Monday, April 21, 2003

But What About The Norwegian Children?

Who are the real victims of the war with Iraq?

The innocent Iraqi civilians caught in the crossfire?

The families of coalition servicemen killed in Iraq?

How about the children of Norway?

On my second day in Trondheim, Norway, 10 days into our country's war against Iraq, my cousin Vibecka showed me a finger painting by her son, Ulrick. It depicted a family cowering after their home had been destroyed by a bomb.

In the painting, smoke poured up from the rubble where they had once lived.

"He is 6 years old," she said. "This is what he's drawing. I worry about how all of this affects him."

Yes that's high on my list of worries too. How will this conflict affect those poor Scandinavian kids?

In yesterday's Star Tribune Travel section writer Troy Melhus reassures us that in Northern Europe the people aren't anti-American, just anti-war :

To be sure, there were people willing to criticize our country (I did not encounter one European who expressed support for this war), but they seemed well-reasoned and could distinguish the actions of our country's government from its individual citizens. The mood was decidedly anti-war, but not anti-American traveler.

Europeans criticizing the United States and against the war? I'm stunned.

Europeans talk of war with a different perspective. Scars from Nazi occupation more than half a century ago still haunt their thoughts, blight their landscape.

And frighten them into pacifistic inaction I might add.

The idea of war in Iraq resonates differently in Europe. Unlike here, they still see the scars of war in their own back yards. Some remember how bombs don't discriminate good from bad.

They clearly, and firsthand, understood what the devastation of war means, and emphasized that casualties of war go beyond those of the invading troops. While people I encountered universally agreed Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator and a threat, their concern seemed to be about the victims, not the inevitable victors, of this war.

I always find this argument for Europe's opposition to war with with Iraq puzzling. Should not these European countries also understand the costs of allowing an evil ideology to triumph? Would not the Norwegians, the Belgians, the Dutch, and the French have been much better off if Hitler would have been stopped before being allowed to overrun their countries? How exactly was the scourge of Nazism defeated and their countries liberated? Through war. Through bombing, killing, and destruction. It wasn't pretty. But it was the price that was worth paying to be freed from totalitarian rule. Wasn't it?

Of course with his country at war Troy was glad to get back to his homeland.

In fact, it wasn't until my return that the reality of Gulf War II began to sink back in. Uniforms greeted me at the airport. Choruses of English headlines at airport kiosks blared updates on the U.S.-led war, with unabashed, nationalistic spin.

Welcome home.

Obviously these kiosks were not carrying the Star Tribune. Troy must have been referring to those jingoistic yellow newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post.

Welcome back Troy. Thank God those hearty Norwegians still like us.

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