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World Norway Is Passing The Test Of Terror

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
July 24, 2011
Norway is Passing the Test of Terror

Of course the atrocious terrorist attack shocked Norway. But the biggest shock to the world may be that it isn't changing Norway.

If there was really ever such a thing as a hard rain falling, it fits the description of the rain that has pounded down on Oslo ever since the terror attack last Friday. Every now and then the sound of thunder morbidly replicates the bomb explosion heard all over Oslo and beyond two days ago. It's as if nature is telling us to stay inside, remain glued to our computers and tv sets. Demanding that we continue connecting the dots, in what seems as an endless pursuit of a valid explanation.

It reminds me of the aftermath of September 11. I worked at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and even as a foreigner felt haunted by the horror of the events and the question marks they left. The quest for answers led me to the same numbing media consumption I am experiencing these days. Watching the same sound bytes and images over and over. The somewhat desperate attempt at reading all the relevant hash tagged Tweets, searching for an angle that would give extra information, extra perspective, extra comfort.

The typical step a society takes after a terrorist attack is towards stricter security measures. It happened after 9/11 and has continued to happen in the US in the decade that is soon to have passed. Obviously, as a symbol of Western civilisation the US is a more prominent terrorist target, and concise parallels are difficult to draw. However, Norway has surprised foreign observers I have spoken to, and maybe even ourselves, in that we instead have managed to take a step back. Through careful reflection proving that there are other ways of maintaining order than merely through more rules and regulations. That increasing the social trust, in a society that already enjoys amongst the highest levels of social trust in the world, is a more rewarding option.

The attacker identified himself as a Christian, conservative, anti-Islam nationalist. Although his methods fortunately were unique, his alarmist diagnosis of the threats of multiculturalism are more common, even in Norway, than we like to admit. However, instead of retaliating politically, legally or simply through moral finger-pointing towards groups and individuals harbouring these beliefs, the Norwegian government has retaliated with more democracy.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has stated clearly that the terror will be met with more democracy and more openness. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has made clear that tomorrow's Norway will be fully recognisable. Not only have these phrases been repeated. They have been implemented. The city centre was quickly reopened. Norwegian politicians and the Royal Family have spent the last days meeting with large crowds of people, with limited security, always at a discreet distance.

Even more interesting, perhaps, there hasn't even been a public outcry for more security for the politicians to address. No opposition politicians, not even social media voices, have demanded more public security or pointed to the lack thereof as potential discouragements to the attacks. There has been no visible debate on gun laws or even on the sale of fertilizer, used by the attacker. Neither has there been calls for stricter legal punishment, Norway has 21 years as its maximum prison sentence. The limits to rhetoric in public debates have not been addressed. Norwegian terrorism expert Tore Bjørgo explained in an interview that more extensive computer surveillance could possibly have detected the attacker's plans. But quickly added: "Although this is obviously a level of monitoring the Norwegian people would not agree to."

In his speech at 15 year commemoration of the Oklahoma bombing, former president Bill Clinton addressed how politicians' and political commentators' words enter into "an echo chamber that travels through space and falls on the connected and unhinged alike". He was subsequently criticized by some Republicans of tampering with their freedom of speech, and although Clinton's warning may be a fair one, it is not likely to gain support in Norway these days. As a young Labour politician said on Twitter: "Bring the attacker's political ideas to the table, and we will debate them to death".

The first aid kit for social renewal has been commonly accepted as more openness, more democratic involvement, more transparency, less speculative rhetoric, less suspicion. Everything the attacker opposed. This seems bound to prevail through the local elections this fall. It is true that the Norwegian Progress Party has harboured far right tendencies in the past; many were not surprised to learn that the attacker was a former party member. However, of recent years, the party seems to display a less emotional and more pr-polished, strategic approach towards anti-immigration issues. The occasional fishing trip in the muddier parts of these waters seems unlikely to occur in the coming elections. How could it? Anti-Islam extremism has just proven a deadlier threat to Norwegian society that Islam extremism. As someone wrote on Twitter: "Seems we have more to fear from the fear of multiculturalism, than from multiculturalism itself."

