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Crisis? What crisis?

Governments are now peddling myths to cover up their own inaction during the first few days of the catastrophe. They are stating that the magnitude of the catastrophe was unknown and, therefore, they did not feel compelled to set up the emergency infrastructure to supply information to distraught relatives. One of the first countries to feel the angry wind is Sweden, where the Foreign Minister attended the theatre on Boxing Day night, with appalling lack of judgement.

Der Spiegel’s article highlights the comparison between government confusion and private sector organisation:

Swedes are fuming. Partly, they are unleashing their rage, horror and sense of utter helplessness in the face of a disaster felt by almost every family, directly or indirectly, in this tightly knit nation of 9 million. But they are also launching some very sharp criticism at a government that failed to absorb the magnitude of the Asian tsunami and took too long to respond. As many as 4,000 Swedes were swept into the tsunami’s watery folds.

An editorial in the mass-circulation Aftonbladet lambasted Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds for not showing up to work until more than a day after she learned about the disaster. Even worse, said the paper, Freivalds did not sit worriedly at home like so many Swedes on Sunday night. Instead, she went to the theater in Stockholm. She did so knowing full well that, at that point, 10,000 people were already believed dead on Southeast Asia’s beaches, which draw Swedes in droves each winter. And she didn’t exactly rush to get to the office. “At nine o’clock the next day their chairs at the foreign office were still empty,” hissed the paper. “Not until 10.30 a.m., 31.5 hours after the death wave, did the foreign minister arrive at work.”

Is this grounds for Freivalds and Prime Minister Goeran Persson to resign? The paper thinks so, as, it seems do many Swedes. Since Wednesday, the Swedish Ministry has been deluged with thousands of nasty e-mails accusing the government of indecision, failure to act and not doing enough to help stranded and wounded Swedes get home. “You and your government’s incompetence shines like a beacon in the night,” wrote one Swede. “Today, Dec. 28, the government’s weakness and indecisiveness surpassed my wildest and most terrifying fantasies,” wrote another. Commentators, too, are lashing out. “I am ashamed of being Swedish when I have a prime minister who says that he can’t get more people answering telephones because it is Boxing Day (Dec.26) and people have the day off,” wrote Claes Thilander in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

This contrasts with the role of Lottie Knutsson, the information director at Fritidsresor, a travel company.

In fact, one of Sweden’s unlikely new stars is Lottie Knutsson, director of information for the travel company Fritidsresor. Since Sunday, Knutsson has been working tirelessly to arrange flights home for Swedes and to get the government to ship more medicine and send more airlifts to get the injured home. “Let Lottie Knutsson from Fritidsresor change places with Göran Persson,” one reader wrote to the Foreign Ministry. On Thursday, the headline of the daily Svenska Dagbladet screamed “Bring them home now,” referring to Swedes still stranded in Thailand.

It takes a disaster to bring home to many that their political elites, having sold their mess of pottage to Brussels, no longer subscribe to the notion that they are servants rather than masters.

16 comments to Crisis? What crisis?

  • By noon (GMT) on boxing day it was clear to me that this was going to be a massive disaster requiring major relief. What the hell did they expect to happen with a force 9 quake and a tsunami hitting most of the coasts in Asia?

  • Judging by the large amounts of money raised by appeals,a simple request on television for volunteers to man the phones would have been enough.
    The hand over of power to Brussels has left our elected politicians as mere cyphers,we have indeed sold our birthright for a mess of pottage

  • toolkien

    Again, I think the message here is clear. It doesn’t matter what level of gov’t is in play, they grow fat on the good times, taking credit for inherent industriousness, convincing the masses that but for them all would crumble, and when true adversity strikes, the Statists run for cover from the storm.

    These are mediocre (at best) bureaucrats who have made a good con job as long as they could. Will the blinders finally come off? Nope. The answer apparently seems to be “give us more”.

  • It’s hard for anyone to wrap their brain around the magnitude of that tsunami catastrophe. But 350 million dollars is a huge amount of money! And still our critics don’t think America’s bighearted? Give me a break!
    Be aware of A.L. Warner’s new book, “Arlyne Lucille: From…to…,” obtained at major online bookstores or 877-289-2665. Excerpts can be viewed on Bonnie and Bill Homepage, Arlyne Lucille – http://home.att.net/~bandb14139/

  • Verity

    I am sure everyone noted with relief that our own little international media spotlight megastar, Mr Photo-Op Tone’ll-Fix-It wasn’t evident, suitably costumed up in a brand new sarong (Cherie already has the saris, courtesy of the Hindua brothers) directing relief ops single-handedly.

