“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner
BURNET, Texas (March 27) — There’s an anonymous message circulating on Twitter that’s says, “Barack Obama has now fired more cruise missiles than all other Nobel Peace prize winners combined.” That would be funny, if it weren’t so depressing an observation. There are calls now from some foreign leaders for President Obama to return the award. “How is it possible to give the Nobel Peace Prize to someone who has launched an invasion, a bombing? It’s a violation, an assault, an aggression,” said Bolivian President Evo Morales.
President Obama dismissed this idea by repeating a line he used in his Oslo acceptance speech he delivered in December 2009. The president said then it was an “irony” for him to get this award when he was dealing with two wars. “So I am accustomed to this contradiction of being both a commander-in-chief but also someone who aspires to peace,” he told CNN.
That is not irony, Mr. President; it is hypocrisy. It is not a contradiction; it is a violation of your oath of office.
Isn’t it bad enough that America has an immediate-past president who is afraid to visit another country for fear of being arrested for war crimes? Now we have a sitting president who’s being asked to return a prestigious international award because he’s an aggressor. It seems to me we’re not doing a very good job of picking presidents.
Maybe it’s time we elect someone who won’t bring shame and condemnation to our nation by attacking other countries. Maybe it’s time we elected a president who took his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” seriously. Maybe it’s time we elected a president who understands the true meaning of that document.
When the Nobel Prize committee announced Obama’s award just week’s after he was inaugurated, it was greeted with skepticism, surprise and some scorn. Many people said at the time that Obama had done nothing to deserve it. To compound the doubt Obama announced an escalation of the war in Afghanistan just two weeks before the award ceremony.
Since then, Obama hasn’t made peace anywhere, with anyone. On the contrary, he has continued to expand and extend American interventionism by increasing the number of drone strikes in Pakistan, adding other countries including Yemen and Libya to U.S. target lists, authorizing the extra-judicial killing of American citizens and the indefinite imprisonment of enemy combatants and suspected terrorists even after they have been tried and acquitted by military or civilian courts, and condoning the dehumanizing incarceration of an American soldier accused of providing documents to WikiLeaks.
All the other American presidents who won the Nobel Peace Prize, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter, where at least involved in some peace negotiations. Even Roosevelt, not exactly a shrinking violet when it came to flexing America’s military might, mediated an end to the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.
In his Nobel acceptance speech, Obama repeatedly invoked the concept of a “just war” to defend America’s interventionist foreign policy and justify his escalation of the war in Afghanistan. “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes,” the president said. “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.” There are times when “force can be justified on humanitarian grounds,” he said.
He’s still using the same old, tired and discredited excuses every president since the end of World War II has dragged out to send American’s young men and women into harm’s way for dubious causes. History and experience has proven that the idea of humanitarian war is not just an oxymoron, it is a morally degenerate and intellectually bankrupt policy.
Force can never be justified for any humanitarian reason except in the direct defense of life. We may not be able to eradicate all violent conflict, but the United States can certainly remove itself as one of the prime instigators of violent conflict by keeping our noses out of other people’s business.
Obama even has the audacity — not of hope but of hubris — to declare that the American people do not see any contradiction in having a president who “cares about peace also wanting to make sure that people aren’t butchered because of a dictator who wants to cling to power.” Does he think we are blind?
President Obama, do you believe the American people cannot see the senselessness of bombing innocent people to save them from someone else’s bombs? Do you really have such a low opinion of your fellow Americans to think that we would condone, or even applaud, such murder in our names? Mr. President, you don’t teach people it is wrong to bomb them by bombing them!
Many Americans do see the contradiction, the pretense and the falsehood inherent in such an assertion. We’ve seen it before and throughout American history, in Vietnam, Central America, the Balkans, Somalia … American presidents sending U.S. military forces to “defend” the innocent victims from the ravages of a tyrant we either largely created, condoned or supported until he was of no use to us.
“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now, wrote Dr. Martin Luther King in his 1967 book the “Triumph of Conscience.” He was speaking of the Vietnam War, but his words are as applicable to America today as they were then. “The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.”
President Obama doesn’t need to return the Nobel Peace Prize; rather he should take inspiration from it and start acting in a way that matches the great honor he was given. He can start by halting the attacks on Libya and then go on to stop all wars being waged by his administration.
R. Lee Wrights, 52, a libertarian writer and political activist, is considering seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.