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Afghanistan & Neutrality, the Swedish & Finnish EU cases

category international | eu | news report author Sunday September 06, 2009 15:46author by iosaf - mac diarmada Report this post to the editors

According to the Swedish "Dagens Nyheter" newspaper's updates in the last two hours, the US military entered a hospital run by the Swedish Committe for Afghanistan this week in pursuit of a patient who according to them held valuable intelligence on the Taliban. This would constitute a breach of the Geneva Conventions. This newsbreak follows coverage of the strongest statements critical of the NATO strategy so far by the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt at the meeting of EU foreign ministers held yesterday. Anyone who prizes Irish neutrality or perhaps those who sneer at such a thing, ought know that Sweden is a neutral state. It is unique amongst the neutral states of Europe in that it boasts a highly developed arms industry which indeed is also one of the oldest happily supplying military hardward to all and sundry since before Napoleon. The Swedish share the northern "Provincial Reconstruction Team" with the Finnish under German command.
Leaving aside Shannon, do you think the 7 strong Irish contingent to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is making a difference?
Leaving aside Shannon, do you think the 7 strong Irish contingent to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is making a difference?

As we know many in the EU have demanded an explanation this week from Germany for a missile strike it ordered in that military zone which left so many civilians dead.

That German zone is not one of the NATO regions but rather a place where the same German army holds command of a contingent of the Europe - Atlantic Partnership Council to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) the majority of the troops stationed in the subdivision of that zone who are not German come from the neutral EU states of Sweden and Finland.

I think this news report may offer Irish voters a chance to understand the nature of their neutrality and the nature of the EU's militarisation.

There are no doubt many readers who understand what the Afghanistan war is about, perhaps having studied not only the popular moral fibre forming history books of Victorian boyhood replete with the heroes of the British wars to stem the Russians and harvest the poppy but have written a doctoral thesis on all wars in the place since. Just as most likely there are many other readers who have brought the Bonn Agreement and its resulting UN resolutions to bed with them and studied the creation of ISAF & its co-existence with & complimentary nature to the US and NATO military presence in the state of Afghanistan.

These are the sort of people who need not be reminded that one can not properly talk of the Afghan war but rather to be accurate and taken seriously one must note there are two if not more wars in Afghanistan and the Afghan narco-state .

The Swedish justify their presence in the German led reconstruction zone for their belief that any war or foreign military action in the world's narcostates will stem the flow of hard drugs. For thoser who don't know what hard drugs are, they generally come in two easy to talk about categories : Cocaine & Heroin which are also known as Coke & Smack. The Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt speaking at the EU foreign affairs meeting yesterday enjoyed an opportunity to see his words reported widely, since the Irish have not ratified Lisbon there is still as of yet no single EU foreign minister and a neutral state may have its opinions heard .

Carl Bildt noted that opium poppy production might have gone down but the global supply of heroin has remained as stable as it has been since ISAF began. If ISAF is about keeping smack of your streets then it's not doing very well. If on the other side (that of the lunatic fringe perhaps) one were to argue that the idea is to keep the smack on your street relatively cheap so your DVD stays on your shelf - then ISAF is doing splendidly.

..............What any of that has to do with fair elections and getting the girls out of burkas and into schooling of course I wouldn't hazard to say.


some introductory information on the wars in Afghanistan & the Afghan narco-state from wikipedia.


source for news report on US breach of Swedish hospital and Geneva Conventions covering the patients therein -

if the strongest neutral state on earth can't keep its hospital missions neutral under the EU then why would you vote for Lisbon 2?
if the strongest neutral state on earth can't keep its hospital missions neutral under the EU then why would you vote for Lisbon 2?

The pashto writing means "Help & Solidarity", great stuff. probably should read "keeping smack cheap".
The pashto writing means "Help & Solidarity", great stuff. probably should read "keeping smack cheap".

author by iosafpublication date Sun Sep 06, 2009 16:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I forgot to make it absolutely clear that regardless of the current presence of 500 Swedish soldiers under ISAF in the northern province (where the massacre occured this week) to which the Swedish foreign minister said "We ought be working with the Afghans not bombing them to bits", the hospital mission of the Swedish committee operates in the centre of the state due south of Kabul.

The head doctor Anders Fänge told "Dagens Nyeter" in telephone interview this afternoon how the US military had entered the hospital by force and searched both male and female wings. He not only nodded to the Geneva Conventions obliquely (by saying the violation was contrary to international principles and law) but specifically cited the Hippocratic Oath noting that his doctors must not refuse treatment to patients on grounds of political belief or ethnicity.

Dr Fange compared this incident to one in August when NATO Coalition forces bombed another hospital mission further into the war zone in the south of the state where US, Canadian and British troops "co-operate".

