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Suffering badly in the propaganda wars

DISCUSSIONS | June 09, 2006

Agnes Bragadóttir, Iceland

1988 Nieman fellow; senior business writer, Morgunbladid, Reykjavik, Iceland

I was news editor of Morgunbladid from 1995 to 2003; in 2003 and 2004 I was the spokesperson for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, a Nordic peacekeeping Force in Sri Lanka, that oversees the maintainance of the Cease Fire Agreement between the Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. On returning back to Iceland, I took over the post of business Editor of Morgunbladid, and held that post through 2005. For now, I am senior business writer, mainly focusing on news analyses about banking and business in Iceland and Europe.

I think it is fair to say, that until 9/11 the perceptions of America here in Iceland were blended, on one hand, warm, sympathetic, friendly, respectful and appreciative. These perceptions one would notice from people who knew the USA, had lived there, studied there, were politically minded in the way they supported the Western way of thinking, the free world, private enterprice, freedom of choice, capitalism, etc. The majority of the Icelandic population belonged to the above mentioned catergory.

On the other hand were the exteme leftists in Iceland, i.e. radical socialists and even communists, who used to have a loud and strong voice in this country, although never a very widespread one. They have always been extremely critical of the USA.

The general criticism of the USA in Iceland has for decades been of the almost total lack of a welfare system that serves all. This kind of criticism has to be viewed in the light of Iceland, being one of the Nordic countries, where the social welfare system is extremely strong: We have free education for all and free health care. The state takes care of those who cannot take care of themselves and in our societies there is a general consensus that this is how it should be, no matter how costly it is. It is built in the soul of the nation, that those who are well off should take care of the needy ones, and although there has been a great movement politically, toward the right where the capitalistic values and goals have gained a lot more of a support than they used to have, these fundamental values of a strong social wellfare system are still going strong.

The change since 9/11 of the general perceptions of America is in my mind this: Right after the attack on the Twin Towers and for some months after that, there was huge sympathy and support for the American nation here in Iceland, as well as in the rest of the world, or most parts of it, to my understanding. The thing is, that your own President, Mr. Bush, seems to be the root of the change of perspective in Iceland. People have become extremely negative toward the President, the ideology of War Against Terrorism, of the USA behaving like the Police of the World, being above law and order in practically every sense, at least in any sense the USA government chooses to be.

The suspicion that the USA has a private agenda, i.e. to get control of as much oil as possible, wherever in the world they see fit, has done nothing but increase, and in many people´s minds turned from a suspicion into what people say is their firm belief. The war in Iraq is one example of this, the rumors of a planned attack on Iran is another, the treatment of the U.S. government of so called prisoners of war a third one. The constant conflict between the USA and certain European countries, especially France and Germany only adds to this perceptions.

So, on the whole, I would say that during the last four years or so, America has suffered badly and lost in the war of propaganda, and is definitely the underdog today.

Here in Iceland this view of the USA is even stronger since the government of the USA practically terminated, singlehandedly, without any real negotiations, the Bilaterlal Treaty of Defense of Iceland, which has been in effect since 1951. A treaty is not supposed to be terminated without the consent of both countries. Here in Iceland the almost common understanding is this: The USA has been able to use Iceland, its ally in NATO, for decades, and now, the USA doesn´t feel they need Iceland anymore, they can singlehandedly make a decision to leave Iceland without any defense, which will be the case from September 1st, 2006.

Posted by Herra Jón
04/27/2009, 09:02 PM

Cant say I miss them - that is the US Icelandic defence force - and who does all over the world? To full of them selves for my taste. But what could you expect from a country which is populated by the leftovers from europe.. ..fastfood? Britney Spears? Who cares? - Good ridance.

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