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11.12.09

Obama accepts Nobel Peace Prize days after sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Barack Obama was today awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize – just nine days after pledging to send 30,000 more US troops into war in Afghanistan. 

In his acceptance speech, the President acknowledged the ‘hard truth’ that violent conflict won’t be eradicated ‘in our lifetimes’, and appealed to the international community to help him ‘reach for the world that ought to be.’ 


Of the controversy surrounding his prize, Obama reminded the audience he was ‘only at the start of my labours on the world stage.’

Accolade: Barack Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today
Accolade: Barack Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today

Honour: New Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle arrive for the ceremony in Oslo's City Hall
Honour: New Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama and his First Lady Michelle arrive for the ceremony in Oslo's City Hall 

Jetting in: Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrive at Oslo International Airport this morning
Jetting in: The Obamas arrive at Oslo International Airport this morning 

He added: ‘But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars.


‘…I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. 


‘And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict - filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.’

'I face the world as it is,' Obama said, refusing to renounce war for his nation or under his leadership, saying that he is obliged to protect and defend the United States.

'A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms,' Obama said. 


'To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history.'


The President also insisted his goal is to advance US interests, halt the spread of nuclear weapons, address climate change and stabilise Afghanistan.

Ceremonial: Obama and his wife pose with, from left: Queen Sonja of Norway, King Harald of Norway, Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
Ceremonial: Obama and his wife pose with, from left: Queen Sonja of Norway, King Harald of Norway, Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway

Faces in the crowd: Hollywood actor Will Smith with his wife Jada and their daughter Willow cheered on their President

Faces in the crowd: Hollywood actor Will Smith with his wife Jada and their daughter Willow cheered on their President

Straighten up: Mrs Obama straightens her husband's labels ahead of the ceremony
Straighten up: Mrs Obama straightens her husband's lapels ahead of the ceremony 

He said the criticism of his award may recede if he achieves his goals, but added that proving doubters wrong ‘is not really my concern.’ 


‘If I’m not successful, then all the praise in the world won’t disguise the fact,’ he added.

Obama's humility was in evidence ahead of his speech today when he commented: 'I have no doubt that there are others who may be more deserving.' 


He ended his delivery with a rousing message of hope: 'We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. 


'We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that - for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.'


Obama's accolade came as the Dalai Lama revealed his opinion that the award comes 'a little early'. 


The Dalai Lama won his Nobel prize 20 years ago for his peaceful opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet. 


He told Sky News: ‘I think if you are realistic, it may have been a little early but it doesn’t matter, I know Obama is a very able person.’


The Tibetan leader also warned President Obama against relying too much on his advisers. 


He said: ‘Sometimes these individual persons rely on different advice from different people so like former President Bush junior, as a human being I really love him, really wonderful person, very honest, very truthful. 


‘But I think due to his advisers’ views, some of the policies have been a disaster.’ 


Of Obama, the Dalai Lama added: ‘I think the Nobel Peace Prize gives him more encouragement and also gives him more moral responsibility.’


The peace award comes just over a week after Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to the war in Afghanistan. 


Indeed, Fidel Castro has denounced Obama’s acceptance of the prize as a ‘cynical act’ for this very reason. 


The 83-year-old former Cuban leader described the President’s speech on December 1 where he announced the additional troops as giving him the ‘impression of listening to George W Bush.’

Ceremony: The President takes part in a Nobel Peace Prize signing event in Oslo today
Ceremony: The President takes part in a Nobel Peace Prize signing event in Oslo today 

Controversy: The President's accolade comes days after he announced he was sending 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan
Controversy: The President's accolade comes days after he announced he was sending 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan 

Meanwhile, a few dozen anti-war protesters gathered behind wire fences close to the venue today. 


Dressed in black hoods and waving banners, the demonstrators banged drums and chanted anti-war slogans. 


'The Afghan people are playing the price,' some shouted. 


Protesters have plastered posters around the city, featuring an Obama campaign poster altered with skepticism to say, 'Change?'

Greenpeace and anti-war activists planned larger demonstrations later.
The list of Nobel peace laureates over the last 100 years includes transformative figures and giants on the world stage. 

The Dalai Lama believes the decision to award the President with the Nobel Peace Prize is 'a little early' Tribute: A bronze statue of the US President as a boy was unveiled in Jakarta today. Obama lived in the region as a boy

Tribute: A bronze statue of the US President as a boy was unveiled in Jakarta today (left). Obama lived in the region as a boy. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama (right) believes the decision to award the President with the Nobel Peace Prize is 'a little early'

They include heroes of the president, such as Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela, and others he has long admired, such as George Marshall, who launched a postwar recovery plan for Europe.

'The president understands and again will also recognize that he doesn't belong in the same discussion as Mandela and Mother Teresa,' White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said while discussing the president's speech yesterday.

The Nobel panel cited Obama's work toward freeing the world of nuclear weapons, combating global warming, embracing international institutions and leading based on values shared by most of the people around the world.

Rapt: Will and Jade Smith hung onto the President's every word, but daughter Willow seemed to be getting weary
Rapt: Will and Jada Smith hung onto the President's every word, but daughter Willow seemed to be getting weary

Alert again: The little girl perked up as she was met Obama following his speech
Alert again: The little girl perked up as she met Obama following his speech

On that front, he was deemed nothing less than 'the world's leading spokesman.'
 


The Nobel honour comes with a $1.4million prize. 


The White House says Obama will give that to charities, but he has not yet decided which ones.

Other recipients of this year’s Nobel prizes include George E Smith, a scientist who escaped suicide bombers, and a writer who endured years of prosecution in communist Romania. 


Romanian-born author Herta Mueller will receive the Nobel literature award for her critical depiction of life behind the Iron Curtain - work drawn largely from her personal experiences. 


Mueller's mother spent five years in a communist gulag, and the writer herself was tormented by the Securitate secret police because she refused to become their informant.

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