To: Gordon Brown – From: An Icelander

Dear Mr. Brown,
(cc: The international press)

Here in Iceland, we are busy dealing with a series of mistakes in government, regulation and banking operations.

As a result of a total collapse of our banking system, customers in the UK have feared for their deposits in Icelandic banks, just like every single Icelander has. In accordance with international law, the Icelandic government has relatively clearly stated that it will guarantee the minimums required for private citizens. (They’re not always good with words – sorry about that…)

Municipalities and organizations – that are by law considered “professional investors” – may unfortunately have lost significant amounts. Up to 1% of their assets in some cases as I’ve understood. It may come as a surprise to you, but professional investors all over the world are losing gigantic amounts these days. Even 10s of % per day in some cases. Iceland is not to blame for that.

I know that it’s considered good domestic politics to find a common enemy in the time of crisis. It can hide facts about one’s own failing policies and create a team spirit at home, rallying against the new foe. Seems like your little scheme worked.

Up here is an entire nation – where most of us citizens are at a real risk of losing pretty much everything we own – we’re trying to put up a fight. If you can help even just a tiny bit by clearing up your deliberate misunderstanding – great. If you can’t, please stop bullying us, find someone of your own size to pick on and leave us alone while we try to rebuild our society more or less from scratch.

Your lad,
Hjalmar

35 comments

  1. Snilldar bréf Hjalli. Orð í tíma töluð. Segir allt sem segja þarf. Spurning hvort þú sért á lausu í PR-mennsku hérna í UK?

  2. I like Icelanders.

    However, once the people of the UK get the money they are owed then everything will be fine.

    As your PM said, “Every country for itself.”

    Lastly, I don’t remember Iceland worrying about UK fisherman when they used official state boats to ram them during the “Cod War.”

    They were people too. They had livelihoods too. The UK had to back down because of the threat that Iceland would leave NATO.

    What goes around comes around.

    PS. I want to state again I do like Icelanders. You understand realpolitik and use it when it suits, so take it on the chin and move on.

  3. Dear Mr. Cod.
    You are either misinformed or deliberately telling lies.
    The only boats rammed during the cod wars (both of them) were actually icelandic coast guard vessels, rammed deliberately by UK warships that were sent by the UK government to icelandic waters to protect english pirates.
    The bulliing tactics you describe as realpolitik should not be senn from a civilised government. However a cornered rat like your Mr. Brown obviously is prepaired to stoop lower than a flat snake.

  4. Dear HT,

    I take exception to you calling me a liar, but then anyone can read Wikipedia and see the accounts of the ramming AND net-cutting that Iceland participated in.

    If the ramming is disputable, the net-cutting of civilian boats by official Icelandic boats is not.

    In any case, your “english pirates” remark only shows you are ignorant about who these fishermen really were. Most weren’t english at all. Most were Scots.

    I can see by your ranting and insults, that you are incapable of civilised discussion. I twice, and deliberately, said I liked the Icelandic people.

    However, if you give it you have to take it. As your PM said “Every country for itself.”

    Cod bless.

  5. Dear Mr. Cod,

    since you are citing Wikipedia you might have noticed this sentence :
    “…..the Icelandic ship Týr was caught trying to cut the nets of the trawler Carlisle. Captain Gerald Plumer of nuclear-armed HMS Falmouth decided to ram V/s Týr. The Falmouth at the speed of 22+ knots (41+ km/h) steamed into the ship, almost capsizing her.”

    I think we can all agree on the dramatic effect of ramming a boat down….most likely more dramatic than cutting nets. And also, what other means of defending themselves did Iceland have? As you can also see on Wikipedia the Icelandic fishermen were at a slight disadvantage against Britain, with their frigates and destroyers.

    The most important fact here is however, that Iceland was defending its terrtorial waters…defending their livelyhood and Iceland was at that time almost solely dependant on fishing. Unlike Britain, who I am sure had other means of supporting themselves.

    But Hjalmar´s article isn´t about the cod war, it´s about what´s happening today…it´s about the fact that your prime mininster has decided to kick Iceland while it´s down instead of focusing on his own backyard.

    By saying that I am not defending the way that the Icelandic banks have acted but to react in this way the prime minister has poured gasolin on a fire that was already flaming…

    Kind regards….

  6. Dear Fisherman’s Daughter,

    Iceland unilaterally expanded it’s territorial waters, against all international law. There are disputes over who rammed who, but it is clear both sides had ships with holes in them.

