Support from the Danish Defence

Why are the Danes in Afghanistan? If you ask the Danish Defence, it is to make Afghanistan a better place. To help the Afghans. Whatever. Danish soldiers are expected to put themselves at risk and put their personal lives on hold for three months to half a year, for the political ambitions of a country that is most often taken for Holland.

This sacrifice is rewarded with a small stripe of cloth they can wear on their uniform, double pay while deployed and this year, a designer table side flag pole. Which each soldier must transport back to Denmark, within the baggage allowances set by the Defence.

What do the families get? There is a badly designed website called The Soldiers Portal, there are three Saturday afternoon lectures (one before deployment, one at half way during leave and one shortly before re-deployment), there is a 24 hour helpline to which, if you were to ring them outside of Danish office hours (8-4), set you up for an appointment in Copenhagen to see if you need psychological help. There is an online helpline, to which, if you (for example), say something like “And there’s the not-small-consideration that I am foreign in Denmark. Occasionally, at random, not every time, people are completely awful to me.” they will reply “You also have problems with falling in and adapting to the Danish society.” My cringing muscles are extra strong after my four and a half years here. There is a family network run by volunteers. I have no idea what goes on there, so I cannot speak to its quality.

This is what the relatives’ website has to say about re-deployment (which apparently means when a soldier comes back and not when they are sent out again)

“The day the soldier comes home is an event that you both have definitely counted down until and waited for with anticipation and longing. Home-coming and the time after is exciting, where the feelings of missing him are over and plans and dreams (big and small), can be realised. It’s a time of great expectations and hopes of what is possible now or can finally happen. Home coming can stretch out for up to a year before the everyday goes back to normal, for good or ill.

For some, it goes very quickly while for others it takes longer. It is one thing to be purely physically reunited, something else is to share the many experiences you each have had while you were separated. It takes time to find each other again and make your day to day lives good again together.

What you come back to, is to a high degree a question of what you left. Neither those left behind nor the soldier become different people during a deployment and earlier problems don’t automatically disappear.

Having said that, there are many who experience that deployment and separation actually teaches them so many new things about themselves, their partner, children, friends, siblings, parents, country and world that you can find yourself in a new place after a deployment. And from this new place, you get the opportunity to take stock, put things behind yourself and get new opportunities and find each other again. Either in the “good old way” or in a new way.”

Ok. So, we’re talking half a side of A4, of not very illuminating “it’s going to be a process. Boning is involved.”.

What do the other countries offer? The American army which has longer deployments and more frequently, seems to be a bit more on the ball. Plus there are many other websites which cater for families.

Military.com has this step-by-step his and hers guide to how to get through the process, an overview of the emotions experienced. Information about how all the emotions I am experiencing, completely not addressed in the Danish guide, are normalHomecoming tips. I actually could do this all day, that is just the information on Military.com There are also tips and information and support on thousands of other English language websites, just type “homecoming spouses”. (I cannot even find the British stuff there is so much American information. I found one thing which gives you an age by age breakdown of how deployment affects children.)

If you type “hjemkomst pårørende” you get the page I just translated and some information about some parades.

The American spouses are getting a heads up. “This shit is about to get real.” The soldiers are getting a heads up “She’s probably more fucked up than you, yo. And she ran your household on her own, backwards and in high heels.”

I told my boyfriend that I was nervous and he said that was “weird”. Because he has no idea that actually, that is very very normal. The army took the wives aside to tell them what PTSD looks like but they did not take the soldiers aside to tell them that we might be suffering? What total bullshit employers they turned out to be.

He is back in two days.

 

Inordinate Stress

A Danish soldier died. Now the news is interested in Afghanistan. Now they are talking about Afghanistan. Like children who think something disappears if they cannot see it.

My boyfriend is still in Afghanistan. Just over a month to go. And instead of relaxing by the pool for the last month, as one might hope, he is still doing his job out there. It doesn’t get more safe just because his plane ticket home has been booked.

