McVeigh and Breivik: Cowards of Chaos
A little more than a week ago, on 22 July, Norway suffered a devastating attack when Anders Behring Breivik first detonated a bomb in Oslo’s government quarter and then engaged in a child-centered killing spree on a nearby island retreat. Breivik has claimed responsibility though not criminal culpability for his actions, surely a chilling distinction.
Here in America some may unfortunately restrain their horror based on our experience with terror and the number killed–77. It is worthwhile to remember, however, that Norway is a very small country with less than 5 million citizens—77 is a huge number. Were the same proportion of our population to be killed in the US, the number of dead would be just under 5,000: many more fatalities than Oklahoma City, WTC 93 and 9/11 combined.
Breivik, so he says, is motivated by the outsized task of saving Europe from the scourges of multi-culturalism, specifically the integration of Muslims into western society typically through robust immigration policies. He has been variously described as "far-right", "ultranationalist" and an "Islamophobe." Initial descriptions of Breivik as "Christian Fundamentalist" have now been withdrawn as he discarded Christianity as a religion though he considers himself "culturally Christian", whatever that means.
Regardless of his stated reasons or his political proclivities, he chose as his target the current Norwegian government, by bombing it, and the future government, by attempting to destroy its formative members and leaders. Having killed dozens, he sheepishly surrendered to police as they arrived on the island of Utoya. So much for being a crusader.
An early blogger took exception with a characterization of Breivik as a Norwegian Tim McVeigh. For good or ill, that is exactly what he is.
Curiously, after perpetrating their heinous acts they chose to attempt to escape on the one hand and to meekly surrender on the other. Why?
They are most certainly cowards—they chose to attack unarmed defenseless civilians—Breivik specifically chose children and McVeigh referred to the daycare dead in Oklahoma City as collateral damage.
(And McVeigh’s steely stoicism on the death room gurney doesn’t count because a dearth of emotion is not a sign of bravery or courage but rather a textbook symptom of psychopathy.)
They were both possessed with grandiose visions of themselves where they saw their acts of horror contributing to some greater good. They represent an extreme form of narcissism where human life—other than their own—is without value.
A cherished aspect of free speech is the right to hold and to share views and ideas that others will consider extreme and ill-advised. McVeigh and Breivik prove that we are willing to accept that gift while failing to protect it with even commonsense steps. They prove that a perverted ideology coupled with the tools of destruction can (at least) threaten democracy.
Their weapons of choice were of the "mass destruction" variety. They both employed ammonium nitrate and Breivik used semi-automatic weapons including the Ruger mini-14 and a Glock pistol. (And dum-dum ammunition.) He also obtained ten 30-round magazines from the US. (Who says the US doesn’t export terror?)
It is reported that Norway has a large number of gun owners but a very low rate of gun-related violence so the presumption that they are anti-gun is not borne out. It will be interesting to see if, in the coming months, Norway moves to protect commonsense gun ownership rights while simultaneously stopping the proliferation of the types of guns and gun accessories that allow for mass-death attacks, something the US has utterly failed to accomplish, with Congresswoman Giffords, Judge Roll and others being the most recent "high-profile" victims.
For the last years for which data was available, Norway had 5 homicide gun deaths and the US had 9,484. If we had the same "gun culture" as Norway, a place where hunting and gun ownership is venerated, and by extension their gun homicide rate, US gun homicides would be 307 a year.
We should ponder that.
……….. Eric Lamar