Much to the consternation of many, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work negotiating in the Syrian conflict.
While the Putin administration’s anti-gay, anti-women and overtly religious conservative stance might make this seem ridiculous, Putin actually fits quite well into the Nobel Peace Prize’s legacy of controversial recipients.
Here are five examples in no particular order:
1. Yasser Arafat (1994) – Arafat won the award alongside Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East” as represented by the Oslo Accords which set out a five-year transitional period for Israeli forces to withdraw from occupied territories and for a Palestinian authority to be set up and establish a permanent settlement.
This was perhaps one of the most controversial of awards because of Arafat’s history of, by most any standards, presiding over a corrupt, violent and authoritarian regime. Yet the Nobel committee has shown an incredible ability to focus solely on perceived good deeds at the expense of context, illustrating why Putin’s nomination could be in good stead.
2. Wangari Maathai (2004) — Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace,” and the award was widely praised as a recognition of a woman creating social change.
Undeniably, a great deal of Maathai’s work might be praiseworthy, but what the committee neglected to recognize was that Maathai, speaking at a public workshop in Nyeri the same year she was awarded the prize, had reportedly said that HIV/AIDS was the result of a botched laboratory experiment and that AIDS was the deliberate creation of Western scientists who wished to control the African population.
For once the Nobel Committee could not ignore this controversy and a statement was issued in which Maathai commented she had never said such things and that the pronouncements were “wicked.”
The Standard, which had originally reported on the controversial statements, has always maintained that this was a direct quotation of Maathai’s words.
Putin has made similarly ridiculous statements about the gay population, ones he in fact hasn’t denied, that include him implying that Europeans are dying out in part because of their capitulation to gay marriage.
3. Henry Kissinger (1973) — Kissinger was awarded the prize jointly with Vietnamese revolutionary Le Duc Tho (though the latter turned it down) regarding his role in negotiating a ceasefire to end the Vietnamese war. In reality, not only did the war not conclude until 1975, Kissinger had been instrumental in crafting the Nixon era policies that escalated the Vietnam war.
Furthermore, Kissinger’s role as Secretary of State and his alleged (though broadly evidenced) involvement in a number of heavily questionable attacks including the U.S. bombing campaigns in Cambodia to name just one, has for critics brought the Peace Prize into disrepute.
Next page: Anti-choice and anti-immigration Nobel Peace Prize reward recipients.
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