AMY GOODMAN: That's the Norwegian singer Kari Svendsen singing at Sunday's protest in Oslo, the well-known antiwar song, "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream." This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Above me, a helicopter is hovering overhead. We're just at the port in Oslo, Norway. I am standing just in front of Oslo City Hall, where the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony has just wrapped up. People are now coming out. Not far from here is the Museum of Resistance, the Norwegians who resisted the Nazis in World War II.
Well, on Sunday, hundreds of Norwegians held a torch-lit march in Oslo to criticize the selection of the European Union for the Nobel Peace Prize. Just before the march, I sat down with Hedda Langemyr, the director of the Norwegian Peace Council.
HEDDA LANGEMYR: I was very surprised. And I was surprised because not long ago we also had a strong negative reaction to the prize in 2009, when Obama received it. Last year, when it was given to Tawakkul Karman and Gbowee and Sirleaf Johnson, we, maybe naively, hoped that the Nobel Committee was on better thoughts and had better intentions for the prize. However, it was a big disappointment for us, because we believe that this year's prize contradicts Nobel's will and the intentions for the prize.
AMY GOODMAN: What is Alfred Nobel's will? What does it say?
HEDDA LANGEMYR: It says that the award should be given to person that has done most or best for disarmament, for fraternity and for the organization of peace congresses of the last year. If you look at the EU, EU is of course no single actor. It's not a person. They haven't done that much for peace the last year, and they are actively facilitating armament, processes which contradict with the disarmament component in Nobel's will.
AMY GOODMAN: How are they facilitating armament?
HEDDA LANGEMYR: Well, the member states of the EU have had an enormous increase in the weapon industry. This goes for Turkey. It goes particularly for Germany. The EU member countries also represent about one-third of the global arms export in the world. And there are nuclear weapons placed in five different EU countries. What the EU as an institution does to facilitate this is through something called the ICT Directive that was introduced this year. So the year they're receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, they are launching a directive that facilitates weapon industry and export through making the industry a part of the internal market, which means that it's much easier for the EU member countries to avoid their national legislators on this. So, it's liberalizing the conditions for weapon production and export.
AMY GOODMAN: And how clearly are you heard in Norway when you speak out? Explain how the Nobel Peace Prize is decided.
HEDDA LANGEMYR: The Nobel Committee consists of five members appointed by Parliament, and in a very closed and confidential process with not many voices or members included. What we do is comment on this on an annual basis, trying to invite the Nobel Committee to a debate on how to come back to the foundation this prize was built on from the very beginning, and which the Nobel Committee is moving further and further away from. In that sense, we have fairly easy access to media. We do a lot of public debate work, and we do a lot of pure informational work, because a lot of the people in Norway don't necessarily know so much about Nobel's will or know so much about the Nobel Committee or know so much about the criteria for the prize. So one of our main tasks also in this period of time is to inform about this, to awake public consciousness and to awake public mobilization.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you oppose President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009? And do you feel the same way about him today, in 2012?
HEDDA LANGEMYR: Well, opposing in 2009 was very easy. At that time, he was a state leader, commander-in-chief, waging two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, increasing military troops in Afghanistan, waging two wars that we were principally against and that were not going well at all. And in that sense, that was a very clear paradox. You're basically giving the peace prize to a warrior. And during his speech, when he came to Norway and held his peace prize speech on December 10th, he actually used the word "war" more often than he used the word "peace," which is also kind of illustrating what kind of real political atmosphere he's a part of and not only different from, but incompatible with the intentions of the prize and guidelines for the prize.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you've talked about the European Union militarizing the world. On the issue of the austerity programs that have been imposed on southern European countries, can you talk about your concerns there?
HEDDA LANGEMYR: Well, when it comes to the packages to Greece, for instance, the EU is dictating major cuts in certain parts of their national budget, but at the same time they're delivering a premise. That is, that Greece is not to reduce their weapon import, which means that, relatively, EU is dictating an armament process in Greece in a situation where they are severely suffering and there are extremely many different obstacles and dilemmas to be handled. And in that sense, the weapon import, it's not reflecting security, or even political need. It's a waste of money, and leading to a rearmament process in Greece that nobody is really served with. And this is just one of many examples of how the EU is facilitating the weapon flow, arms economy and profit.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, can you tell us about the building that your window overlooks?
