Alfred Nobel and the Real Prize – Peace

Courtenay Barnett

Posted Mar 15, 2006      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Alfred Nobel and the Real Prize – Peace

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”
—Martin Luther King – acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize – December 10, 1964

by Courtenay Barnett

As the inventor of dynamite, who amassed a fortune, Alfred Nobel thought that the destructive power of his invention would serve to bring an end to all wars. The modern day equivalent of Nobel’s thinking would be the concept of nuclear deterrence. Destructive power so overwhelming should make war inconceivable.

A French newspaper had misread Nobel’s brother’s death as that of Alfred. It published a less that admiring obituary terming Alfred Nobel, the “merchant of death.” To avoid the posthumous reputation indicated by the premature announcement of his death, Nobel took the course of establishing via his will the Nobel Prize.

The purpose of the prize and the idea of peace

Alfred Nobel’s will bequeathed the prize:-

“…to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Two men – two concepts and the idea of peace

If Martin Luther King as a humane, albeit flawed ( as we all are) recipient of the Nobel Prize can be deemed a martyr for peace, no more significant contrast with a fellow Nobel laureate can be found than in the personage of Henry Alfred Kissinger.

Kissinger along with the Chief North Vietnamese negotiator Lu Duc Tho received and shared a Nobel Peace Prize. How, I ask myself, could Kissinger ever have qualified for a peace prize?

Kissinger’s misdeeds over his career as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State read like a chronicle of red-blooded horrors for the scale of human destruction consequent upon his actions:

-Prolonging by four years from 1968 to 1972 the end of the Vietnam War.

-Participation in the illegal and secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia.

-Direct involvement in the destabilization of Angola.

-As head of the Presidential Committee on Central America giving succor to death squads.

-Supporting torture and repression under the reign of the Shah of Iran.

-Giving military, diplomatic and political support to the racist regime in South Africa.

-Directly assisting the murderous General Pinochet and undermining the democratically elected leader of Chile, Salvador Allende.

Tortures, wars of aggression, crimes against humanity, international terrorism, have all witnessed condemnation in the international community. If one gives support to and actively participates in acts that are manifestly illegal and inhumane does that make such an individual culpable? As Pinochet can accurately be termed a murderous dictator and torturer, and the House of Lords case in England permitting his extradition did not acknowledge Pinochet’s sovereign immunity, is Kissinger not one who remains manifestly accountable?

Among the humane expressions of concerns by this recipient of the Peace Prize, can be listed:

“ I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people” ( translated: let us destroy Chile because we do not like the result of the democratic election – so let them be killed to be brought into line).

“Why should we flagellate ourselves for what Cambodians did to each other?”

Consider for a moment what the US with Kissinger’s direct participation did:

President Johnson had halted the bombing in Vietnam, and Kissinger’s direct involvement ensured political deception and a false promise to the North Vietnamese, so as to facilitate, a hiatus and election of the Republican President, Richard Nixon. Four more totally unnecessary years of war continued in a war the America had already lost by 1968 and the figures of war deaths during the subsequent four years are:-

South Vietnamese – 86,101
Enemy – 475, 609
Americans – 31, 205

These are truncated numbers of deaths, deliberated limited to the four extra unnecessary years that the Vietnam War was escalated and made to last. What greater case for an indictment against Kissinger if the entire spectrum of his misdeeds were included. Add to this the facts of the secret and illegal bombings in Cambodia and Laos, and consider the accuracy of B-52s raining bombs from a great height on the Cambodians and Laotians, delivering to them with deadly (even if not precise and accurately targeted “shock and awe”) what was callously termed “breakfast”, “lunch”, “snack”, “dinner” and “dessert” as codenames for the bombing sorties. Add to these crimes some Agent Orange and chemical spraying of defoliants and pesticides and then apply some napalm and then inflict same on the people. Kissinger had a hand in all of this, knew and understood the levels of human carnage, was involved in the concealment from the press and Congress, and engaged in illegality at the highest levels in Washington. Putting it mildly, while 2,044,000 tons of bombs were, by Pentagon estimates, used during the entire Second World War, the US dropped 4,500,000 tons of explosives during the Vietnam War. For what we might well ask ourselves – for what?

China, the world’s most populous Communist country during the post- Vietnam era became a most favored trading partner of the US. Vietnam was a poor peasant society, and what then was the war really about – Vietnam a threat to American national security? - was the war ever at all necessary?

Fortunately, however, Dr. Henry Kissinger as America’s undeniably most astute global analyst saw good cause in perpetrating and prolonging war in Vietnam, bombings in Laos and Cambodia, with quite intelligent geo-strategic sense in deploying deadly force against civilian populations. To his everlasting credit and distinction he has been duly awarded the “Peace Prize” for his tremendous humanitarian efforts.


If we do not at times reflect on history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Let the bombing of Iran begin and long live the necessary war in Iraq until the WMDs are found.

Without that audacious faith in the future of mankind, we might very well be left with only proof of the stupidities that forever confront man.

Recommended readings:

“A Testament of hope: The essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.” – J.M. Washington (Editor)

“Sideshow – Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia” – William Shawcross

“The Trial of Henry Kissinger” – Christopher Hitchens

A fictional title: “George Walker Bush – the Nobel Prize – for bringing peace and stability to the Middle East” – Author: Henry Alfred Kissinger

Courtenay Barnett is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer for over twenty years, has been arrested for defending his views, and has argued public interest and human rights cases. His web site:

Originally published at and reprinted in TAM with permission