The family of the killed soldier are on a different schedule to ordinary soldiers so I have no idea if he was supposed to be home soon, if he had been out for more than three months, if he had been back for Christmas. I don’t suppose any of it matters. Any of it.

And then I feel racist because loads of Afghans get killed in the same way all the time and it doesn’t make me feel unsafe. So, I try to lock off that part of myself. My only other option is to care about the civilians in every conflict across the world. And I just cannot. I just cannot.

It turns out I have chosen the worst time in history to go public with “I am trying to be more gracious on the internet” because as I am feeling the stress, there are more people getting on my nerves. I am still trying though. It might not be as successful as I hoped but I am trying.

My job starts tomorrow and I am very excited. Though it is going to be “stressful”, in that good way. A new commute (getting up at 4.45 thank you very much), a new workplace, new standards, new students. It will take a few months to lose the stress. And half way through that process, my boyfriend will return. Luckily for us, I can take a holiday when he gets back. Apparently, the problems start after the first 36 hours and can continue for six months. A big bust up. The advice is to just wait it out. Just wait for them to come back into themselves. As long as six months. Just be patient. Just wait.

But I have been waiting. I have been waiting six months, worried sick and struggling with my pre-existing problems by myself. It feels like another defence ministry trick, like the hundreds of exercises away from home they had to go on as soon as it was confirmed they were going. He will be back but he won’t be. I am not supposed to lean on him. I am supposed to be patient and wait for him to come back.

All the while, commuting all that way and getting up in the middle of the night.

And when he’s ready, we will move home.

Many relationships don’t make it past a year after deployment.

I need to keep looking at my feet because when I look up, I get dizzy.

Too much too much.

 

Danish News: 2012 was the year where Nato’s Afghanistan strategy completely collapsed

Opinion Piece in Politiken newspaper

Carsten Jensen is an author and debater.

Whenever I think about Afghanistan, I think about Tølløse.

I think about it because in the summer I read in an article in Information with the headline “The War with the Taliban is Over“, that the enemy who the Danish soldiers in Afghan Helmand province had been fighting for many years, the Afghan Taliban warriors, according to the operation commander, Major Rune Pedersen, were now reduced to a little ludicrous “motorcycle gang from Tølløse“.

I don’t know if there is actually a motorcycle gang in Tølløse. But if there is one, is the police station in Tølløse surrounded by sandbags and guarded with machine guns? Do the local officers only patrol the surrounding countryside in armoured personnel carriers wearing helmets and bullet proof jackets, all the while keeping a nervous eye out behind them and for roadside bombs? Are automatic pistols counted in their standard equipment when they patrol in groups of 24 down Tølløse’s high street?

That’s how Danish soldiers live in their area of responsibility around Gereshk in the Afghan Helmand province.

And it is all because of a local motorcycle gang. If I were a journalist on a visit in the Danish Camp Price and heard Rune Pedersen say that, I would never have guessed that I was listening to a man who knew what he was talking about and therefore someone I needed to take seriously. I would have guessed instead that it was an audition for a standup show and I would have agreed that the major had a sense of humour.

So called war correspondents might object that it is the military that have a better understanding of the war and not us journalists. Imagine a man whose entire raison d’être is to wage war trying to enlighten us… should we just burst out in laughter? No, I wouldn’t say that you need to laugh. You could instead look around and try to see past the limited horizon of Danish responsibility of only 250 square km to the 650 000 square kilometer country.

So, for instance, you would know that the leading military people in Nato at the beginning of the year in a leaked report expressed the belief that the Taliban would come back to power in 2014 when Nato retreat. The American commander General John Allen counted the Taliban as high as 35 000 in May. That’s 10 000 more than three years ago, when the so called surge began.

