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Anti-Americanism is, of course, as European as Apfelstrudel. But over the last few years it’s rollercoastered like the stock market. The invasion of Iraq sent it skyrocketing. It was muted somewhat by the election of a black man as President of the United States. (That Americans, whom Europeans are taught to think of as incurable racists, had done such a thing rendered some veteran America-bashers temporarily mute.) But European anti-Americanism has never entirely gone away, and the troubles America has been through of late have been the occasion for much Schadenfreude, especially given that they’ve provided a pleasant distraction from Europe’s own even more formidable problems.
Still, it wasn’t until I ran across an article the other day in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet that I realized European anti-Americanism, thanks to Urinegate, is once again in full bloom. The article, written by somebody named Asbjørn Svarstad, begins by noting that the American soldiers who filmed themselves urinating on dead Taliban members may not be the first GIs to have behaved in such a manner. “American commandos who were dropped over Snåsa [in northern Norway] toward the end of World War II,” writes Asbjørn Svarstad, “are suspected of having displayed the same kind of contempt for their enemies.”
The main character in Svarstad’s story is none other than William Colby, who would later become head of the CIA but who back in 1945 was a 24-year-old major in charge of the Norwegian Special Operation Group (NORSO) under the command of the OSS. NORSO, which sounds rather like Brad Pitt’s unit in Inglourious Basterds, consisted of Norwegian-Americans and Norwegians who were operating behind enemy lines on a mission called Operation RYPE. On May 2, 1945, Colby’s men, who were stationed at a farm called Gjevsjøen, were discovered by five German soldiers, whom they quickly dispatched. According to Svarstad, local Norwegians – and here’s the meat of the story – later claimed that they were then invited by the Americans to urinate on the Germans’ corpses.
One of Svarstad’s sources is Norwegian journalist Ola Flyum, whom he describes as an authority on how northern Norway experienced World War II. Flyum’s verdict on the NORSO episode is as follows: “This kind of behavior says a great deal about the way in which the Americans conducted themselves. The Norwegians were shaken. Such a culture was unknown to them. I see many reasons to examine whether this was a war crime.”
Yes, you read that right. The local Norwegians had lived for five years under the Nazis, who had come to subdue and tyrannize them, to execute troublemakers and cart Jews off to their deaths. But, if Flyum is to be believed, the real trauma for these folks was being invited by their American liberators to relieve themselves on the bodies of their oppressors.
Interesting. And even more interesting are the reader comments on Svarstad’s article, which the last time I checked totaled no fewer than 645. Let me emphasize that several readers, to their credit, sought to provide a degree of perspective by bringing up such small details as, ahem, the Nazi death camps. But the overall tone of the comments was set by those who agreed heartily with the implicit message of the article: namely, that Americans are by nature more uncouth – and more prone to violence, war crimes, torture, and abuse of civilians – than anybody else, including the Nazis.
“Most of the Germans,” insisted one reader, “followed the rules and fought a civilized war.” Another agreed, saying that America “is way worse then Nazi Germany ever was.” A third asserted that during the Vietnam War, the US, that “sanctimonious and arrogant s*** country,” had outdone Hitler. A couple of readers cited the Allied bombing of Dresden as proof that America and the western Allies were at least as bad as the Nazis; one recalled having “seen videos from WWII of P51 planes mowing down German farmers in May 1945.” Several readers insisted that it wasn’t the Western Allies that whupped the Nazis and freed Norway, but the Soviets: “America would have been a**-f***ed in a one-on-one against Nazi Germany.”
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