Norway – as its former, Christian Democratic, prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, once claimed – is a nation of peace. Norway is small, the prime minister admitted, but would show a big heart. And at times it really seems as if Norwegian prime ministers have assumed the international role that Olof Palme, at least according to the Swedish self-image, once played. Norway wishes to be a moral model and a moral actor, ranging from the Oslo accords of the 1990s to various peace-negotiating missions in current wars.
Erling Borgen, a Norwegian journalist and producer of documentary films, disagrees In his recent book, The Secrets of the Nation of Peace, Borgen describes some extremely belligerent activities where Norway is engaged. In Afghanistan, Norwegian elite soldiers work side by side with US Special operations forces in “cleaning-up operations”. No Norwegian troops were sent to Iraq, but Norwegian weapons producer Nammo is providing the US, Canada and Australia with bullets and gunpowder, worth 400 million Norwegian crowns (some 80 million US dollars) to be used in Iraq. Norwegian DYNO-Nobel enjoys a monopoly, delivering high-explosive ammunition for all US-produced Hellfire rockets which have been put to use both in Iraq and Afghanistan and by Israel in its attacks against Palestine civilians. Norwegian-made radar was delivered to the US just in time for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
As do most civilized nations Norway abhors the refugee camp at Guantánamo Bay – and peace price winner Obama has of course promised to dismantle it. Less known is the fact that the big Norwegian firm Aker-Kvaerner until 2006 was in charge of maintenance on Guantánamo, taking care of water and sewage – and fuelling planes delivering inmates from other secret prisons around the world. “We used to call them the Smurfs”, says a former Guantánamo prisoner, referring to the Aker-Kvaerner workers, most of them Filipinos, all dressed in blue look-alike uniforms who took care of practical matters at Guantánamo – such as building the cells where presumed terrorists, among them the Swede Mehdi Gezali, have ben held. A Kvaerner subsidiary, Eureka, also produces components to an American weapons system involving cluster bombs whose many small parts cause traumatic damage, particularly when hitting humans.
There have been doubts. Thorbjörn Jagland, the former leader of the Norwegian Social Democratic Arbeiderparti, presently chair of the Norwegian Storting´s (Parliament) Nobel committé which awarded Barack Obama the Peace price, felt in the 1990s that it might not be a good idea for the Norwegian state-owned Statoil company to get involved with the former Soviet oil republic, Azerbaijan. Lately, Jagland has been declining to comment, and Statoil has become much more involved. The only reason for Norway to show some pride over Azerbaijan, says Erling Borgen, is former Norwegian ambassador Steinar Gil who spent much of his time rescuing persecuted members of the opposition.
Things like these have happened before. Norwegian politicians have a tradition of helping their natural allies. In 1960, Jens Christian Hauge, military leader of Norway´s wartime, convinced the Arbeiderparti government to allow the export of Norwegian heavy water to Israel for its nuclear arms production.
Borgen, the author of The Secrets of the Nation of Peace, considers the peace price for Obama an award for good intentions – as if the Nobel price for literature would be awarded a young writer promising to write a very good book sometime in the future. But is it really Obama´s promises, the hope that he will carry out a totally different American agenda, which has rendered him the prize? In actual fact, there seems to be a meeting of minds. Norwegian politicians are truly convinced that peace is being promoted in Afghanistan. That is also what the left-wing Socialist Venstreparti thinks. Its leader until recently was the minister of finance in the current red-green coalition government. As long as the party stayed in opposition, it was also opposed to Norway´s engagement in the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today also Sosialistisk Venstre supports the US war. And Norwegian arms exports are doing fine, thank you.
BJÖRN KUMM is a journalist living in Malmö, Sweden. He can be reached at email@example.com