Blush and Bare nominated for Nobel death prize
Hitler wins it in 1941
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Given the fact that previous nominees include Adolf Hitler and Henry Kissinger, can anyone take the Nobel Peace Prize seriously, asks Paul Hamilos
Friday February 21, 2003
Which word connects Bono, the European Union, Jacques Chirac and George Bush? Peace, apparently. It has been announced that they have all been nominated, by the rather convoluted method by which these things are done, for this year’s prize.
Of course, this raises a number of questions: not least, who would pick up the prize if the European Union won it? And on whose mantelpiece would it find a home?
Added to this, we are not even two months into the new year, and Jimmy Carter is still basking in the glory of last year’s award. How can anyone put forward either Chirac or Bush?
With the war in Iraq not even started yet, it seems odd that the two are in the running. Putting aside the hawk’s view of the French president and the dove’s view of Bush, the idea that either of them is promoting world peace seems not only ludicrous but also an offence to the meaning of the word. Have those responsible for sending these nominations to the Nobel institute misplaced their dictionaries?
But then, this is nothing new for the Nobel peace prize. After all, Adolf Hitler was in the running in 1938. Yes, that’s 1938, not 1933 – after the persecution of the Jews had been established under the Nuremberg laws. This was also the same year in which Gandhi was nominated, although the committee agreed that he didn’t deserve recognition. Alfred Nobel, incidentally, also invented dynamite.
And there was also the famous comment by the American songwriter Tom Lehrer, who believed that “political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize”.
In 1973, Kissinger, then the US secretary of state, was jointly honoured with his Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Tho, for their roles in negotiating the Vietnam peace accord.
There was a certain irony in this, as Kissinger is accused of deliberately scuppering the peace talks in 1968, leading to the unnecessary prolongation of an already pointless war. His “peace efforts” in Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, Bangladesh and East Timor also failed to win universal praise. Le Duc Tho, quite understandably, declined to accept the award.
The Nobel peace prize, however, is not just for old war criminals. In 2001, Swedish MP Lars Gustafsson nominated football. All right, the beautiful game didn’t win, but what was he thinking? Surely such a prize can only be awarded for deliberate actions made by sentient beings (and whatever you think of David Beckham, nobody would accuse him of being that).
You might cite the famous Christmas Day match between German and English soldiers stuck in the trenches during world war one as an example of football’s unifying qualities. A brief look at the history books shows, however, that that particular game did not bring war to an end and that the sharing of half-time oranges failed to prevent them from killing each other a day later.
What is particularly startling about the peace prize is just how many of its recipients have been men, generally regarded as more the more bloodthirsty of the sexes. Of the 110 prizes that have been awarded, a dismal 10 have gone to women, including Mother Teresa (1979) and Aung San Suu Kyi (1991).
As these awards were met with far less outrage than that which greeted some of the male winners, it leads one to wonder why it is that men, who usually opt for war, are the ones who have generally gained the plaudits for peace.
The prize was inspired by Alfred Nobel’s secretary, Bertha von Suttner, who was nominated four times (nothing to do, of course, with Alfred being deeply in love with her) and was the first female winner in 1905.
But, despite the abundance of potential female winners that followed her, from the suffragettes to the feminist movement, we still prefer to congratulate the men for their efforts. Perhaps it is because society sees women as inherently peaceful creatures and that any man who has overcome his natural inclination to maim and slaughter is immediately deserving of some kind of award.
So where does that leave us in 2003? With a multi-millionaire Irish pop star; a French president who is stalling over Iraq for reasons of self-interest; an American leader whose peace credentials are at best dubious, at worst non-existent; and an institution, the EU, that is being torn apart by the upcoming war.
So, who should be in the running? Well, taking the lead from the Kissinger-Tho Le Duc award, I go for the Iraqi foreign secretary, Tariq Aziz, and his US counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld.
We may have to put up with a bloody, murderous war beforehand, but if these two can sit around a table before the end of the year to sign a peace treaty, surely they’re a shoo-in?