HEDDA LANGEMYR: Yes. This is the governmental building that was attacked on July 22nd, 2011, where eight people were killed by Anders Behring Breivik, the terrorist that later attacked and killed 69 young Labor Party youth in the island called Utøya. I also think that the physical closeness of those acts of extremism and those acts of brutal violence also is a constant reminder for us working here in the Peace House of what kind of forces we are up against and have to continue working against also in the time to come.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Hedda Langemyr, the director of the Norwegian Peace Council, speaking yesterday just before the peace protest. She also attended the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony today, right behind me at Oslo City Hall. The ceremony has just ended. About 20 heads of state in Europe and heads of government are now conducting a working lunch before the big banquet at the Grand Hotel.
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We have dedicated our lives to working for peace because we have seen the many faces of armed conflict and violence, and we understand that no matter the cause of war, civilians always bear the brunt of the cost. With today's advanced military technology and the continued ability of business and political elites to filter what information is made public, there exists a great barrier to many citizens being fully aware of the realities and consequences of conflicts in which their country is engaged.
Responsible governance requires fully informed citizens who can question their leadership. For those citizens worldwide who do not have direct, intimate knowledge of war, yet are still affected by rising international tensions and failing economies, the WikiLeaks releases attributed to Manning have provided unparalleled access to important facts.
Revealing covert crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, this window into the realities of modern international relations has changed the world for the better. While some of these documents may demonstrate how much work lies ahead in terms of securing international peace and justice, they also highlight the potential of the Internet as a forum for citizens to participate more directly in civic discussion and creative government accountability projects.
Questioning authority, as a soldier, is not easy. But it can at times be honorable. The words attributed to Manning reveal that he went through a profound moral struggle between the time he enlisted and when he became a whistleblower. Through his experience in Iraq, he became disturbed by top-level policy that undervalued human life and caused the suffering of innocent civilians and soldiers. Like other courageous whistleblowers, he was driven foremost by a desire to reveal the truth.
Private Manning said in chat logs that he hoped the releases would bring "discussion, debates and reforms" and condemned the ways the "first world exploits the third." Much of the world regards him as a hero for these efforts toward peace and transparency, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result. However, much as when high-ranking officials in the United States and Britain misled the public in 2003 by saying there was an imminent need to invade Iraq to stop it from using weapons of mass destruction, the world's most powerful elites have again insulted international opinion and the intelligence of many citizens by withholding facts regarding Manning and WikiLeaks.
The military prosecution has not presented evidence that Private Manning injured anyone by releasing secret documents, and it has asserted in court that the charge of "aiding the enemy through indirect means" does not require it to do so. Nor has the prosecution denied that his motivations were conscientious; it has simply argued they are irrelevant. In ignoring this context and recommending a much more severe punishment for Bradley Manning than is given to US soldiers guilty of murdering civilians, military leadership is sending a chilling warning to other soldiers who might feel compelled by conscience to reveal misdeeds. It is our belief that leaders who use fear to govern, rather than sharing wisdom born from facts, cannot be just.
We Nobel Peace Prize laureates condemn the persecution Bradley Manning has suffered, including imprisonment in conditions declared "cruel, inhuman and degrading" by the United Nations, and call upon Americans to stand up in support of this whistleblower who defended their democratic rights. In the conflict in Iraq alone, more than 110,000 people have died since 2003, millions have been displaced and nearly 4,500 American soldiers have been killed. If someone needs to be held accountable for endangering Americans and civilians, let's first take the time to examine the evidence regarding high-level crimes already committed, and what lessons can be learned. If Bradley Manning released the documents, as the prosecution contends, we should express to him our gratitude for his efforts toward accountability in government, informed democracy and peace.
To learn more about Bradley Manning's case or to get involved, visit the Bradley Manning Support Network website.
In our September 17 issue, JoAnn Wypijewski examined the situation of the founder of Wikileaks, in "For Julian Assange: Justice Foreclosed."
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