Sunday, July 24, 2011

Early Lessons From the Norwegian Tragedy

Once again the world has witnessed a tragic, incomprehensible mass killing by a mad man. I feel for Norway, but especially for the parents of the slaughtered teenagers.

Lessons are to be learned from this disaster, as with all these tragedies.

First, be careful about jumping to conclusions about the actors.

Initial speculation focused on Islamist fanatics. The dual attack, first the government center, and then Utoya Island, had some of the characteristics of Radical Islam, especially the planning.

That was wrong, as it was with Oklahoma City.

It is equally wrong though, as with the Times Square wannabe bomber, to immediately cast suspicion away from radical Islam. The reality in the United States is that school shootings are usually crazy students while the traditional terrorist attacks are from Radical Islamicists. Some are plotted overseas, e.g. 9/11, the Shoe Bomber, Christmas Day Bomber, and the Times Square Bomber. Some are home grown terror cells, and others represent what is often referred to as The Sudden Jihad Syndrome, as with Major Nidal, the Fort Hood Shooter. Some, as with the London subway bombings, are a combination.

That said, this was a right-wing nut job, as was Timothy McVeigh.

The mainstream media is beginning to overreact by, once again, castigating and pillorying the right –wing fanatics. They are a risk, as we also know from bitter experience, but they do not pose the highest terrorism risk – that remains the Islamic fanatics.

One of the greatest lessons from Norway was the ineffectual response from Norwegian police. Anders Breivik methodically went on his killing spree for 90 minutes, while the campers frantically cell phoned their parents and the police. The police claimed an inability to find a boat or helicopter that could get them to Utoya Island. Heads should roll in the police and the government for that failure.

We have learnt the hard way the need for emergency action plans, contingency plans,
and rapid response teams in law enforcement. No country should be so complacent in this troubled world of semi-automatic weapons, ammonium nitrate, IED’s, and crazed mad men (The assailants are almost always male) as to believe it’s immune or sheltered from random acts of violence.

Second, some crimes cry out for the death penalty. Let’s watch the upcoming debate in Norway.

As a personal matter, coming of age in the 1960’s as America was struggling to advance quality to all Americans in the Civil Rights Era, I resented Europe adopting a Holier than Thou posture, attacking the racism in America. The history of racism in post-World War II Europe is shameful. America was striving to right grievous wrongs in its past, while France and Italy are currently discriminating against Roma. The inability to assimilate immigrants, coupled with Islamist terrorist attacks, has fueled the growth of conservative, anti-immigrant political parties. Europe is currently witnessing a rise in anti-Semitism, reminding us that non-Germans were willing collaborators with the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Third, Europeans decry America’s Culture of the Gun, an image reinforced by the high crime rates and random acts of mass killings in America.

Yet Europe, gun free Europe, has suffered mass shootings, even in schools and government offices, in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and Norway in the New Millennium prior to yesterday’s shootings. China had an epidemic of crazed adults killing students last year with knifes, cleavers, and hammers. Nor should we forget Canada.

A Norwegian psychopath, who is trying to start a new crusade against Islam, by killing Norwegian teenagers and posting a manifesto, drawing heavily on the Unabomber’s manifesto, is no more rational than Timothy McVeigh blowing up a pre-school at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as a protest against Ruby Ridge and Waco.

The perverted “logic” of some of these killers indicates more of a need for 15 minutes of infamy than to right a wrong. Anders Breivik's reasons are as crazy and irrational as Jared Loughner's in the January 8, 2011 Tucson shootings.

We live in troubled times in a universe of random acts of violence. We cannot prevent all of them, but improved security can reduce the risk.

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