Friday, December 11, 2009

Nobel Prize Hypocrisy Or How Obama Made Me Spray My Coffee

IN THE WORLD OF 1984 THE FUNCTIONARIES OF THE ENGSOC STATE have developed many tools for control of the population. One of them is doublethink: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one's head simultaneously, believing both of them. Newspeak was the expression of that contradiction by talking shit. Or, as Wikipedia puts it (in part):

The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink) which reinforce the total dominance of the State.
Well, what could possibly be a better example of double-thinking, newspeak horseshit than giving President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize a week after he ordered the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Thanks to the USA, war truly has become peace. And the icing on the cake of Obama's acceptance speech, the one that made me spit my coffee had to be this doozy:

“Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.”
Say f***in what? Mistakes? Well, my friend, if Vietnam was a "mistake" then I'd hate to see the USA act with malice aforethought. Up to 3 million Vietnamese died as a result of that mistake, along with 60,000 young Americans. Indeed, if that was a mistake what do we call The School of the Americas,  with its death squad training programs. Or the Pinochet dicatorship, or the overthrow of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, or President Arbenz of Guatemala, or Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh. In fact, I could go on all day detailing the dictatorships that the US has set-up, propped up, justified and armed. But, pardon me, I'm interrupting the President:

"And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend."
He conveniently neglects that the US maintains a "black prison" at Bagram where torture continues, that it breaks international law when it send pilotless drones into Pakistan and kills civilians. It continues to cover-up for the brutal treatment in Guantanamo, in particular the deaths of three inmates in what was claimed to be a group suicide. And, of course, the US gets around the Geneva Conventions by using private contractors, mercenaries, that are not accountable to the Conventions or by simply redefining what they are doing to exclude these activities from consideration. But the President continued with proposals for how peace can be achieved and maintained:

"Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure -- and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one."
I think that this is a great idea. After all, Israel - just off the top of my head - continues to illegally occupy land granted to Palestine in 1948 (we won't even get into the founding of Israel) and further, to illegally settle that land, in breach of the Geneva Conventions. It is also a nuclear power, though it has never signed the non-Proliferation Treaty and isn't subject to IAEA inspections, unlike Iran. Israel should face sanctions, and yet the US gives Israel a lot of money:

By FY2013, we will be sending Israel $3.15 billion a year (or an average of $8.6 million a day) and will continue to provide military aid at that level through 2018... In addition to military aid, the United States continues to provide Israel with additional aid and benefits. The numbers are not yet available for FY2009, but are likely to be significant.
But this is typical of US hypocrisy which sees lawbreakers everywhere and yet none in its own home and family. It is, in fact, astonishing that Obama could say any of this with a straight face.

"The same principle applies to those who violate international laws by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo, repression in Burma -- there must be consequences. Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy -- but there must be consequences when those things fail."
We could again point to Israel, of course but we needn't fetishize there. Just across the border we find Egypt, which receives billions in US aid and is a de facto dictatorship. There are few civil rights, certainly no right to organize into independent unions or real opposition parties. It is a police state, funded by the Americans. Across the ocean in Latin America, the Colombian government continues to fund death squads and the USA continues to fund Colombia. It also has plans to build bases there. Skip to China, well, the US owes China a lot of money so you can't expect them to say much about that. In this case it is about "quiet diplomacy". As he said:

In light of the Cultural Revolution's horrors, Nixon's meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable -- and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty and connected to open societies.
Apparently China can kill thousands of its citizens, deny them any semblance of democratic rights but they get the soft glove whereas Iran gets the fist of sanctions. You'll excuse me for sensing some financially based double-standards. And so when Obama wrapped up his speech with an inspirational call to arms that pointed to the inspiration of people fighting against injustice and to feed and educated themselves, I could only think about the $1 trillion the US will spend on its military this year. Obama will never say that the US promotes wars through the sales of arms, through military aid and, most insidiously of all, by sustaining a system that ensures inequality, poverty and scarcity in a world of plenty. And nothing promotes war more than the fight over scarce resources. For all these reasons, Obama didn't deserve this award and his receipt of it only demonstrates that it is bankrupt. But then, why should we expect any more from an award that was created by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish arms dealer and the inventor of dynamite.
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