    What is undeniable is that official Icelandic state boats cut civilian trawler nets. And let us not pretend the UK was some sort of bully. If she had wanted to, the Royal Navy could have wiped every Icelandic ship out in a few hours. Instead of complaining you should ask how many other nations would show such restraint. Do you think the US or USSR would have allowed shots across their bow without punitive measures?

    However, if you read my post I AGREE with the actions of Iceland. I admire them. It was for survival and Iceland knew the UK needed Iceland inside NATO more than the jobs of a few thousand trawlermen and so eventually had to back down. I understand that.

    My point is, Iceland used force and realpolitik to suit itself. It didn’t care about UK fishermen. It didn’t shed a tear over their livelihoods.

    That is life.

    And now the tables are turned the UK is looking after itself, in the same way your PM said he would look after Iceland. This time Iceland has no leverage. Don’t play games with the big boys if you don’t have anything to give.

    The admirable thing about the Icelandic people is that for centuries you have never blamed others. You couldn’t afford to. Now, instead of blaming your own politicians you look for a scapegoat. Maybe your recent riches have made you soft.

    The weird thing is, most Icelanders are richer (or where) than the people of the UK who are looking to get their money back.

    Yet you see yourself as the victims.

  7. Dear Mr. Cod.
    Let’s start wit the cod wars.
    The facts are there. Fisheries in Grimsby and Hull (that still were a part of England last time I checked, weather their employees came from Scotland or Mongolia or wherever is beside the point) refused to acknowledge Icelandic control over the icelandic territorial waters. While it is correct that the icelandic cost guard used specially designed cutters to cut the nets of the trawlers the ramming of wessels was done by the UK vessels (with possibly one exception).
    But this is beside the point. The point is that your PM seems to have decided to use the current situation to increase his ailing popularity by using a small nation as a scapegoat. And the irony of it all is that it may well turn out that the exaggerated reactions of the UK government caused damage to the very same interests it claimed to be protecting. As for my comparison of Mr. Brown to a rat, I should probably apologize… to the rat.

  8. Dear HT,

    Maybe you are right. Maybe the UK Prime Minister should put the interests of Iceland before the UK?

    Or maybe you should grow up?

    “Every country for itself.” – PM Geir Haarde

  9. Hey Hjalmar, this is Simone Brunozzi here.
    I’m very sad to know how bad Iceland is doing these days. I really hope you’ll find a way to resurrect, since Icelandic people deserve a bright future.
    Buona fortuna!

    Cheers,

  10. Dear Mr. Cod.
    As far as I can see PM Brown has put the interests of Gordon Brown above anything else. Overreacting based on, at best a lack of communication with his darling, and at worst direct lies, leading to more damage to the very investors he claims to want to protect. The goal? Popularity on the domestic market. It certainly seems to be working in your case.
    But shooting the scapegoat won’t get you more milk…

  11. Dear HT,

    I fail to see your point. Of-course he is looking after himself and the UK. What politician doesn’t?

    However, to many in the UK, Iceland tried to take advantage of UK citizens. That is not acceptable.

    “Every country for itself.” – PM Geir Haarde

    PS. Your new-found victim-hood is not becoming of an Icelander. Stop whining and get on with it.

  12. Mr. Cod says: “The weird thing is, most Icelanders are richer (or where) than the people of the UK who are looking to get their money back.”

    This statement leaves me a bit puzzled. What does Mr. Cod know about ordinary Icelanders and how they live? Very few of us are rich by UK standards but, regrettably, many have these past years lived way beyond their means. Furthermore, does Mr. Cod claim to know the financial situation of those UK citizens who made deposits into IceSave accounts? As far as I know deposits made by all individuals are guaranteed to be paid back. We are all poorer now than we were, we have all lost money (all over the world). And no, life is not fair.

    I would never try to apologize for these financial idiots of Iceland who went abroad and made a catastrophic mess of things. I´m ashamed of them, and I am in many ways ashamed of my government´s action and lack of action. But I have never in my life gambled with money, let alone stolen any. I´m not rich, I am just an Icelandic mother of three, struggling to keep my house, my job, my dignity in these terrible times. It will do no good to fight, European nations would do better if they stick together.

    Sometimes it feels good to blame someone for bad things. I myself choose to blame the US for most things that go bad – they are big enough to take it – and big enough to make real damage in the world.

