After the one-two punch, on a single day last summer, of a deadly explosion in the center of Oslo and an even more deadly shooting spree on a nearby island, the Norwegian government did what it does best: it formed a commission. This one was charged with figuring out just how one man had been able to get away with inflicting so much damage. The other day the commission finally issued its report. More than a few higher-ups seemed surprised by its honesty. Perhaps they’d expected something more like the internal police report on the same subject, which had exonerated the police and everyone else in authority. Or perhaps they’d expected, at worst, a rap on the wrists. But this report was a punch in the guts. It was, in a word, devastating. And it could hardly have been more richly deserved.
I’ve mentioned before that I marveled for years at the chronic lack of security outside Norway’s main government building, next to which Anders Behring Breivik was able to park a vehicle packed with explosives on July 22 of last year. The report quite rightly pointed out that the attack on this building could have easily been prevented if only a few simple, commonsensical security measures – which had been officially recommended years ago – had been implemented. The report also faulted the police for their slow, feeble response to the news that people were being gunned down on the island of Utøya. The police took a long time to drive to the lake in which the island is located, and then took a long time to figure out a way to cross over to the island. They might’ve jumped on a helicopter in Oslo and flown to the island in a trice – but, no, their only (!) helicopter was unusable because the pilot was on vacation. Equally incredible, the Norwegian police didn’t decide until a couple of hours after the Oslo bombing to close the Swedish border, just in case the bomber tried to leave the country; but their slow thinking hardly mattered, because their decision was somehow never conveyed to anybody anyway. The border did get sealed, but only because Swedish police, after hearing about Breivik’s atrocities, took it upon themselves to set up checkpoints and barriers.
Norway’s only remotely serious major newspaper, the business daily Dagens Næringsliv (DN), ran an illuminating feature on Saturday about how the Norwegian police culture made this absurd Keystone Kops situation possible. DN described a cartoonishly dysfunctional bureaucracy – a “paper mill” – plagued by a lack of communication and coordination, preoccupied with niggling details and petty offenses, and devoted to the production of detailed action reports that were never acted upon. In short, a police department bizarrely removed from the reality of actual policing. It was also a force in which there was a great deal of pressure from the top to keep quiet about any problems or deficiencies and to pretend that “everything was perfect.”
As if to put all this nonsense into perspective, a few days after the July 22 commission’s report was released, another document was made public. It was a letter, addressed to various Norwegian politicians and journalists and purportedly sent by a group called Ansar al-Sunna that presumes to speak on behalf of all Muslims in Norway. In the letter, the members of Ansar al-Sunna indicate that they do not wish to mix with infidels “and your filthy values and attitudes. You don’t respect your women, who strut around half-naked, and you let them behave in an immoral fashion. You permit the filthy sickness of homosexuality, which goes against nature….” And so on. The authors of the letter then request that Norway hand over Grønland, a largely Muslim neighborhood in Oslo, so that they can govern it themselves, “with our own ministers, border guards, police, and legal system, run according to sharia laws, and forbid all the evil you stand for and that violates Allah’s laws.” In short: “Cordon off the neighborhood and let us govern it as we wish….We don’t want to live together with filthy beasts [skitne udyr] like you [plural].”
Oh, yes: the group has also threatened to carry out a “September 11 on Norwegian soil” – a “bigger attack than July 22.”