Peace, war and the wild west

December 10, 2009 2:05:06 PM PST
The irony abounds. And it's bitter.

A President commanding wars in two countries, accepting the world's most prestigious prize for peace.

President Obama, in Oslo today, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize with no small amount of humility. He acknowledged not just that many are surprised a rookie President is getting this honor - but, more importantly, he addressed also head-on the contradiction of a peace prize recipient now escalating war.

The President, lauding King and Gandhi and Mandela on the one hand, and then justifying his military actions on the other.

It is the war arguments that are getting the attention tonight. I suppose it would be cliché to say that it says much of the President's evolving politics that Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, two of Mr. Obama's most vocal critics, loved the speech.

Palin praised Obama's argument that war is sometimes justified and he should now "follow more closely in the footsteps of George Bush and his passion for keeping the homeland safe."

Not sure Mr. Obama had that reaction in mind when he drafted his speech (and in fact, he implicitly criticized his predecessor about torture and intimidation), but that's what he's getting tonight: approval from the right.

We'll have reaction to the President's speech, tonight at 11. And in case you missed it, here are some key paragraphs:

"Compared to some of the giants of history who've received this prize -- Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela -- my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics.

"I cannot argue with those who find these men and women -- some known, some obscure to all but those they help -- to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

"I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: 'Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.' As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing nave -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. "Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

"I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower."

Also at 11, it was like the Wild West in Times Square today. A man suspected of scamming tourists - using CDs as bait - was shot and killed by a plainclothes New York cop. The officer chased the suspect to the front of the busy Marriott Marquis Hotel, where police say, he pulled out a loaded semiautomatic pistol, and fired.

One thing's for sure when you pull a gun on a cop, the cop's going to fire back. And this one did, hitting the man and killing him.

Turns out the gun was stolen from Virginia in October. In the suspect's possession when he died: a business card from a gun dealer in Virginia.

(Mayor Bloomberg has long criticized gun dealers in states like Virginia - because he says much of the gun crime in New York City involves weapons obtained elsewhere and brought to the City. This was a stolen weapon, but it will undoubtedly be more fuel for this heated gun-control debate.)

Meanwhile, reaction in Times Square, where tourists gather, especially during the holiday season, was predictable. We'll have the story, at 11.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's chilly AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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