  13. Dear Mr. Cod
    Just to make things clear, I am in no way condoning the business practices of the companies involved. But do you think it is fair to hold an entire nation responsible for three banks? Are you prepared to accept responsibility for all actions of all UK firms all over the world?
    I also completely disagree with you when you state that “The weird thing is, most Icelanders are richer (or where) than the people of the UK who are looking to get their money back.” That is certainly not the case in my circles.
    However, back to the main issue.
    PM Brown is not looking after UK interests. That is the point.
    He overreacted greatly, using the Anti-terror legislation to freeze and eventually kill the only survivors of the crisis. The end result of his actions will probably cause unnecessary damage to the very people he claims to be working for, and the only gain will be a short term increase in his own popularity.

  14. Dear Ordinary Icelander,

    I think rich is the wrong word. I believe most (if not all) Icelanders have a much higher standard of living than tens of millions of people in the UK.

    For instance, in some parts of the UK, the life expectancy is only 54.

    In any case, if it was up to me I would loan Iceland what they wanted because I believe it would all be paid back. It is your nature.

    However, although the “cod wars” are a footnote in history and you would struggle to find many British people who know of it, never mind discuss it, I fear in the halls of Whitehall the UK Civil Servants remember it well.

    For them – not the British people – it may be pay-back time.

    It may be time for Iceland to bite the bullet, join the EU, and get back to basics. When it comes to the crunch nations only look after themselves. Better to be in the tent, than out. Iceland is too small to surf the waters of the modern world alone.

    If the present shows anything – it is that no matter how proud or how big you are, everyone is interdependent.

    I wish you well.

  15. Dear HT,

    No it is not acceptable to hold an entire nation responsible for the three banks.

    I don’t think any British citizen has any animosity to Iceland at all. Some of your points are justified, but I think your complaint about realpolitik is just silly. It’s dog eat dog, as Iceland have proven in the past.

    In any case, here are some articles that may interest you:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/daniel_hannan/blog/2008/10/09/we_are_treating_iceland_disgracefully

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/10/10/dl1001.xml

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/iceland/3167216/Iceland-bank-collapse-The-history-of-the-Cod-War—financial-crisis.html

  16. Dear Mr. Cod.
    It seems our difference of opinion is mostly based on semantics. What you call realpolitik, is in my opinion a desperate attempt of a sinking politician trying to boost his standing in the next poll. Let us just hope that the victims of the situation get all possible help, and that the real culprits, be they greedy icelandic bankers or stupid english financial advisers get what they deserve.

  17. Thanks for all the comments. I’ll leave the cod war dispute to you guys as that was before my time and I pretty much thought that the matter was settled 🙂

    On the matter at hand I have a few quick points:

    * We all feel bad for people that are insecure about their financial situation. Believe me – we know the feeling!

    * I’m not victimizing Iceland or Icelanders at all. On the contrary. We’re fighting to keep our economy standing and we will stand by all commitments, even though most of us had no idea we had made them. It’s just the civilized thing to do.

    * People that deposited money in the Icelandic banks have not lost their savings. The government is selling off the banks’ assets and hopefully they’ll cover all deposits. If they don’t, the government will back them up to the mentioned minimums. The UK government will back that even further as they do for other banks operating in the UK, so everything is done to keep private losses at minimum.

    * The main point of my letter was that your prime minister has successfully managed to use the troubles of Iceland to distract the press from the fact that the UK government was at the same time throwing tens of billions of UK taxpayers’ pounds into your own financial system – a system that is on the verge of collapsing itself (I hope it won’t). This is probably a new world record in PR spin – at the mere cost of the reputation of a small nation up north. A small price to pay for a couple of days of media distraction these days.

  18. Dear Mr. Cod (and of course Mr. Brown)

    Mr. Cod says: “I don’t think any British citizen has any animosity to Iceland at all.”

    FYI we have been getting reports here in Iceland from Icelanders all over the UK who have had to call for police protection outside their houses 24/7. One woman and her family have endured rude comments, threats and accusations from her neighbors and one even came up to her front door and smashed a couple of empty milk bottles she had just put outside. She has called for police protection and there are presently two police cars outside her house, guarding it. She is now not only living in fear of how to overcome this financial crisis, the fear for her family’s safety has now been added.

    Other Icelanders living in the UK have similar stories to tell from the past few days, since PM Brown, so conveniently, decided to “misunderstand” words that were quite clearly spoken.

    One man was refused service at a local supermarket, where he had gone to buy groceries, and told that it was company policy not to service Icelanders. I would understand shops being reluctant to take Icelandic credit cards given the situation, but this man wanted to pay for his bread and milk with cash from his pocket.