150 000 Nato-soldiers have been fighting a handful of rebels and the media has repeated the victory messages when one province after another was cleared and the entire middle layer of local Taliban leaders were taken out in so called kill or capture operations. And even so, the Taliban is stronger than over, says the man whose responsibility it is to destroy them.

A motorcycle gang from Tølløse?

In the Danish papers you can also read that the training of the Afghan army is all going to plan and that the 195 000 strong army is fully ready to take over the security of the country when Nato leaves in two years. That was the Danish officer’s optimistic message which journalists willingly repeated.

What you don’t read is that the Afghan army loses a third of its soldiers every year. An astronomical number of over 60 000 men who leave the service either because they do not renew their contract or because they just desert. So, they must train up fresh recruits the whole time. A huge fraction of the soldiers who are sent to battle against the world’s most persevering motorcycle gang are therefore the world’s least experienced.

A few weeks before the Danish journalists arrived on what they ironically call “a rodeo”, the British troops who operate in the same area as the Danes, received orders to sleep with their weapons ready. The danger of attack from soldiers amongst our nearest allies in the Afghan army was judged as imminent.

This was the type of attack that the British and American press dubbed “insider attacks” or “green on blue” (with respect to the colours of the different army’s uniforms) In the Danish press, the attacks were not called anything in the first few months. Here, the new attacks were scarcely referred to before the point when so many Nato soldiers had been killed that even President Obama needed to include the motorcycle gang from Tølløse in one of his speeches.

It is the Danish perspective of the war in Afghanistan. That it is happening in Tølløse.

The politicians here have learned from the military. They don’t think that there is a world outside the 250 square kilometers where the Danish military appears to have control. Two years ago, TV2 had a theme evening about Afghanistan where I had the opportunity to debate with the then foreign minister Lene Espersen. Confronted with the still worsening situation in Afghanistan, the foreign minister appealed with her arms open wide.

How could anyone expect that she should have an overview of so many square kilometers. “Afghanistan is just as big as France,” she said in an educational tone, as if the debate about the war had changed into a geography lesson. I realised that Lene Espersen was not the foreign minister of Denmark, she was the foreign minister of Tølløse.

In the summer of 2011, a previous officer of the British army’s intelligence service Frank Ledwidge, gave a devastating analysis of the British war effort in Helmand in a book called “Losing Small Wars”. He described the war, which Danes had also been a part of, as nothing short of “a catastrophe of incompetence, a violent tragedy” where entire city centres were bombed out, thousands made refugees and uncounted others were killed or wounded.

The situation in Helmand is today worse for the residents of the province than when Nato troops arrived with regards to development and economy. And the Brits don’t even control anything more than a small strip of land that they can guard from their own fortified camps. The British government’s reason for the continuing presence of the troops changes from month to month and surveys have shown that a worryingly high number of officers have no idea why their country is fighting in Afghanistan.

Ledwidge’s book was received with receptive respect and also from unexpected areas, not just the conservative press but even the British military. “They completely agree with my analysis” he explained in an interview in London, “their problem is just finding a way of retelling it so it gets them out of hot water and justifies their failed actions.”

The award winning American journalist Rajic Chandrasekaran published a book this summer about the American war effort with special focus on the last three years’ surge where 33 000 extra solders were sent into the war. Five years ago, Rajiv Chandrasekaran published a gut wrenching, tragi-comic account of American incompetence in Iraq, entitled “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.”

He saw the American fiasco there up close but when it came to Afghanistan, he was still optimistic on his country’s behalf, he wrote in his book. The war in Afghanistan was a just war. At the end of his three year long journalistic journey, he reached the same conclusion as in Iraq: America lost not because the Taliban won but because American incompetence apparently became an insurmountable hindrance to any victory.

“Ambitious and arrogant generals refused to realise that more troops will have the opposite of the desired effect,” he wrote. “The presence of even more foreign troops in the Pashtun heartland will only help the Taliban recruit even more followers.”

