Put into perspective – first of all considering the number of inhabitants to number of victims – one could say that what happened on Friday, July 22, 2011 in Oslo, Norway (and on neighbouring Utoya island) is similar to the US 9/11 tragedy. Like then, now a whole nation was devastated by an unforeseeable attack on national symbols – the bomb car attack in the district where the government buildings are – as well as on a nation’s future (the random killing of almost 100 adolescents and the injuring of some 100 more who happened to be attending a political summer school of the ruling Labour Party) symbolised by the younger generation.
After a first false lead – the similes with previous terrorist attacks in Europe made the authorities suspect a new international Islamic terrorist attack – the police announced the perpetrator was a ‘Nordic’, therefore a local, with more details following soon. The arrest and a first questioning of the suspect who admitted to the commission of both attacks removed the first lead. The second lead was suggesting domestic terrorism driven by a violent opposition to the establishment and sourced from the far right, including Neo-Nazism.
Police investigations have brought the details needed for finding out the truth. The suspect reportedly said he had acted alone and that he did not believe he was guilty of anything. 32-year old Andres Behring Breivik described his doing as ‘gruesome but necessary’. The first investigations indicate that the bomb detonated in the Oslo government quarter consisted of farming fertilisers the perpetrator had purchased over the time (more than 6 tons), which could mean that there may still be more unexploded bombs hidden on the island. Breivik is the registered holder of a gun which he used to machine-gun the youth gathering (some still missing and searched for in the waters around the island as many sought an escape by plunging into the waves). He also used a cape similar to the one contained by the standard police gear, which explains the easiness with which the assassin could make so many victims in such as short period of time as the victims probably thought he was there to protect them. Breivik said he had acted on his own, but the police are still investigating into that. A police statement reads: ‘Some of the witness statements from the island have made us unsure of whether there were one or several shooters.’ At the same time, some notations found in one of the suspect’s diaries show that he had tried ‘making contact with cells 8b and 8c in March’. European security services had also spotted an increase of electronic communication among the members of a so-called Knights Templar group Breivik describes in his electronic manifesto. The current investigation will definitely provide more details on the massacre.
The assassin is already described in press and police investigations as a person embracing Christian fundamentalist principles, who wanted ‘to change society and, from his perspective, he needed to force through a revolution.’ He supposedly spent a few years of his life penning a 1,500 page manifesto about his ideas of how the European society currently under the ‘besiegement’ of cultural Marxism, multiculturalism and radical Islamism would be changed. The shooter’s manifesto had been posted on the internet under the pseudonym of Andrew Berwik just hours before the massacre, suggesting a through planning of what was yet to happen. With visible symptoms of megalomania, the author declares himself a descendant of the Knights Templar order – a medieval organisation involved in the 12-15 centuries crusades (the 12 minute youtube video discussing the manifesto, where Breivik posts a photograph of himself next to figures of kings and other personalities of the Middle Ages also mentions Vlad the Impaler – Prince of Walachia (1457–1462 and 1476) – among the champions of the fight against the ‘Islamic besiegement of Europe’. With touches belonging to the white race doctrine or evoking the necessity to defend European Christianity from the planned subversion of Islamism, the manifesto reveals a disturbed person, a megalomaniac possessed by the ‘call’ to ‘awaken’ Europe to the danger lurking down on it. ‘This irrational fear of nationalistic doctrines is preventing us from stopping our own national/cultural suicide as the Islamic colonization is increasing annually’ reads the manifesto. The multiculturalism, Marxism, Communism and Jihadism are stigmatised and Europe is called to ‘fight for independence’. The manifesto itself is titled ‘2083 – A European Declaration of Independence’.
The Norwegian and European societies will long ponder over the nature of the tragedy that hit Norway last Friday. Such meditation will also need to focus on what should be done to prevent such blind violence from ever happening again by strengthening societal controls while continuing to cherish gained freedoms and openness. The first feed-back already mentions the possibility of European anti-immigration legislation being hoarsened especially in the Nordic countries, the re-introduction of the death punishment (the suspect faces 21 years in prison under the current law) and even a termination of the Schengen Agreement on free movement in Europe. Although Norway is not an EU member state, the possible role played by accomplices who may have profited from the free movement legislation could determine some of the EU states to re-introduce border control (as Denmark has recently done). Other European consequences of the tragedy could be, in a paradoxical way, a consolidation of extreme right wing nationalistic movements and an enhancement of their visibility among the public and in parliaments, as well as a more visible European trend to avoid commitment to volatile regions in the world for domestic security considerations (Norway currently participates in campaigns in Afghanistan and Libya and terrorist threats to ‘punish’ such international activism have been already recorded). In not so many words we are in for European isolationism. It goes without saying that the Norwegian society will know how to best overcome this difficult moment and the instantaneous international solidarity will also help, that it will learn the most appropriate ‘lessons’ from this shocking event and that it will become stronger and categorical in its action against any attacks on its values. At the same time, discovering its vulnerable spots, Europe as a whole will know how to identify the best ways to consolidate its future and values.