Monday, October 12, 2009

I heard Naomi Klein's gut reaction to Obama's Nobel Peace Prize the day it was announced on WBAI. I found it very interesting that Monica Crowley's assesment on yesterday's McLaughlin sounded almost identical.

Naomi Klein on Democracy Now, October 9, 2009:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Your reaction to this surprise announcement?

NAOMI KLEIN: You know, I try not to speak about things before I really had a process—you know, a chance to process it, because my raw reaction is really that this represents—it’s very significant and disappointing, cheapening of the Nobel Prize. And, you know, it’s been cheapened before, and it will cheapen again—be cheapened again, but I think there’s something really striking here. And even just listening to the rationale that, despite overwhelming evidence, they’re giving this prize in the hopes that it will change Obama’s mind or encourage him to do things he hasn’t done—this is a candidate that ran a campaign that was much more based on hope and wishful thinking than it was on concrete policy. So we have hopes being piled on hope and wishful thinking.

This is supposed to be a prize that rewards concrete behavior, concrete action. And there are many people out there in the world who were under consideration for this prize, who every day perform acts that are taken at enormous risk for concrete benefit. I mean, I think that one of the people—one of the names under consideration this year was Dr. Mukwege in the Congo, in the DRC. This is somebody who is under personal threat because he is saving the lives of women every day who have been violently raped. And giving the prize to Dr. Mukwege—and I’m just giving one example—would have been such a concrete victory and encouragement for that action. It would have put pressure on the United States to take action, on the international community to take action, for the women of the Congo. And instead of that, we have this very, very political decision, and in many ways it’s like a pat on the head for good behavior or the hope of good behavior, because actually we’ve seen a lot of bad behavior. And we can come back to this.

But what I’m working on right now is a piece for Rolling Stone about the climate negotiations leading up to Copenhagen. And one of the things that the Obama administration is being rewarded for with this prize or what Barack Obama is personally being rewarded for in this prize is his supposed breakthroughs on international relations. What we’re actually seeing, as we speak, in Bangkok—this is the final day of two weeks of climate negotiations—has been extraordinarily destructive behavior on the part of the United States government, on the part of the Obama administration, absolutely derailing the climate negotiations in the lead-up to Copenhagen. Developing countries are absolutely shocked by what US climate negotiators have done. They have gone into these talks saying, you know, “We’re back. We want to reengage with the world.” What they’ve actually done is made a series of demands that would destroy the Kyoto Protocol and the binding emission architecture that was set up under Kyoto. So, to reward the Nobel Prize in the context of destroying the climate, where the US is destroying the climate negotiations, or threatening to, to me, is just shocking.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Naomi, the Nobel Committee specifically cited Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world. And I’d like you to comment, especially in light of the fact that right now the President is considering a dramatic escalation of the war in Afghanistan and also the US government’s criticism of the Goldstone report on the Israeli war in Gaza.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I’ll start with the second point, because this is something else that is so strange about the timing. I think the moment of just rewarding Obama for awakening hope and optimism has clearly passed. And we certainly see this in the context of Israel-Palestine, where there was a huge amount of hope that was awakened and inspired by Obama’s rhetoric, by his historic Cairo speech. But now we’re past that moment. He didn’t just give that speech yesterday. And now is the moment when we’re seeing his actual commitment to change. And it has been one disappointment after the next.

First, an extremely half-hearted attempt to get tough with the Netanyahu government when it comes to settlement expansion. I say “half-hearted,” because demands were made, but they weren’t followed through with any kind of muscle. As we know, the US has more than moral suasion to use with the Netanyahu government, if it’s really opposed to settlement expansion. There are billions of military aid that, of course, is never put on the table. And after a little bit of moral suasion failed, we see the same defeatism setting in.

And then the Goldstone report. You know, one of the supposed victories of the US reengagement with multilateralism has been the US taking a seat on the Human Rights Council. But what we see, as in the context of the climate negotiations, is the US is reengaging, but in an extremely destructive way, using their status, their seat at the table, to undermine international law. That’s happening in the context of the climate negotiations, and now it’s happened in the context of the Goldstone report, where, rather than strengthening international law, the US pressure on Abbas and also their own words and actions undermine a crucial report, which should have been a breakthrough.

And the Obama administration wasted absolutely no time in selling out Judge Richard Goldstone with no basis of fact whatsoever. The report was extremely balanced. The Obama administration could have stepped back and allowed it to work its way through the UN system, really kind of hid behind the UN on this one. Here you have a judge with an extraordinary international reputation for his belief in international law and his commitment to the reality of the—of “never again,” whether in the context of Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia. And this is somebody who’s really, really been committed to that idea. And the US has allowed his reputation to be destroyed, and contributed to it in many ways. So this is a moment where Palestinians more and more are saying, “OK, you raised our hopes, and now you’re dashing them.”

And then, in the middle of all this, the Nobel Prize Committee awards their top honors to Obama. And I think it’s quite insulting. I don’t know what kind of political game they’re playing, but I don’t think that the committee has ever been as political as this or as delusional as this, frankly.

from 10/11/09 McLaughlin Group:

MS. CROWLEY: Honors should be deserved and they should be earned. And the Nobel committee jumped the shark when they gave President Obama this award. This is theater of the absurd. And the Nobel committee did what the International Olympic Committee would not do, which is to give an award to President Obama just for being, well, President Obama.

Look, what this does is actually devalue the award and diminish the actual real world-changing accomplishments of those who've gotten the award before him; namely, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa. And it also shows an increasing politicization of the award. We've seen it go to Al Gore. We've seen it go to Jimmy Carter.

And so what the Nobel committee is really doing is saying, "Look, we'll give it to an American as long as it's the right kind of American, who shares our values," where America is essentially the root of all evil in the world. And when you have a president who is essentially acknowledging that or spending a good deal of his time apologizing for this country, it's no wonder that he got this.


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