Journal: The Nobel War Prize

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The Nobel War Prize

Tariq Ali London Review of Books, 11 December 2010

Last year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize escalated the war in Afghanistan a few weeks after receiving the prize. The award surprised even Obama. This year the Chinese government were foolish to make a martyr of the president of Chinese PEN and neo-con Liu Xiaobo. He should never have been arrested, but the Norwegian politicians who comprise the committee, led by Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Labour prime minister, wanted to teach China a lesson. And so they ignored their hero’s views. Or perhaps they didn’t, given that their own views are not dissimilar. The committee thought about giving Bush and Blair a joint peace prize for invading Iraq but a public outcry forced a retreat.

For the record, Liu Xiaobo has stated publicly that in his view:

(a) China’s tragedy is that it wasn’t colonised for at least 300 years by a Western power or Japan. This would apparently have civilised it for ever;

(b) The Korean and Vietnam wars fought by the US were wars against totalitarianism and enhanced Washington’s ‘moral credibility’;

(c) Bush was right to go to war in Iraq and Senator Kerry’s criticisms were ‘slander-mongering’;

(d) Afghanistan? No surprises here: Full support for Nato’s war.

He has a right to these opinions, but should they get a peace prize?

The Norwegian jurist Fredrik Heffermehl argues that the committee is in breach of the will and testament left behind by the inventor of dynamite whose bequests fund the prizes: ‘The Nobel committee has not received prize money for free use, but was entrusted with money to give to the pivotal element in creating peace, breaking the vicious circle of arms races and military power games. From this point of view the 2010 Nobel is again an illegitimate prize awarded by an illegitimate committee.’