STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Analysis of Obama's Nobel Speech – an Unsuccessful Promotion?
By Staff News & Analysis - December 11, 2009

"Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world: I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations – that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice." – Beginning of text of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, delivered Thursday in Oslo, Norway, as provided by the White House

Dominant Social Theme: Hear my words, both elegant and eloquent. I am a deserving statesman.

Free-Market Analysis: Below are further excerpts of the speech that President Barack Obama gave when accepting his Nobel Prize. We have annotated them.

And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

Ed. Note: The award does seem a tad irregular. In fact a Bell feedbacker recently pointed out to us that given the lead time in awarding the Novel prize it seems likely that the planning to give it to Obama was underway BEFORE he became president.

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

Ed. Note: There are also, unfortunately, global CIA rendition efforts (still ongoing?), which include the capture, retention and even torture of numerous "terrorists" who later seemed not to be so. Here's an excerpt on this issue that appeared in the UK Guardian newspaper in August 2009:

"Obama's Rendition Shame … It appeared the US president had stopped the use of CIA prisons, but a closer look reveals the canker at his state's heart remains … In the wake of newly released CIA memos providing further disturbing details on the CIA's overseas secret prisons programme for ‘terror suspects', the Obama administration is sneaking some far-reaching and dubious changes to US treatment of terror suspects through the back door. A 2004 report by the CIA inspector-general, John Helgerson, reveals new details of torture of prisoners in CIA custody, where interrogators went far beyond rules of military engagement in their treatment of prisoners. During interrogations, CIA agents conducted mock executions, stuffed rags in prisoners' mouths and poured water over them until they choked, dragged prisoners along corridors, forced prisoners to inhale smoke until they vomited, and threatened at least one prisoner with a gun and a power drill. Further documents released today reveal a detailed legal analysis of ‘standard conditions' inside the CIA secret overseas prisons. CIA lawyers conclude that holding prisoners in isolation for years, with constant blindfolding, leg-shackling, 24-hour fluorescent lights, constant white noise and forcibly shaved hair, was all legal and legitimate. In addition, a CIA memorandum from 2007 shows that the prisons were still active by that date, even though President George Bush had announced in September 2006 that the CIA prison system was empty. … A closer examination reveals that the canker at the heart of the state has not been excised. Obama's people have also indicated that rendition – the forcible transfer of individuals to the custody of third-party states – will continue to be used by the US on terror suspects. Therefore, [a} new FBI unit could send people to regimes such as Morocco, Egypt and Syria and conduct interrogations on people being detained indefinitely by these old partners in the secret detention game."

And now more of Obama's words from his acceptance speech:

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries – including Norway – in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Ed. Note: Actually, the US is to be involved in three or four wars if one includes Iran and certainly Pakistan. And with 1,000 military bases around the world, the US may be seen in a perpetual military confrontation in one region or another at almost all times.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

Ed. Note: Isn't it safe to say that Obama will not be killed in any of the wars he is prosecuting? He did receive a million-dollar-plus peace prize though.

These questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease – the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

Ed. Note: Before the Neolithic period it is not clear how human tribes – mostly on the move – related to one another. With plenty of land and a hunting-gathering lifestyle, it may be that tribes for the most part merely avoided one another and there was no institutionalized violence.

Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

Ed. Note: The concept of a just war probably emerged about the same moment that Neolithic urban enclaves went to into battle with each other. In other words, right away. Leaders, after all, will always proclaim their cause is just, won't they?

With the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another World War. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this Prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide and restrict the most dangerous weapons.

Ed. Note: The United Nations and the surrounding economic architecture (IMF, etc.) was at least partially the work of one-man, David Rockefeller. That's simply a fact. Did the effort of Mr. Rockefeller and his close-knit coterie truly represent America, then or now?