    Does it strike anyone else that this was a dog that didn’t bark? It would take more will power than this man possesses to forego elbowing his way in on this drama. I think Tony Blair is sick. I can’t think of anything else that would spare the world his trembling chin and puerile, “inspiring” little lectures.

  • Meanwhile the “stingy” US has just launched an appeal which includes both Presidents Clinton and Bush Sr. Bush Jr held a press conference with the two Presidents at about the same time as Colin Powel and Jeb Bush arrived in Indonesia.

  • The 1999 Earthquake that killed 20.000 people in and around Istanbul was a huge wake up call for Turkey. Everyone understood for the first time what a useless pile of s**t their state was. People in the affected areas were screaming obscenities at the state (normally an offence).

    Its sad that only in such extremes do people get to see so clearly the true nature of the parasites that rule them.

    The state’s response to an NGO that led the rescue attempts was very telling. They saw them as competition and were not at all happy with their success. It took a few days of very outspoken critisism for them to change their minds.

  • Foreign Minister Freivalds is a national disgrace. The only reason she is minister over anything is that Anna Lindh was assassinated.

    Did you know why Sweden haven’t send any field hospitals yet? Sweden doesn’t have any field hospitals at all!

    Actually, next time I’ll need surgery, and it’s not an emergency. I’ll go to Thailand.

    I’m pretty proud on behalf on my countrymen. (Colletivist! Collectivist!) Swedes have raised at least 400M SEK, and more is to come. Hell, Swedens greatest etatist Lars Ohly, the leader of the communist party, urges people to donate money.

    All in all, this is a great case against state foreign aid. Individual, not states, can express kindness.

  • Verity

    Anna Lindh was just as bad. She was a euro federalist.

  • Gary Gunnels

    So was Freivalds using her cell phone at all or otherwise in contact with her office?

    Andrew Ian Dodge,

    I think you are harping on the issue a bit much. The guy who made the statement appears to have retracted it after all.


    Anyone else notice that Carrefour was rushing supplies (from its local stores) – water, food, clothing, etc. – to the effected areas within hours of the disaster?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I think the gap between the wonderful generosity and gusto of the voluntary charities on the one hand, and the initial hand-wringing performances of governments, on the other, is pretty stark.

    Anyway, let’s keep a beady eye on how well the aid gets shipped out and distributed, and try to resist any ideological grandstanding. The blogworld can show what it is made of in this crisis. We have a chance to make a little positive difference. Let’s make it.

  • Sigivald

    One wonders what those people expect the Foreign Minister to do?

    It’s not like she can mobilise Sweden’s vast airlift fleet and navy to commence rescue operations, as Sweden has neither (and if it did, they’d doubtless be under the control of the Defense Minister).

    Could the Foreign Minister do anything other than make reassuring and appropriate noises, and at best direct the Swedish embassies in the appropriate countries to, er, do whatever it is they might be able to do, which is to say very little?

  • Fred

    Geez. I think this is more of an artifact of Swedes paying so much in taxes and expecting so much much from the state that they can’t comprehend that there isn’t much the Swedish government CAN do.

    Might as well go to the opera now, it might be weeks before one can do it again. Meanwhile another couple of hours can allow the local embassy to work, elbow unjogged, to get lists up, to contact locals to see what might be needed, etc…

    It took *local* governments longer than that to figure out what was going on, much less try to figure out what was to be done about it.

    I really hate this mentality of bitching at people who can;t do anything useful right away anyway from going on with their plans, rather than making some stupid gesture and gettting right to work.

    We ALL know it’s the lower and middle bureacrats ( private or public) who have to get cracking so that a couple of hours later, senior people can look at the summary reports and make intelligent decisions.


  • You think I am beating a dead horse Gary? Then I guess you haven’t read the reports Diplomad about UN behaviour in the disaster area.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Andrew Ian Dodge,

    Well, in the first place, Egeland didn’t call the U.S. stingy in his speech, did he? Indeed, I believe he levelled his comments against the West in general. If you can point to a transcript that states otherwise please post the URL of it.

    And what exactly does what you posted have to do with your original statement? Nothing. Unless you are claiming that folks on the ground there are claiming that the U.S. is “stingy?” Sorry, but stories about the U.N.’s incompetance do not equal stories about claims of the U.S. being stingy.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Andrew Ian Dodge,

    As far as I can tell all the “outrage” was created by elements of the American press, etc. as they spun his comments into an anti-American rant or anti-UN rant depending on the party/ideology one belonged to.*** Outrage based on phony stories (as this appears to be) gets a little tiresome after a while.

    ***Note that I am a libertarian.