Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Should Bradley Manning get the Nobel Peace Prize?

Roots Action, War is a Crime and at least a few other peace organizations and individuals have been lobbying to get the peace prize awarded to Bradley Manning. It is hard to doubt that he should get it if the Nobel Peace Prize has much if any meaning anymore; or if it ever did. The following is an excerpt from David Swanson suggesting that people sign a petition to give him the award.

Bradley Manning's Nobel Peace Prize

Whistleblower Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he should receive it.

No individual has done more to push back against what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism" than Bradley Manning. The United States is the leading exporter of weapons and itself spends as much preparing for more wars as the rest of the world combined. Manning is the leading actor in opposition to U.S. warmaking, and therefore militarism around the world. What he has done has hurt the cause of violence in a number of other nations as well.

And right now, remaining in prison and facing relentless prosecution by the U.S. government, Manning is in need of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Nobel's will left funding for a prize to be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding, unlike some other peace prize recipients. In addition, his secret trial -- with a potential death sentence -- could use all the attention that can be shined on it. Complete article

I'm sure that some of his critics might argue that he is a traitor or that he violated the law or some reason like that therefore he shouldn't get the prize; however if it was reviewed properly I have no doubt that it would be clear that what he did was to expose those that are the real traitors or people who either violated the law or did things that should have been a blatant violation of the law. It is no longer easy to tell whether or not the law should have any legitimacy now that people who participate in torture are protected by the law but those that expose it are prosecuted.

I'm not going to worry about that case too much since I'm sure there will be plenty of other people who will be doing it anyway.

If I were to play a devils advocate and argue against it it would be because the Nobel Peace Prize and many other Nobel prizes have turned into a bad joke along with many other politically correct awards. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Henry A. Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Barack H. Obama all won the Nobel Peace Prize and most if not all of them have been involved in more activities to promote war a lot of the time than they were to prevent it. Bradley Manning shouldn't be in the same category as them nor should some of the legitimate candidates like Martin Luther King Jr.

If the leading criteria for the prize involves taking a break from war mongering long enough to gain some political backing to claim they're promoting peace they might all deserve the prize; but if that isn't the case you might wonder of many of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize believe in Orwell's claim that "War is peace" is a rational belief.

There have of course been some candidates that appear to have been legitimate including many that actually won it like Martin Luther King Junior, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela etc. but in some cases even when the candidate who won seems legitimate there is still major controversies around it. In 1997 when the prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and Jody Williams from Vermont there was some concerns expressed by the enormous number of people involved in the grass roots effort about the possibility of the media event at the time being staged and that they thought Jody Williams should have done more to share the credit with those that worked with her. When it was reported the media flocked to Vermont where Jody Williams met them on her property alone barefoot and attracted an enormous amount of attention and hype. At the time some of the people that worked with her took offense to her grandstanding and thought she should ahve done much more to let people know that this was a result of an enormous effort at the grass roots level. Right or wrong this enabled her to become the leading spokesperson for the campaign and hardly anyone even remembers the incident any more.

The Nobel Pace Prize has almost always been awarded based more on politics than on merit. The few exceptions were probably at least partially a result of a massive grass roots effort and the willingness of the establishment to allow those efforts to have some degree of success. Lately the establishment seems much less likely to allow good candidates to win than they might have been at times in the past especially when you consider Obama's relatively recent prize. Roots Action has also called for a revocation of that award and it is accompanied by a Facebook effort with the same goal. I it is ahrd to even imagine why he received it in the first place when you consider the timing. Many people claimed that it was because after the Bush years they were willing to award it to anyone that wasn't Bush and hope that he would earn it after the fact. Absurd as it sounds it seems to fit the circumstances.

If that was the hope he clearly didn't earn it at all; he has been involved in as many other atrocities as many other presidents including the Drone attacks that are unprecedented and unjustifiable and the fact that he has been prosecuting many whistle blowers while letting the real criminals off the hook. The irony of awarding both Badley Manning and Barack Obama the Peace Prize would be hard to miss and it would clearly indicate a major problem with the process.

According to someone that refers to himself as a "Wise Geek" there is little or no chance that this award will be withdrawn because...

