*The Sordid Story Behind the Peace Prize Scandal
BEIJING—Until Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize, most outsiders probably thought that Norway is a small, peaceful and happy country with fjords and salmon. Some still do.
Most outsiders are right about: small, fjords and salmon. But peace and happiness, No Way!
First, Norway has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, for many reasons, including the absence of sunshine all winter and grim politicians that make Vladimir Putin seem like a teddy bear. Except for the short salmon fishing season, it can be a depressing place. And what could be more depressing than having a Numero Uno like former Prime Minister Thorbjoern Jagland, who’s been called “our own George Bush Jr.”?
After two years in office, Jagland was booted out under a cloud of scandals and controversies, which the outside world knows little about. The Norwegians keep mum about their own problems, and that’s why they like to point fingers at others, for example, those rotten Russians and the Chinese.
“You accuse me of murdering my wife? Well let me tell you that your wife is the worst cook in the village!” That’s an example of a Norwegian exit strategy from an uncomfortable topic.
To encourage the PM to step down, the government gave him a sop: Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, a position where he could exercise his usual flair without causing a diplomatic crisis. Was that a mistake?
His brilliant move, an act of one-upmanship against his political rivals, was to give the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to a virtual unknown to the peace movement named Barack Obama. To the jeers of his critics in Oslo, Thor Bjorn says about Obama: “We simply disagree that he has done nothing, He got the prize for what he has done.”
This is called a tautology, a statement that repeats itself. Obama has done nothing, you say? You ask me what has Obama done for peace? Nothing.
Thoroughly confused, the Norwegians went back to drinking over-taxed beer and smashing their cars into birch trees.
A Peace Prize for Norway
Peaceful? Norway is a proud gun-toting member of NATO. Every male must enlist in the army, and learn how to shoot on skis. Taking a rifle on one’s back for a skiing holiday is a national sport because Norwegians believe they must prepare for the inevitable day that the Russians, the Finns, the Swedes, the Danes or the polar bears try to invade their icy fjords. The neutral Swedes, why would they attack their spoon-shaped neighbor? Well, there used to be just one big Sweden up north, that’s why.
Paranoia is the national mindset. Norwegians think of themselves as the brave little guys facing off the big bullies like the old Soviet Union. So they’ve been eager to cooperate with the Pentagon and U.S. spy agencies to set up listening posts to pick up every phone conversation out of Moscow and Leningrad that might suggest that the hibernating bears are out of their dens.
Other gigantic antennas are known by strange names like ARCESS and NORESS, which are supposedly earthquake monitors but actually detectors of Russian nuclear tests. Then there is Globus, a big radar dish that can spot missile blasting up over the Arctic.
Globus II is different, and once had the odd name of HAVE STARE. It is used to target hostile satellites, like the ones launched by the Chinese and Iranians, so that the U.S. Space Command can shoot them down with lasers. We are talking about Star Wars – or is that Start Wars?
In 1988, while the Soviet Union was starting to collapse under Mikhail Gorbachev’s astute leadership, Norway was on the front line against the Soviet Red Army. NATO strategists were anxious about the prospect of Moscow being saved in the nick of time by its onetime friend and ally Beijing. So faxes out of the Chinese Embassy in Moscow were of utmost importance, but unfortunately were written in Chinese.
Enter the Manchurian Tiger
That’s when a Chinese language expert named Liu Xiaobo arrived on a research fellowship at the University of Oslo, a campus with a close connection with the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies from the nearby Defense College. Back in those dark days of the Cold War, there weren’t many Chinese in Scandinavia, so Liu was a rare commodity – a scholar from Beijing who loathed Beijing.
Liu is then summoned to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, home of the East-West Center, a think tank for American dominance in Asia and a celebrated recruiting ground for, gulp, the CIA. Then quickly, Liu heads off to Columbia, which was the brain trust and PR machine for the Tiananmen student protests. Never mind that Columbia called in the New York police to brutally suppress a nonviolent sit-in by the Students for a Democratic Society -SDS – during the Vietnam War.
Next Professor Liu, expert in modern European literature, is suddenly “parachuted” into Tiananmen Square. (Airfares back then were relatively much more expensive than now, especially for a normal Chinese researcher’s budget.) There in the capital, he was immediately lionized by CNN and ABC as “one of the four leaders” of the student movement.
On the ground in Beijing, a covert tactical adviser and media-manipulation operation was being orchestrated by Gene Sharp with the Einstein Institution and Colonel Robert Helvey of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A near-forgotten incident in those days was the sniper fire against the Beijing riot police, one of the reasons for clearing the square. Just part of a classic “nonviolent” operation, designed in Langley and made for media
In Liu’s account, he did everything to broker a peace deal between the military and the protesters. What he does not mention is that days earlier the government had offered to hold talks with student leaders but were refused. Instead of the compromise that he claims, Liu took his stand with the diehard militants – and then abandoned them in the very last hours, leaving his erstwhile friends to their fate. Was his last-minute escape a change of heart? An act of courage – or of cowardice? Perhaps Colonel Helvey knows the answer.
Now more than two decades later, Liu Xiaobo is given the highest award from Norway. Nobel laureate and former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel was the first person to nominate the Chinese dissident. The anti-Soviet playwright Havel was catapulted into power by the Velvet Revolution, the first of the so-called “color revolutions” that wiped out the Soviet Union.
The Czech playwright-politician is the West’s leading figurehead of democracy and human rights, yet in his last year in office, 2002-February 2003, the CIA started to use Czech airfields for “extraordinary rendition” flights. Captives bound in shackles, handcuffs and hoods were flown out of Brno Airfield to be tortured and some to be murdered. No arrest warrants, no rights to a lawyer and no hard evidence was required to condemn a presumed terrorist to an extrajudicial execution. The number of mistaken identities that were never corroborated is disturbing and completely illegal under international conventions.
Some 15 of those “torture flights” of the CIA-owned Aviation Specialties carrier were made from Brno in the Czech Republic to Sola Airfield in Stavanger, Norway, according to the Aftenblatter newspaper. The Governments of Norway and the Czech Republic has since done nothing to indict and prosecute the perpetrators of these state-sponsored crimes. Nor have the courageous American whistleblowers who exposed the horrific rights violations in Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay never been given serious consideration for the Peace Prize.
And so Nobel Peace Prize Chairman Jagland’s famous words should strike a familiar note among Norwegians: “We have to speak when others cannot speak. As China is rising, we should have the right to criticize. We want to advance those forces that want China to become more democratic.”
Murder? What murder? Oh, you dastardly bullies in Beijing, your wife is the worst cook in the global village.
About the Author: Yoichi Shimatsu is former editor of The Japan Times Weekly, Senior Advisor for The Fourth Media/April Media.
Notes: China-bashing, the new Nordic winter sport
Freedom of Expression Foundation (Fritt Ord): Sharon Hom, director of Human Rights in China who is based in New York and Hong Kong, is speaking in Oslo in October.
Rafto Foundation for Human Rights: sponsors Uyghur exile leader Rebiya Kadeer in 2007 to deliver speech “Olympics in Beijing and Human Rights in China”.
Norway is home to 500 Uyghur exiles and dozens of Falun Gong activists.
The facts on U.S. Defense Department, National Security Agency, CIA and NATO military activities in Norway are taken from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
* Yoichi Shimatzu is a senior advisor at M4 Media