So what are the odds? The week I write a cover story for the New Statesman, arguing that President Obama has turned into “Barack W Bush” and is emulating his predecessor’s policies on human rights, civil liberties, Afghanistan and a host of other issues, the bloody Norwegians go and give him a Nobel Peace Prize. You couldn’t make it up.
Over the past couple of years, the cult of Obama has elevated him to a godlike, saint-like, superhuman position in the global political landscape. He is a celebrity, he is an icon, he is a political phenomenon. And just when you thought his international sheen was rubbing off, with his failure to win the 2016 Olympics for his adopted city of Chicago, he goes and wins the world’s most prestigious civil liberties award. Obamaniacs, rejoice!
So why has he got the prize? Here is the flaw in the Norwegians’ groupthink, as reported by the BBC:
Asked why the prize had been awarded to Mr Obama less than a year after he took office, Nobel committee head Thorbjørn Jagland said: “It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve”.
“It is a clear signal that we want to advocate the same as he has done,” he said.
So the Nobel guys are giving him an award for peace before he has actually achieved peace — specifically, they say, in the field of global nuclear disarmament and the Obama resolution at the UN last month — which, of course, they have a bad track record of doing. Remember when they awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1994? Perhaps the news hasn’t reached Oslo yet but, 15 years on, the Holy Land remains mired in bloodshed, hatred and conflict, with no Palestinian state in sight.
And then, of course, there’s Henry Kissinger. His receipt of the prize in 1973, in the wake of his war crimes against Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, prompted Tom Lehrer to remark: “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize.”
I’m not sure what the satirists will say this time round, but I eagerly await Jon Stewart’s take on The Daily Show on More 4 next week . . .
UPDATE I (10 December): So Obama has accepted his prize this afternoon, in Oslo. Since I last blogged on Barack and the Nobel [above], the US president has decided to heed the advice of his generals and send 30,000 extra troops to fight and die in the valleys and mountains of the Hindu Kush. The Times headline says it all: “Barack Obama accepts Nobel Peace Prize with stern defence of war“. How absurd. And depressing. The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner had to start his speech by acknowledging the controversy over the choice of a wartime president for the prize. When Henry Kissinger was awarded the prize in 1973, Tom Lehrer remarked: “It was at that moment that satire died…There was nothing more to say after that.” Touché.
UPDATE II (10 December): Simon Reid-Henry has blogged from Oslo for the NS here.