    Now, please don’t get me wrong here, I’m not stating that the people of Britain are evil or that you are in any way bad people. I have lived in London myself, loved it to death and hope to move there again someday, and some of my best friends are English. It’s the ridiculous accusations of PM Brown and his almost psychotic attempt to turn the eyes of the world away from him and his problems, that have gotten through to the people and somehow made them believe that 305.000 people met at a street corner and decided they were going to steal loads of money from those evil Brits who tried to take some of our fish a million years ago. Like Hjalli said:

    “This is probably a new world record in PR spin”

    My heart goes out to all those who, right at this moment, are losing their money all over the world. Of course we will do everything we can to make sure that the damage is minimal for everyone. It’s terrible that institutions like fire departments and local police in Britain are suffering heavy losses in their funds. It’s also terrible that my best friends grandparents have lost almost 40 years of life savings because the only bank still standing in Iceland was forcibly taken over and “shut down” because one mans popularity ratings were a bit down.

    The point I´m trying to make here is that what Gordon Brown did was completely irresponsible, unprofessional and only made matters worse. Tens of thousands of People, both in the UK and in Iceland lost even more money. And it is my opinion that the man should not be allowed to speak officially anymore, just as a part of damage-control, in case he lets something slip about, say for example Bush. He’s war-hungry enough as it is.

    We had a good run, here in Iceland, for the past few years. Some people got richer than they could handle and big-fish bankers bit of more than the whole nation could chew in 12 years, and they will get what´s coming to them. We are all mad. We are all hurting. The last thing we need is to turn on each other and play a blame game. It will get us nowhere.

  19. A few things seem to be hard to get through to the international media:
    1) No Icelandic official ever suggested that the Icelandic authorities would go back on their possible legal obligations towards the Icesave account holders. That bullshit originated from Alistair Darling who was looking for a handy enemy to divert the attention away from the British authorities own incompetence.
    2) It may well be that the Icelandic authorities won’t need to compensate those account holders if the assets of Landsbanki are sufficient to meet those claims.
    3) Local authorities, charities and such are not covered by any compensation scheme, if they lose any money (Which is not yet clear! Again, there are assets to meet claims, at least partially.) then that’s too bad. They took risks and they lost. The nationality of the bank is of no relevance there.
    4) The insane use of anti-terror legislation against the Icelandic banks contributed to the troubles of those British depositors, especially those who had accounts at Kaupþing. The bullshitting Darling and Brown caused a run on that bank with their lies about Iceland planning to dishonor their foreign obligations. There was never any evidence to suggest that Kaupþing was about to fail and in any event, their UK operations were guaranteed by the British deposit insurance system, no the Icelandic one. Darling and Brown killed Kaupþing, causing tens of billions of pounds of damage to the shareholders of that bank, including many Icelandic pension funds and essentially robbing the live savings away from many hard working Icelanders. Those guys are criminals.

    Mr Cod:
    Do not give me the drivel about those poor Hull fishermen, Iceland also had poor fishermen. The resources of the seas are not without limits and it’s sort of annoying to see the neighborhood bully raping those resources just off your shores. When the international consensus started to form about a 200 nm exclusive economic zone in the early 1970s the Icelandic government jumped on that opportunity like any government even remotely concerned about the interests of their nation would. The dying empire knew from the start of that conflict that they were on the losing side in the matter but still they chose to kick tiny Iceland around for a while, apparently for the fun of it.

    If this current banking crisis is any reason to bring up the Cod Wars, then why don’t we go even further back to the illegal invasion and occupation of a neutral sovereign nation in World War II?

  20. Dear Ms E.

    If there are any Icelanders under police protection, or Icelanders refused in shops my name is George W Bush and I am a lizard from the planet Zog.

    I have never heard so much rubbish in my life. In fact you are either a crazy liar, or you are believing what your neighbours neighbours old Uncle Magnusson said, while he spoke to Jesus.

    I bet you can’t give me one newspaper report of this can you? Thought not.

  21. Heil og sæl!

    Slítum stjórnmálasambandi við þá og förum í mál! Við erum kannski blönk en við þurfum ekki að láta koma fram við okkur eins og við séum orðnir nýlenduþrælarnir þeirra.

