The Only Man In History To Turn Down A Nobel Peace Prize

Grace Higgins | January 4th, 2021

Le Duc Tho was a very tough and nonsense negotiator to resolve world conflicts. Notably, the Vietnamese chief negotiator was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1973 for his part in the Paris Peace Accords. This was a joint award with his American counterpart Henry Kissinger. However, only Kissinger accepted the award. This made Le Duc Tho the only person to ever refuse Noble Prize.

Le Duc Tho was a Vietnamese revolutionary, politician, and diplomat. He had a fervently nationalist, meaning that during the French occupation of Vietnam, he spent most of his time in prison. Here he was subjected to torture, hunger, and various forms of humiliation. In fact, he was so tough during these times that people resorted to calling him The Hammer.

The reason he refused the Nobel prize for peace was revealed during an interview nearly a decade later. Le Duc Tho commented that the Nobel Committee made a mistake because he felt the peace was created by the Vietnamese who fought against the United States. However, the award put the invaders of the U.S. as equals. Now that the country is free he said he would be happy to accept the prize but only if it was not awarded to the American negotiator also.

Le Duc Tho was known to be a fierce negotiator, regularly accusing Kissinger of acting in bad faith. He would accuse the USA of being dishonest, and opening fire during ceasefires. Tho would sometimes be found hurling insults at Kissinger. One of his famous speeches quotes as following: “For more than ten years, America has used violence to beat down the Vietnamese people-napalm, B-52s. But you don’t draw any lessons from your failures. You continue the same policy. Ngu Xuan! Ngu Xuan! Ngu Xuan!”

Where Ngu Xuan would loosely translate to being massively stupid. Apparently, the translator was afraid of offending and wouldn’t translate Ngu Xuan. Kissinger later said that he doesn’t look back at their discussion with much joy but commemorates Le Duc Tho’s passion for his country and defense of the country’s position with such dedication. The peace talks took over five years to finally agree.

As with many Nobel Peace prizes they are subject to a lot of controversies. Many critics note that the Paris Peace Accords didn’t really bring peace but only a ceasefire and the agreement for the U.S. troops to withdraw.

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