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Obama Defends U.S. Wars As He Accepts Nobel Prize

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama depart the White Ho...

Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool / Getty Images

Above: U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama depart the White House en route to Andrews Air Force Base December 9, 2009 in Washington, DC. The first couple is on their way to Oslo, Norway to attend the Nobel Prize awards ceremony.

President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony in Norway Thursday, acknowledging the paradox of receiving the award as the U.S. is embroiled in two wars and maintaining that instruments of war have a role in preserving peace.

In his acceptance speech, Obama told Nobel Committee members and guests in Oslo that achieving peace must begin with the recognition that the use of force is, at times, morally justified.

"Make no mistake, evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms," he said.

Obama accepted the peace prize just nine days after ordering 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The president exhorted allies Thursday to support efforts to eradicate terrorist extremism in the country, saying the "peace requires responsibility."

Accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, the president struck a humble tone when he arrived in the Norwegian capital. He acknowledged the controversy surrounding the Nobel Committee's decision to honor him at the beginning of his term, saying that he knew there were others more deserving of the honor. But the president vowed to use the award to advance his goals for peace.

"My task here is to continue on the path that I believe is not only important for America, but important for lasting peace in the world," Obama said during news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. He added that this means stabilizing countries such as Afghanistan and mobilizing an international effort to deal with terrorism.

Obama is the third sitting U.S. president to be awarded the peace prize. Theodore Roosevelt claimed the award in 1906 for his role in ending the Russo-Japanese War. Woodrow Wilson won in 1919 for his work as chief architect of the League of Nations.

Former President Jimmy Carter received the prize more than two decades after leaving office in recognition of his continued work for international peace and human rights.

Others who have been honored include civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., humanitarian Mother Teresa, humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The Nobel committee announced it would bestow the honor on Obama in October "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" — giving an extra nod to Obama's goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

"Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened," the committee said.

But the news came as a surprise to the president, who was deep in the midst of top-level meetings to establish a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

Activists in Norway's capital city planned a massive protest against the war in Afghanistan on Thursday.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 97 individuals and 20 organizations. The first peace prize was awarded in 1901 to Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, and Frederic Passy, an internationally known pacifist.

The awards were established by a provision in the 1895 will of Swedish scientist and inventor Alfred Nobel. Nobel directed that the prizes be awarded for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace.

The prize includes an 18-carat gold medal and a diploma, as well as a check for $1.4 million, which Obama has said he will donate to charity.

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