He's coming to collect the Peace Prize, but the visit may not be entirely peaceful.
When President Obama arrives in Oslo Thursday to accept his Nobel peace award and deliver the requisite speech, he will likely be met by anti-war protesters, not to mention a Norwegian public that is evidently upset about his decision to skip a number of Nobel events, including lunch with the King of Norway. And then there is the issue, as Jeff Zeleny noted in this morning's New York Times, of delivering a speech about peace just nine days after announcing an escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
"There is, of course, no escaping the paradox of this moment for Mr. Obama as he delivers an acceptance speech for his Nobel Peace Prize only nine days after announcing that he would escalate the war in Afghanistan by sending in 30,000 more American troops," Zeleny wrote.
On the anti-war front, about 5,000 people are expected to turn out Thursday to protest the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to Benjamin Endre Larsen, leader of Norway's Peace Initiative.
As the AP reports:
Demonstrators plan to gather in sight of Obama's hotel room balcony, where he is expected to wave to a torch-lit procession in his honor, and chant slogans playing on Obama's own campaign slogans, foremost among them: "Change: Stop the War in Afghanistan."
But perhaps the more awkward situation awaiting Obama is that some Norwegians are upset by his decision not to participate fully in the occasion. Obama will be skipping out on such traditions as a dinner with the Nobel committee, a concert in the Nobel Laureate's honor, a press conference, and lunch with the king. According to a poll cited by the AFP, 44 percent of Norwegians considered it "impolite" to skip the lunch, while 53 percent said it was "impolite" to not attend the concert. Obama will be in Oslo for less than 24 hours; the official Nobel program is typically spread out over three days, according to the AFP.
Siv Jensen, the leader of Norway's largest opposition party, the Progress Party, told the Norwegian tabloid VG that, "Of all the things he is canceling, I think the worst is canceling the lunch with the king. This is a central part of our government system. He should respect the monarchy."
The Nobel committee, meanwhile, brushed off the criticism, saying they always knew Obama wouldn't be able to attend the entire series of events.
Despite his being there for only 24 hours, Norway is spending $16 million for security during Obama's visit. The chief of staff of Oslo's police force, John Fredriksen told the AP that the event was "the biggest - and most demanding - security operation in Norway's history."
From the AP:
With all the attention Obama's visit has generated, about 2,500 police officers from all over the Nordic country have deployed to Oslo. The Norwegian military has also contributed support in the form of helicopters and sharpshooters.
Last week, city maintenance crews welded shut over 400 manholes in downtown Oslo, and police said they will remove all downtown trash cans on Wednesday afternoon to eliminate potential hiding places for bombs.[...]
Police and city work crews spent much of this week erecting barricades around Oslo's compact downtown to help control the crowds expected to surge into the capital when Obama arrives.
On Wednesday morning, Norwegian police armed with machine guns guarded the Grand Hotel as hotel workers installed bulletproof glass to protect the president during Thursday evening's procession.