Why Do They Hate Us?

What appears to be terrorist attacks have targeted Norwegian government buildings.  While there is currently no information about who is behind the attacks, the location alone appears to rule out domestic groups (Norway does not have any significant insurgency) and the attacks bear all the stylistic hallmarks of al-Qaeda or an imitation group.

While we wait for more information and the inevitable casualty count, it is worth beginning to consider motive and what it might say about the broader continuing struggle against international religious and political militants.  After 9/11, the question was phrased thus:  Why do they hate us?

The post-9/11 consensus collapsed with remarkable speed into typical partisan bickering, with many conservatives striking nationalist “with us or against us” poses that simply evaded the question and many progressives blaming the victim, claiming that the United States itself (at least whenever it was under a Republican President) was to blame for whatever happened to it.

Neither self-serving posture can remain coherent if the perpetrator of the Norway attacks turns out to be affiliated with al-Qaeda.  The nationalist position assumes that the United States is a special beacon of liberty and is targeted by those who “hate our freedom.”  But although Norway is an ally, it is not really central to American strategy and can hardly be called a beacon of anything other than stereotypical Scandinavian mildness. There is no grand battle where America fights “a long twilight struggle” involving Norway. The troops don’t rely on torrfisk.

The blame-the-victim logic similarly does not apply. Norway is not known as a center of power for the Republican Party or of so-called “neo-conservative” (actually a pejorative political term that has no meaning in international relations theory; it’s closest analogue in the non-partisan world is actually Wilsonian liberalism) foreign policy.  There is simply no way that anything George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld did or said can be attributed to Norway.  Norway is also not linked to hyperbolic allegations of an international American “empire.” So that meme too must now be set aside.

What Norway does represent alongside the United States is modernity linked to a neoliberal international order.  Al-Qaeda and its affiliates should be viewed as neither caricatures of anti-Americanism nor romanticized rebels against malevolent “neo-con” hegemony.  Rather, al-Qaeda and its affiliates should be viewed as a group of thugs who want to impose upon the world a 7th-Century religious ideology linked to a rejection of any and all global trade, diversity, and intercultural tolerance. Norway gets targeted for the same reasons as Spain, France, or Britain — because it is a tolerant society that embraces religious freedom and a degree of ethnic diversity that is intolerable to the religious/political purism of some Islamic (and other) zealots.

And since that is the real reason that they hate “us,” the “us” should be large enough to include us all without regard to our petty partisan differences.  Politics may no longer stop at the water’s edge, but it can and should be stopped at the edge of a Manichean struggle against something that both conservatives and progressives can and should recognize as incompatible with each of their respective fundamental values.



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  1. Shrugs Shoulder…

    Since we have no information as to who committed this act of terrorism, why don’t we wait before starting bashing Democrats, Peaceniks and various leftists…

  2. BTW Germany didn’t have a civil war when the Baader-Meinhof started blowing up people & building…

  3. I doubt they’re done counting bodies and American partisans are already “hack”ing away.

  4. “A group called Helpers of the Global Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack in a posting on a jihadi online forum”

    This of course does not prove that Islamists did it, but it does prove that Islamists are interested in targeting Norway generally, which proves the real point of the post (for those who bother to actually read posts before commenting, DQ, obviously this doesn’t include people like you).

  5. Maybe hate was not the motive of the action.

    It could have been that it was just “taking out” – at least temporarily – a “command and control center” of a regime egaged in slaughtering a civilian population. If so, in terms of Norwegian language, the action could be dubbed a “military intervention” on humanitarian reasons.

    It should be remembered that in the recent days, Norway dropped about 500 bombs of a weight of between 250 and 2000 kg each on Libya. Norway and it’s NATO allies called such action “taking out” command and control centers, millitary intervention on humanitarian reasons. That is while Norway gained about five billion Dollars in additional oil profits from higher oil prices by bombing Libya.