All too few soldiers left their bases to live with the Afghans in their villages. All too few diplomats could be bothered to understand the language and culture. All too few development experts were interested in anything other than a quick profit. All too few politicians had been brave enough to try to create a lasting peace. And no one was interested in cooperating with anyone else.

Chandrasekaran gives the surge in Helmand as an example. The defeat of the insurgency in Helmand became a prestigious project for the marine corps who planted themselves so heavily in the province that Helmand was internally known in the American army as “Marineistan”. That meant that the strategically much more important Kandahar province had to be downgraded in priority and that is where the Taliban were able to take hold.

The sharpest, most angry protest against the way the war is fought has come from the American military itself. Lieutenant colonel Daniel L Davis was on a 14 000 km, 12 month long inspection tour of Afghanistan in 2011.

He had, in contrast to the Danish Major Rune Pedersen, seen a little more Tølløse, when he came out as a scathing critic of the war which was, in his opinion, lost long ago but continued to suck young people down into death and permanent disability.

“I was witness to a complete absence of success on all levels.”

Our military leaders are lying to us and they are lying to the nation, writes an angry Daniel L Davis, who isn’t your average lefty whistle-blower or Wikileaks II, as he calls it. He is a born again Christian from Virginia who went to a local pastor for advice before he came out with his critique.

From the USA’s celebrated General David Patraeus, the architect behind the so called surge in Iraq and all the way down the military hierarchy, he exposes the lies and hypocrisy in all the optimistic speeches about progress for Nato and Karzai’s government’s increasing support in the population. It is the complete reverse, wrote Davis.

Everywhere the American soldiers are besieged and pushed without credible support amongst their Afghan allies, who almost all make deals behind the Americans’ backs with the Taliban as if they were already preparing for the insurgents’ takeover of power. Of the population’s support of the Afghan government, he can see no evidence and nor does he see any sign that the government are in the least bit worried about their population’s needs.

The most disturbing discovery that Davis makes on his long inspection tour is that it is the mere presence of American troops that is creating rebellion. A province can be neutral in relation to the government, or in any case passive. The moment American soldiers show up, out come the weapons. With the use of enormous firepower, it is possible to crush rebellion in the district but only to see it flare up in a neighbouring district. It is never possible to hold an area for a long time.

As soon as the American troops retreat, the territory falls once more into the Taliban’s hands while the Afghan army watched passively on or flees.

It is the same Afghan soldiers who, again and again, are praised by the American generals and Nato officers for their courage and professionalism. In an ironic quote mosaic, Davis shows how this hypocritical praise has been made in almost identical terms for nearly eight years. The Afghan army is always nearly ready. In a minute. Tomorrow. And yet, never.

A report from the Pentagon published in the beginning of December 2012, confirms Davis’ desperate sarcasm. Only one out of the Afghan army’s 23 brigades is ready to operate independently.

At the end of September, nearly one year after Davis published his report, Nato had to suspend training of the Afghan army indefinitely. The number of Afghan soldiers, who in the middle of exercises, would turn against their western allies and brutally murder them has now reached an alarmingly high level and Nato were forced to admit that the army was infiltrated by the Taliban.

It is said that “a drowning man is ready to clutch at straws”.

The training of the Afghan security forces were the failing Nato-strategy’s final straw in Afghanistan.

Insider attacks got the French president François Holland to announce an early withdrawal of French troops. In the British parliament, there was a passionate debate where demands for troop withdrawal were made, also from the conservative side. In Denmark, the defence minister Nick Hækkerup announced a “conference” on the problem. But the conference still hasn’t happened. If you ring the Defence Ministry, you find out that it is scheduled for some time in late January.

If you want to know what Danish soldiers think while their defence minister hesitates, you should turn on the tv station Al-Jazeera where a Danish officer Klaus Augostinus, in a programme from 13th December says that an insider attack on a British colleague has made “an enormous impression on me. I would really like to see my family again. I like to get to know people and bond with them but I can’t do that any more. Every time I get close to someone, I ask myself “will it be him that gets me?”.

