Murder Is the Problem
by Anthony Gregory: Sizing
Up the Republican Field: Fascists, Clowns, and Creeps
profile of Anders Behring Breivik is not what was first expected.
On Friday, President Obama and the mainstream media immediately
jumped on the murder of 92 people in Norway to affirm the war on
terror’s importance. Putting aside the establishment’s tendency
to cite both failures and presumed successes, both acts of mass
violence that came to fruition and ones that were preempted, as
vindication of the war on terror, we should note that the administration
was politicizing an atrocity in the only way that it is ever considered
appropriate: The state can respectably pat its soldiers and enforcers
on the back for their waging wars and bashing heads; all other political
points made in the light of mass death are considered gauche.
Yet as it turns
out, the alleged murderer is not the Islamist that so many assumed.
He was, instead, an anti-Islamist of the very sort that has become
commonplace in the last decade. He is a self-described Christian
and nationalist worried that Muslims will overtake the West. He
enjoyed the same neoconservative blogs read by millions of Americans.
Despite this, his act continues to be spun as a reason to worry
about al Qaeda’s supposed influence in inspiring acts of mass violence,
rather than as a warning about the threat of anti-Islamism.
And that threat
is real. Many Americans think that Muslims should be outright prohibited
from building mosques in the United States. At least one Republican
presidential candidate has articulated this position unambiguously.
Conservatives ludicrously warn that Muslims will impose Sharia law
through the U.S. court system, abolishing American liberty. Anyone
who reads conservative message boards can sense the possibility
that we are one dirty bomb away from seeing our Muslim neighbors
rounded up and sent to camps. The hundreds seized without due process
and detained for months after 9/11 are forgotten, but their story
reminds us of how fragile liberty and tolerance can be.
Breivik has much in common with neocons and theocons, however, does
not validate the left’s attempt to turn this into another excuse
for cracking down on rightwing thought crime. The center left always
sees such incidents as a pretext for institutional resolve against
extremism" – Timothy
McVeigh and James
von Brunn come to mind. Liberals are correct when they identify
the double standard of labeling Breivik an "extremist"
and bin Laden a "terrorist." They are being logically
consistent when they say such "extremism" should be treated
like any other terrorism. But the very scary thing about this tragedy
is that the killer is not an "extremist" at all, at least
not ideologically. He is not anti-government, either, despite what
many good-government liberals imply. He loves Winston Churchill,
like most neocons and liberals. He’s very pro-Israel. His views
on domestic and foreign policy and the supposed clash between Islam
and the West are all too usual in Europe and the United States.
fear is a problem in America, but it is not that disposition alone
that should most concern us, and we must be careful in addressing
such fear. It is everywhere and usually no direct threat to anyone,
certainly no crime in itself. When Juan Williams lost his job at
NPR for saying that he felt a little uncomfortable flying on airplanes
with Muslims – a fact that he disclosed candidly with humility toward
those he felt ashamed of fearing – his purge was most regrettable,
for it only shut down discussion and guaranteed that civilized contemplation
of these complicated issues would be unwelcome in that major media
venue. It also emboldened conservatives in their anti-Muslim sentiment.
is not just fear of Muslims, but rather hateful, violent fear. Even
such feelings, however, and even the most dehumanizing of thoughts,
cannot be ameliorated by the very political system that encourages
conflict and violence. Any attempt to turn the Utoya and Oslo tragedy
into a rationale for an anti-rightwing witch-hunt would be misguided
and counterproductive – especially coming from the very institution,
the federal government, that is more responsible for antagonism
toward Muslims than any other actor on the planet.
neoconservatives should be protected from government thought control,
as should have the communists during the Cold War, despite both
groups having very dangerous views when put into practice. It is
not the thoughts but the deeds that are criminal. Mere discontent
with Muslims is not the same as banning their mosques or restricting
their liberties. As for Breivik, his beliefs are poisonous; infinitely
worse was his acting on them to commit murder on a mass scale.
