President Obama To Receive Nobel “Peace Prize” — While Simultaneously Advancing War In Afghanistan

The Peace Museum is planning a special public meeting tomorrow, December 10, that will include listening as a group to President Obama’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.  (See text of Obama’s acceptance speech  here.) The fact that President Obama is expanding the war in Afghanistan by over 30,000 soldiers makes a strange counter-point to his acceptance of a “Peace Prize.”

I received an e-mail from Gary Steiger with a copy of the letter below.  Gary made these comments:

  • For a “peace museum” that never declared its opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I hope this is a turning point. It’s past time that the “Peace Museum” be turned into an “Anti-War Museum.”
  • To celebrate Peace without actively opposing the wars we are engaged is nothing short of  hypocrisy. And,  hiding behind a 501c(3) tax exemption as a reason not to speak out specifically against the horrors we are bringing, and will continue to bring , under Obama’s plan, to the Afhghan people  is worse  than hypocritical, it is sanctimonious bullshit.
  • A “peace” museum without an active anti war stance is just another museum.

What follows is the letter from Jake Schlachter, Executive Director, Dayton International Peace Museum

Dear Friends of the Dayton International Peace Museum,

On November 7th, the Peace Museum announced that it would be holding its first annual Nobel Peace Prize Celebration, timed to coincide with the awarding of the prize in Oslo on December 10th.  The Museum was excited that, in its first year, the celebration would honor US President Barack Obama for his aspirations to change the global climate of conflict resolution and restore diplomacy to the forefront of US foreign policy.

At the time of the award’s announcement, President Obama — also the US president who inherited two wars begun by his predecessor — was in the middle of a full review of US strategy for the war in Afghanistan.  Last week, at the end of that review and one week before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama announced that the United States would be escalating the war and deploying an additional 30,000 US troops to the conflict.

This has not been an easy week at the Museum.

It’s fair to say that President Obama’s speech last Tuesday dampened enthusiasm among some Peace Museum supporters for a celebration to honor him as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.  I would be dishonest if I said that I predicted attendance would be as high as at our November 18th event, when the Museum added President Obama’s portrait to our Nobel Laureates exhibit.  It’s important that we acknowledge that the emotions of our community are very high right now, and fairly so.  There are no issues we should be more passionate about than those of war and peace.

But I believe it would be a shame to confuse the celebration of peace with an endorsement of war.  Though the timing is coincidental, the sentiment is certainly not.  The Museum first held an event on December 10th of last year to honor Sister Dorothy Stang, who was on that date posthumously awarded the United Nations Human Rights Prize.  The decision to turn that day into an annual day of celebration for peace at the Museum has been a long time coming.

The Museum continues to celebrate and promote a culture of peace, nonviolence, and diplomatic resolutions to conflict, whether that be between warring states, political parties, or family members.  When the Nobel Committee awarded the Prize to President Obama in October , it did so “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

That statement is as true and as important today as it was in October, as is the cause of Peace that the Nobel Prize was founded to further.

I hope you will join us at the Museum for the First Annual Celebration of the Nobel Peace Prize Award, Thursday, December 10th at 12pm.  We will have a toast to Peace at 12:30 pm, a reading of distinguished historian Irwin Abrams’s essay on the founding of the Prize, and then watch President Obama’s acceptance speech in Oslo.  His speech will specifically address his own feelings on the juxtaposition of receiving the Peace Prize in a time of war.  I will look forward to being surrounded by friends and fellow peacemakers while I listen to his speech, and I hope you will, too.  May you also please forward this email to friends and supporters of the Peace Museum, that they may join us for a celebration of Peace.

Thank you for your resolve, your dedication, and your passion for a peaceful future,

Jake Schlachter
Executive Director, Dayton International Peace Museum

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7 Responses to President Obama To Receive Nobel “Peace Prize” — While Simultaneously Advancing War In Afghanistan

  1. Jeanne Erling says:

    Why do we care what Gary Steiger says? Is he the authority on this? My Aunt (Dorothy Stang) is a big part of what the Peace Museum celebrates and upholds. They celebrate people who promote peace. So they are happy that Obama is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, that doesn’t mean that they themselves endorse war. Nice mouth, by the way, Gary. Maybe you should meet the people at the Peace Museum before you judge. I have never seen them celebrate war, and none of them is sanctimonious. What exactly do you expect the president to do? Leave the soldiers who are there stranded? You can’t just immediately pull out without a plan. He is finding out why Bush couldn’t do it so easily either. Maybe Gary could organize some war protests, I would be glad to join.

