|President Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for 2009. His nomination had to have been entered by February 1st of this year. At that point, as many incredulous pundits have noted, he had been President for just eleven days. Fast work.
Many commentators have ridiculed the choice. “Gobsmacked,” wrote the Washington Post’s serious liberal foreign policy columnist, Jim Hoagland. He employed a British slang term for “slack-jawed in utter amazement.” Liberal writer Ruth Marcus likened the award to Pee-Wee Soccer, where every child gets a trophy just for playing. The New York Times’ house conservative, David Brooks, jeered that Obama should have won all of this year’s prizes, including those for economics and literature. Even for chemistry. After all, Obama’s personal chemistry may be his greatest contribution to the world.
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman called Obama “President of the Earth” and said he would accept in Oslo in December. Even long-time Obama promoters were hard-pressed to see the award as anything but miraculous–an effort, perhaps, by the Nobel Prize selection committee–Norwegian Leftists all–to create their own version of the Burning Bush. Saturday Night Live had fun. Their Obama lookalike noted that he had only nine months of experience “not being George Bush.
The idea behind all the jokes seems to be that the award was premature. Most Obama supporters think he’s headed in the right direction. Their Left-wing predecessors used to describe communists as “liberals in a hurry.” Behind the guffaws and the gasps–the press claque in Oslo audibly gasped when the name was announced–is the shared view that Obama’s new emphasis on the UN, on multi-lateralism, on disarmament, on an “open hand instead of a clenched fist,” on bowing before Saudi despots and on accepting mash notes from Latin American dictators, that Obama is taking the world where it truly wants to go. That road, that well-trod path, is being paved with their good intentions.
But eleven days is enough to shake the world. Ten days was once enough. In 1919, an American book appeared. Ten Days that Shook the World was the breathless chronicle of the Bolshevik Revolution written by John Reed. Young Jack Reed was a Leftist journalist, a 1910 graduate of Harvard, and a passionate supporter of the communists in Petrograd. Reed was on scene in Russia’s capital for some of the most important events of that bloody century. When John Reed died, Lenin ordered that his body be buried inside the Kremlin, the only American so honored.
Reed did not live to see what became of his Ten Days that Shook the World. The Bolshevik Revolution resulted in the greatest tyranny the world has ever known. The Heritage Foundation is currently showing a series of fifty paintings by Nikolai Getman. Getman was a Ukrainian prisoner who served eight years in the Gulag. “Gulag” is not a word that President Barack Obama has ever used in public. It is a Russian acronym for “state administration for camps.”
These camps, however, were not just summer camps. They were summer-fall-winter-spring camps. Some of them, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explained in his majesterial Gulag Archipelago, were like islands within Lenin’s and Stalin’s Soviet Union, islands as big as France. Others were as small as a telephone booth. All of them had one thing in common: In the Gulag, a person was swallowed up whole. Tens of millions of people disappeared into the Gulag during the life of the Soviet Union.
Barack Obama is not the only one who has never mentioned the Gulag. The UN has never mentioned it. Nor has Hollywood.
The Heritage Foundation’s exhibit is stunning. Visitors can see the luminous painting of the artist’s brother, Alexander Getman, being led down the last mile by two NKVD officers. Young Alexander was shot on 1 December 1934. In his brother’s depiction, young Alexander’s eyes stare at the viewer, accusingly. He is barefooted, his white prison clothes glow as if Alexander is headed for his own Transfiguration. He is.
Some paintings depict diamond miners and gold miners. They are zeks, slaving away in sub-zero cold. Uranium mining, one of the captions tells us, is a death sentence. Those zeks will be killed by radiation. “Zek” is short for zaklucheniye–the locked up ones.
“Waiting to be shot” is another jarring painting. The zeks huddled in the prison yard are emaciated but show no panic. It is dark. We see only the back of the NKVD officer with the gun. The only spot of color in the painting is the incongruous sky-blue cap the killer wears.
It is not all horror. A young Chukchi prisoner must just have been sentenced. He is cheerful, smoking a cigarette, and warming himself by a camp fire. Chukchis are Asian tribesmen. This smiling lad has gotten ten years for saying “Yankee is good.” They may be the only Russian words this Siberian native knows. We’re still waiting for Barack Obama to say “Yankee is good.”
The Nobel Committee has occasionally recognized men and women who stood up against Soviet tyranny. They gave Solzhenitsyn the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature–and may have thereby saved the dissident writer’s life. They awarded the Peace Prize to Andrei Sakharov, the Russian human rights advocate and to Lech Walesa, the leader of Poland’s first free labor union, Solidarity.
Too often, however, the Nobel Committee has dishonored itself by giving Peace Prizes to politically correct figures. Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam got it for a “peace” agreement that was being massively violated before the ink was dry. Tens of thousands of boat people were forced to leave Vietnam, willing to face death on the high seas rather than live under Le Duc Tho’s brutal communist masters. They would doubtless have filed a minority report on that Nobel vote.
The Nobel Committee also gave a Peace Prize to Yassir Arafat. Arafat’s citation fails to mention that he invented airline hijacking for terrorism, or that he personally ordered the murder of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel. Ambassador Noel was not finished off with a quick shot to the head, either. Arafat’s henchman shot him in the legs, the groin, the gut, the chest, all the way up his body. There is some justice in the world. though. When Hamas terrorists overran Arafat’s home in Gaza, several years after his death, they stole his Nobel Peace Prize. They probably melted down the gold medal for guns.
Against all this terror and tyranny, murder and oppression, the UN has had little to say. The Nobel Prize Committee, at a loss, gave a Peace Prize to the UN and to Kofi Annan, who did nothing to stop genocide in Rwanda, who presided over the biggest money scandal in history, the infamous “oil for food” ripoff. At least they were not George Bush.
Barack Obama’s first eleven days in January were not uneventful. He ordered U.S. taxpayers to subsidize International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world’s largest trafficker in abortion. Obama also ordered U.S. taxpayers to back the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). This outfit helps China’s rulers to enforce their one-child policy. Throughout the world each year, fifty million abortions take place, with Planned Parenthood beating the drums. And in China since the 1970s, fifty million abortions have been done forcibly.
When you read what the UN has done, what the Soviet Union did, what the Nobel Prize Committee has honored, Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize does not seem so out of place. His eleven days were not so unproductive. It remains to be seen who will chronicle the rest of his rule.
I’d like to take President Obama on a tour of the Gulag Collection at the Heritage Foundation.
It’s just down the street from the White House and it might be the best thing he could do for peace.