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Researchers who question the legitimacy of US wars, seem to experience being ousted from their positions in research and media institutions. The example presented here is from the Institute for Peace Research in Oslo (PRIO), an institution that historically has had researchers critical of wars of aggression – and which can hardly be labelled friends of nuclear arms.
A researcher is said to seek objectivity and truth.
But he or she learns to select their research topics and arrive at conclusions in accordance with what the authorities and management expect, and this despite the fact that academic freedom is codified in Norway through the “freedom to express oneself publicly”, “freedom to promote new ideas” and “freedom to choose method and material». In today’s societal discourse, freedom of speech seems to be reduced to the right to offend other people’s ethnicity or religion.
But freedom of speech should be about the right to scrutinize power and society. My experience is that the opportunity to express freely as a researcher has become increasingly limited during the last 20 years. How did we end up here?
This is my story as a researcher. For almost 30 years I worked at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), from 1987 to 2017. I became a senior researcher after completing my doctorate in 1989 and led the Institute’s program for foreign and security policy. I received my professorship in 2000 and wrote and edited a number of books on international politics and security policy.
After the Libya War in 2011, I wrote a book in Swedish about this war, about how Western bomber aircraft coordinated operations with Islamist rebels and ground forces from Qatar in order to defeat the Libyan army. (I wrote another book on the Libya War in Norwegian, published in 2018.) Western countries were allied with radical Islamists, just as in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In Libya, Islamists carried out ethnic cleansing of black Africans and committed war crimes.
On the other hand, the media claimed that Muammar Gaddafi bombed civilians and planned a genocide in Benghazi.