The Corner



Aung San Suu Kyi

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum gives a human-rights award, named after Elie Wiesel. He was its first recipient. The second was Aung San Suu Kyi, in 2012. Now the museum has revoked the award.

For a report in the New York Times, go here.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the civilian leader of Burma, otherwise known as “Myanmar.” In concert with Buddhist nationalists, the Burmese military has carried out an “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya minority, in the west of the country. What has been done to these people staggers the imagination: mass murder, mass rape, the full range of human savagery.

In recent days, Burma has been busily trying to cover up the crime: bulldozing the villages where Rohingyas once lived.

All the while, the great Aung San Suu Kyi has been indifferent to this, making excuses, issuing denials, and appalling her many admirers around the world. I wrote about this topic last month, in an article here.

If you write about the Rohingyas, beware: You will get a nasty response from alt-Right types, saying the Rohingyas had it coming — even the babies, apparently. “You have to be pretty bad to piss off Buddhists!” I received this message over and over. These alties must think that all Buddhists are like flower children, reciting sweet poems about peace.

When I was coming of age, I knew about the nasty Right, of course — but mainly from books. It was a thing of the past, and mainly European. The American Right was freedom-loving, democracy-loving, and, frankly, liberal (in the old sense). But the other kind of Right is never past, and it is hardly confined to a continent. Along with the Communists and other such charmers, these people are the scum of the earth.

In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize, for the stand she was taking in Burma: a stand for democracy, in short. Today, many people are calling for her Nobel to be revoked. The Nobel Peace Prize is not revokable, however. A person wins it for work he has done in the past, regardless of what happens after.

Consider Ralph Bunche, the great American who won the prize in 1950. Working as a U.N. diplomat, Bunche had negotiated a series of armistice agreements between Israel and its Arab attackers. In short order, those agreements were shot to hell. But the prize to Bunche remained intact.

Henry Kissinger tried to return his Nobel. That is, he tried to return the gold medal, the diploma (or certificate), and the money. But, as the Nobel Peace Prize is not revokable, neither is it returnable.

He won in 1973 along with North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho (who declined his share of the prize). They were being awarded for the Paris Agreement, a ceasefire inked in January 1973. Of course, North Vietnam violated the agreement with abandon. And when Saigon fell in April 1975, Kissinger said he felt “honor bound” to return his prize. He wrote to the committee in Oslo, explaining.

“I regret, more profoundly than I can ever express, the necessity for this letter. But the anguish and tragedy that have been inflicted upon millions who sought nothing more than the chance to live their own lives leave me no alternative.”

The committee said, Thanks all the same. The course of the war in no way reduced the committee’s “appreciation” of Kissinger’s “sincere efforts to get a ceasefire agreement put into force in 1973.”

This 1973 award, to Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, is the most controversial Nobel prize in history. The second most, probably, is the 1993 award, which was divided between the two leading Israeli statesmen, Rabin (prime minister) and Peres (foreign minister), and the PLO’s Arafat. The award was for the Oslo Accords — which Arafat shot to hell.

If you’d like more on this, try my history of the Nobel Peace Prize, Peace, They Say.

As I see it, Aung San Suu Kyi richly and inarguably deserved her prize in 1991. But the cries for revocation, one can well understand.


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