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Re: re Letter writing campaign

        Per Klevnas
        Girton College
        Cambridge, CB3 OJG

On Fri, 12 Mar 1999, David Mark Calderbank wrote:
> I would also like to ask: what about other countries? I am rather uneasy
> that other countries, especially those that are traditionally human-rights
> conscious like Sweden, just don't seem to care. At the government level, at
> least. But I must confess I don't know for sure. Does anybody know whether
> there are groups in other countries, like ours, that are aghast at the
> humanitarian disaster? 

Being Swedish, I though I might be able to give some views on this
particular point. 

Firstly, as regards government policy, the days of dissident countries
seems to be over. Sweden is not the only small country which has been left
bewildered in the 1990s, when there seem to be no alternatives in foreign
policy to the dominant Anglo-American stance. I have seen no mention of
sanctions, and even less any initiative towards formulating an independent
foreign policy as regards Iraq. After the December bombings, comments were
made by politicians from leading parties, both to the effect that 'it was
unfortunate that the coalition did not operate through the established UN
mechanisms of approval'. I.e. the bombings were 'unfortunate' only since
they undermined UN confidence, not because they killed Iraqi civilians and
further contributed to the destruction of the infrastructure. 

Secondly, as for media, there are no alternative views whatsoever in the
press. Although occasional mentions of French 'disenchantment' with
bombings and sanctions appear, all major newspapers seem more preoccupied
with describing the technicalities of missile technology than the effect
of their usage. For example, Swedish media still lives in and subscribes
to the illusion of surgical precision in bombing. As for sanctions, again,
their effect seems to have passed completely unnoticed. 

Thirdly, as for civil society, I have not heard of any Swedish group
organized on the lines of CASI. There is concern within organizations such
as the Red Cross, Amnesty and several churches and aid agencies, but there
is no group specifically concerned with the issue of Iraq. Hopefully, I'm
wrong, and any existing group has just escaped my attention. 

In sum, I think that the disaster in Iraq is the most conspicuous example
of a completely new complacency in international politics. There seems to
be very little questioning of the Anglo-American lead, and where it exists
it is not strong enough for a small country to stick out its head and
protest. Surely, the decline of integrity in Swedish foreign policy is
tragic in its futility, but unfortunately it seems typical of many
counties. In Sweden this is mirrored in media, which quite incredibly
seems to have forgotten the humanitarian aspect of the situation.

Per Klevnas

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