In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

Ed. Note: According to the speech, "The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced." Actually, within the ambit of the anti-democratic European Union especially, these ideals are seemingly in RETREAT. Here is an excerpt from that describes the process:

"'Top appointments expose undemocratic nature of EU' (Sun, 22 Nov 2009) … Former Labour cabinet member and distinguished political activist Tony Benn has challenged Prime Minister Gordon Brown's defense of the European Union's new foreign affairs chief. Briton Catherine Ashton was named Thursday as the new EU foreign policy chief, with many critics questioning her foreign policy credentials as a former EU trade commissioner. In a phone interview with Press TV on Sunday, Benn criticized the manner in which the top European Parliament jobs were handed. Although EU membership remains unpopular with a large number of people in the UK, Benn's objection to the bloc stems from democratic concerns rather than nationalistic ones. ‘Some people object to the European Union on nationalist ground. I don't. My objection is on democratic ground. Europe is run by appointed people, who are not elected, cannot be removed, and therefore do not have to listen to the public,' he noted. He said that Ashton also had been appointed and not elected, therefore could only push for the EU commission's views and policies, while the policy of individual nations could be ignored. ‘I don't think it really is a question of qualifications, [but]…how can we have a foreign policy spokesperson, who is not elected by the body? Catherine Ashton has been chosen by the European Commission members, who were all appointed, and she is supposed to talk for the whole of Europe. What happens if she says something that is contrary to British foreign policy? What happens if she says something that is contrary to, say, German foreign policy? I think it reveals the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the European Union.'" – PressTV

And still more from Obama:

… We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: It merely creates new and more complicated ones." … But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. … Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Ed. Note: Certainly negotiations apparently could not have convinced Al Qaeda to lay down its arms in the early 2000s as a recent BBC program that exhaustively researched the issue called Al Qaeda a made-up "fantasy." And there still remain plenty of questions as to whether bin Laden was indeed the architect of the 9/11 attack – a role he denied in several videos while seemingly still alive – as he is probably (though not definitively) dead.

Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: 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. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest – because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other people's children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

Ed. Note: This sounds good, but under a string of leveling legislatures and incompetent presidents, the American exception has seemingly turned into an authoritarian state itself — a participant in the leveling that is going on throughout the world. American state and local government budgets take up to a third or more of the American gross national product and redistribute it. The Federal Reserve pumps literally trillions into the economy for favored entities without a word of accountability. The American government now wiretaps at will without warrants and its inaptly named Agency of Homeland Security is deeply involved in data collection on millions of Americans through a variety of alliances with private telephony and Internet research corporations. The situation in Britain is just as bad, and in some ways even worse.

So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths – that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human folly. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. "Let us focus," he said, "on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions."

Ed. Note: Of course, Kennedy was apparently trying to actively DISENGAGE from a war – Viet Nam – before he was killed.

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates – and weakens – those who don't. The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait – a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.

Ed. Note: Didn't the then-American administration in some sense "green-light" Hussein's invasion of Kuwait when Hussein himself brought up the possibility with the American ambassador? Here's something from the alternative media site thirdworldtraveler.com (Dec. 2005), as follows:

"Kaleem Omar, Jang, Pakistan – It is now more than fifteen years since that fateful meeting on July 25, 1990 between then-US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie and President Saddam Hussein that the Iraqi leader interpreted as a green light from Washington for his invasion of Kuwait eight days later. The US State Department, which is said to have placed a gag order on Glaspie in August 1990 prohibiting her from talking to the media about what had transpired at that meeting, is apparently still keeping her under wraps despite the fact that she retired from the American Foreign Service in 2002. In all the years since her meeting with Saddam Hussein, Glaspie has never spoken about it to the media, never appeared as a guest on a TV talk show, never written an article or a book about her time as the US's top diplomat in Baghdad. The question is: why? What has she got to hide?"

Obama continues:

… America's commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.

Ed. Note: So American boys and girls will continue to die in miserable places overseas for decades yet to come as a matter of progressive administration policy? And America will continue to insist that "allies" come too?

