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Military uproar over ‘raw’ attitudes

Norway’s military establishment was in an uproar on Monday after soldiers reportedly have showed an “unacceptable attitude,” indicating little remorse over killing and claiming that war “was better than sex.”

Norway's military brass was assembled on Monday for a crisis session on "raw" attitudes within the Norwegian military. PHOTO: Stian Lysberg Solum/Forsvarets mediesenter

The soldiers’ offensive but brutally honest comments reportedly will be published in a new magazine called ALFA and set to debut next week. Newspaper VG reported on its contents on Monday, including some “raw” statements from members of the prestigious Telemark Battalion, who indicated in fairly colourful language that active combat was worth the celibacy leading up to it. “It may sound stupid,” one said, but combat beat having sex.

An officer was quoted as saying that “I have commanded my forces with the intention to kill, and we have succeeded with that. I don’t reflect over whether we’ve taken someone’s life. They have themselves chosen to come to the battlefield with the intention of killing us, so then we’re just as good. We are two parts in a war.”

Yet another member of the Telemark Battalion said that “you don’t sign up to go to Afghanistan to save the world, but to take part in a real war.” He and others seemed to like combat, the more shooting the better.

Defense Minister Grete Faremo and Defense Chief Harald Sunde condemned the statements made by Norwegian soldiers. PHOTO: Stian Lysberg Solum/Forsvaret mediesenter

Norwegian Defense Minister Grete Faremo was not pleased, and quickly called for establishment of a new “ethics council” for the defense sector, to promote “an ethical consciousness and reflection” in all areas and at all levels of the military.

Faremo told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that she favours more openness within the defense ministry and the active military, but claimed that some of the soldiers’ statements published in the magazine ALFA and cited in newspaper VG on Monday portray “unacceptable attitudes that are best left in the dark.”

The top Norwegian general who’s chief of the military, Harald Sunde, was also unhappy over his soldiers’ quotes and claimed they could even weaken security of other soldiers and put lives in danger. Some of the attitudes reported in what the military called a “raw” description of duty in Afghanistan, “build on a culture and ethics that we can’t stand for,” Sunde told reporters on Monday.

The inspector general for the army, Gen Maj Per Sverre Opedal told VG that “these are attitudes about killing, revenge and the value of human life that I can’t possibly defend, they’re attitudes we’re obligated to prevent.”

The army already has held a so-called “crisis meeting” and the head of the Telemark Battalion, Lt Col Lars Lervik, called in his officers to a two-day crisis seminar this week, reports news bureau NTB. Lervik claimed he was worried about a “subculture” that’s been allowed to grow within the unit, including the use of skull symbols that some soldiers also have spray-painted on Afghan homes as part of a power play against the Taliban.

Faremo said she could understand that extended duty in Afghanistan can “distance soldiers from society’s values.” But that doesn’t justify the attitudes portrayed in ALFA, she said.

“The soldiers’ culture is brutal and extreme and most make a contribution that can be respected,” Faremo said. “Contempt for human life can’t be a part of it.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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