Thursday, 15 October 2009

Orwell belatedly recognised (or the Nobel Peace Prize — just like the Grammys only bloodier)

By Carlo Sands. First published on - and stolen ruthlessly from - An Alcoholic's Guide to Modern Life

Well it’s that time of the year again, when the world stops and waits with bated breath to discover who a committee of Norwegian people have decided to honour with the Nobel Peace Prize.

This year, they made a seemingly brave choice.

The distinguished committee has gone for a literary reference — a somewhat unsubtle acknowlegement of the works of George Orwell.

As the panel on literature is left in the safe hands of the Swedes, we can only assume this sideways foray into the field is a swipe at the Norwegians hated Scandinavian rivals — who never saw fit to give Orwell his due in his day.

Of course, the Norwegians fail to realise the Swedes were talkin' Orwell before the author was even born.

War is peace, indeed. It has been the case from the beginning.

The Nobel Peace Prize, after all, is named after Alfred Nobel, the renowned 19th century Swedish arms manufacturer.

In fact, the Norwegians themselves have been making the ironic point for years — without anyone appearing to have gotten the reference. So they keep atryin’.

In 1919, the “peace prize” was won by then-US president Woodrow Wilson — whose thoroughly Orwellian commitment to peace involved him taking a reluctant USA into the pointless, mass slaughter of World War One just two years earlier.

1973 was the year for possibly the greatest acknowledgment to Orwell's celebrated concept of “double-speak” — in which a totalitarian regime insists, in his nightmare novel 1984, that “War is Peace”.

The winner that year was Henry Kissinger.

Then-US secretary of state, Kissinger was one of the truly great war criminals of the 20th Century — a century that featured so many top mass murdering names.

Among his many unpeaceful acts, Kissinger was an architect of the Vietnam War (and the bombing of Cambodia, which helped pave the way for the Khmer Rouge to seize power).

And Kissinger famously helped organise the 1973 Chilean military coup that brought the dictator Pinochet to power.

Kissinger uttered the immortal line about the elected left-wing government he helped bury under the corpses of tens of thousands: “I don't see why we need to stand by and allow a country to go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.

“The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

Never, I have always believed with good reason drawn from personal experience, trust a Chilean.

In that, I am entirely with the former US secretary of state, as well as the Bolivians.

But should legitimate mistrust ever be allowed to degenerate into barbaric and unseemly mass slaughter?

I fear I must draw a line.

Kissinger, of course, also gave Indonesian dictator Suharto the green light to invade to invade East Timor in 1975.

Before Indonesian occupation, supported and armed by the West, finally left in 1999, around one third of the population had died.

Suharto had come to power in October 1965 in a military coup coordinated with the US embassy. (That old joke — “Why has there never been a military coup in the US? Because Washington has no US embassy.”)

In the aftermath of the coup, one of the 20th century’s great mass murders occurred. As many as half a million members of the Indonesian Communist Party, suspected members, suspected sympathisers, and general leftists and suspected leftists, were butchered.

The Australian PM of the day, Harold Holt, said with glee about Indonesia in a speech to a dinner party in New York, as the bodies were still being buried: “With 500,000 to 1 million Communist sympathisers knocked off, I think it safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.”

It is a truly severe tragedy that Holt disappeared while swimming a little over a year later.

This most unfortunate circumstance no doubt is the sole reason Holt was not, justly, awarded Australia’s first and only Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his humanitarian spirit.

I still, to this day, do not see why the Norwegians could not have granted it to him posthumously.

And here we are in 2009, and the Norwegians are as canny and sharp as ever.

In keeping with an understanding of peace that only a prize named after a man whose fortune was made selling things that explode in order to rip human flesh apart could uphold, this year’s prize has been won by the leader of the nation with the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

A leader of a nation actively using the weapons on civilians in three countries, while happily supplying them for a profit for active use in a number of others.

Yes, US President Barack Obama is the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Some cynics and/or communist agents (just because the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago doesn't mean the Laos People's Democratic Republic does not have its agents working to undermine the Free World) suggest there is something odd in this choice.

It is true that in Obama, the hopes of millions of ordinary people desperate for change and an end to his predecessor’s policies of war are embodied.

It is also true that this is a peace prize handed to a man not just overseeing, but escalating an actual war.

