Barack Obama in Sweden


When I start writing this text it’s 10.17 a.m. on Friday, September 6th 2013. On the minute two days ago the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama was jogging down the stairs from his plane Air Force One waving his left hand. He had come to Stockholm, Sweden for discussions with the Swedish leaders among others.  This on his way to Russia and the G20-meeting.  The drawing you see above I made yesterday evening after a photo taken during his visit here. The red carpet had been rolled out on the airport of Arlanda, and the American President was welcomed by the US Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt (Conservative), and three of the party-leaders within the ruling Liberal-Conservative Government: Annie Lööf, (The Centre Party), Jan Björklund ( the People’s Party the Liberals) and Göran Hägglund (the Christian Democrats).  After the polite greetings and talk about the weather President Obama took his seat in the limousine called The Beast and was taken in caravan with 40 following cars and about 600 employees and onto the streets of Stockholm. The streets of the Swedish capital city had been closed for most traffic. On roof tops were police snipers and secret service men to controll the safety for the president. At eleven o’ clock President Obama stopped a little while at the Grand Hotel for a talk with their Ambassador Brzeninski. Two hours later he arrived at Rosenbad which is an official Swedish Government building for any ruling government. There Barack Obama was met by our present Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, (Conservative), a man Obama now met for the eleventh time. “Good to see you”, Reinfeldt said and it was evident that the two leaders got on fairly well. Shortly afterwards a rumour said that a shoe-box outside the mall Åhléns might be a bomb, which then was proven to be false alarm.

At ten to three in the afternoon Barack Obama and Fredrik Reinfeldt held a press conference at Rosenbad and the journalists had to be security cleared three hours in advance. Four questions were allowed, two from American journalists and two from Swedish Television. At the press conference the American President began with a short “Hej!”. Short laughter in the audience. He said that he valued the Swedish troup efforts in Afghanistan and our work to cut the outlet of green house gasses in the air. “Sweden is prominent when it comes to tackling climate changes” he said, which made the Swedish Prime Minister nod. The USA sees Sweden as an important partner in free trade between the USA and the EU. Negotiations are going on and if they succeed both economies will be given 900 million kronor each. That kind of treaty will make jobs for both American and Swedish citizens, President Obama emphasized.  The Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt avoided sensitive areas, but not the press. Obama was asked about the planned attack on Syria and also about the American NSA and their espionage on EU citizens via Google, Facebook and Microsoft. This was revealed earlier this year by former NSA-employee Edward Snowden, which has made him unwanted in and hunted by the US authorities.  Obama admitted that the surveillance is a difficult balance for a super power. He said: “I can assure people that we’re not snooping around in your e-mail or listen in your phone calls. Our focus is on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. “… “I have given the NSA orders to look over their instructions. We must balance between goals and means”. He also got questions about a plausible military intervention in Syria. He sees it as his moral duty to intervene in Syria with military efforts, after Bashar Al-Assads attack with chemical weapons on his own people.  This intervention is not gladly accepted by many Americans, nor by the US Congress, nor by the UN, the British Parliament, nor by the Syrians who will suffer even more by new military attacks. Fredrik Reinfeldt explained that our small country isn’t ready to participate in a military intervention in Syria, but follow the UN guidelines.


At 3.30 p.m. The President arrived in the great synagogue in Stockholm to visit the Jewsih congregation there. The fact that Sweden isn’t exactly very Israel-friendly and has big problems with antisemitism, especially in Malmö where I live, has been noted in the USA, where it’s percieved as a big problem. Barack Obama wanted to honour the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who risked his life in World War II Budapest, Hungary in the summer and autumn of 1944 saving 50 000 – 100 000 Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust. (See my latest blog piece about it). Last week was Raoul Wallenberg Day. In the synagogue Barack Obama met survivors of the Holocaust, and Raoul Wallenberg’s half sister Nina Lagergren. The President also had wanted to meet Siavosh Derakhti, the 22 year-old Muslim in Malmoe who recieved the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Prize last week for his efforts against antisemitism in Malmoe. Derakhti had started “Young Muslims Against Antisemitism” and is an important hero in my town.  Because of the bad problem of anitisemitism in Malmoe which has increased the last few years many of the local Jews here have left the city.  Siavosh Derakhti himself was born in Umeå, northern Sweden, but has lived most of his life down here. His parents came from Iran.  Obama had a short discussion with the young man and encouraged him to continue and congratulated him for his good deeds. At 4.40 p.m. Barack Obama came to the University of Technology where he was shown some new Swedish inventions within environment technology, among it the new car Sleipner which recently was driven 1500 kilometres on just one litre of petrol.

