Nobel, how many wars are waged in thy name?

By Ameen Izzadeen

Righting the wrong is part of civilized behaviour. But it is not known whether the Nobel committee believes in this norm. If it does, it should request United States President Barack Obama to return the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and the prize money. troop withdrawal

The call to strip Obama of his Nobel peace prize is as old as the decision to award him the prize. At that time, the president, just eight-month in office, had hardly proved his peace credentials except for rhetoric. But the committee in its defence said Obama’s speeches had revived the hope for peace in a conflict-ridden world. It cited Obama’s “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.

Far from being so, in retrospect, it appears that the committee has only given a veneer of legitimacy to the United States’ wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover it has given a licence to the Obama administration to launch wars in Libya and if necessary in other places where the US interests are in jeopardy or where resources, especially oil, gas and minerals, make US capitalists salivate.

When Obama decided to join the war on Libya in March this year, Bolivia’s socialists President Evo Morales asked: “How is it possible that a Nobel Peace Prize winner leads a gang to attack and invade? This is not a defence of human rights or self-determination.”

Morales was right, the decision to attack Libya was taken well before the peaceful means of conflict resolution were fully exhausted.

Armed with the Nobel licence to wage war, President Obama, a Harvard-educated constitutional law lecturer, has even dared to defy the US constitution and Congress. Under the US constitution, any military action the President takes needs to be referred to the Congress for approval before 60 days. But in the case of Obama’s Libya war, this did not happen. Many see Obama’s stance, which seems to convey that a war president is superior to the constitution, as a challenge to constitutionalism.

Republican Congressman Ron Paul, a possible candidate for 2012 presidential race, says, “Our founders understood that waging war is not something that should be taken lightly, which is why Article 1, Section 8 of the United States constitution gives Congress — not the president — the authority to declare war. This was meant to be an important check on presidential power. The last thing the founders wanted was an out-of-control executive branch engaging in unnecessary and unpopular wars without so much as a Congressional debate. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the situation we have today in Libya.”

Paul and several other Congressmen have filed a lawsuit for a ruling on the constitutionality of President Obama’s Libya war.

The White House in a response said the president need not seek congressional approval for limited engagements such as the US involvement in Libya.

Given Obama’s increasingly hawkish credentials, such a response came as no surprise to the peace lobby and constitutionalists.

Pardon me for labelling a president who was elected on an anti-Iraq war platform, a war president or a hawk. But the compulsion to label him thus overrides my reluctance to do so.

The compulsion prevails even after he made an announcement on Wednesday that US troops would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan from next month and by the end of this year 10,000 troops would leave the war-ravaged country. According to his plans, another 23,000 will leave Afghanistan by the end of next summer and by 2014 the troop withdrawal will be complete. This means that 70,000 US troops plus another 40,000 from other NATO nations will continue to remain in Afghanistan till 2014.

Well, 2014 is three and a half years away and the period gives enough time to manipulate events which may warrant a longer US presence not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan.

The Nobel peace laureate’s just war has killed, according to a conservative estimate, more than 12,000 innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan since the war began in October 2001. Some reports say that in any given US or NATO attack on a target the militant casualties account for only two percent with 98 percent being civilian deaths.

What Obama did not tell the Americans on Wednesday was that his administration is holding talks with the Hamid Karzai government to work out an agreement that will allow a permanent US presence in Afghanistan after 2014. Similar talks are underway in Iraq to let the American forces stay in Iraq after the December 31 deadline.

According to opinion polls, nearly 70 percent of the Americans are pessimistic about the Afghan war and prefer a substantial troop withdrawal by next month because there is no justification to remain there, now that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is history.

The people feel the country cannot spend two billions dollars every week on the Afghan war at a time when the economy is in a deep mess. Obama also acknowledged it in his Wednesday’s speech.

But power-politics seems to take precedence over the welfare of the American people. The United State’s talks with the Karzai government and secret talks with the Taliban indicate that Washington regards Afghanistan as a strategically important base to check the growing influence of China in the Central Asian region. Afghanistan would also be useful as a base if hostilities break out between Iran and the United States.

The irony is that Obama who was elected on an anti-war platform is now getting ready to seek his reelection with three wars under his belt and more up his sleeve. If the Nobel committee does not take note of this and take action, the conclusion one may draw is that the committee also has jumped on the war bandwagon.

Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite later gave all his wealth for the Nobel awards, when he saw how his invention was being used more for destructive purposes than for constructive purposes; just as it was with Albert Einstein’s discovery of nuclear power. If it is possible for graves to be filled with tears, then that may be the case with these famous scientists.

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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