The defeat in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to interest the population, press or politicians. We have instead our own self-satisfied Danish mini-version of world history, where the stand up show that ritually happens on the bi-annual press junket to Camp Price in Helmand province becomes the official truth:

We won in Tølløse.

News translation: Insider-killings will continue in Afghanistan

This is in the Danish news on Politiken but nowhere on the British news. The British news (especially, the Guardian), have been covering a lot on Afghanistan recently, so it is a bit weird. Maybe they didn’t have it translated yet.

Anyway, the British minister got up in front of Parliament a few days ago and said that there would be no change of strategy. Actually, hang on, I’ll copy and paste exactly what he said from the Independent because it is critical you understand what he said on 17th September.

“Our servicemen and women are doing vital work protecting the UK from the threat of international terrorism.

“Our strategy is clear – we are mentoring and training the Afghan army and police to deliver security to their own people…

The Taliban hate this strategy and seek to wreck it through insider attacks.

“They aim to disrupt the collaboration with Afghan forces which is at the heart of our strategy. We cannot and we will not allow the process to be derailed.”

Mr Hammond said the partnership with the Afghan security forces “involved risk but it is essential to success”.

Notice how it’s the “Taliban” behind the green-on-blue attacks, when the “approved” line in August was “25% are Taliban attacks, 75% are when an Afghan soldier is so pissed off by an ISAF soldier(s), all they can think about is murdering them.”

The very next day, 18th September, ISAF (Nato forces in Afghanistan), banned joint patrols below the battalion level.

19th September they released the following:-

ISAF remains absolutely committed to partnering with, training, advising and assisting our ANSF counterparts. The ISAF SFA model is focused at the battalion level and above, with exceptions approved by senior commanders. Partnering occurs at all levels, from Platoon to Corps. This has not changed.

In response to elevated threat levels resulting from the “Innocence of Muslims” video, ISAF has taken some prudent, but temporary, measures to reduce our profile and vulnerability to civil disturbances or insider attacks. This means that in some local instances, operational tempo has been reduced, or force protection has been increased. These actions balance the tension of the recent video with force protection, while maintaining the momentum of the campaign.

Ok, so I’m pretty sure George Orwell was condemning the use of double speak in his novel but here we can see Nato using it as a model for communication. Translation into single speak:-

“We’re not sending soldiers out with the Afghans in smaller groups than 400 unless absolutely fucking necessary. This is because the Afghans keep shooting ISAF soldiers. Here is a “reason” why we are doing it today and not when the uptick began.”

(9th September, before the film went viral, the green-on-blue killings were at 45, already smashing the previous year’s record of 35. It is now 51, twenty days later.)

Ok, so politicians and generals lie. That is hardly breaking news. They know if they tell the truth, there is not a population on the planet that would support the war. They also know that our collective attention span is small like a gnat. We consume news like entertainment. “Oh, chocolate rations have gone up, well that’s something.”

I am not some saint just because I started paying attention. I only care because I have someone out there. Which is sick considering how many people have been maimed and killed, all because I did not lift a finger to put political pressure on the politicians to stop this YEARS AGO.

Here is the Danish article from 20th September. It’s pretty weird to translate back into English, why isn’t the original transcript anywhere? He made this speech 9 days ago.

Last weekend, an Afghan policeman killed two British soldiers in Afghanistan.

The attacks are the latest in a wave of so-called “insider attacks” where Afghan soliders or police officers kill their foreign colleagues.

According to the British defence minister, Philip Hammond, who visited his Danish counterpart Nick Hækkerup (S) in the last few days, there is a part the Nato forces can play in avoiding attacks.

And the weekend’s attacks call for reflection for what we can do differently.