  2. Gary Staiger says:

    Jeanne, I appreciate your passionate reply. I do think, however, that you miss my point. I am NOT against the Peace Museum, and believe it does have a positive role and impact here in Dayton. My digression is with the approach of the Museum to Wars That Are Going On Right Now…

    “Maybe Gary could organize some war protests, I would be glad to join”

    I was organizing anti-war protests at WPAFB in 1970. I helped to organize the anti Iraq war vigils that were held at 5th third field for 6 years…

    A liberal position on Peace is talking about it and teaching about it. A progressive position is to endorse talk and education but at the same time to DO SOMETHING active about the Warts that are going on right now. During all the years when vigils against the Iraq war were held at 5th Third field NOT ONCE was there ever an official presence from the Peace Museum. As a matter of fact, in all the ant-war demonstrations I have attended, and there have been many over the last eight years, the Peace Museum has NEVER had an official presence.Not one single time, ever.

    This is what one person who read the article wrote to me describing her to the museum.:
    “But by the end of the tour I asked about the absence of any evidence of anti-war activity. I received a mind numbing explanation of the difference between peace education/reverence and anti-war activity and political action which the museum was not going to include.
    As my mind glaze wore off I went back to the staff and asked if they intended to at least develop an educational program focusing on the economic roots of war and its roots in capitalism. This query left the staff aghast and I thought they were going to ask me to leave–politely, peacefully of course.
    It is difficult not to support and even heap praise on what a small group of people have accomplished with the Peace Museum. But it is so superficial, so “feel good”, so oblivious of pain, death and rewards that are part of the U.S. war addiction.”

    There is a difference between Pacifism and Passive-ism.
    My point is actually quite simple, talk is Cheap, action is what makes a difference.

  3. Robert Vigh says:

    War has its roots in capitalism? You may need to educate yourself Gary.

    Obama has no business receiving that prize. Compared to other life time acheivers of peace, Obama does not compare at this point in his life. It devalues the Prize itself and makes a mockery of it. What a joke that we have turned the peace price into a political movement of garbage.

  4. Eric says:

    As my mind glaze wore off I went back to the staff and asked if they intended to at least develop an educational program focusing on the economic roots of war and its roots in capitalism.

    Perhaps someone is working that into Ohio’s social studies revision.

    Compared to other life time acheivers of peace, Obama does not compare at this point in his life.

    Even Al Gore?

  5. Stan Hirtle says:

    It is sort of a shame to have people dueling their peace credentials, both better than mine to be sure.
    The underlying issue here is should the peace museum be on the front lines of challenging whatever violence our society happens to be being perpetrated at the moment, at the moment two wars in the Muslim world (to say nothing of the violence being perpetrated internally). Or should its work be laying the groundwork for an infrastructure of peacefulness in the society that ultimately challenges and educates the society concerning the culture of war and violence in which America so much believes. This may sometimes appear to be being “just a museum.” A situation like now, when a peace prize is being given to a president who is escalating a war, although supposedly in the short term unlike the previous president whose wars had no end in sight, brings this quandary to a head.

    The situation is complicated by memories of the 9/11 attack, whether seen as crime or war or both, and its relationship to Americans view of their own moral innocence, as opposed to the perceived evil of the Taliban, a violent force of religious and gender intolerance but one that the US was prepared to do oil business with before 9/11. Also at issue here is America’s understanding that wars often begin with optimism and idealism, but result in longer than planned for costs, generate suffering, hatred and atrocious conduct, and have unintended consequences that go far forward into the future, often laying the groundwork for the next war. Underlying problems are more likely to be hardened and deferred than resolved.

  6. Stan Hirtle says:

    Commentators such as com/news/ opinion/glenn_ greenwald/ 2009/12/11/ obama/index. html have noticed that both “liberals” and “neoconservatives” have found their views on America’s role in war and peace to have been affirmed by Obama’s “muscular” Nobel acceptance speech. In fact some have argued that “Obama has actually done more to legitimize Bush/Cheney counter-terrorism policies than Bush and Cheney themselves — because he made them bipartisan, essentially ending the debate over their legitimacy.” Others have wondered whether this “eloquent, sophisticated, nuanced, complex, philosophical, contemplative and intellectual” speech is just another version of the “just war” doctrine that allows people never to meet a war they want to start but find unjust.

