Theater of Cruelty

Politicians on the ground

Hometown critics have made a cowardly and conscious choice: the US embassy should remain where it is for many years to come, and affect the lives of tens of thousands of people very negatively, writes Jan Borgen.


Few days before the election in September, Kari Pahle was asked about her views on the case regarding relocation of the US embassy in Oslo. "It's about finding a safe plot, because if we have an uncertain location of the US embassy, ​​it's also uncertain in relation to Oslo's population," she told NRK.

She thus kept a cool head, did not let the embassy placement become an election campaign issue, and rejected that SV needed to mark opposition to American interests in the placement case. For her, the core issue – the most important, overriding consideration – has always been the security of the embassy and the city's population. Naturally. Politics is a priority. Politicians' responsibility to weigh conflicting considerations, and prioritize important. Dare to make a choice. Do not appear. Do not shift the responsibility to others. Not to act cowardly. "Too bad to take away a free area at Huseby", she must have thought, "but necessary when it comes to ensuring the safety of the city's population".

Pahle thought holistically, thus choosing the path of greatest resistance. Not surprisingly, the proposal has met opposition locally, as it would at any place in the city. But she did not let herself be fooled, as others did, by the message of a communications advisor at the head of a group of people resident in Huseby, Montebello, Mackerel Bay, Hovseter, Smestad, Ullern, Vestre Aker, Røa, etc., areas on the safest west.

In contrast to Pahle some urban politicians have chosen the path of least resistance. They are in principle against moving the embassy from the densely populated area in the city center to open land on Huseby (where the intention is to regulate only 10 per cent of a free area of ​​400 acres). They do not base it on a holistic perspective, and not on objectivity, professional expertise, openness and good faith. Erling Folkvord (RV), Akhtar Chaudry, Ivar Johansen and Marianne Borgen (SV), Ola Elvestuen (V), and Helga Strømme (Ap) are among the politicians who have led a weak argument. It must be because they are too cowardly to face reality:

1) It is underlined that a no for building an embassy on Huseby soil really means that the embassy will remain in Drammensveien for many years.

2) There are untruths about "alternatives" to Huseby land. It is stated that the FO building, Fornebu, etc., has long been assessed and not found to meet the safety criteria. The deaf ear is turned to those who say that better alternatives are non-existent. Perhaps politicians think they know better than police and specialists what security means for the site election. Chaudry is among the bluff makers. It's been over a month since he said he would name some safe, suitable plots in three days. It is not surprising that he is still guilty.

3) It is envisaged that the city council will be able to find an alternative site by the end of 2006; one is unable to argue that it is realistic. It took 7 years, an assessment of more than 30 plots, cooperation between government, municipality and embassy, ​​and about NOK 4 million in costs (paid by the Americans), before finally finding a safe, suitable site (Husebyjordet). The hometown critics pretend that a thorough process was not found before finding the homebuilding. They view, believe, believe. What is likely and realistic is less interesting.

4) It was suspected that the embassy deliberately thwarts local self-government, and is not humble or flexible enough. For example, Oslo Ap .: «We expect the Americans to make sense… It is against all reason that they have rejected about thirty plots». The location of the American embassy in Oslo is not a question of flexibility on the part of the embassy. It is believed that Norway has host obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and cannot impose on the Americans a new plot of land they find unsuitable. It is believed that the Oslo Embassy is one of more than 80 embassies worldwide to be relocated and that all new embassy plots are assessed on the basis of common criteria established by US law and which can only be amended by the US Congress. Relocations of American embassies have been carried out in several European cities, all of which have been assessed according to the same criteria as in Oslo.

5) It is distorted that the embassy will remain in Drammensveien for many years, also because the congressional grant to build a new embassy today is linked to the site on Husebyjordet. In a no-no to Huseby, the appropriation will lapse, and money will not be allocated for many years because the construction of embassies in other countries is in the meantime given priority by Congress.

6) It is said that Norwegian police and security experts strongly recommend that the embassy move from Drammensveien without delay, for the sake of the safety of the city's population and the embassy's 200 employees. Without delay, the decision to move must now be taken. Not in a year or at any other time.

7) It is said that the terrorist image in Drammensveien affects more than the residents of the "local community". The terror threat also affects the safety of tens of thousands of public road users, the Palace, the Foreign Ministry, the Nobel Institute, etc.

8) Ivar Johansen and others seek to deceive people into believing that the terror threat to an embassy on Huseby will be the same as in Drammensveien, while Helga Strømme and others try to make people believe that some (the embassy and the Norwegian authorities?) to export the terrorist threat to the residents of Huseby. For my part, I listen to the experts who say that the threat picture there at all cannot be compared to that in Drammensveien. (Oslo Ap also finds it inappropriate that in newspaper statements I have pointed to the terrorist danger just in Drammensveien, claiming that the terrorist threat is "just as great and greater elsewhere" than that! )

9) It is concealed about the serious environmental consequences of the embassy remaining. The Planning and Building Agency, the professional body that manages the largest overall competence in urban development in Oslo, has made a brief assessment. The embassy's increased security needs will significantly affect the city plan in Oslo. Drammensveien and other roads will probably have to be closed and cars, trams and buses redirected. Accessibility is reduced and the environment is deeply polluted into the office, residential and school areas. In the Planning and Building Agency's own words: "An extension of the embassy's security zone […] must be considered obviously dramatic." The entire road system west of and on Ring 1 will probably be affected. If the city council forces the American embassy to remain in Drammensveien, this is done without any planning, social or market analytical consequences having been seriously considered. No one can claim that the politicians have control over the urban consequences of an extended safety zone in Drammensveien.

Conclusion? The hometown critics have made a conscious choice: the embassy will remain where it is for many years to come, and affect very negatively the lives of tens of thousands of people. These will be forced to live with fear of terrorist attacks, and with an environmental chaos. Some of the House critics say they have made a difficult choice. That I can understand.

Jan Borgen is a parent at Ruseløkka school and a neighbor of the US embassy.

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