Another of the great tragedies of internationalism, although not of the magnitude of the U.N., is the Nobel Prize for Peace. This year's winner is spreading goodwill even today:
Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, yesterday reiterated her claim that the Aids virus was a deliberately created biological agent.Maathai thereby joins the Yasser Arafat wing of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, along with Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and the United Nations itself.
"Some say that AIDS came from the monkeys, and I doubt that because we have been living with monkeys (since) time immemorial, others say it was a curse from God, but I say it cannot be that.
"Us black people are dying more than any other people in this planet," Maathai told a press conference in Nairobi a day after winning the prize for her work in human rights and reversing deforestation across Africa.
"It's true that there are some people who create agents to wipe out other people. If there were no such people, we could have not have invaded Iraq," she said.
"We invaded Iraq because we believed that Saddam Hussein had made, or was in the process of creating agents of biological warfare," said Maathai, also Kenyan deputy environment and natural resources minister, who has gained a reputation as a fearless speaker.
"In fact it (the HIV virus) is created by a scientist for biological warfare," she added.
"Why has there been so much secrecy about Aids? When you ask where did the virus come from, it raises a lot of flags. That makes me suspicious," Maathai added.
It wasn't always this way. Once, the Nobel Prize for Peace was -- as, indeed, was the UN -- an honorable organization. Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Prize for Peace, and the Red Cross, Woodrow Wilson -- a misguided and highly overestimated man, but an honest idealist -- Martin Luther King, Jr., and other worthies.
It began to go bad when it began being used to advance "internationalism" instead of peace. This happened in the early 1970s. First Will Brandt was awarded the prize for "embodying a new attitude toward Eastern Europe," that is to say, an attitude that embraced Communists; in 1973, Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho won it jointly for negotiating an American withdrawal from Vietnam. As laughable as it is to have Kissinger awarded the prize, at least Kissinger held up his end of the bargain; Duc Tho's folks at once began plans for an invasion, which they undertook as soon as the US troops were clear.
Even since then there have been deserving winners -- Mother Theresa, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi (still a prisoner in Burma/Myanmar) -- but as the years have passed, more and more bad actors have been granted the honor. Desmond Tutu, Mandela and De Klerk were all unworthy -- De Klerk, like Kissinger before him, most obviously so, and yet also like Kissinger, he did the most to keep his word. Arafat we mentioned, but he deserves mentioning again.
Unlike the UN, which has passed the point at which it ought to be saved even if it can be saved, the Nobel Prize might be renewed. Perhaps someday, we can hope, its panels and commissioners will stop trying to send messages to the world, and return to honoring those who already have.