And this is
where the real cognitive inconsistency comes in. Everyone knows
that Breivik’s actions were unjustifiable. Everyone knows the same
about those who flew the planes into the World Trade Center. But
what is not as universally understood is that mass murder is unjustifiable
even when conducted by executive order and carried out by men wearing
If not for
the "terrorists" of both the Muslim and anti-Muslim variety,
the war on terrorism would not be easily sustained. The relationship
is mutual, as the armed conflicts incite the resentment and blowback
that are in turn pointed to as the reason to continue the wars.
At any rate, the war on terror itself is nothing but one act of
terrorism after another, day after day. Together, Bush and Obama
have probably piled up ten thousand times as many corpses as did
Breivik. A week of pure terror for Oslo, London, or Manhattan resembles
an average week for Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq, thanks to the
United States’s wars of liberation. Norway, too, having dropped
hundreds of bombs in Obama’s NATO war on Libya, is a belligerent
junior partner in what many see as a U.S.-Israeli-U.K. crusade against
the Muslim world.
government’s wars kill thousands whose lives are disregarded as
"collateral damage," since the deaths were only a side
effect of the main purpose of the war. This
argument is weak, since the deaths are completely predictable.
Moreover, many modern actions of the U.S. government involve deliberate,
calculated cruelty and killing. The sanctions on Iraq throughout
the 1990s directly targeted the most vulnerable segments of the
Iraqi population. Misery and death were purposefully inflicted on
them by the hundreds of thousands, in the hopes of prompting regime
change. If this isn’t terrorism, then there is no such thing.
specialist at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment has said
that Breivik’s operation "seems to be an attempt to mirror
Al Qaeda, exactly in reverse." Yet this description just as
well fits the foreign policy of the U.S. and its satellites: Altering
geopolitical realities by treating men, women, and children as disposable
pawns to be targeted and liquidated. Killing people in large numbers
for diplomatic reasons is the very essence of modern war. Do it
without the right paperwork, and it’s terrorism.
separates him from the millions of bigots calling for total war
but not performing it. If we look at Breivik’s crimes as a problem
of ideology and not only one of action then we are stuck with an
uncomfortable truth: Engaging in mass violence that will inevitably
kill innocent people is always wrong, and yet it is not only on
the fringes of nationalist politics or on radical Islamist websites
that we see endorsements of slaughtering dozens, hundreds, thousands
or even more. The majority finds it defensible, even honorable and
righteous, to do what Breivik did, so long as the civilian deaths
are "collateral" or the result of bombings and sanctions
initiated by the president – and, for those who are really old fashioned
or progressive, ratified by Congress or the United Nations, respectively.
The greatest trouble with neoconservatism, neoliberalism, and most
other statist ideologies is that they favor mass murder. It does
not matter, morally, what we call it. It makes no difference who
arms the bombs and who fires the weapons, whether the hatred of
the enemy is instilled at boot camp or gleaned from the blogosphere.
Many of Breivik’s
targets were pro-Palestinian, likely eliciting his special animus
for daring to side with the cultural enemy. When a fanatic takes
up arms in the delusion that he is part of the war effort, we must
remember that his actions are not materially much different from
those of some of the most revered warriors and leaders of history.
Perhaps he is not as deluded as those who try to differentiate his
freelance violence from the formal violence celebrated in parades
and on national holidays.
Of course I
will be accused of the great crime of "moral equivalence"
– the sin of saying that deliberately killing innocent people is
always immoral, no matter who does it or for what reason. So be
it. In this case it will be harder for the charge to stick, for
all the usual blather that typically accompanies it – "they
hate us for our freedom," "they want to wipe Israel off
the Earth," "their religion commands them to kill us all"
– is the same kind of hysterical lunacy indulged in by Anders Behring
Breivik before he put his ideology of hateful collectivism into
Gregory [send him mail]
is research editor at the Independent
lives in Oakland, California. See his
webpage for more articles and personal information.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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