    Kv.
    Kristín

  22. I don’t think the above discussion reflects Icelanders whining or looking for someone else to blame at all. All we are saying is that we were in dire straits and the honourable Mr. Brown accentuated the situation and in the process made not only our problems even more serious but also negatively influenced the lives of thousands of Brits who either had direct/indirect business with Kaupþing or worked for them.

    It touches the core of our proud hearts when somebody who is fighting an honest struggle for their lives is kicked in the head and the chance of survival is taken from him.

    I hope that when the dust settles people see this PR stunt for what it was.

  23. Dear MR. Cod,

    I’d just like to point out that you’ve taken Geir Haarde’s words out of context. You cite it as if this is a statement that he made and endorsed. That’s misleading, almost a lie. In fact this was his interpretation of the reaction he got from other countries. He said: “It seems it’s every country for itself” referring to what he took to be the way others view matters. This was crystal clear from his statement. Please don’t misattribute to Geir Haarde sentiments that he has never expressed.

  24. Dear all,

    I cannot believe that you are wasting your time discussing the cod wars! The only number in the universe that is important now is 350! Not 350 trillions, or billions, or millions in whatever currency you use but 350 ppm CO2! That is the maximum concentration of CO2 that produces a safe planet to live on. We are at 384 ppm and rising about 1 ppm every 6 months. This needs to be reversed – or we will cook the planet and the livelihoods of our children.

    Join the 350 movement – now. I live in England but I am moving to Iceland and will plan 350 events all next year, culminating in a major event on October 26 when the 350 movement will be launched across the planet.

    Organise 350 events yourselves – 350 primary school children playing, 350 people in the Blue Lagoon, 350 bankers in jail, 350 kronas in a jar – whatever comes to mind!

    Find out more at:

    http://350.org/

    … and join …

    How can we reduce CO2 in the atmosphere? We can pump it into oil reservoirs (being done in Norway), we can pump it into geothermal systems (experiments under way in Iceland), we can bury it in the form of charcoal in soils (Amazon indians used to it) – a world-wide action is starting, we can produce less CO2 (park the hummers and cycle in stead), take the bus, fly less etc etc

    Dump the above web link into your address books and lest get started in producing a habitable planet.

  25. Dear George W Bush, the lizard from the planet Zog. (Applauds for being SO original and witty)

    Of course I cannot produce any newspaper articles on this since that is not where I got these information, and quite frankly I have so many more productive things to do at this time of crisis, than to go around looking for newspaper articles to prove my point to a stranger. Besides, my level of caring weather you believe me or not is below zero!

    If you can read Icelandic than maybe you should check out this woman’s blog. She is the one who had to call for police protection outside her house the other night.

    http://blekpennar.com/?p=524

    Kind regards
    Ms. E

    Ps.
    Mr. Cod says: “I have never heard so much rubbish in my life. In fact you are either a crazy liar, or you are believing what your neighbours neighbours old Uncle Magnusson said, while he spoke to Jesus.”

    I do not take kindly to being called a liar, although the “crazy” part is in fact true, but who’s not a little crazy from time to time.
    I find this whole comment very rude and not really fitting your previous comments on how much you like Icelanders. It does sound a bit like it came from the mouth of a Dane. Very disrespectful! Have we started to annoy you yet?

  26. I have heard of Icelanders being threatened in the U.K. i have not seen it or heard of this happening locally but i am ashamed that it is happening. When times are bad people naturally look for someone to blame. Gordon Brown was not calling every Icelandic a terrorist. A large amount of the councils in the U.K. put their money in Icelandic banks, they were at risk of loosing this money as many people were or already have. Gordon Brown has been having a difficult time in the British Parliament at the moment as he is having to deal with the legacy and mistakes left by the previous PM Tony Blair. Gordon Brown would have taken this action in an attempt to show that he was a strong leader and was able to cope in times of difficulty. The money that could have been lost by councils who put their money in Icelandic banks would have put the country in difficulty as many councils have no money and would be pushed in to becoming bankrupt – which would in course lead to the collapse of the government and PM Brown’s job and the collapse of the already struggling British economy. Every government will do what it has to do, the politicians want to protect their backs. They want to remain popular with the British majority so as to stay in power. I do not agree with using a terrorism act against Iceland what was has been done has been done and i dont expect an apology from Gordon brown or his government any time soon. I too have lost money in this crisis, we cannot look back and blame each other for the difficulties as everyone is in the same situation. This crisis should have brought both Iceland and britain closer together but this has not happened and nobody can change this now and we must look to the future and see that we should not abuse anyone, we must become stronger and work through the crisis.

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