The most controversial Nobel Peace Prize winners in history
Being one of the few Nobel Peace Prize winners is one of the most prestigious honours out there, one that most of us can only dream of achieving and a height that only the best and brightest from our society climb to. Officially awarded to individuals and institutions that, “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”, the award is always reserved for the crème de la crème of humankind.
However, the definition of "crème de la crème" is up for debate and it turns out that not everyone is always happy with the people who manage to get their hands on this coveted prize. In fact, over the years there have been some outrageously controversial Nobel Prize winners who many critics across the world insist should have never even got a look in on the honour, let alone the $1.5 million prize money. Are they right? Decide for yourself...
Henry Kissinger was one of the most controversial Nobel Peace Prize winners in history when he accepted the award for his work on the Vietnam Peace Accords. The former United States Secretary of State was a joint winner alongside North Vietnamese leader, Le Duc Tho, but his partner refused to accept the award, saying he felt that peace had not yet been achieved in the area. Many insist Kissinger should have done the same as his job there was not done, not to mention he had committed multiple war crimes when he bombed Cambodia in the late 1960s and early 1970s and supported the invasion of Cyprus which ended in approximately one-third of the island being occupied by foreign troops for 33 years.
Not many people were aware of the genocide of the indigenous Guatemalan people in the late 70s and early 80s until Rigoberta Menchú wrote her book I, Rigoberta Menchú, which was published in 1982. Translated into 12 different languages, it was an immediate hit and earned her a Nobel Prize and all was well until anthropologist, David Stoll, discovered multiple inconsistencies in her story. Years after she won it emerged that she hadn't been completely honest with her accounts of events and had stretched the truth in order to make it pull at people's heartstrings. For instance, she hadn't actually witnessed the torture and murder of her brother and, despite her claims, had actually enjoyed some schooling while growing up. However, despite her blatant lies, the Nobel Prize committee assured her they would not reconsider her win.
António Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz
António Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949 for his work in developing the prefrontal lobotomy, a horrifying procedure which saw many of its victims left completely devoid of any personality and left others with an inability to function independently. Unsurprisingly, this led to heated debate, with some claiming that the operation had more positive consequences than negative. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee stood by their decision, defending Moniz's win by stating that there were no effective alternative therapies at the time for certain mental illness.
Did Obama deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize after just 12 weeks in office? Many people think no, including the former President himself who stated in his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize-winning speech that he didn't deserve the highly desired award. Michelle Obama's husband won for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples", but many people across the world were outraged, highlighting the awkward fact that Obama’s short presidency had already seen the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, as well as the start of a drone campaign that resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties.
Environmentalist, politician and human rights advocate, Wangari Maathai, made waves in Nobel Peace Price circles after becoming the first African woman to win one for her contribution to "sustainable development, democracy and peace". However, controversy came calling when a story appeared in an African newspaper the day before she collected her prize in Stockholm, claiming that she had likened AIDs to a "biological weapon", telling participants in an AIDs workshop that the disease was "a tool" to control Africans "designed by some evil-minded scientists". Maathai strongly denied the accusations, stating: "I neither say nor believe that the virus was developed by white people or white powers in order to destroy the African people. Such views are wicked and destructive." However, you know what they say - it takes years to build a good reputation, seconds to destroy it.
Yasser Arafat pretty much defines the phrase "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". Described as "the worst man to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize", the former Palestinian leader won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, sharing the honor with then Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, for their joint work on the Oslo Peace Accords, an agreement signed between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on September 13, 1993, intended to effectively bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its end. However, while his supporters compared him to Nelson Mandela, his critics described him as an "unrepentant terrorist with a long legacy of promoting violence" and cited his past responsibilities of overseeing military groups responsible for bombings, hijackings and assassinations.
Cordell Hull won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his prominent role in creating the United Nations, but despite all the good he put into the world, there was one piece of his past that he simply couldn't get away from. In 1939, the SS St Louis sailed out of Hamburg into the Atlantic Ocean carrying over 950 Jewish refugees who were searching for asylum in the US from Nazi persecution. President Roosevelt was said to be happy to accept them, but Hull's callous anti-immigration stance is said to have such a big influence on him that he ultimately refused them. All 950 of those seeking refuse were forced to go back to Nazi Germany where they were tortured and died at the hands of Hitler's regime.
The Nobel Peace Prize Committee stated that American environmentalist Al Gore was “probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted,” regarding climate change and global warming. But soon after he won the $1.25 million award, this distinguished title was brought into question, some would say shattered even. In 2006 Gore's electric bills revealed that his 20-room house and pool house was eating more than 20 times the national average of electricity usage, not to mention that his film about the effects of global warming was ruled by an English High Court as having nine gross errors.
So, after hearing about all of the outrageous misdeeds of these Nobel Peace Prize winners, are you feeling a little resentful towards them winning? It turns out the best and brightest of our society have also done some pretty terrible things.