Danger signals are clear

“It’s easy to have 20/20 hindsight but the danger signals were clear. In hindsight we can see that there was an unknown person who came in to the base. The attack was not carried out by the group of Afghans who were on the base at the time,” said Philip Hammond.

He thinks that ISAF soldiers ought to work primarily with a fixed group of Afghan soldiers for a longer amount of time.

“The problems typically start when ISAF soldiers come into contact with groups of Afghan soldiers on an ad hoc basis,” said Hammond.

The British defence minister also underline that both the Afghan forces and ISAF already had tightened security. For instance, the Afghan soldiers are  checked an extra time when they come home from leave and more intelligence officers are there.

“I don’t want to sit here and say that we can stop insider attacks totally. That would be a great challenge in a country where the culture is like that, that conflicts are solved by the use of force,” said Philip Hammond (translator insert: the man in charge of solving conflicts overseas with force, yeah, it’s totally cultural to use force to get what you want.)

“It’s not only about ideological motives or rebellion. It’s also a reflection of the culture in the country. But I think that we will be able to reduce the number of attacks significantly.”

51 international soldiers killed in insider attacks this year

Hammond recognises that the Afghan security forces obviously will continue to experience internal attacks when ISAF forces leave Afghanistan.

There are far more cases where Afghan soldiers are killed by their Afghan colleagues than the cases where a NATO solider is a victim.

“We have to accept that it’s their country and after we leave, they will do things in a different way,” he said.

According to the BBC, 51 international soldiers lost their lives in insider attacks this year so far. Last year, 35 were killed in the whole year.

Interesting how his line has changed from “The Taliban have a dastardly plan” to “these savages are just murderous culturally” and “we ought to know the local soldiers better so that units cannot be infiltrated.”

War. What is it good for?

Did I tell you my boyfriend is in Afghanistan?

To say I am conflicted is the understatement of the year. This is because of the nature of this war. It is not a “just war” and it never was. (We had to learn the definition at Catholic school). It was conceived by a corrupt government as part of their imperialist aims. It continues due to complicated, Greek tragedy-style reasons. People keep dying, over and over. People are badly injured on a regular basis. It is an immense clusterfuck and a total waste of humanity.

Yes, some of the Taliban are prime dicks. This I know to be true. But there are plenty of ways of reducing their power and sidestepping their evil that do not involve getting involved in a land war in Asia. These were not tried. And instead, the imperial forces joined with “The Northern Alliance” (remember them?), who were just as depraved as the Taliban. It was never about human rights. You know this is true because ISAF is leaving in 2014 and no one believes human rights will magically spring up between now and then. They plan to leave before this aim is in place and began the war by collaborating with a group of human rights haters.

If he dies out there, if he loses a limb out there; it would be for nothing. There’s no consolation in that he was trying to do something important or lasting. The best I can come up with is that he works hard to do a good job and I guess he sort of hopes to make the situation better in that country. Though he is quite realistic, so I think he knows his role is bailing out a boat with a teacup. (When there is no better solution, that’s better than nothing, I guess?) I’m rambling now, it’s really hard to find something to cling to in this situation.

Anyway, so it’s complicated and no one comes out looking good. I refused to go to a “next of kin meeting” partly because it would be in Danish all day on a Saturday but mostly because it might upset me with all the tubthumping, jingoistic trite nonsense that surrounds armies like a fug.

I read the document they gave us. There is one page of useful information (emergency phone numbers, how to post things, that’s it), a few pages of historical/geographical context and some information about the living conditions out in the camps.

There is also a document aimed at children. Maybe I should not be surprised but the information given is almost identical. Except the one for children has dolls, showing the children around the camps.

Today’s is about “patrols” and is touching on the idea of danger and what might be dangerous. The two dolls are discussing what a patrol is and the boy doll tells the girl doll that sometimes there are foot patrols, so the soldiers can talk to the Afghans.

