Peace Scholar Post: President Obama’s Legacy as a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Catherine Lovrien from St. Olaf College. 

obamaprizeThe Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to those individuals and organizations who “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” as can be read on the Prize’s website: (nobelpeaceprize.org). In 2009, President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” (nobelpeaceprize.org).

During his time as president, however, President Obama’s decisions and actions have not always reflected the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize. The United States’ continued use of targeted drone killings stands out to me as an abuse that particularly tarnishes President Obama’s legacy as Nobel Laureate.

Currently, the U.S. drone program has an extreme transparency problem. However, what is known about drone strikes suggests that such strikes amount to extrajudicial killing. Frequently, these attacks result in the deaths of civilians. In one of many horrific examples, a grandmother, picking vegetables from the garden with her grandchildren in northwest Pakistan, was killed by a targeted drone strike in October 2012. The grandmother, Mamana Bibi, was killed before the eyes of her grandchildren. A second drone struck a few minutes later. Such double strikes are a cruel tactic, used to target those who rush to the aid of the victims of the first strike. One year later, in October 2013, Mamana Bibi’s son and grandchildren traveled to the U.S. to testify before Congress (K. McVeigh, “Drone strikes: Tears in Congress as Pakistani family tells of mother’s death,” The Guardian, 29 October 2013). During this testimony, Mamana Bibi’s son, primary school teacher Rafiq ur Rehman, asked for peace: “I would say to President Obama if I had the opportunity to meet with him is: ‘What happened to me and my family was wrong’. I would ask him to find an end, a peaceful end, to what is happening” (McVeigh, 29 October 2013).

What kind of legacy does President Obama plan to leave? The legacy of a Nobel Peace Laureate who worked toward peace and goodwill among nations? Or the legacy of a leader who chose force over human rights and innocent lives? 

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