Lack of clear nominees for Nobel Peace Prize troubling

The Nobel Peace Prize is the most prestigious humanitarian award for individuals or groups who have made a significant contribution to peace on our planet. This year the Nobel awards committee faces a new challenge. A record number of nominations have been submitted this year with no outstanding nominees.

This year the committee must sift through 165 nominations. Many of these nominations are related to the war in Iraq, a war that had not started by the nomination deadline of Feb. 1.

United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix and UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed El-Baradel were cited as early front-runners, but are now seen as long shots because they were not able to stop the war. The United Nations’ special representative in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in a suicide attack in Baghdad, was falsely rumored to be a front-runner, as was disarmament expert David Kelly. However, the Noble Prize is not awarded posthumously, and neither was entered as a nominee until after the Feb. 1 deadline.

Other prominent figures from the war in Iraq such as French Prime minister Jacques Chirac, President George W. Bush, and British Prime minister Tony Blair are also long shot nominees. While the aforementioned figures may be glowing with pride at being linked with this illustrious award, they should remember that they are in the company of names like Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, accused by some of orchestrating the military coup in Chile, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and even Adolf Hitler.

The governor of Illinois, George Ryan, is nominated for commuting the sentences of 150 death row inmates. Americans Sens. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar are also nominated for attempting to make Russia’s dilapidated nuclear weapons system cleaner and safer. Though their accomplishments are notable, these men stand little chance of winning. President Jimmy Carter won last year, and the Nobel’s preference of giving the award a larger international appeal by rarely giving the award to a person or group of the same nationality twice in a row would probably imply Americans do not have very good odds this year.

With no apparent standouts for the award, many people are suggesting that the Nobel committee “could choose to honor someone whose candidacy has been overlooked for too long,” as Norwegian Institute of International Affairs researcher Espen Barth Eide suggested. Such candidates as Pope John Paul II, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the governing body of the European Union have a fair chance of winning.

With a plethora of nominees vying for the award, all bets are off. Even U2 lead singer Bono stands a chance of winning. The lack of outstanding contributions to peace leaves us wondering: Where have all our heroes gone?