In Richard Rhodes magisterial work The Making of the Atomic Bomb he recounts how the Nobel Prize committee was concerned for the safety of Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. Fermi’s wife, Laura, was Jewish and Fermi himself was no friend to Mussolini’s Fascist Regime. Members of the selection committee for the 1938 Physics prize made overtures in advance of the award to see if Fermi would be ready to leave
if the Nobel could get him and his family out to Italy and safety while providing them a financial buffer. Thanks to the award of that Nobel Prize in Physics the first controlled nuclear fission reaction happened in a squash court at the Stockholm and not within the confines of Mussolini’s University of Chicago or Hitler’s Italy . Germany
That story came to my mind when I heard the announcement that President Barak Obama was the selected recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
Since the award we have been subjected to cogitations by an array of fools, scum and thinkers opining on whether President Obama deserved the prize. Some have objected that there are groups working, often with little recognition, to promote peace in The Congo,
, Sudan , Liberia , the Horn of Africa generally and promoting democracy in Sierra Leone , China , Burma , Iran and a raft of countries that once were part of the Saudi Arabia Soviet Union who might lay more claim to this prize. Others, mostly lurking in the neo-fascist shadows of Fox News, the Heritage Foundation and the Weekly Double Standard, have attempted to argue that Obama does not deserve the prize at all based on a thinly disguised version of the racist “it’s just affirmative action” farrago.
I am about as far from knowledge of what goes through the minds of the people who select the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize as one can get. Still that story about Fermi came to mind.
To those who consider themselves members of the political Left who object that President Obama has not yet closed the Concentration Camp at Guantanamo Bay, repudiated all of the odious acts of the previous Administration or withdrawn troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, let me point out that in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Peace Prize for organizing and hosting the Portsmouth Conference that ended the Russo-Japanese War. At that same time
Roosevelt was pursuing a genocidal war in the and bullying much of Central and Philippines South America.
But let’s go back to the story of Enrico Fermi’s prize in Physics. The Nobel Committee chose Fermi as much because of his future potential as for his past accomplishments and, most significantly, to demonstrate its opposition to Mussolini’s fascism and Hitler’s Nazism. Those wise men, whose formative experience had been the senseless and vicious World War I, now saw their world descending rapidly toward the horrors of World War II. Their practical motive was depriving the forces of fear and violence of a great mind whose genius might be forced to feed the fascist monsters’ military bloodlust. Their ideological motive was to demonstrate their opposition to fascism.
The faces of the committee members have changed many times in the last 71 years but the motive to oppose fascism has, I think, remained constant. I would suggest that the Nobel Peace Prize winners, particularly since 2001, have demonstrated the committee’s increasing fear of
’s descent into fascism. America
In 2001, the prize went to Kofi Annan who had capped his service as Secretary General of the United Nations by opposing the Bush Administration’s imperialist militarism. In 2002, as the Bush Administration gear up for an unjustified, ill-planned and ill-executed war against
, the prize went to former President Jimmy Carter for his 21 years of work toward world-wide democracy and peace. Carter, we should note, has been the neo-fascist’s whipping boy since the day of his inauguration and at no time more than during the Bush Administration. In 2005, as the Bush Administration ginned up nuclear fears for a third war against Iran, the prize committee chose Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in good part for his refutations of Bush propaganda. Then in 2007 the Peace prize went to Al Gore for his work in raising awareness of global climate change though no one could miss the rebuke in honoring the man from whom Bush and Cheney stole the 2000 presidential election. Iraq
And now we have the selection of President Obama. The president has accepted the prize with characteristic modesty and decency while the neo-fascists scream that he’s done nothing to deserve the prize. That, however, is only in their blinkered and clouded eyes.
Throughout most of the rest of the world Barak Obama has done many things from addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict in real terms to trying to mitigate the world-wide economic collapse created by American financial pirates. But his greatest achievement is neither his personal history, his understanding of Islam nor his skin color. President Obama has done enormous service to world peace simply by not being George W. Bush or, in fact, any other Republican. Just not being a representative of American fascism is to be worthy of the prize in the eyes of those beyond our borders.
And, I believe, the committee that chose him as the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize also had in mind another factor that may have moved them to significant haste. You see the Nobel Committee awards the prizes to living persons. I suspect that committee members may have worried that their time might be short.
’s reputation for violence and insanity, its racism, its senseless fetishizing of guns and its history of turning character assassination into actual assassination may have influenced the award while the committee had the chance. America
The Nobel Committee, I’m sure, wishes President Obama well and long life just as I do. Yet I cannot but think that some members saw the news footage of neo-fascist lunatics bringing pistols and assault rifles to presidential appearances and thought those pictures a prelude to their worst fears for the President.
So I have to conclude that the award of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama was both earned and timely. Earned by the simple fact of his presidency making the world a less dangerous place and timely because we do not know when the next Timothy McVeigh, Byron de la Beckwith or Eric Robert Rudolph incited by a Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson, Fred Phelps or Glenn Beck will target this good man.
If those considerations entered into the prize committee’s deliberations I am as ashamed for my country as I am proud for President Obama. I am glad he’s been awarded this honor. After eight years of wishing that my president could live up to even the lowest aspirations of my country I find myself in the position of hoping that my country will rise to the least of President Obama’s expectations for it. However, since this award, we seem to have been bent on demonstrating that Americans generally stand shoulder to shoelace with the president.