Huseby residents write protest letter to President Obama
Since 1959, the U.S. Embassy has been located at Drammensveien 18 (now Henrik Ibsens gate 48), a prestigious and attractive location in the heart of Oslo.
Recognizing that the current location unfortunately no longer meets current security and needs of the citizens of Oslo and the Embassy community standards, the Embassy undertook a lengthy search to identify a suitable location for a new facility. In June 2004, the U.S. Government signed a purchase agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense for a tract of land at Huseby as the site for a new Embassy.
On May 29, 2009 the Supreme Court in Oslo gave the U.S. Embassy the final OK to built the new embassy at Huseby. “It has been a long and difficult process and we are pleased to have taken this important step. With the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, it is time to move beyond the political and legal disputes. Constructing a new embassy is the right step for our national relationship, right for the citizens of Oslo, and right for Norwegian and American staff at the embassy. We are ready to continue our dialogue and look forward to being good neighbors with the local community,” said the Embassy statement on the Supreme Court decision about the New Embassy Compound (NEC.
The opponents and neighbors of the new Huseby sight, who have been fighting this project for five years, are far from happy. They have even written a letter to President Obama:
Dear President Obama,
We address you because our politicians follow you. They do not follow their hearts or their voters, they follow you.
You have been president only for a little over five months. We, in this community, have for five years tried to stop a project that was started – not by you, but by George W. Bush.
Like other projects started by the Bush administration, this one destroys the environment, it is driven by fear, and it defies good values of freedom and equality that Americans and Norwegians share.
If the US embassy in Oslo is built as planned, you will raise a monument over the fear policy of George Bush in Oslo. We hope that you will stop that.
The Bush plan is to occupy 10 acres, or 40 000 square meters of the beautiful Huseby forest. For the last sixty years the forest has been a public park where kids and grownups play, train, walk their dogs, ski and pick berries and wildflowers. You will fence in the park, and build a stronghold, protected by a tall steel fence, half a mile long. The US diplomats need protection from terrorists.
We do not understand why the leader of the free world needs to hide inside a prison-like fortress, in a peaceful place like Norway. We do not understand why America need twice as much security space here as in London, or even more space than in Kabul, Afghanistan. Norway is an open and peaceful country. We have never had attacks by terrorists.
The fright of George Bush had no limits. If we are to be that frightened, we have to move away from here when the embassy moves in. We will have to close down the sports halls that lie across the street. The embassy is built to survive a giant bomb. Our houses or sports facilities are not. It is, in fact, civilians, not diplomats that get killed when embassies are attacked.
Saving the Huseby forest may seem like a small environmental issue. But to us it is of huge importance in our everyday lives. And when it comes to taking care of our environment, it is the sum of small destructions that makes the large impact.
Some people have said that we are a “not in my back yard movement” That is not true. We hoped that the new embassy could be raised half a mile west of the chosen lot.
It is not true that we do not want USA diplomats in our neighbourhood. We welcome US diplomats, not only in our back yard, but also in our front yard. We welcome all Americans, diplomats or not. You are welcome to walk on our streets, to ride our trains, to study in our schools, to play Frisbee in our park and to sing in our churches. You are welcome to visit our homes, stay over for dinner or for the night.
But you are not welcome to destroy a public park though dictating our politicians. You are not welcome to construct a palace of panic in a community based on trust, openness and caring. And you are not welcome to put up a monument saying; “Hey terrorists, this way! We are really scared, and we are hiding here!”, next door to a sports hall, where 2000 Norwegian children train every week.
We understand that the new US administration wants change. Change from the politics of fear. This is an opportunity to demonstrate change that we can believe in. It is an opportunity to stop a project that has George W. Bush written all over it and that will stay in our city for at least one hundred years.
Please show some common sense. Find a civilized solution for the new US embassy in Oslo.
We don’t want any more George Bush attitude in Oslo. We want to get back the America that we know, love and admire.
On behalf of ten neighbourhood associations around the Huseby forest