The committees which administer the Nobel Prizes are very cautious. They investigate nominees very carefully, often awarding prizes 20 years or more after the Nobel-worthy accomplishment. In some cases, the committee has lingered so long over a prize decision that the honoree has died before the prize can be awarded, which explains why some seemingly Nobel-worthy individuals have failed to receive Nobel Prizes. Complete article

When considering how long they investigated Obama's "Nobel-worthy accomplishment" I'm not convinced this geek is as wise as he seems to think he is; nor am I ruling out the possibility that he is just creating propaganda for the public to prop up the credibility of the Nobel Peace Prize committees. The fact that they don't seem to have conducted this investigation very well at all seems to be good grounds to revoke it and it would do more to restore part of their credibility; although more would have to be done if they wanted to be considered sincere by well informed people.

However it wouldn't be the first time something as ironic as that happened. In 1939 apparently Erik Brandt nominated Adolf Hitler for the prize not because he thought he deserved it but because he wanted to satirize the process that was surrounding the prize at the time.

Adolf Hitler was nominated once in 1939. Incredulous though it may seem today, the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939, by a member of the Swedish parliament, an E.G.C. Brandt. Apparently though, Brandt never intended the nomination to be taken seriously. Brandt was to all intents and purposes a dedicated antifascist, and had intended this nomination more as a satiric criticism of the current political debate in Sweden. ( At the time, a number of Swedish parliamentarians had nominated then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin for the Nobel Peace Prize, a nomination which Brandt viewed with great skepticism. ) However, Brandt's satirical intentions were not well received at all and the nomination was swiftly withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939. Complete article

Brandt seems to have been both shocked and surprised when he realized that most people, including the media, didn't get his irony. Many people even wrote him telegrams and letters to express their thanks and appreciation for his nominating Hitler. Even the German leadership seemed happy and content about the nomination (when he actually intended to make them feel offended by the irony), so Brandt quickly turned tail and withdrew it just a few days later. Complete article

The political activity surrounding the Peace Prize isn't limited to this award either; the vast majority of high profile awards that I can think of seem to be political awards that have little or nothing to do with merit. Sam Walton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush while his corporation was already in the process of restoring an oligarchy system that has reduced freedom for many; Louis IX was named a Saint despite the fact that he led two of the Crusades and killed an enormous amount of innocent people. This isn't an isolated incident for Catholic Saints; many of them have led other wars or inquisitions that couldn't be justified to day and they continue in their efforts to make many other questionable candidates like Pius the XII Saints as well. at the same time many people that might deserve are routinely passed over. The Seeds of Peace and Gandhi were both nominated at one time or another but neither won.

In fact if you consider all these wars or inquisitions that have been led by both Catholic Saints and several winners of the Nobel Peace Prize mass murder, as they probably should be considered, then the percentage of mass murders among the Catholic Saints or Nobel Peace Prize winners would be much higher than the percentage of mass murderers among the general public.

And when someone that deserves an award doesn't get it it is difficult if not impossible to say so in a graceful way even if it is justified. I could cite one Sociologist who has done an enormous amount of good work that stands up to scrutiny who expressed thanks for getting second prize in some kind of award but couldn't understand why he didn't get first. Anyone that wasn't familiar with his work would almost certainly consider this inappropriate but he's probably right and the reason might be that his work didn't back up the beliefs of those with the most political power. At the Same time Robert Hare who has done an enormous amount of work in a related field has received an enormous amount of awards; and his work is terrible but he supports the beliefs of those with political power. Robert Hare has a long history of either being sued by others for one reason or another or threatening to sue others in some cases even to suppress academic criticism. This was explained more in "Children Psychopaths? And Mitt Romney’s Bullying History" for those of you who might be interested. If you have to threaten a lawsuit to back up your work instead of refuting the criticism it is hard to imagine how he would deserve all these awards.

It is hard to imagine that Bradley Manning has much of a chance at winning the prize although he clearly does deserve it far more than most if not all of the people with much more political backing that will almost certainly be nominated. However if enough people at the grass roots level make it clear that they think he deserves it then they could make the Nobel Peace Prize committee either choose him or lose the last of their credibility.

As it stands the people that know enough to sort through the details recognize which of these winners deserved the Prize and which nominees should have gotten them but didn't but a large segment of the public doesn't do this. Under these circumstances the more important thing might be to expose how flawed the practice of giving these awards away is. If the best way to do that also involves lobbying to give the prize to someone that deserves it then we should support that.

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