An Open Letter to the Nobel Committee – On Obama’s Peace Prize

On December 10, you will award the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama, citing “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.” We the undersigned are distressed that President Obama, so close upon his receipt of this honor, has opted to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan with the deployment of 30,000 additional troops. We regret that he could not be guided by the example of a previous Nobel Peace Laureate, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who identified his peace prize as “profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time — the need for man [sic] to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.”

President Obama has insisted that his troop escalation is a necessary response to dangerous instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but we reject the notion that military action will advance the region’s stability, or our own national security. In his peace prize acceptance speech, Dr. King observed that “Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts…man [sic] must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.” As people committed to end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, we are filled with remorse by this new decision of our president, for it will not bring peace.

Declaring his opposition to the Vietnam War, Dr. King insisted that “no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war…We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways… We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man [sic] of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.”

We pledge ourselves to mobilize our constituencies in the spirit of Dr. King’s nonviolent and committed example. His prophetic words will guide us as we assemble in the halls of Congress, in local offices of elected representatives, and in the streets of our cities and towns, protesting every proposal that will continue funding war. We will actively and publicly oppose the war funding which President Obama will soon seek from Congress and re-commit ourselves to the protracted struggle against U.S. war-making in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We assume that the Nobel Committee chose to award President Obama the peace prize in full awareness of the vision offered by Dr. King’s acceptance speech. We also understand that the Nobel committee may now regret that decision in light of recent developments, as we believe that the committee should be reluctant to present an Orwellian message equating peace with war. When introducing the President, the Committee should, at the very least, exhibit a level of compassion and humility by drawing attention to this distressing ambiguity.

We will do all we can to ensure that popular pressure will soon bring President Obama to an acceptance of the duties which this prize, and even more his electoral mandate to be a figure of change, impose upon him.  He must end the catastrophic policies of occupation and war that have caused so much destruction, so many deaths and displacements, and so much injury to our own democratic traditions.

This prize is not a meaningless honor.  We pledge, ourselves obeying its call to nonviolent action, to make our President worthy of it.

Jack Amoureux- Board of Directors, Military Families Speak Out
Medea Benjamin- Co-Founder, Global Exchange
Frida Berrigan – Witness Against Torture
Elaine Brower- World Can’t Wait
Leslie Cagan- Co-Founder, United for Peace and Justice
Bob Cooke-Regional Coordinator, Pax Christi USA, Pax Christi Metro, DC and Baltimore
Tom Cornell- Catholic Peace Fellowship
Matt Daloisio – War Resisters League
Marie Dennis – Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Laurie Dobson, Director, End US Wars
Mike Ferner- President, Veterans for Peace
Joy First- Convener, National Campaign for Non-Violent Resistance
Sara Flounders – International Action Center
Diana Gibson, Christian Peace Witness
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb- Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
David Hartsough- Peaceworkers, San Francisco
Mike Hearington- Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition
Kimber J. Heinz- Organizing Coordinator, War Resisters League
Mark Johnson- Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Kathy Kelly- Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Non-Violence
Leslie Kielson – United for Peace and Justice
Malachy Kilbride- National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Kevin Martin- Executive Director-Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund
Linda LeTendre – Saratoga [New York] Peace Alliance
Michael McPhearson- Veterens for Peace
Gael Murphy – Co-Founder, Code Pink
Sheila Musaji – The American Muslim
Michael Nagler- Founder, Metta Center for Nonviolence
Max Obuszewski- Pledge of Resistance Baltimore and Baltimore Nonviolence Center
Pete Perry- Peace of the Action
Dave Robinson, Executive Director, Pax Christi
David Swanson- AfterDowningStreet.org
Terry Rockefeller – Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Samina Sundas – Founding Executive Director, The American Muslim Voice
Nancy Tsou- Coordinator, Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice
Diane Turco- Cape Codders for Peace and Justice
Marge Van Cleef – Womens International League for Peace and Freedom
Jose Vasquez, Executive Director, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Craig Wiesner- Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice
Scott Wright, Pax Christi Metro DC – Baltimore
Kevin Zeese- Executive Director, Voters for Peace

Along with delivering this open letter to the Nobel Peace Committee, activists will present it at a rally in Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. on Saturday, December 12th, 11 – 4, www. enduswar.org

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