Just Jake

Jake Highton is a journalism professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno. He teaches media law, history of journalism and advanced reporting. Highton is the author of numerous books, including "Nevada Newspaper Days." He writes a weekly column for the Daily Sparks Tribune.

Location: United States

Friday, October 23, 2009

Obama all hat, no cattle

An absurd world got more absurd recently when President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Republicans, right for the first time since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, asked what Obama had done for peace. The answer is obvious: nothing.

Obama is fighting two and one-half wars. He maintains a perpetual warfare state. He commands armed forces in 144 countries. He has just ordered 13,000 more troops to the wasteland of Afghanistan. That hardly merits a peace prize.

Obama, as they say in Texas, is all hat and no cattle. He makes wonderful promises but never delivers.

A man of integrity would have refused the prize, declaring that he was not worthy of it.

Obama admitted: “I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by the prize, men and women who have inspired me and the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.”

Nevertheless, he will accept the award as “a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century.” Noble rhetoric. But, alas, just words.
Obama’s one accomplishment is establishing an anti-Bush tone in the White House. He wants to cooperate with the world, not rule it unilaterally. He repudiates Bush’s imperial presidency. But that too is hardly worth a peace prize.

Moreover, it is just his pledge to close Guantánamo and deal with its prisoners constitutionally. It is just his pledge to rid the world of nuclear weapons. It is just his pledge to combat global warming. It is just his pledge to abide by the Geneva Convention. It is just his pledge to end the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. He is just his pledge to achieve gay marriage.

Obama pledged universal health coverage but gave away the store by abandoning the public option in order to get Senate approval of a worthless bill.

He pledges to bring peace to the Middle East. But he lacks the intestinal fortitude to crack down on Israel’s refusal to do anything about its illegal settlements. Withdrawal of some of the billions in U.S. aid to Israel would greatly concentrate the mind of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Now look at some of the “illustrious company” Obama says he will join as peace prize winners:
• President Roosevelt (1906), cited for his “role in bringing to an end the bloody war” between Russia and Japan. Yet Roosevelt was a warmonger, helping seize Cuba from Spain, conquering the Philippines and congratulating one of his generals who massacred 600 harmless Filipino villagers.

• President Wilson (1919), cited for playing a decisive role in winning World War I. Yet he involved America in that bloody, senseless war. His bombardments of Mexico were despicable. His troops occupied Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

• Secretary of State Kissinger (1973), cited for negotiating a ceasefire and pullout of American troops from Vietnam. Yet Kissinger was a war criminal. He expanded the war unnecessarily and viciously into Cambodia and Laos. As songwriter Tom Lehrer put it: satire died the day they gave Kissinger a peace prize.

The Nobel Foundation in Norway has not always been that ridiculous. It did choose some worthy Americans. Among them:

• Martin Luther King (1964), cited for “being the first person in the Western World to have shown us that a struggle (for justice) can be waged without violence.” That struggle smashed apartheid in the South. King was the greatest moral leader in America since John Brown, who was so fanatic and so insane he urged freedom for four million slaves.

• Chemist Linus Pauling (1962), cited for his campaign against nuclear testing, opposition to the spread of nuclear weapons and antagonism to “warfare as a means of solving international conflicts.”

• George Marshall (1953), defense secretary and secretary of state, for the Marshall Plan aiding a Europe shattered by World War II.

• Secretary of State Cordell Hull (1945), cited for his role in establishing the United Nations.

• Jane Addams (1931), cited for setting up settlement houses, including Hull House in Chicago, to improve social conditions for the Have Nots: night school for continuing education, kindergarten, kitchen and bathhouse, coffeehouse, art gallery, gym, music school, a library and classes to combat the ugly tentacles of capitalism.

• Secretary of State Frank Kellogg (1929), cited for the Kellogg-Briand Treaty to renounce war as an instrument of national policy.

In short, the Nobel Peace Prize has ranged from the ridiculous--Obama, Roosevelt, Wilson and Kissinger--to the sublime, King, Pauling, Marshall and Addams.


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