The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries – and other friends and allies – demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they have shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular. But I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That is why NATO continues to be indispensable. That is why we must strengthen U.N. and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That is why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali – we honor them not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.

Ed. Note: We wonder how American and British vets feel about the "honor" of their home-comings, especially the wounded. Many promises are made to vets but how many of them are kept? Here's something from the American-oriented website, Iraqradiation.com:

"Veterans Administration denies benefits … Some of our soldiers in Iraq have been exposed to chemicals and/or radiation and have had subsequent serious medical issues such as leukemia and cancer. This site is dedicated to those soldiers and their families. For the majority of these soldiers the symptoms do not appear until they have been home for a year or even two. At this time the Veterans Administration is denying their claims stating that AML and other cancers are not related to their time of service in Iraq because the diseases are not manifesting within one year of their last date of service. One of the saddest statements I have ever heard was the Mother of one young veteran who told me, ‘They didn't even help with funeral expenses.'"

And more:

Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant – the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions. Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that 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. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.

Ed. Note: So when did America rediscover itself? One minute America is "a standard bearer in the conduct of war", whatever that means, and then in the very next sentence we find out that the CLOSING of a military prison (Guantanamo) is a shining example of American war ethics? So when did America become this "standard" Obama speaks of. Very strange.

One thing President Obama probably cannot do much about is the problem of Allied use of depleted uranium in Middle Eastern wars (see above). Here's something on this issue from the alternative news site Rense.com, circa 2005, as follows:

"'I'm horrified. The people out there – the Iraqis, the media and the troops – risk the most appalling ill health. And the radiation from depleted uranium can travel literally anywhere. It's going to destroy the lives of thousands of children, all over the world. We all know how far radiation can travel. Radiation from Chernobyl reached Wales and in Britain you sometimes get red dust from the Sahara on your car.' The speaker is not some alarmist doom-sayer. He is Dr. Chris Busby, the British radiation expert, Fellow of the University of Liverpool in the Faculty of Medicine and UK representative on the European Committee on Radiation Risk, talking about the best-kept secret of this war: the fact that, by illegally using hundreds of tons of depleted uranium (DU) against Iraq, Britain and America have gravely endangered not only the Iraqis but the whole world. For these weapons have released deadly, carcinogenic and mutagenic, radioactive particles in such abundance that-whipped up by sandstorms and carried on trade winds – there is no corner of the globe they cannot penetrate-including Britain. For the wind has no boundaries and time is on their side: the radioactivity persists for over 4,500,000,000 years and can cause cancer, leukemia, brain damage, kidney failure, and extreme birth defects – killing millions of every age for centuries to come. A crime against humanity which may, in the eyes of historians, rank with the worst atrocities of all time.These weapons have released deadly, carcinogenic and mutagenic, radioactive particles in such abundance that there is no corner of the globe they cannot penetrate – including Britain. Yet, officially, no crime has been committed. For this story is a dirty story in which the facts have been concealed from those who needed them most. It is also a story we need to know if the people of Iraq are to get the medical care they desperately need, and if our troops, returning from Iraq, are not to suffer as terribly as the veterans of other conflicts in which depleted uranium was used."

Back to the speech:

… The same principle applies to those who violate international law by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo or repression in Burma – there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

This brings me to a second point – the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting. It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

Ed. Note: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, if we are not mistaken, implies that rights are granted by states (political entities), and are not necessarily natural. Of course this is evident and obvious in the United States itself which steadily keeps under incarceration an astonishingly large adult population – some three million – many of them in jail for a variety of offences stemming from that country's never-ending "war on drugs."

And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation's development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists – a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.

Ed. Note: Used to be that America stood for ideals of freedom, self-determination and individual human action. But President Obama himself, even as he gives this speech, is working hard to nationalize yet another one-sixth of the American economy via health care legislation.