The lessons of the Arab Spring taught many on the Norwegian far right that the intentions of the vast amount of the Muslim population were not an Islamic Sharia state after all, but merely democracy. The very freedoms that formed the background for most of our domestic Muslims' will to emigrate in the first place. Sadly, this became evident too late in the attacker's nine-year planning process. And surely long after any political analysis had been clouded by hate. His vast library, lengthy manifesto and widespread political references cannot hide that fact that his words didn't add up. When all analysis evaporated, the majority of his political opponents were simply and banally labelled Marxists.

Norway's long history of occupation, last during WW2, may still affect our mindset of staying calm and carrying on. In 1940, the Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg wrote: "We are so few in this country. Every fallen is a brother or a friend." This rings true today, when a generation of youth politicians have been targeted. A whole nation is dreading the publication of the list of deceased. As Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg put it immediately after the attacks: "A political youth camp is perhaps one of the finest features of a democracy".

The target couldn't have been more vicious, young people just becoming aware of the ways of democracy and citizenship, many not even able to vote, staking out the part they were to play in shaping the nation's future. In Norway, youth politicians matter. They fill our parliament and prominent minister postings. When I as a diplomat accompanied American journalists to Norway, they were all struck by the level of influence young people enjoy in Norwegian society.

Surprising for many, even the media have kept their cool. While foreign media erupted in Islamic terror speculation (The Sun had "Al Qaida attack" on their front page, even News York Times elaborated lengthy on these suspicions). Norwegian media, in most part, waited patiently for all the pieces to emerge. In social media, people are taking responsibility, calling for everyone to pause and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Maybe the whole media and public debate would have been different if Norway was attacked by Islamists? Then again, being attacking by a blonde, blue-eyed native we could have un-suspiciously grown up along side, seems just as chilling. And in the end, we know that none of us can say with any certainty what might have stopped the bomb from exploding and those shots from being fired. Or explain the thoughts lurking in the inner recesses of the attacker's mind.

As a consequence, Norway has reason to pride itself with its swift return to normality. And keeping calm, not even fearing fear itself.
source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/eirik-bergesen/norway-is-passing-the-tes_b_908008.html?ir=Canada


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Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
July 25, 2011

Norway Suspect Hints That He Did Not Act Alone


OSLO — The 32-year-old man accused of Norway’s worst massacre since World War II now says that two cells of extremists collaborated with him, a court here said Monday, ordering him to be held in complete isolation to prevent him from interfering in police investigations into potential accomplices. The defendant had previously said he had acted alone.

The defendant, Anders Behring Breivik, appeared at a closed arraignment hearing here as Norwegians paused in grief and self-examination for a minute’s silence to mark the deaths of at least 93 people in last Friday’s attacks.

While acknowledging that he carried out the attacks, Mr. Breivik “has not pleaded guilty,” Judge Kim Heger told a televised news conference, in remarks translated by an official of the court.

The judge said Mr. Breivik had been charged under criminal law with “acts of terrorism,” including an attempt to “disturb or destroy the functions of society, such as the government” and to spread “serious fear” among the population.

Mr. Breivik was ordered to be held for the next eight weeks, the first four in solitary confinement. He told police that there were “two further cells in our organization,” reporters were told.

Mr. Breivik is the only person accused so far in the twin attacks last Friday when a huge bomb in central Oslo killed seven people and was followed soon afterwards by a shooting rampage against a camp run by the ruling Labor Party on the nearby island of Utoya.

In testimony, Mr. Heger said, Mr. Breivik had said he “believes that he needed to carry out these acts to save Norway” and western Europe from “cultural Marxism and Muslim domination.”

The court appearance was Mr. Breivik’s first since he was captured last Friday. Through his lawyer, he had indicated that he wanted to use the hearing as a platform and had wished to appear wearing some kind of uniform. But the court rejected those requests. The judge said Mr. Breivik had wished to “give a sharp signal” and inflict “the worst possible loss” on the Labor Party, accusing it of failing to prevent a “mass importing of Muslims” into Norway.

Shortly before Mr. Breivik’s arrival, the court said in a statement, “Based on information in the case, the court finds that today’s detention hearing should be held behind closed doors.”

“It is clear that there is concrete information that a public hearing with the suspect present could quickly lead to an extraordinary and very difficult situation in terms of the investigation and security,” the court said.

