumping the oil, a hundredth of that death toll several years back still fuels fresh charges of genocide and calls for US intervention on the part of our bipartisan foreign policy elite. By backing the military sectors of African societies instead of civil sectors, by sending arms instead of forgiving the debt and allowing African countries to build their own hospitals and educate their people, the First Black President perpetuates a dreadful legacy of neo-colonial oppression that has cost millions of lives and will injure millions more to come.
Reason Number One: It just ain't right.
The Nobel Peace Prize is bad politics, even for Obama supporters. For the rest of his career it will invite unflattering comparisons of Barack Obama with the work of genuine peacemakers like Dr. Martin Luther King who declared that his own country, the United States was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” The US presidency would be a great place to put a genuine peacemaker, a visionary woman or man who would bend the law to enforce respect for human rights, who would take the lead in nuclear disarmament by trashing the largest stockpile of nukes in the world which would be under his control. A peacemaker would open the doors to travel and trade with Cuba, and follow the Cuban example of aiding Africa with teachers, doctors and appropriate technology rather than flooding the continent with arms. A peacemaker would close the torture chambers and prosecute war criminals so that justice would roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. None of that is going on.
The European elite didn't do Barack a favor with this Nobel prize. But then you don't flatter the king to help the monarch out. You flatter the king to help yourself. The Nobel Peace Prize is their soiled and fulsome love note to the new emperor. It will hang around Obama's neck like a millstone, a token of the vast gulf between the fiction of a progressive black president and the reality of just another imperial CEO minding the same old store.
Bruce Dixon is managing editor of Black Agenda Report, and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendarport.com.