    The Libyan general prosecutor just lined out, that this military intervention of Norway and it’s friends caused a collateral damage of more than 1000 civilians in Libya so far.

    So now there is possibly some taking out of Norwegian command and control centers going on. I think Norway should not complain when it’s getting a little taste of it’s own humanitarian standards.

  6. LOL.

    DQ, do you endorse Bandolero’s views or not?

  7. Imagine those cowardly Norwegians using a children’s camp as a cover for a command and control center……for shame!

  8. All partisan-centric opining aside, the reason crap like this happens is because there are superstitious idiots in the world who want nothing more than to control other people. Islam is badly in need of a PR campaign if they don’t want to eventually be seen as synonymous with terrorism. For that matter, I have no tolerance for ANY religion that seeks to control other people, whether by physical force, legislation or proselytizing. Neither hate nor con-artistry serve any valid purpose in the 21st century.

  9. Very well written.

    I had to look up, “Manichean”, and in doing so, I discovered in the second definition that I may indeed be a, “Christian Duelist”, believing in the heretical separation of spirit and mater. Which according to the definition makes me a heretic! I’m stunned.

    I have friends in Oslo and I am very saddened and a little worried by this attack. No answers to my emails yet.

  10. Logan,

    And there you go again blaming the boogie man: Al Queda…

    Government says youth camp shooter is Norwegian

    OSLO, Norway (AP) — Norway’s Justice Minister Knut Storberget has said the man who opened fire at a youth camp is Norwegian.

    Storberget says the death toll from the shooting is unclear.

    But he says seven people were killed and 10 wounded when a bomb exploded at the prime minister’s office in downtown Oslo earlier Friday.

    Police have linked the suspect to both attacks.

  11. Logan, gcotharn

    Undetonated explosives found after Norway shooting

    OSLO (Reuters) – Undetonated explosives were found on an island where a gunman killed at least 10 people at a youth camp near Oslo, Norwegian police said on Friday.

    “Explosives were found on the island,” deputy Oslo police chief Sveining Sponheim told reporters. He said a man detained by police was aged 32 and “ethnic Norwegian.”

    He said that police expected that the death toll in the shooting was expected to rise from 10. The shooting followed a bomb blast in Oslo, in which seven people were killed.

    Yeah, definitely Al Qaeda…

    Couldn’t be some right-wing nationalist/separatist group, cause we have never seen one of those in Western Europe…

  12. DQ, do you endorse Bandolero’s views or not?

    Not really…

    Had this happened in London, Paris, DC or New York, Bandolero would have a far better case…

    As is I don’t see why any Muslim Terrorist would go and bomb Oslo, they have far better targets and bigger fish to fry…

    Now if some Libyan Nationalist, Freedom Fighter, Terrorist (pick the label you want) were to drive a truck full of explosive into the Quai D’Orsay or Foggy Bottom and have it go kabboom, I would not see that as any different than one of our drone jockey dropping a couple of tons of explosive over some target in Libya…

    It falls into the what goes around comes around category…

  13. Needless to say, my comment holds up regardless of who the perp in Norway was. GC, for your information much grief and destruction has come about in the world from people who felt compelled to spread their superstition (religion in this case) to places it was neither desired nor needed. As a species we should have outgrown all that by now, but then we aren’t quite as smart as we often like to think we are.

  14. Oklahoma City – not 9-11. Right wing nut case – not AL-Qaeda. Nuff said!

  15. @JSpencer
    Isn’t it strange that “intelligence” results in mythology and superstition as a driving force? On the other hand I think we are hard wired to be tribal creatures and mythology and superstition bind tribal members together.

  16. Suspect in deadly Norway attacks named

    The suspect in the twin attacks Friday that killed at least 16 people in Norway was identified early Saturday as a 32-year-old Norwegian farmer.

    TV2, the country’s largest broadcaster, and the newspaper Dagbladet identified him as Anders Behring Breivik, 32, describing him as a member of right-wing extremist groups. Shortly thereafter, The Telegraph newspaper of London reported the same information, citing Norwegian Justice Minister Knut Storberget.

