Nobel prize winner Obama will face Afghan war opponents in Oslo

As Nobel prize winner Obama heads to Oslo to accept his Peace Prize on Thursday, opponents of his escalation of the Afghanistan war promise to demonstrate against him.

Odd Andersen/AP
A woman stands next to a poster of US President Barack Obama outside the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway Tuesday. Obama will accept his Peace Prize on Thursday.
Thomas Peter/Reuters
People hold placards and banners during a climate change vigil organised by Greenpeace outside the parliament building in Oslo, Wednesday. President Barack Obama will receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday.

When President Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo Thursday, he will do so knowing that he is not the only one doubting his worthiness.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll published yesterday, 2 out of 3 Americans do not think he deserves the prize. Even among Democrats, only 49 percent believe he does.

"It's probably a good thing for President Obama that the time difference from Norway means the Nobel presentation will occur while most Americans are sleeping and might get less coverage in the United States," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The Nobel decision has been criticized for being awarded just nine months into Mr. Obama's presidential term and while the US is heavily embroiled in military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama announced last week the US would deploy 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan in a war he expects to last through 2011.

Disappointment that a war president was awarded a prize for making peace will be manifest on the streets of Oslo tomorrow, when up to 5,000 people are expected to call for an end to the Afghanistan war, control of the international arms trade, curbs on nuclear arms proliferation, and a stop to Israeli settlement construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Demonstrators are scheduled to march from Oslo Central Station to the Norwegian Parliament building, located just across from Obama's hotel balcony where he is expected to wave from behind bulletproof glass to well-wishers and demonstrators alike.

The organizers of the march include Peace Initiative, Bring the Troops Home, the Peace Council of Norway, and Peace and Democracy in Afghanistan. A counter-rally of Obama supporters is also being organized by the No to Nuclear Weapons organization.

Activist Cindy Sheehan present

Speakers at the demonstration will include Cindy Sheehan, the American antiwar activist who lost her son in the Iraq war and became famous for her antiwar protest outside then-President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"The undeserved nature of this 'Peace Prize' was just brought into sharper clarity this past week when Obama announced that he would be sending tens of thousands of more troops to Afghanistan," Ms. Sheehan said this past weekend on her Soapbox blog. "There is no reason to send these troops and there is no reasonable expectation for 'success,' which is as ill-defined under this administration as it was during the last administration. Nobel Laureate, my big toe!"

Obama will accept the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow in Oslo for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and his work toward a world without nuclear weapons.

He is the third US president to receive the prize after Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and Jimmy Carter in 2002.

While his award is deeply unpopular, Obama has been garnering support at home for his escalation of the war in Afghanistan. According to the Quinnipiac poll, public support of the war in Afghanistan climbed nine percentage points in the past three weeks. Moreover, 58 percent of Americans approve of the decision to send more troops, the poll found.

Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway's foreign minister, says he approves of the US troop surge. Norway currently has 515 troops in Afghanistan and has said it will maintain its current level of participation in the International Security Assistance Force there. Norway also provides about $130 million a year in development aid to Afghanistan.

"We are pleased that the US intends to place greater emphasis on protecting the civilian population and on its civilian capacity-building," said Mr. Støre. "It is capacity-building of this kind that can pave the way for a gradual scaling down of the international military presence in the country."

Also: What can Obama say about peace?

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