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December 10, 2009

"War is sometimes necessary and war at some level is an expression of human folly." --President Obama

Today I forced myself to listen to the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech President Obama gave in Oslo. I don't mind telling you that the entire incident of the award of this prize to Obama and his acceptance of it sickens me.

Frankly, I barely could listen to Obama deliver the speech. I found the contradictions profound and the allusions to King, well, cynical. The award of the Peace Prize to Obama is so embarrassing--especially in light of his Afghanistan escalation speech just one week ago--that he has nixed press availability and the usual pomp & circumstance.

Beyond that, I react viscerally to liberal hawk notions--finding the formulation of just war theory, in particular Obama's version, to be fraudulent. That's not to say I didn't find the line about "the blood of our citizens" to be enormously powerful, and the counterpoint "war itself is never glorious" to be deeply true. However the mere fact that Obama used the backdrop of the West Point cadets to deliver his escalation speech belies his willingness to use props of glory in a manner every bit as tawdry as the style of Bush.

For more excellent response, I recommend Counterpunch. THIS piece by Patrick Cockburn on "The March of Folly" calls it like it is, not the next Bushian grand chapter in the necessary sacrificial struggle against the spectre of total evil, but rather that
President Obama is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan to prove that the US can impose its will on the country and crush by military means what is still a relatively small scale insurrection.
I'll also mention THIS by William Blum, "Yeswecanism," a quite thorough examination of the Obama war promises and subsequent American war conduct under Obama evidently overlooked by Obama supporters and the Nobel Committee alike.

In the speech, there was something Obama forgot to mention while invoking Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who received the Prize in 1964--King completely rejected just war theory in his own Nobel acceptance:
KING: After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time--the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. ...

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall overcome!
So Obama rejected King. He accepted the cynical notion that the forces of inhumanity must be met with violent response. His argument rests on the inevitability of repeating the failures of the past that have spilled the blood of our citizens--plus the blood of untold numbers throughout the world at the hands of our citizens and our powerful bombs. He has embraced this human folly.

Below is "An Open Letter to the Nobel Committee On Obama's Peace Prize" signed by representatives from a variety of U.S. peace groups:
On December 10, you will award the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama, citing "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people." We the undersigned are distressed that President Obama, so close upon his receipt of this honor, has opted to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan with the deployment of 30,000 additional troops. We regret that he could not be guided by the example of a previous Nobel Peace Laureate, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who identified his peace prize as "profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time -- the need for man [sic] to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression."

President Obama has insisted that his troop escalation is a necessary response to dangerous instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but we reject the notion that military action will advance the region?s stability, or our own national security. In his peace prize acceptance speech, Dr. King observed that "Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts?man [sic] must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation." As people committed to end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, we are filled with remorse by this new decision of our president, for it will not bring peace.

Declaring his opposition to the Vietnam War, Dr. King insisted that "no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war?We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways? We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man [sic] of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest."

We pledge ourselves to mobilize our constituencies in the spirit of Dr. King's nonviolent and committed example. His prophetic words will guide us as we assemble in the halls of Congress, in local offices of elected representatives, and in the streets of our cities and towns, protesting every proposal that will continue funding war. We will actively and publicly oppose the war funding which President Obama will soon seek from Congress and re-commit ourselves to the protracted struggle against U.S. war-making in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We assume that the Nobel Committee chose to award President Obama the peace prize in full awareness of the vision offered by Dr. King?s acceptance speech. We also understand that the Nobel committee may now regret that decision in light of recent developments, as we believe that the committee should be reluctant to present an Orwellian message equating peace with war. When introducing the President, the Committee should, at the very least, exhibit a level of compassion and humility by drawing attention to this distressing ambiguity.

We will do all we can to ensure that popular pressure will soon bring President Obama to an acceptance of the duties which this prize, and even more his electoral mandate to be a figure of change, impose upon him. He must end the catastrophic policies of occupation and war that have caused so much destruction, so many deaths and displacements, and so much injury to our own democratic traditions.

This prize is not a meaningless honor. We pledge, ourselves obeying its call to nonviolent action, to make our President worthy of it.
Jack Amoureux- Board of Directors, Military Families Speak Out
Medea Benjamin- Co-Founder, Global Exchange
Frida Berrigan ? Witness Against Torture
Elaine Brower- World Can?t Wait
Leslie Cagan- Co-Founder, United for Peace and Justice
Bob Cooke-Regional Coordinator, Pax Christi USA, Pax Christi Metro, DC and Baltimore
Tom Cornell- Catholic Peace Fellowship
Matt Daloisio ? War Resisters League
Marie Dennis ? Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Laurie Dobson, Director, End US Wars
Mike Ferner- President, Veterans for Peace
Joy First- Convener, National Campaign for Non-Violent Resistance
Sara Flounders ? International Action Center
Diana Gibson, Christian Peace Witness
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb- Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
David Hartsough- Peaceworkers, San Francisco
Mike Hearington- Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition
Kimber J. Heinz- Organizing Coordinator, War Resisters League
Mark Johnson- Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Kathy Kelly- Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Non-Violence
Leslie Kielson ? United for Peace and Justice
Malachy Kilbride- National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Kevin Martin- Executive Director-Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund
Linda LeTendre ? Saratoga [New York] Peace Alliance
Michael McPhearson- Veterens for Peace
Gael Murphy ? Co-Founder, Code Pink
Sheila Musaji ? The American Muslim
Michael Nagler- Founder, Metta Center for Nonviolence
Max Obuszewski- Pledge of Resistance Baltimore and Baltimore Nonviolence Center
Pete Perry- Peace of the Action
Dave Robinson, Executive Director, Pax Christi
David Swanson- AfterDowningStreet.org
Terry Rockefeller ? Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Samina Sundas ? Founding Executive Director, The American Muslim Voice
Nancy Tsou- Coordinator, Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice
Diane Turco- Cape Codders for Peace and Justice
Marge Van Cleef ? Womens International League for Peace and Freedom
Jose Vasquez, Executive Director, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Craig Wiesner- Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice
Scott Wright, Pax Christi Metro DC - Baltimore
Kevin Zeese- Executive Director, Voters for Peace

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