Letter to President Barack Obama by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Adolfo Perez Esquivel - Nobel Peace Prize

Adolfo Perez Esquivel – Nobel Peace Prize


ALAI, América Latina en Movimiento


Open letter to Barack Obama

From Nobel to Nobel

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel

 “Thomas Merton, analyzing a postmark that had just arrived, saying “The U.S. Army: Key to peace”, wrote: “No army is the key to peace… No ‘great’ nation has the key to anything but war. Power has nothing to do with peace. The more men build up military power, the more they violate peace and destroy it.”  ~ Adolfo Perez Esquivel


Dear Barack,

In addressing you I do so fraternally, and at the same time, to express my concern and indignation for the destruction and death sown in so many countries in the name of “freedom and democracy”, two words that have been abused and stripped of meaning. They end up justifying murder, which is cheered on as if it were a sports event.

Indignation at the attitude of some parts of the US population, of heads of state in Europe and other countries who came out in support of the assassination of Bin Laden, and by your complacency in the name of a supposed justice. There was no effort to detain and try him for his alleged crimes, which generates more doubts. The objective was to assassinate him.

The dead don´t speak, and the fear of the accused who could disclose inconvenient truths for the USA, was turned into assassination in order to ensure that the “death of the dog would end the madness”, without considering that you have only increased it.

When you were granted the Nobel Prize, of which we are holders, I sent you a letter which read: “Barack, I was very surprised by your having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but now that you have it, you must use it in the service of peace among peoples. You have all the possibility to do so, to end the wars and begin to correct the severe crisis in your own country and the world”.

Unfortunately however, you have increased hatred and betrayed the principles assumed during your electoral campaign before your people, such as ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, closing the prisons in Guantanamo, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib in Iraq. On the contrary, you decided to start another war against Libya, backed by NATO and with the shameful resolution of the UN to support you. This lofty organization, diminished and unable to think for itself, has lost its direction and is subjugated to the whims and interests of the dominant powers.

The founding premise of the UN is the defence and promotion of peace and dignity among peoples. Its Preamble begins by saying: “We, the peoples of the world…”, now absent from this organism.

I would like to recall a mystic and teacher who has had a great influence in my life: Trapist monk Thomas Merton of the Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky. Merton said “The greatest necessity of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes of all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see. Unless we see, we cannot think”.

Barack, you were very young during the Vietnam war, perhaps you don’t remember the struggle of people all over the United States in opposition to that war. I have shared with and accompanied the veterans of the Vietnam war, in particular Brian Wilson and his companions who were also victims of this war and of all wars.

Thomas Merton, analyzing a postmark that had just arrived, saying “The U.S. Army: Key to peace”, wrote: “No army is the key to peace… No ‘great’ nation has the key to anything but war. Power has nothing to do with peace. The more men build up military power, the more they violate peace and destroy it.”

We must protect LIFE to leave future generations a more just and fraternal society, re-establishing equilibrium with Mother Earth. If we don’t react to change the current situation of suicidal arrogance into which peoples are being dragged down, it will be very hard to escape and see the light. Humanity deserves a better fate.

You know, hope is like the lotus flower that grows in the mud and blossoms in all its splendor, showing its beauty. Leopoldo Marechal, a great Argentine writer, said that: “you get out of the maze by going up”.

I believe, Barack, that after following your erring ways, you find yourself in a maze, unable to find the exit. You are burying yourself further and further in violence, devoured by the power to dominate. You think you possess the power to do anything and that the world is at the feet of the USA. So huge are the atrocities committed by different US governments in the world… It is a sad reality, but there is also the resistance of peoples who do not capitulate before the powerful.

Bin Laden, alleged author of the attack on the Twin Towers, has been made the devil incarnate who terrorized the world. He has been identified as the “axis of evil” and this has served the US to wage the wars that the military industrial complex needs in order to place its products of death.

You surely must not ignore that researchers into the September 11 tragedy have declared that the attacks bear many marks of having been self-inflicted, such as the crash of a plane into the Pentagon and the prior evacuation of offices in the Towers. The attack provided a motive to launch the war against Iraq and Afghanistan, and now against Libya, arguing deceitfully that everything is being done to save the people in the name of “freedom and the defence of democracy”. With total cynicism it is said that the deaths of women and children are “collateral damage”.


Words are being emptied of values and meaning. You dub assassination to be “death”, and finally the US has “killed” Bin Laden. I am not in any way defending Bin Laden. I am against all terrorism, whether by such armed groups or the kind of state terrorism that your country exercises in various parts of the world, supporting dictators, imposing military bases and armed interventions, using violence to maintain itself via terror at the hub of world power. Is there only one “axis of evil”?


Peace is a dynamic of life in relations between persons and among peoples; it is a challenge to humanity’s consciousness. Its path is difficult, daily, and hopeful; it is where people build their own lives and their own history. Peace cannot be given to anyone, it must be built. And this is what you’re missing lad, courage to assume your historical responsibility with your people and with humanity.

You cannot live in the labyrinth of fear and control, ignoring International Treaties, Pacts, and Protocols that are signed and then transgressed once and again. How can you speak of Peace if you don’t want to honour anything, except the interests of your country?

How can you talk about freedom when you keep innocent people in the prisons of Guantánamo, in the USA, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan?

How can you speak of human rights and the dignity of peoples when you perpetually violate them and blockade those who don’t share your ideology and must endure your abuses?

How can you send military forces to Haiti after a devastating earthquake, rather than humanitarian aid for that suffering people?

How can you speak of freedom if you massacre the peoples of the Middle East and foster endless conflict which bleeds the Palestinians and Israelis?

Barack: try to look out from your maze; you may find the star that guides you, even knowing you can never reach it, as Eduardo Galeano said so well. Try to be consistent between what you say and what you do, it’s the only way not to lose your course. It’s a challenge of life. The Nobel Peace Prize is a tool at the service of peoples, never for personal vanity.

I wish you much strength and hope. You will hopefully have the courage to correct your path and find wisdom and Peace.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel


Buenos Aires, May 5th, 2011

P.S. On a day like today 34 years ago, I came back to life; I was on a flight to death during the military dictatorship supported by the USA in Argentina. Thanks to God I survived. I had to find my way out of the labyrinth by rising above my desperation and discovering in the stars the path to be able to say like the prophet: “the darkest hour is just before the dawn ”.

(Translation: Bob Thomson / Beverley Keene).