However, Barack Obama’s visit has also met opposition and criticism from various directions.  Urban Ahlin, spokesperson for the Social Democrats in foreign affairs thinks that Obama made it easy for himself when he said that it’s his “moral obligation” to intervene in Syria with new military attacks. The President of Svenska Freds/Swedish Peace Anna Ek warn us that an attack might lead to loss of practice. It might also lead to that various countries think that they have the right to retaliate and an escalated wheel of violence.  The Swedish environment movement was not satisfied with the lack of focus on environment issues, and the Swedish Prime Minister was criticized for not asking the questions about US surveillance of EU citizens, but that the question had to come from a Swedish journalist. At five o’ clock demonstrations against the politics of Barack Obama and his leadership were held at Mynttorget/The Coin Square and then at Medborgarplatsen/The Citizen Plaza. The Network September 4th had gathered about 3 000 people from different organizations. Two rivalling Syrian organizations were there protesting. Amnesty and others protested against the Guantánamo prison, which hasn’t been closed as promised, but instead continue jailing and torturing political prisoners, mainly from the Muslim world. The planned intervention in Syria was brought up and also American warfare in other countries as well. Mainly different left-wing organizations had come to Mynttorget and Medborgarplatsen. The Pirate Party, Amnesty, Women for Peace and Justice etc. One Afro-American woman said that Dr Martin Luther King Jr would turn in his grave if he could see what Obama had done of his dream. She added that Obama ought to have the decency to give back his Nobel Peace Prize, and a famous hip hop artist from Sweden said that the dream has become drones instead.  “No to war!” and No to Big Brother Obama” were other messages.

In the evening Barack Obama had dinner at the Sager Palace/Sagerska Huset where the Prime Minister resides. It was a combined dinner and political discussion with Fredrik Reinfeldt, Finland’s President Saulli Niinstö, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg from Norway, the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.  Helle Thorning-Schmidt also brought up the subject of the NSA surveillance of EU citizens and she was rather distinct in her questions. Of course Syria too was discussed along with other topics. Shortly before ten Obama left the Prime Minister residence.

Yesterday morning at half past nine Barack Obama met king Carl XVI Gustav and queen Silvia at the royal palace in the Sibylla salon and discussed with them for twenty minutes. Then he went straight to the airport. Now he was going to Russia for the G20-meeting and discussions with Vladimir Putin. Six female top Ministers from the Swedish government said goodbye and it’s very likely that Sweden and the USA will continue co-operating in various businesses. Today free-lance journalist Alexandra Pascalidou wrote a chronicle in the free gazette Metro. She wrote about Obama’s parents and background. About how many had cried of happiness when he pronounced his “Yes, we can” in 2006. She concluded her article with saying translated from Swedish: ” I am happy because he took some of his precious time to honour the memory of our hero Raoul Wallenberg in the synagogue and putting down his foot against the antisemitism. But on his way to Arlanda, when the E 4 for once was cleared of all traffic he ought to have made a u-turn to Rinkeby or Husby where people from all over the world lead lives which partly are similar to his own. People who partly have ended up in these forgotten concrete kingdoms because the USA has intervened or not intervened in their torn-apart home countries. People who need his warmth and blessings for daring to dream again”. These are words written by a Swedish journalist born in Greece.

I can only hope and wish that some improvements will be made, but I’m not naïve. The problems and violence will escalate, but alongside it we humans will also make attempts to live lives in dignity. We will continue trying to improve, build inter-human bridges and at least in part make the best possible in our diverse and troubled world. I don’t believe that Barack Obama was planning to lie when he wrote his book or when he made his initiation speech in 2006. I still believe that he in most parts have good goals and good ideas, but he is also leader now of a super-power used to show its brawns, and every super-power through history has had the same narcissistic and elephantastic super-ego. That is not always a good thing. The human dignity and human humility is put on hold in a world where we now need it the most. Our atom bombs, other weapons of mass destruction, the nerve gasses and chemical weapons will – if we reach the point of no return – become the weapons of human self-annihilation independent of religion, ethnicity, social class, political system or nationality. We CAN use our human creativity for better usage, for good technical innovations, for good co-operations and peaceful solutions. I hope that Obama and others agree in that realization.

Anders Moberg, September 6th 2013

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