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If you like Mohamed ElBaradei's's story, you might also like:
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ElBaradei Addresses UN on Iraq

Nobel Prize

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Mohamed ElBaradei
Mohamed ElBaradei
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Mohamed ElBaradei Interview (page: 6 / 7)

Nobel Prize for Peace

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  Mohamed ElBaradei

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Your Nobel Prize for Peace was viewed in some quarters as a slap in the face to the President of the United States because of the way you had disagreed in recent years. Can you tell us how you heard about winning the Prize and what it has meant to you both personally and professionally?

Mohamed ElBaradei: Personally, of course, it was an absolutely great feeling, particularly that my wife and I knew about it from watching television. They usually call you half an hour before, to give you the good news, but in our case, they thought if they would call, the media would know about it before they formally announced it. So it was just an exhilarating experience. We were jumping for joy watching television. But in a more professional way, the timing was absolutely perfect. We were getting lots of criticism.

I was getting lots of criticism by being outspoken, by speaking "out of the box," so to say, and I have been telling them then, I continue to tell them now, "I have no box. I have a job." I know that it can make the difference between war and peace, and I owe it to the people -- I owe it to the silent majority -- to speak up on what I see is going wrong and how we can fix it.

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So the Nobel Peace Prize was a shot in the arm for us. There's no question. It gives us additional visibility. It gives us credibility, but it also gives us additional responsibility. There's a lot of expectation that we can and we should move forward to the best of our ability. I keep trying to lower these expectations by telling people we are just one player. You know, "I can succeed if you help me." That's why, wherever I go, I say...

Civil society has a key role in helping me and helping my organization create a better security system, because in the past, civil society has always focused on trade, on environment, but they thought that security is too sophisticated, that it should be left to government. That is bogus to me. This is an issue that has to do with our survival, and every one of us has a special responsibility to send a powerful message to the government that we need a better system, so that we do not see millions of people dying every year in internal conflict or as a result of war. In the last decade, there are 11 million people who died in internal strifes. This to me, are 11 million lives too many.

In Iraq, we have so far over 100,000 civilians who died -- innocent civilians who died -- during that war. This is to me, again, is 100,000 people too many. We still have 27,000 warheads. This is to me, 27,000 warheads too many. We need to think outside the box. People don't like to be reminded of these realities, but these are realities. Many times I ask myself. We must have a better way to resolve our differences than through just killing each other.

You mentioned the toll on civilians in Iraq. Those are figures the U.S. Government doesn't talk about very often, but they can't avoid the figures of 2,000-plus American soldiers. Can you talk about how the United States got into this war?

Mohamed ElBaradei: I grieve about every person who dies in war. I grieve about the 2,200 American soldiers who lost their life. I grieve about that. The Iraqi civilians. I grieve about the three million-some who died in the Congo War. I grieve about the 3,000-some who died in 9/11. These are all lives lost unnecessarily, and they could have stayed with us, and it's a blot on our conscience. We need to understand that, before deciding to go to war, that we have exhausted every other possibility of reaching our differences through peaceful means.

Unfortunately, in the case of Iraq, I believe we could have done that through an inspection process. I was calling for a few months more to complete our work. We hadn't seen indications of weapons of mass destruction. We hadn't seen indications of nuclear weapons.

I remember, I asked the Security Council for three more months to complete my work. I said, "This is an investment in peace." Unfortunately, it didn't work that way. There was faulty intelligence. There were lots of other considerations that made a decision to go to war tempting, to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein was a dictator, a ruthless dictator. There's no question about it, but I'm not sure that getting rid of every ruthless dictator around the world justified that we killed civilians. So there's lots of lessons I think we are learning from Iraq, that one is we should not and could not jump the gun. We have to rely on absolutely factual information. We have to verify, authenticate our information before we go. A second lesson, that as long as we have no imminent threat, no clear and present danger, we should continue to dialogue, and that we also need to understand where people are coming from.

You know, we need to understand that a lot of these frustrations, a lot of these aggravations are feelings of a sense of humiliation.

I think I have come to realize that it's not really poverty that drives people bananas. It's really a sense of injustice. There's a lot of poor people around the world, but when you repress the right of people to speak, when people fear that they are not being justly treated -- and you see a lot of that in the Middle East, you see a lot of that in the Muslim world -- I think people are getting it both ways. They are getting it from their government when they feel that they are repressed by their government -- they are not allowed to have the right to live in freedom and dignity -- and they are getting it from the outside world when they feel that the outside world is not fairly treating them. They wake up in the morning, and they see people dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the Palestinian territories. The sense of injustice, the sense of humiliation is very much there.

I visit there. I see that emotional anger. If we want to start a system of security, we really need to address more than the symptoms.

When we talk about terrorism, we cannot just say, "Let us use more force." Force is not going to end that phenomenon. We need to understand why these people are feeling the way they are feeling. This is a long-term process. This sometimes goes beyond the term of any government whose interest-span goes up to their next round of elections. These are long-term processes that we need to endure. We need to go and understand the causes. Otherwise, it will be a flash fire somewhere. It will be, "Today is Iraq, tomorrow is Libya, after tomorrow is Iran." But if we really want to avoid these temptations to develop weapons of mass destruction, we need to provide security for people, and as I said, we need the big boys to lead by example.

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This page last revised on Sep 19, 2010 13:52 EDT
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