May 8, 2003 | Broadcast

Do Bush & Blair Deserve Nobel Peace Prize?

DAVID HAFFENREFFER, CNNfn ANCHOR, MONEY & MARKETS: A Norwegian government official has nominated President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for the Nobel peace prize for winning the war in Iraq and possibly preventing a more dangerous war in the future. It marks a turn around from last year when the peace prize was given to former President Jimmy Carter who is a critic of the Bush administration’s policy in the middle east and Russia, Germany, and France, nations that opposed the war in Iraq, will certainly frown on such a nomination. But if it can be argued that Mr. Bush and Blair brought freedom and peace to the Iraqi people, do they deserve the prize?

Joining us now to talk about this issue, from Washington, Cliff May (ph), president of Defend Democracy and here in New York, Ian Williams, U.N. correspondent at “The Nation.” Welcome to you both.


HAFFENREFFER: All right, Ian, what do you think? They’re liberating the Iraqi people and why wouldn’t that be a good enough accomplishment to warrant such an award?

WILLIAMS: Well, there’s this little bit about the peace. If you look at previous incumbents, I would say that George Bush stands a reasonable chance if Saddam Hussein is nominated in tandem with the two of them.

HAFFENREFFER: OK, explain that.

WILLIAMS: Previous winners that you might consider sort of right of center have been Henry Kissinger, who was paired with Lay-Ducto (ph), the North Vietnamese leader. You have the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat paired against Menachin Begin (ph). You have Arafat against Perez and Rabin. So that’s the type of pattern that otherwise, it’s very difficult to see George W. Bush in the same company as Ralph Bunch, Martin Luther King, Woodrow Wilson for founding the United Nations. This organization doesn’t give prizes around people who rip up the U.N. charter, which is what those two have publicly just done.

HAFFENREFFER: And we should note, this is just a nomination at this standpoint and there’s still a long road to go I guess before any such awards are given out. Cliff May, your thoughts on all this.

CLIFF MAY, DEFEND DEMOCRACY: Well, it’s refreshing to hear that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have been nominated. They liberated 25 million Iraqi people. Not to some folks, that’s not a very good thing to do. A lot of people would just as soon see the Iraqis be slaughtered and butchered every year and Saddam Hussein create weapons of mass destruction and hand them off to the terrorists that he also finances and supports. But this would be a very good thing. I agree it’s very unlikely. Instead you have people like Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel peace prize. To what part of the world did he bring peace? Even Kofi Annan, did he bring peace to Rwanda? Did he bring peace to the middle east? Is he bringing peace to Zimbabwe? Is he bringing peace to North Korea? I think clearly if somebody who liberates that many millions of people makes the world a better place in three weeks of warfare deserves the Nobel peace prize, if there’s any justice, then Bush and Blair will get it.

HAFFENREFFER: All right, Ian, considering the track record of whose you brought them up as well, some of the previous award winners, tell me a little bit about the impact you think and importance of this award itself considering some of the people who have won it in the past.

WILLIAMS: In a way, this is picked by a small jury of Norwegians. They tend to be sort of by American standards very left wing. Even the conservatives in Norway are fairly left wing usually by American standards. They tend to be evangelical Lutherans. I think there’s a couple of church people on this. They might even consider Tony Blair, up to a point. The real issue is they’re big on international organizations and international law. Over the year they give it to people like Woodrow Wilson for founding the League of Nations. I really can’t see them giving it to somebody who has publicly shown such scorn for the United Nations and the rest of the world.

MAY: Ian, that’s absolutely ridiculous. First of all, how do you square that with the gift of an award to Yasser Arafat? He sure is not one who is scrupulous about international or other law. Secondly, resolution 1441 clearly authorized the United States to do what was necessary in order to disarm Saddam Hussein. What was necessary was to liberate the Iraqi people and to secure regime change there. That was done. There’s a wonderful piece your readers should take a look at in today’s “Wall Street Journal” by the Iraqi poet (INAUDIBLE) and talking about what it means to him and his family after all of the years, finally to be liberated not to be liberated by magazines like “The Nation,” not to be liberated by France or the Arab League. They know who liberated their country. It was the United States. Now people like Ian are, for whatever reason I don’t understand, it used to be that leftists were in favor of liberation. In this case people like Ian unfortunately are in favor of the continued oppression of the Iraqi people and believe me, the Iraqi people understand that. They’re not happy about that.

HAFFENREFFER: That op ed piece entitled “thank you.”

WILLIAMS: I really have to point out that people like myself and “The Nation” were pointing out that Saddam Hussein was a blood-thirsty tyrant at a time when the Republican administration in the ’80s was bankrolling it and covering up for it when it committed its worst human rights atrocities.

MAY: And what did you propose to do? What did you propose to do about it other than prolong it?

WILLIAMS: 1441 did not authorize the U.S. to go ahead. It very explicitly said they have to return. It did not authorize regime change because that’s not what the United Nations is about.

MAY: Wrong.

WILLIAMS: It said that it should secure the disarmament and we still haven’t found the weapons of mass destruction. Now I am happy, happy, that Saddam Hussein is gone. And if I saw any sign of George W. Bush wanting to engage the international community in rebuilding Iraq instead of saying we stole it fair and square and it’s ours —

MAY: They’re not doing that. On the contrary, look, on the contrary, the United States is in Iraq now hoping to assist the Iraqi people to build democracy and freedom and prosperity. I would like to see the U.N. right now today, I hope you’ll agree with this, take the sanctions off the regime off the Iraqi people, sanctions which were meant for Saddam Hussein. They haven’t done it. I’d like to see the French say no to all debt has been canceled. Those debts were incurred because we sold arms to Saddam Hussein. And I’d like you to understand that you may have been, whatever you were writing about Saddam Hussein you had no plan, no proposals that would actually have led the Iraqi people to be liberated. They have been. You wanted to prolong their enslavement.

HAFFENREFFER: Ian, let me ask you about the U.N. sanctions as the administration is asking the Security Council to lift the sanctions. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think they’re likely to go through with it?

WILLIAMS: I think they’re likely to go through with it. But the real key question is the oil for food and control of the oil supplies. And Cliff has just mentioned about the French and wipe off the debt just like we wiped off our debt to South Africa after the apartheid regime or our debt to Russia and the communist regime. This resolution actually includes — it’s got an X in there but the American resolution includes that the Iraqis are going to carry on paying sanctions to the Kuwaitis over paying reparations to the Kuwaiti. This is not — you’re asking all the people you dislike to wipe off the debt but those you like you carry on shoveling the money towards them like Halliburton and Bechtel and the others.

MAY: The Kuwaitis were victims of Saddam Hussein. The French were hardly victims of Saddam Hussein.

WILLIAMS: The Iranians were victims before them and they haven’t got a cent in reparations. George W. Bush himself got up at the general assembly and said that they were the first victims of Iraqi aggression. They are still waiting for their reparations and the Kuwaitis and the Americans were bankrolling Iraq in that war against Iran which has been ruled to be a war of aggression.

HAFFENREFFER: And we were going to leave it there. Ian Williams, thank you for being with us from “The Nation.” Also our thanks to Cliff May from Defend Democracy. He’s president, joining us from Washington.