Nobel Nuggets, Part V

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1994.


As I was writing the book, I would tell people, from time to time, what I was working on. And many said, “Didn’t they give that to Arafat?” For a lot of people, that’s the end of the story — all you have to know about the Nobel Peace Prize.

But it’s well to remember that Arafat didn’t win the prize by himself. He won it with two Israeli statesmen — the prime minister, Rabin, and the foreign minister, Peres. And they were happy, or at least willing, to go to Oslo to share the prize with Arafat. The foreign minister went out of his way to say, in his Nobel lecture, that Arafat’s share in the prize was “fitting.”

So . . .

Those interested may like to see an op-ed I wrote for the Times of Israel some weeks ago: here.

One of the worst things ever said at a Nobel ceremony was said by José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, in 1996. He was talking about the U.S. departure from Vietnam, and in particular the famous photo of the helicopter on the embassy roof: Desperate people were snaking up the ladder.

This Nobel peace laureate said that the helicopter had come “to rescue remaining diplomats, CIA operatives, and a few privileged South Vietnamese stooges.”

Can you think of better and less repulsive ways to describe those fleeing for their lives as murderous, totalitarian forces closed in?

David Trimble was one of the two Northern Irishmen who won in 1998, for the Good Friday Agreement — the other was John Hume. In his lecture, Trimble said, “What we democratic politicians want in Northern Ireland is not some utopian society but a normal society.”

Normality — what a gift. Not to be taken for granted.

I think this was possibly the most remarkable statement ever made at a Nobel ceremony — it came from Kim Dae-jung, the South Korean dissident-turned-president, in his lecture (2000):

I have lived, and continue to live, in the belief that God is always with me. I know this from experience. In August of 1973, while exiled in Japan, I was kidnapped from my hotel room in Tokyo by intelligence agents of the then military government of South Korea. The news of the incident startled the world. The agents took me to their boat at anchor along the seashore. They tied me up, blinded me, and stuffed my mouth. Just when they were about to throw me overboard, Jesus Christ appeared before me with such clarity. I clung to him and begged him to save me. At that very moment, an airplane came down from the sky to rescue me from the moment of death.

Presenting the prize for 2002, the Nobel chairman said, “Jimmy Carter will probably not go down in American history as the most effective president.” Whoa, that was a little nervy, with Carter sitting right there. “But he is certainly the best ex-president the country ever had.”

Yeah, that’s what the Nobel committee may think. Me, I’m not sure he wasn’t a better president than he has been an ex-president.

In 2005, the prize went to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its then–director general, Mohamed ElBaradei. I regard this as possibly the worst Nobel peace award ever given. I think it will look particularly bad if Iran goes nuclear. ElBaradei often seemed more helpful to them than harmful.

Why did the Nobel committee award ElBaradei and the IAEA? I can think of just one reason: to taunt the U.S. and its allies for their failure to find WMD, ready to go, in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

Obviously, there is much more on this in my book . . .

In 2006, Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi microbanker, won. One of his daughters, the soprano Monica Yunus, sang at the Nobel concert (an annual affair): “O mio babbino caro” — “Oh, daddy dearest.”

At the Nobel banquet (another annual affair) in 2009, the laureate, President Obama, got a big laugh. Referring to the committee chairman and the “presentation speech” he had made, Obama said, “I told him afterward that I thought it was an excellent speech — and that I was almost convinced that I deserved it.”

Had enough? Thanks for joining me, and have a great weekend, y’all.

You may order Jay Nordlinger’s new book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World direct from National Review. Go here. Ask for a signature and an inscription, if you like. If you are interested in having the author speak before your group, contact him at [email protected]