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Breivik Is Not ‘One Of Us’


From the New York Times:

Mr. [Anders] Romarheim[, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies] said in some ways the homegrown nature of the attack made it harder for Norwegians to accept. “With 9/11 in America, people could ask, ‘Who are they?’ and could pour their rage out on someone else,” he said. “But we can’t disavow this person, he’s one of us.”

This is a strange comment, based upon a dangerous conceit. It is true that with 9/11, the terrorists were from outside the United States, but this was by no means the source of American “rage.” To take such a position is to presume that there is a special class of condemnation for the Other, which I do not believe exists. Americans were not outraged by the attacks of September 11 because the perpetrators were from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Lebanon, but because they murdered 3,000 innocent people and violated all civilized norms. What made the 19 hijackers distinctly not “one of us” was their behavior — not their ethnicity or their nationality. I cannot conceive that there would have been a lesser outpouring of anger had the 19 been from Cedar Rapids.

We have an instructive example of this: The four London bombers of July 7, 2005 were not just British-passport holders; three of them were actually born in the United Kingdom. This did not, contrary to Romarheim’s logic, make the British any less capable of disavowing the guilty. Nor should it. A better analog in the United States, perhaps, is Timothy McVeigh. Like Anders Behring Breivik, he was born in the country in which he committed his crimes and was superficially of the mainstream. But McVeigh was not just “disavowed” for carrying out the Oklahoma City bombing; he was executed for it.

This is a subtle, but important point. It should be made clear time and time again that the objection to terrorism is behavioral. It has nothing to do with one’s origin. It does not matter where the enemies of civilization are from. They must be disavowed when they cross a line as spectacularly as they do. I am afraid that, native or not, the fact that Anders Behring Breivik was capable calmly of gunning down children in such astonishing numbers very demonstrably removes him from being “one of us.” 


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