Josefine: ”Hvorfor vil de tale med Afghanerne? Er det ikke dem, der skyder på soldaterne og lægger IED’ere (bomber) i jorden?”

Josefine: Why do they want to talk to Afghans? Aren’t they the ones who shoot at the soldiers and put IEDs (bombs), in the ground?

Alexander: ”Nej, da – der er mange afghanere, der er glade for at vi er her. De ved, at vi er her for at hjælpe dem – med bl.a. at fjerne dumme IED’ere.”

Alexander: “No, not quite, there are many Afghans who are glad we are here. They know that we are here to help them – with (amongst other things), removal of the stupid IEDs”

Josefine: ”Hvem er det så, der skyder efter soldaterne og lægger bomber ud?”

Josefine: “Who is it then who is shooting at the soldiers and planting the bombs?”

Alexander: ”Det er et godt spørgsmål! Jeg tror, det har noget at gøre med, at der er nogen, der gerne vil bestemme over de lokale Afghanere.”

Alexander: “That’s a good question! I think it’s got something to do with there are some who want to boss the local Afghans around.”

Josefine: ”Og vi hjælper dem, der ikke vil bestemmes over af de andre?”

Josefine: “And we’re helping those that don’t want to be bossed around by the others?”

Alexander: ”Ja, det kan man måske godt sige – men det er lidt svært. Nogle gange har jeg hørt nogen tale om nogle mennesker, der kaldes talibanere, andre gange taler man om oprørsstyrker – d.v.s. nogen ballademagere, som tror så meget på en sag, at alt andet kan være lige meget.”

Alexander: “Yeah, you could say that. But it’s a bit difficult. Sometimes I’ve heard about people called the Taliban and other times about rebels, that is to say troublemakers who believe in a cause so much that nothing else matters.”

Yes, children won’t “get” it. Yes, grey moral areas are difficult to write about, especially when you are putting words into the mouths of dolls. No, it’s probably not appropriate to tell a child that “the situation is a complete clusterfuck and literally everyone involved has lost.”

I have a particular problem with this conversation.

There are two types of Afghan. The first shoots, deploys improvised explosive devices and wants to boss “local” Afghans around. The second is grateful for ISAF, understands the need for their presence and is a “local” who does not want to be bossed around.

What about the Afghans who are scared of the soliders and scared of the “rebels”? What about the locals who were not on any particular side until they heard about Koran destruction/lost a nephew/or something like that and then joined the Taliban or the rebels or simply picked up a gun and started shooting all by themselves? Why are the “baddies” not considered local? Why are the “good” Afghans painted as grateful?

Yes,  I know, it’s for children and children are not good at abstract thought. They also might get distressed if presented with greys, even in an age appropriate, sensitive way.

But why does it have to be so jingoistic? Why is it SO oversimplified? A priest wrote it. A PRIEST.

Why not say

“Most Afghans are ligeglad about ISAF and just want to be left alone. They won’t plant bombs or shoot at your dad but they would rather have him go home, all the same. Because they are scared of him.”

Even if

“The people planting the bombs or shooting at soldiers think they are right. They think that they need to defend their country from being overtaken by foreigners and having their values destroyed. (Remember when farfar said the same thing at Christmas and mummy said he might have a point? These men are like farfar in a lot of ways. Of course, farfar wouldn’t plant a roadside bomb, so there are differences too.)

They think that your dad isn’t human. And you know what, your dad has been trained to think that they are not human, too.

The funny thing is, they are all human beings. And no one is looking for a solution that doesn’t involve dehumanisation and murder.

What a fucking mess, Josefine. What a mess.”

is probably a bit too much.

Custody

Distressing stories about the Danish state preferring Danish parents over foreign parents in custody disputes are nothing new. Even if the Danish parent is abusive, a deadbeat or kidnapped the child. The Danish state will award him full custody and ignore the doctor’s reports about sexual bruising on the child. They will award him full custody and laugh.