I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please, choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests – nor the worlds – are served by the denial of human aspirations.

Ed. Note: Why is it special that America has never fought a war against a democracy? Thomas Jefferson and other founders were vociferous in their warnings about democracies and America itself was evidently and obviously founded as a REPUBLIC so as to avoid the "tyranny of the majority."

… And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.

Ed. Note: In these words, above, we are informed perhaps for the first time that global warming is about to become a military issue as well, that the world's "common security hangs in the balance" – though it would seem the facts of global warming remain in high dispute. Get ready for The War on Climate Change folks.

… As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are, to understand that we all basically want the same things, that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families … And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities – their race, their tribe and, perhaps most powerfully, their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in the Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.

Ed. Note: Why is the world constantly growing smaller? Why is the pace of globalization dizzying? We would suggest if these observations are correct that they have little to do with natural sociopolitical evolution and everything to do with the intention of a relatively small group of people to bring as many nation-states under the ambit of one regulatory and governmental entity as possible – as soon as possible. Obama stops short here of calling for the outright devotion of the individual to the state and to hell with individualism. Sounds a little bit like liberal fascism doesn't it?

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Ed. Note: But if Al Qaeda, as the BBC claims, was a fantasy, and if Bin Laden DENIES prosecuting 9/11 then who was it who prosecuted the initial attack in the name of Islam?

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

After Thoughts

We've commented on Obama's speech because we were amazed (once again) by the thinness of the rhetoric that is at the heart of what to us is obviously a promotion. George Bush was supposed to be the "bad" president – according this particular dominant social theme as we see it – and Obama was supposed to be the good president, rescuing the US from fear, depression and overt militarism. His stature (as he goes about nationalizing and globalizing what is left of the American economy) was supposed to be enhanced by his color, his youth, his "coolness", his glibness, his basketball skills, the way he could jut his chin like FDR (in Time magazine's many covers) and above all by his stature as a statesman and peacemaker. This last part was where he would need the most help, of course, as he was actually neither. And that's why he was to be given the Nobel Prize, in our opinion, to enhance has stature as he continued to do work at the behest of his backers – the powers-that-be – to level the remnants of the American free-market economy and erase the last vestiges of individualism still remaining in America.

Is it working? The promotion, we mean. A recent American poll just came out that puts Obama's popularity on par with former president George Bush of all people. This is being treated of course as victory for George Bush – who never met a war or spending bill he couldn't find a way to support – but we'd like to think it is more a comment on Obama's ineptness and the failure of yet another power elite promotion. That's why, in fact, we analyzed the speech, above, to the best of our ability. Whoever wrote this speech seems to us to be plain out of bullets. Even the rhetoric doesn't work all that well. As a positioning statement for the next Ghandi/FDR/MartinLutherKing we don't think it stands up. Thus we continue to make a case that elite promotions are fizzling regularly now, like firecrackers left out in the rain.

As we've often noted, the great Marine General Smedley Butler called war a "racket." We would like to call the pursuit of modern-day serial conflicts "promotions" or "dominant social themes," foisted over and over on long-suffering Western civilian populations to generate increasing levels of DOMESTIC command and control. The violence is never-ending, the results unsatisfying and the justifications increasingly, in this Internet era, seem questionable or even untrue.

Such "endless war for endless peace" unfortunately provides a rationale to reduce freedoms at home and increasingly to empower a quasi-police state. Yet these days we wonder if ANYONE wins in a war, not even the elites who prosecute them, or not in the Internet era. The mechanisms are too obvious and the results are inadequate. The generational war against Islam is coming to a somewhat hasty close, in our opinion (or at least unwinding), because the war hysteria that the elite intended to whip up simply hasn't caught on. Perhaps something else will have to take its place. Yet we can't help thinking that speeches like this one are going to be especially helpful to the elite as they caste about for additional rationales. War-mongering leaders (especially ones given peace prizes) in the 21st century, we think, will have to do better than this.

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