Minutes earlier, as noon approached, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg stood before crowds of people and urged them “to remember the victims. I hereby declare one minute’s silence across our country.”

All that could be heard in some places was the cry of gulls as trams stopped, cars pulled over and Norwegians bowed their heads, standing to attention with their hands clasped in prayer. Even after the formal 60 seconds, many seemed reluctant to move on, locked in private thoughts.

Rescue workers in red suits and fluorescent jackets stood in silence on a lakeshore near Utoya island outside Oslo where at least 86 of the dead perished on Friday in a rampage of gunfire that lasted at least 90 minutes. Earlier the same day, a huge bomb explosion had rocked government offices in central Oslo, killing seven people.

Mr. Breivik admits to the shootings and the bombing, his lawyer, Geir Lippestad, has told Norwegian news media, but he rejects “criminal responsibility.” Mr. Lippestad said that Mr. Breivik insists that he acted alone, and alone wrote a mammoth manifesto — rambling from a hostile historical look at Islam to recipes (and price lists) for bomb manufacture to his family’s pressure on him to date.

“He has said that he believed the actions were atrocious, but that in his head they were necessary,” the lawyer said. “He wanted a change in society and, from his perspective, he needed to force through a revolution. He wished to attack society and the structure of society.”

The minute’s silence in central Oslo and elsewhere came after a morning when people gathered quietly, some in tears, to contemplate the spreading blanket of bouquets in front of the Oslo Cathedral.

In the same place on Sunday, the royal family and average citizens alike, some traveling long distances, came to a memorial service for the dead in the cathedral. Long lines of people of all ages and colors waited patiently and quietly, some of them crying, to lay flowers or light candles. Someone propped up a radio on a post so those waiting could listen to the service inside.

Unexpectedly on Monday, the hunt for evidence also spread to southern France, where, The Associated Press reported, French gendarmes searched the house of his father, Jens Breivik, who was said earlier to have lost contact with his son many years ago. It was not clear what the officers were looking for or what they had found.

The Norwegian police and security services meanwhile faced numerous questions about their slow response to the reports of shooting on Utoya, where the country’s governing Labor Party was holding its annual political summer camp, considered Norway’s nursery school for future leaders. The police took an hour to arrive on the island after the first reports, and officials said that it was hard to find boats and that their helicopters were only capable of surveillance, not of shooting down the killer.

Some speculated that Mr. Breivik had wanted an open court proceeding on Monday in order to further publicize his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas, which center around the conservation of cultural and Christian values in the face of what he sees as a continuing effort by Islam to conquer Europe since the Ottomans were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683. His manifesto, called “2083 — A European Declaration of Independence,” seemed intended to reflect the 400th anniversary of the siege.

Mr. Breivik was said by analysts to have been an occasional commenter on a blog, Gates of Vienna, which is topped by these words: “At the siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe. We are in a new phase of a very old war.”

According to the police, when he surrendered, Mr. Breivik was carrying an automatic rifle and a pistol and he still retained “a considerable amount of ammunition.” Doctors have said that he was apparently using dumdum bullets, expanding rounds designed to inflict the deadliest wounds possible victims.

With no death penalty and the longest prison term possible in Norway set at 21 years, some Norwegians wondered how best to punish Mr. Breivik.

Hedda Felin, a political scientist and human resources manager, said that giving Mr. Breivik an open platform “was more of a reward than a punishment.” He said in his manifesto that he considered killing Norway’s top journalists at their yearly meeting, she said, for not listening to him and his arguments.

“He wants an open trial to be listened to, so journalists will now write about his ideas,” Ms. Felin said. “A real punishment would be not to write about him at all.”

There were church services all over Norway on Sunday. At the Oslo Cathedral, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway, who joined Monday’s minute of silence, were both in tears on Sunday, and they were hardly alone. Prime Minister Stoltenberg, who knew many of the dead, said, “We are crying with you, we feel for you.” The brief period since the killings “feels like an eternity — hours and days and nights filled with shock and angst and weeping,” he said.

“Each and every one of those who has left us is a tragedy,” Mr. Stoltenberg added. “Together, it is a national tragedy.”

Steven Erlanger reported from Oslo and Alan Cowell from Paris. Elisa Mala contributed reporting from Oslo.




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