Related Link: http://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/militar-razzia-mot-svensk-afghanskt-sjukhus-1.946596
author by Edward Horgan - Shannonwatch.orgpublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 10:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for this informative report Iosaf.
Swedish neutrality has always been effective from a Swedish point of view, but always very pragmatic also from an altruistic and international point of view, to be point of being cynical. In World War II Sweden claimed neutrality throughout, yet was in clear breach of the Hague Convention on Neutrality by allowing large numbers of German troops to pass through Sweden on their way to and from Norway which the Germans had invaded and occupied. It also continued to supply Germany with iron ore, and was Germany's main supplier of Iron ore, vital for their tank building programme thoroughout the war. I met Carl Bildt in Bosnia in 1996, where he was European so-called "High-representative", effectively the international community's overlord of Bosnia, as this (so-called?) international community imposed a belated solution on the people of Bosnia that created three unviable sub-states, with an unworkable federal state structure above that.
There was a significant degree of arrogance and incompetence in the EU's and international community's approach to Bosnia, that is now very clearly visible also in Afghanistan, except to an even more disastrous degree.

see also report on International peace conference at Shannon airport on Sat 5 Sept 09

author by iosafpublication date Mon Sep 07, 2009 12:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with Ed Horgan on most things and the cynicism of Swedish neutrality is certainly one of them. However, I'd qualify that by noting that neutrality is a foodstuff that comes in several types of packaging. The oldest is the cynicism of self-interest supported by undoubted strength, to which both Sweden and Switzerland belong. The other is "initially forced", to which historically post-war Austria belongs, the neutrality of Austria was a condition for the Soviet withdrawl from Vienna which had in its time been occuped by the 4 power alliance of WW2, just like Berlin. In the "initially forced" category we also find Finland, again a condition of its independence set by Russia. I reckon both Austria and Finland continue now with the policy through tradition . Ireland's neutrality belongs somewhere in a third harder to define category but undoubtedly shares much with Finland & we hope cherishes its tradition . The last foreign affairs event to be debated by the SaorStat Eirinn (the Free State of Ireland) was the military rebellion led by Franco against the legitamately elected 2nd republic of Spain. The first foreign policy law enacted by the Eire state was one of such non-involvement in the Spanish civil war that Irish citizens were forbidden to play a part. Although many did, and we ought never forget more on the fascist side than the republican. Thus to end this opinion, I think Irish neutrality was a cynical exercise at birth but one which in the post WW2 world and the later emergence of the non-alligned block of nations at the UN had the potential to become a honourable and powerful instrument in support of peace-keeping, proper legitimate arbitration of conflicts and an end to all wars. No matter what the origins of our "neutrality" and its simliarites to the position taken by Salazar's Portugal (for example) it later proved to be what in can be yet :- a viable tradition which has always cried out for a properly articulated independent foreign policy & profile.

from the Swedish Committe for Afghanistan website, English translation of their press releases.
Please note that "IMF" means "international military force" seemingly under ISAF control but what really matters was the national flags on the uniforms. They were of the USA:

On Wednesday evening September 2 at 10 pm coalition vehicles drove up at SCA’s Hospital in Shaniz, Wardak province along the main highway from Kabul to Ghazni. They entered the hospital compound, reportedly without giving any reason or justification for entering the hospital compound. They searched all rooms, even bathrooms, male and female wards. Rooms that were locked were forcefully entered and the doors of the malnutrition ward and the ultrasound ward were broken by force to gain entry. Upon entering the hospital they tied up four employees and two family members of patients at the hospital. SCA staffs as well as patients (even those in beds) were forced out of rooms/wards throughout the search.

On leaving the hospital at around 12 pm, IMF issued verbal "orders"/instructions; that on receiving any patient that could be an insurgent the hospital staff has to report to the Coalition Forces who would then determine if the hospital would be permitted or not of treating such patient.

“This is simply not acceptable. It is not only a clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict but also a clear breach of the civil-military agreement between NGOs and ISAF. We demand guarantees from the IMF command that such violations will not be repeated and that this is made clear to commanders in the field. SCA can not and will not tolerate this kind of treatment by the IMF. Nor is the SCA bound by any orders from IMF regarding to whom treatment can be given” says Anders Fange, Country Director, SCA.

The hospital is located in an area where community acceptance is essential to the continued functioning and safety of the hospital and its staff. The hospital has faced a further intrusion on 13 July, when private security guards escorting a convoy came under attack from insurgents and sought shelter/treatment in a very aggressive manner in the hospital and proceeded to assault staff and damage property.

This latest incident comes at a time when a clinic in Paktika was attacked on 26 August by ANSF/IMF following reports of an alleged AOG commander inside. At issue, in addition to the safety of staff and patients, are perceptions amongst all parties as to the status of clearly marked hospital/medical facilities. When such facilities are no longer regarded with the sanctity which has previously been accorded, then hospitals merely become buildings and a legitimate arena to continue the conflict. Such intrusions have previously been recorded by both sides in the conflict.

For more information please contact:

Anders Fänge
Country Director SCA
+93-(0)700-299 288

Related Link: http://www.shannonwatch.org/
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