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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Regarding Huntingtonsteam's comment on the impossibility of Mr. Obama having traveled to Pakistan in 1981 on a US passport, it is understandable why one might think so, since this story has been often repeated on the internet by people who did not take the time to do any serious research. Pakistan was an ally of the US before, during, and after 1981, and was heavily engaged in aiding our efforts to destabilize Afghanistan's government as a means to bring the USSR into disrepute. Travel was not only permitted to Pakistan, it was encouraged. If you doubt it, take a look at a New York Times travel story encouraging trips to Pakistan that year: http://www.nytimes.com/1981/06/14/travel/lahore-a-survivor-with-a-bittersweet-history.html?&pagewanted=1

I truly hope libertarians will take the time to check their facts before passing along gossip. Repeating such things damages the credibility of those wishing to advance freedom. There are real issues to deal with, but if we are sidetracked into such non-issues, as seems to happen
quite frequently, it will be difficult for anyone to take the cause of liberty seriously.

Regarding the award to Mr. Obama, I think it is not inconsistent with at least some of the Nobel Peace Prizes given to American politicians in the past. Unlike the Nobel winners in the
sciences, chosen by serious scientists from Sweden, or the prize in literature, given by the Swedish Academy, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient is given by politicians -- specifically a committee selected by the Norwegian Storting (parliament). This method of picking the
peace prize was perhaps a reflection of the myopic idealism of the Norwegians regarding the prospects for peace -- and a tendency to overlook evidence of blood on the hands of the nominees.

Teddy Roosevelt won the peace prize after the slaughter of millions in the American colonization of the Philippines, because he helped arrange a peace settlement between Russia and Japan. It would have been impolite to observe that Teddy also offered to keep hands off Korea when Japan colonized it -- in exchange for Japan keeping hands off our expanding empire in the Philippines.

Woodrow Wilson won the peace prize after reneging on a promise and dragging the American people into World War One (while silencing dissent at home) -- because he came up with the idealistic Fourteen Points and the League of Nations -- neither of which had any practical
effect. His incompetence in establishing a just peace set the stage for the rise of fascism and World War Two.

Jimmy Carter won in 2002, by which time his role in destabilizing Afghanistan -- leading to perhaps a million deaths during the Afghan War of the 1980s -- was widely known. American propaganda had presented this as a Russian invasion of Afghanistan, but Carter, following Zbigniew Brzezinski's advice, had armed and financed the effort to overthrow the Afghan government; the USSR was asked to assist in quelling the rebellion. As stability was returning under the Taliban, America invaded in October 2001. The result of Carter's actions included the empowerment of Osama bin Laden, the man the US Government blames for the events of 9-11-2001. The award, on 10-11-2002, claimed "Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts
must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development." There are a lot of dead Afghans and their friends and relatives who might disagree.

When Al Gore shared the prize in 2007, the committee revealed the political purpose of its award:

"By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond
man’s control."

I would guess that the award to Obama is made in the same spirit. He has done little good, permitted further harm, but promised a rosy future -- a bit like Woodrow Wilson. Overlooking his actions and listening to his words, the committee felt compelled to advance such idealism.

This, too, has a long history. In December 1906, in presenting the award to Teddy Roosevelt, Gunnar Knudsen opined:

"it is appropriate to recall that the Norwegian Parliament was one of the first national assemblies to adopt and to support the cause of peace. Twelve or fifteen years ago, Gentlemen, the cause of peace presented a very different aspect from the one it presents today. The cause was then
regarded as a utopian idea and its advocates as well-meaning but overly enthusiastic idealists who had no place in practical politics, being out of touch with the realities of life. The
situation has altered radically since then, for in recent years leading statesmen, even heads of state, have espoused the cause, which has now acquired a totally different image in public
opinion."

Yes, indeed. Now peace was no longer utopian, it had the right image. What a pity that less than eight years later, the greatest war in human history had begun, and that lovely image was to be sullied by tens of millions of deaths.

Let's hope the Obama award is not an omen of a similar future.

[Originally published 11:11 a.m., October 11, 2009. Edited to correct spacing on May 12, 2010]

3 Comments:

Blogger oozyism said...

Good Morning

Just want to know your perspective on US-Pakistan relationship today.

Is Pakistan merely playing pretense to distance itself from US (due to public outrage), or is the whole shenanigan real.

I fully agree with your statement that US and Pakistan were solid allies in their attempts to destabilize Afghanistan as they perceived the Afghan government to be a representative of USSR.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Guerrier said...

I took a lot of interest in reading this article. I came to discover it through Tomdispatch's last newsletter and your acurate comments. Remembering the underlying facts is a full time job and asks to work constantly on and against collective amnesia.It's too bad you stopped your blog such a long time ago, America may need its historians and intellectuals back. Elisabeth Guerrier

11:21 AM  
Blogger Fredric Dennis Williams said...

To oozyism: Sorry for not responding, I rarely visit this site -- perhaps that should change.

Regarding the current state of Pakistani politics, I know too little to answer usefully. Of course, it is always necessary to placate the domestic population when it is outraged.

To Ms. Guerrier: Thanks for your comment. Because of it, I will publish here something today. It is a brief summary of a book I have been trying to write for a couple of years. Naturally, the subject is complex, so this will be of only limited value.

11:35 AM  

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