The chairman of Norway’s Nobel Peace Prize committee who oversaw the selection of Barack Obama to receive the honor after only a few months in office and while he was fighting multiple wars has been removed from his post.
Officials said in a report in the Local that Thorbjorn Jagland, the former Norwegian prime minister, would remain on the committee but not serve as its chairman.
“The renowned diplomat had drawn sharp criticism shortly after becoming committee chairman in 2009 for awarding the prestigious Nobel to newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama. The move stunned the world and the recipient alike, as Obama had been in office less than nine months and the United States was waging simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” the report said.
At the time, Obama was honored for “extraordinary” work to build international diplomacy and cooperation between countries. One of his first overseas speeches was in Egypt, where he quoted from the “holy Quran,” cited “civilization’s debt to Islam” and said Muslims “developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads.”
He credited Islam for “majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation.”
In the U.S., Obama claimed, Muslims have “won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch.”
When Obama accepted the award, he talked about conflict, noting that even as he was being honored with the peace award, he was leading two wars.
According to the Local, the 64-year-old Jagland will be replaced by his deputy, Kaci Kullmann Five, who told reporters there was broad agreement that Jagland had been a good chairman for six years.
However, commentators and former Nobel laureates alike have criticized the committee’s decisions under Jagland’s stewardship, the Local said, adding that the U.S. is expected to spend $1 trillion in coming years on its military.
Members of the Nobel committee are appointed by the Norwegian parliament but say their decisions are independent.
“Jagland’s demotion reflects a shift into a majority of committee members nominated by right-wing parties, which won Norway’s 2013 general election,” the Local said.
Several members of a nationalist party in Russia publicly stated Obama should not be allowed to keep the prize. However, the Nobel organization has no process for asking a recipient to return an honor.
Russian parliamentarian Roman Khudyakov said in an interview with Isvestia: “More and more international experts are calling Obama’s presidency dark times. The reason for this is the brutal policy that he is conducting all over the world, like Napoleon or Hitler had done before.”
At the time, Jagland had said the honor was given to Obama for what he had done to prevent nuclear proliferation and climate change.
Agence France-Presse reported another controversial honor went to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, “a move that effectively put Norway-China relations on ice.”