In some cases, children will be abducted by a Danish parent and then the foreign parent will be deported. In some cases, the parents will have joint custody but the Danish parent can have the other parent deported if they claim that they are deadbeat or uninvolved with their children.

The EU and other international courts have been informed but justice is slow.

There is a new heartbreaking case. According to Ekstra Bladet, a Danish man came to Austria and abducted his son. He had never been married to the mother, she had full custody and he had not been interested in his son until the Austrian state asked him to contribute financially.

This is as clear cut as they come, the Danish police should respect the international arrest warrant and return the boy. The mother, however, has been informed that the Danish state would prefer that her son be placed in a children’s home than returned to a foreign parent.

As much as earnest Danish people like to insist that only “non-western” foreigners are affected by their policies (as if that makes it better!), this is happening to an Austrian woman. If I had to list the ways that Danish people and Austrian people were different, I think I would get as far as language and national dish; and have to draw a blank. Her background is probably why this story has made the papers and other similar stories have not.

This also makes me feel very uneasy about starting a family with any Danish man. She is not married to the man, she has total full custody, it could mean he is not on the birth certificate (though I am not sure if that is the case), and yet the Danish state will support him even if there is an international arrest warrant out on him. They would rather support a man who would abduct his son from his mother in a planned attack than the Austrian state.

This is a failure of natural justice, of all human rights legislation and of the Danish legal system. This, and other cases like it, need to be resolved by the international courts. Denmark needs to be told by the other countries that its behaviour is totally unacceptable.

I know there will be people reading this who cannot believe it. They have an idea of what Denmark is and this does not fit at all with their worldview. You might want to dismiss these as exceptions, you might want to recall that other countries have similar problems, you might want to console yourself with the idea that other countries are worse. But you need to take a deep breath and think again.

Denmark is supposed to be better, is supposed to be an exemplary society, is supposed to be something special. At the very least, it ought to obey the international laws it has signed up to. It is flouting these laws (in part), because it knows that you will perform the mental tricks necessary to keep Denmark pure in your mind.

If the international community wakes up to the fact that Denmark is in many ways similar to countries we look down on for being shitholes; maybe that will be the shame needed to propel Denmark into acting the way the hype claims it does.

It WOULD be worse in North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan. It MIGHT be similar in the US. It COULD be comparable to the recent treatment of all fathers in custody battles. But that does not excuse it and it certainly does not justify any inertia about improving.

 

Fact Checking: Denmark is the safest place to give birth

The Danish media is a law unto itself. All it takes is one reassuring spokesperson to say

“Don’t worry that we sent you home during an induction and some people have been badly injured in this process, keep in mind Denmark is one of the safest places in which to give birth”

and the subeditor will write the following headline

Denmark is the safest place in which to give birth

Is this true?

Sadly, no.

If you wish to compare Denmark with countries such as Somalia, South Sudan and Afghanistan, Denmark looks pretty good.

If you prefer to compare the risks in similar developed countries (in the OECD, for example), Denmark is  poor to middling.

(Statistics were unavailable for any year after 2009.)

Maternal mortality per 100 000 live births in 2009

Denmark was the second most dangerous country in the OECD. Better than Mexico but worse than Hungary, Turkey, Chile, Slovak Republic, the UK etc.

Neonatal mortality per 100 000 live births in 2009

Denmark was the 13th safest country in the OECD. This puts it in the middle of the table.

There are other statistics available from the UN but these are estimated based on access to midwives/hospitals/prenatal care. Denmark is doing worse than it should be, given the advantages Danish women have in their country.

Is sending someone home during an induction safe? I don’t know. Is Denmark a particularly unsafe country in which to give birth? Probably not.

To say that Denmark is “one of the safest” is technically true but then so are a lot of countries. Saying it is THE safest is demonstrably untrue. Especially since on International Women’s Day,  The Independent said Greece and Norway were the best. Strangely, Denmark did not pick that story up.