A Nobel Peace Prize “Finalist”?

May 14, 2009

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[First published October 4, 2005] If you will forgive me, sometimes I have to get personal because of the importance of a question to the credibility of my research and data. I have for years claimed I was a “Nobel Peace Prize finalist”. This has been questioned by both friend and foe, which have asserted that (1) there is no such category, and (2) the Nobel Committee does not release such information, and (3) it doesn’t leak. Several years ago, someone unhappy with my research results checked with the Committee, was told the above, and then spread the word that I lied and, therefore, my assertions about my data and results could not be trusted.

So, to those who emailed me about this slander, I pointed out that I was only passing on what the local media told me in setting up an interview on this. Assuming it would settle the matter, I emailed them this pre-interview news item from the Honolulu Advertiser (3/1/96): 

Rudolph Rummel’s lifelong study of war, violence and mass killing has led him on a quest for peace. So it is only fitting that . . . he is among 117 finalists for the prize, which will be announced in October.

Recently, a colleague who I highly respect, is a friend who supports my research, and who is knowledgeable about the workings of the Nobel Committee tried to persuade me to drop the claim to being a finalist as not too important, and anyway, to people like him in the know, it looked “foolish.”

He simply is unaware of the esteem many without his inside view of the Nobel nomination give to it or even better, to being “finalist.” Of the prizes and awards I’ve won, and all the books and professional articles I’ve published, this is the number 1 credibility booster for my research claims.

In any case, I passed on to him the above news item. He then communicated with the Director of the Nobel Institute (who is ex officio secretary of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee) and I received this reponse:

He confirmed my impression that there is no short list of 117 nominees. Not in 1996 or in any other year. There is a list of people nominated for the Prize, as you indeed were. There is a short list of at most 30-40 people. The credentials of these candidates are examined by a group of confidential reviewers for the Nobel Institute.
In his time as Director, and he has been in that position since well before 1996, Geir Lundestad has never experienced a leak of either the long list of all nominees or the short list of those reviewed.

Okay, so I went on LexisNexis and did a search for the February 1996 wire from which the local media said they got their information. The incredible Internet came through again. I found the wire and it is below in full, so that no one feels I left anything out:

Associated Press
February 29, 1996; Thursday 09:21 Eastern Time
SECTION: International news


Taiwan’s president, Lee Teng-hui, has been nominated for the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for his pro-democracy drive, one of 117 names on the final list tallied by Nobel officials this week.

Lee, Taiwan’s president since 1988, was nominated by a former Swedish deputy prime minister, Per Ahlmark. Ahlmark also submitted the names of Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng and Rudolph J. Rummel, professor emeritus at Hawaii University, who has collected evidence on repressive political regimes.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which never releases lists of candidates, on Thursday refused to confirm the names of nominees for this year’s prize.

However, those making the nominations often announce them. Other known nominees this year include U.S. President Clinton and his emissary Richard Holbrooke for their peace efforts in Bosnia.

”I can only say that we now have a final count on nominations. There are 117 this year, including 28 organizations,” said Geir Lundestad, the committee’s non-voting secretary. The number in past years has been between 120 and 130.

The five-member awards committee arrived at the final number Wednesday when it began sifting through this year’s nominations mailed by the Jan. 31 deadline.

Taiwan is planning its first democratic presidential election on March 23. However, the drive toward democracy has heightened tensions with mainland China. Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and threatens to attack the island if it declares independence.

”Almost the entire transition by Taiwan to a democracy has occurred during Lee Teng-hui’s presidency,” said Ahlmark in his nomination letter, released in Sweden.

”For the first time in several thousand years of Chinese civilization, part of the Chinese nation is today run through elections and an equal voice under political freedom,” Ahlmark wrote.

Taiwanese are worried about China’s reported plans to hold a military exercise by 150,000 troops on the mainland coast facing Taiwan. Some regard the exercise as an attempt to dissuade Taiwanese voters from supporting Lee.

Other known nominees include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who has acted as a mediator in crises in North Korea, Haiti and Bosnia; Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician jailed for revealing secrets of Israel’s atomic weapons program; Russian Human rights activist human Sergei Kovalyov; East Timor’s Catholic Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo; Bishop Samuel Ruiz of Mexico, and Maha Ghosananda, a Buddhist Monk, for his efforts to bring peace to Cambodia.

Groups nominated include Russia’s anti-war group Soldiers’ Mothers, The Salvation Army and Doctors without Borders.

The peace prize, worth 7.4 million Swedish kroner (about dlrs 1 million) this year, will be announced on a Friday in mid-October, Lundestad said.

The award is always presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, a Swede who invented dynamite and endowed the prize in his 1895 will.

The other Nobel Prizes in literature, economics, physics, chemistry and physiology or medicine are awarded on the same day in Stockholm, Sweden.

There you have it. Regardless of what he says, Geir Lundestad was a source of inside information — a leak. Moreover, the wire refers to a “final list” of nominations, and “arrived at the final number Wednesday when it began sifting through this year’s nominations.” Clearly, the Committee winnowed down all the nominations that came in to a “final list,” which is consistent with saying this was a list of finalists. Therefore, the local media got it right. I was a finalist on a list of 117 nominations.

[But since most colleagues will accept Geir Lundestad’s claim that there was no leak of the finalists list, and to claim I was a finalist is controversial, I just note that I have been frequently nominated by the the Nobel Peace Prize by former Swedish deputy prime minister, Per Ahlmark (see here]