Swedish Weapons Inspectors: A History

The United Nations head chemical weapons inspector in Syria, Sweden’s Ake Sellström, responded to concerns over Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons with a dazzling display of patient examination and prudent analysis in the tradition of fellow Swedish disarm-o-crats Rolf Ekéus and Hans Blix. As Sellström’s heroics have rekindled popular interest in Swedish weapons inspectors, many readers have written to GPI with questions: Why are so many weapons inspectors from Sweden? Why are they so rad at inspecting? We offer this brief overview of Swedish history in the hope of shedding some light.

9,000 BCE   Early Europeans migrate to Scandinavia in an effort to become more pale, a move aimed at increasing sensitivity to ultraviolet light, thereby exposing the destructive powers of man’s original nemesis: the Sun.

c. 700   Beowolf becomes Sweden’s first weapons inspector after finding, neutralizing Grendel, Grendel’s mom. Anglo-Saxon poets immortalize his story in verse, wreak terror on generations of high school sophomores.

artwork by Bob Deaton

Swedish Chef uncovers weapons stockpiles outside Pyongyang,
describes the find as an unqualified “bork.”

c. 800   The Viking Age begins. Far-reaching and vigorous attempts at weapons inspection are widely misinterpreted as raiding, pillaging. Vikings fail to find WMD, succeed in discovering Greenland, Iceland, North America.

c. 1100   Sweden converts to Christianity. The onset of Black Death raises legitimate doubts regarding the wisdom of this decision. Sweden’s inspection capacity is reduced by one third.

1300-1900   Sweden joins neighboring kingdoms to form Norway-Sweden, Sweden-Finland, Sweden-Denmark-Sometimes Greenland, et al, as Nordic states couple and decouple through centuries of diplomatic turmoil like so many woolen socks in a dryer. Weapons inspectors struggle to understand the nature of these fleeting alliances, indeed to understand the nature of all things.

1858    King Oscar I standardizes the diameter of the meatball. Nourishment abounds.

1867   Alfred Nobel discovers stores of dynamite beneath his laboratory, imposes severe sanctions on himself in the form of cash prizes for scientists, humanitarians.

artwork by Bob Deaton

Thor, son of Odin, god of thunder and protector of all mankind, addresses the U.N. General Assembly regarding Article VII of the Biological Weapons Convention.

1939   World War II begins. Sweden declares neutrality, inspects weapons from a safe distance.

1974   ABBA wins the Eurovision Song Contest through the cunning manipulation of blonde hair, steely good looks. “Waterloo” later revealed to contain subversive, pro-inspection messages.

1998   Rolf Ekéus finds no evidence of WMD in Iraq, is promptly ignored by President Bill Clinton.

2003   Hans Blix finds no evidence of WMD in Iraq, is promptly ignored by President George W. Bush.

2013   Ake Sellström admits he enjoys being ignored.

artwork by Bob Deaton

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Categories: International politics

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