From Oslo to Oklahoma
July 23, 2011 · By Phyllis Bennis
It is a time to mourn, and also to organize against the wars that depend on this kind of hatred.
So far more than 90 people are known to be dead in Friday's horrific Oslo attacks. For Norway's population of less than 5 million, that is equivalent to more than twice the number of people killed here in the U.S. on 9/11 - linking the human solidarity of loss we so palpably remember.
For a truly powerful, anguished, voice-breaking response, take a look at the speech of norway's prime minister.
But as if those horrific attacks were not enough, we are already seeing a repeat of the aftermath of the 1993 Oklahoma City attacks in which 168 people were killed by right-wing white American Christians.
In that case, as now, "experts on Islam & terror" immediately announced that "jihadi elements" and "extremist Muslims" were to blame. The repellent Steven Emerson, for instance, was ubiquitous in the U.S. media ranting about "Islamic terror." He lied. And he NEVER apologized for lying, for being wrong -- to the contrary he went on to a lucrative career as a Muslim-bashing and Arab-bashing pundit.
Now it's the Wall Street Journal, with their scurrilous editorializing about the inevitability of Islamist responsibility because "in jihadist eyes Norway will forever remain guilty." Their editorial remains on their website through Saturday, almost a full day since police arrested the right-wing "ethnic Norwegian" suspect.
The Washington Post has eagerly joined the fray, giving their favorite right-wing editorial pundit Jennifer Rubin, known for her anti-Palestinian (as well as anti-Obama) rants, free rein for speculation. Here's the summary of what she wrote, via James Fallows in The Atlantic:
"We don't know if al Qaeda was directly responsible for today's events, but in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra. Prominent jihadists have already claimed online that the attack is payback for Norway's involvement in the war in Afghanistan."
Then she goes on to argue on her own: "Moreover, there is a specific jihadist connection here: "Just nine days ago, Norwegian authorities filed charges against Mullah Krekar, an infamous al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist who, with help from Osama bin Laden, founded Ansar al Islam - a branch of al Qaeda in northern Iraq - in late 2001."
In Norway, as one Oslo teenager described it, “Everyone thought that he was a Muslim, a Pakistani, or someone with dark skin.”
It will be interesting to watch how the case against the accused murderer develops. Norway, one of the more civilized countries in the world, does not allow the death penalty; in fact it doesn’t even allow sentences of life imprisonment.
If Anders Behring Breivik was instead named “Ali Mohammad” would we be hearing calls for the death penalty? Would the possibility that he was a “lone wolf,” an “outcast” even be considered?
That Oslo teenager could have been talking about the United States as well. I asked the same question at the time of the mass murder in Tucson, “What if Jared Loughner Were a Muslim Arab Immigrant?”
We still don’t know the answer.
We have a lot of work to do - not only to mourn, but to organize against the wars that depend on this kind of hatred.