It is a bold choice. Even when they handed Kissinger his award, it was for the Paris peace accords that recognised that, more or less, the US had lost the Vietnam War.

Kissinger was at least being rewarded for losing a war.

Obama, on the other hand, is yet to even be defeated. And, by the looks of Afghanistan, it isn't as if the Norwegians would have had to wait that long.

There is not much peaceful about Afghanistan. The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner has sent more US troops that his predecessor.

There is increasingly little peaceful about Pakistan either, to which Obama, in a stroke of military genius akin to Kissinger’s brainwave that the way to win Vietnam was to invade Cambodia, has decided to extend the Afghan war.

It makes perfect sense. The Afghan war is being lost, the solution is to start more war next door in a nation more populous.

I try this technique all the time. Horribly drunk after far too many beers, I solve the problem by following each further beer with whiskey chasers.

The results for me are about the same as for the US Empire — pain, tears and stained carpets.

It may well be true, as Spinoza said, that peace is more than the absence of war.

But it is usually considered that an absence of war is, at the very least, a precondition for peace.

Life is more than breathing oxygen, but try it without the fucking stuff and sees how you go.

Drunkeness is more than one beer too, but you can’t reach the nirvana state with only iced water.

The US-led occupation forces was, presumably, working for peace when the US Airforce, as it has repeatedly throughout the war now in its ninth year, bombed a gathering of civilians killing more than 100 in September. And in May. And this month.

Such stories actually occur week in and week out.

No doubt Obama is working for peace when pilotless drones, controlled from a bunker thousands of kilometres way, bomb a Pakistani village that the Taliban have long fled.

No doubt the Obama administration is also working for peace in Honduras. Certainly no one can doubt that, in endless state department press releases, the administration is claiming it is.

In Honduras, the elected president Manuel Zelaya annoyed the hell out of US corporations by raising the minimum wage by 60%.

Not long after, he was kidnapped in his pyjamas, bundled into a place and exiled to Costa Rica.

This act being carried out by a military in which every officer is trained by the US School of the Americas.

The head of the military (and coup) is so keen he graduated from the SOA twice.

Zelaya was flown out of the country from the US military base in Tegucigalpaa.

Despite a public response of, “Hey! Guys! C’mon that’s not nice”, the US continues to train Honduran military officers.

And, claims by state department press releases notwithstanding, has still not cut off the large majority of its aid to the regime.

The military Obama refuses to cut ties with is right now killing and torturing unarmed civilians demanding the president they elected be returned.

In case Latin America didn't get the hint, straight after the coup occurred, it was announced that there would be five new US military bases in Colombia.

Colombia is the third largest recipient of US military aid, which it uses to further world peace by killing civilians pretending they are guerrillas.

It also is home to the highest rate of assassination of trade unionists each year of any other nation. In fact, some 60% of the world total occurs in Colombia.

Of course, the biggest recipient of US military aid is Israel, of which Obama is such an outspoken supporter.

Standard rhetoric about the need for a peace deal, contained in the same state department press releases circulated for the last 15 years, notwithstanding, this continues under Obama without any risk.

Enabling, of course, Israel to commit crimes against humanity.

Whatever the intention of those inscrutable Scandinavians, it does appear that, to win a Nobel Peace Prize, no actual talent in the field of peace is required. The very opposite seems rewarded.

Not unlike the Grammys really.

And, if we look it at it, we must admit: the Obama administration’s contribution to world peace is not really all that different to multi-Grammy winner Mariah Carey’s contribution to music.

Their effects on their respective fields are, in fact, strikingly similar.

And I do find listening to Mariah Carey enables me to feel, in a small way, something of what it must be like to be a prisoner held indefinitely without charge in the US-run Bagrahm prison in Afghanistan.

Those lucky enough to have trialled the services available to a prisoner in both Bagrahm and Guantanamo say they prefer Guantanamo.

Obama made the high-profile pledge to close Guantanamo. Bagrahm, continues unhindered in its torture policy.

And Orwell is at last rewarded with a belated Nobel Prize.

“When you left I lost a part of me, it's still so hard to believe. Come back baby,
'cause we belong together”. This Grammy-winning song’s contribution to the field of music is similar to Barack Obama’s to world peace.

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