    Actually there has been bipartisan acceptance of these ideas about US military power since well before Obama was in politics. Clinton embraced all of the antiterrorism framework. Obama has consistently taken the high road within the mainstream view of America’s self image (America also has a low road which is of course absent from this speech). Neocons also see themselves as being on the high road.

    Despite all the rhetoric from his opponents, Obama was always a moderate and certainly never was a pacifist. If he were a pacifist, a democratic America would not have elected him. All of his macho posturing about “taking out” bin Ladin was a necessary part of his campaign. A substantial part of the American people want that in a president. Obama’s speech is as far as you can go on the high road as an American president. In fact the right is always on him about supposedly “apologizing” and is again about this speech. No doubt Obama knows that MLK would have said about Obama’s war what he said about LBJ’s war at Riverside Church ( , but Obama knew that when he decided to try to be a national political leader and ultimately President. This is the business he chose.

    “There is evil in the world” is a pretty noncontroversial statement in a political setting, and was certainly the language of the Bush Administration. Obama does recognize, if only in an indirect way, that America might be doing some of this evil. “For we are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil.” Do neocons think about that, and correct their behavior accordingly? Does Obama? What institution or person of power does? Obama was handed a war and, particularly after he made it his campaign message, knows that the American people will not tolerate a a leader in charge if pre-911 conditions re-appear in Afghanistan.

    As Obama stated, we do not know how to restrain warmaking, particularly after a trauma like 9/11, and anyone thinking of waging a war will think it is a just war. And Obama does just that about this war and America’s wars in general in his speech. An Afghan who was killed as collateral damage by a US drone that was out to get a suspected Taliban might give a different speech if given a chance.

    Of course we do not know whether the nonviolence of King and Gandhi would be ineffective if we invested in nonviolent resolution of conflicts with the huge amount of resources that we invest in violence and war. Pointing this out is not something that will fly in politics, and of course we do not presently have 30,000 members of Christian Peacemaking teams and similar groups to dispatch to Afghanistan. But Thomas Friedman, a media commentator who as much as anyone sold the Iraq war to the American people but now opposes the Afghan surge, said this in the interview part of which was quoted in the article “We’re like an unemployed couple with an overdue mortgage adopting a special-needs baby. That’s what we are doing in Afghanistan. Can we really afford that?” If the message of health care reform, whether due to insurance companies, providers, demographics or all of these, is that the costs of providing health care to everyone in America in the future will be going substantially up, then restraining the cost of war may become more important than it has been.

    The American solution to these problems now seems to be “surge and then get out.” The job of the peace movement now is to make the getting out part happen. When there is a political decision that violence is necessary (whether it really was or not) we should insist that the violence be limited, of short duration and that the invaded country be given back to its people as soon as possible. A cartoon in the DDN shows bin Ladin marking an “entrance strategy” deadline to coincide with the US departure. Whether bin Ladin himself ever appears publicly again (probably unlikely), the US can not militarily occupy these countries indefinitely even if people who think like bin Ladin may at some point appear. These struggles must be dealt with by other means, with heavy doses of just and culturally respectful dealings, as Obama also talks about in his speech.

    What Obama says and what Obama does can of course be two different things. Presidents are lead as much as they lead. There is a famous moment reported in history where Roosevelt and labor leaders discussed the possibility of a New Deal. “That sounds great” said the labor leaders. “Now make me do it” said Roosevelt. Obama said similar things during his campaign but the people who worked so diligently to elect him instead of Bush have since been outshone by the conservative media and activists. So some of the disappointment at him should perhaps be more at his supporters as well.

    Does anyone remember what Henry Kissinger said in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech?

  7. Mike Bock says:

    Stan, thanks for your remarks on President Obama’s Peach Prize speech. Overall, in Obama, I feel, we are seeing a lot of missed opportunities. I started with a long response and then decided to re-write and make it a post. My post about the speech is here At Oslo, Obama Asked And Attempted To Answer The Question: How Do We Overcome Evil?

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