I was dismayed when I heard Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize. A shock, really, to think that a president carrying on wars in two countries and launching military action in a third country (Pakistan), would be given a peace prize. But then I recalled that Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger had all received Nobel Peace Prizes. The Nobel Committee is famous for its superficial estimates and for its susceptibility to rhetoric and empty gestures, while ignoring blatant violations of world peace.
Yes, Wilson gets credit for the League of Nations - that ineffectual body which did nothing to prevent war. But he also bombarded the Mexican coast, sent troops to occupy Haiti and the Dominican Republic and brought the US into the slaughterhouse of Europe in the first World War - surely, among stupid and deadly wars, at the top of the list.
Sure, Theodore Roosevelt brokered a peace between Japan and Russia. But he was a lover of war, who participated in the US conquest of Cuba, pretending to liberate it from Spain while fastening US chains around that tiny island. And as president he presided over the bloody war to subjugate the Filipinos, even congratulating a US general who had just massacred 600 helpless villagers in the Phillipines. The Committee did not give the Nobel Prize to Mark Twain, who denounced Roosevelt and criticized the war, nor to William James, leader of the anti-imperialist league.
Oh yes, the Committee saw fit to give a peace prize to Henry Kissinger, because he signed the final agreement ending the war in Vietnam, of which he had been one of the architects. Kissinger, who obsequiously went along with Nixon's expansion of the war with the bombing of peasant villages in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Kissinger, who matches the definition of a war criminal very accurately, was given a peace prize!
People should not be given a peace prize on the basis of promises they have made (as with Obama, an eloquent maker of promises) but on the basis of actual accomplishments towards ending war. Obama has continued deadly, inhuman military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Nobel Peace Committee should retire, and turn over its huge funds to some international peace organization which is not awed by stardom and rhetoric, and which has some understanding of history.
Howard Zinn is a historian, playwright and social activist, and has received the Thomas Merton Award, the Eugene V. Debs Award, the Upton Sinclair Award and the Lannan Literary Award. He is perhaps best known for "A People's History of the United States."