    Behring Breivik was still being questioned early Saturday and had not been charged, authorities told Dagenblat.

    A Facebook profile for an Oslo man of that name and age includes a profile photo identical to the one being used by Norwegian media. In the profile, he lists himself as “single,” “Christian” and “conservative” and says he is director of Breivik Geofarm.

    The account has no posts. A Twitter account apparently for Behring Breivik uses the same profile photo and has but one tweet, dated July 17: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100000 who have only interests.”

    The authenticity of the online accounts could not immediately be verified, but government business records list a man of the same name and age as sole director of Breivik Geofarm. In the records, the company says its business is the “growing of vegetables, melons, roots and tubers” and reports that it has 790 employees.

    Police said the attacker may have had accomplices, The Telegraph reported. Police were reported to be trying to determine whether the farm could have provided the chemicals needed to build a large bomb like the one that exploded Friday in Oslo.

    Now can all the people who wrote long posts blaming Muslims for this terrorist act write a nice post in which they apologize for jumping the gun and accusing innocents of such heinous acts…

    And the ones who used nice anti-Muslim rants in the comment section should also admit that they were wrong, and are clueless idiots who just enjoy spreading hatred…

  17. @ Ron Beasley … I was thinking the exact same thing earlier when I first read this story … shades of Oklahoma City .. right down to the premature blaming of muslim terrorists.

    I didn’t comment then though … because unlike Mr. Penza, I allowed for the possibility that I might be wrong, and didn’t want to appear foolish, if in fact it did turn out to be muslim extremists.

    At the time this post was written, it probably should have just been a tweet instead: “What appears to be terrorist attacks have targeted Norwegian government buildings. While there is currently no information about who is behind the attacks”

    That would have been quite sufficient … with the rants saved for After you actually have some concrete information.

  18. That would have been quite sufficient … with the rants saved for After you actually have some concrete information.

    That would not be as much fun…

  19. Breaking News Alert
    The New York Times
    Friday, July 22, 2011 — 10:28 PM EDT

    Norway Police Say at Least 80 Killed in Youth Camp Shooting

    At least 80 people were killed on Friday when a gunman stalked youths at an island summer camp for young members of the governing Labor Party, the police said on national television early Saturday.

    Before the shooting attack, explosions in Oslo killed seven people and wounded at least 15, the police said, according to the state television broadcaster.

    After the shooting the police seized a 32-year-old Norwegian man on the island, according to the police and Justice Minister Knut Storberget. He was later identified as Anders Behring Breivik and was characterized by officials as a right-wing extremist.

    The man was arrested in connection with both attacks. Emphasis mine

    Read More:

    As I have cautioned in another thread, while there still may be links to Islamic terrorist groups, we may want to withhold judgments and conclusions for a little while more.

  20. @gcotharn
    I think the very nature of Logan’s post was jumping to conclusions but I have to defend Logan because I jumped to the very same conclusions. It would appear we were both wrong.

  21. Beasley-

    “Isn ’t it strange that “intelligence” results in mythology and superstition as a driving force? On the other hand I think we are hard wired to be tribal creatures and mythology and superstition bind tribal members together”

    I lived with tribal people for several years and what held them together was food and sex.

  22. gcotharn-

    No. I have sensed God on various occasion by circumstance that is incomprehensible to another no matter how hard I tried to explain the circumstance. I had always assumed that other believers had the same experiences, but I have received little reinforcement. Nonetheless, it is God.

  23. and I do have another question…

    Has this opinion piece been updated since it was first published?

  24. I’m still waiting to find out why the attack was made. At this point, we still don’t have much to go on.

  25. It appears I did lean towards the wrong conclusion. It appears the attacker did an excellent job of imitating al-Qaeda’s style.

    My broader point remains valid: Neither party’s meme regarding the global war against al-Qaeda deals with the reality of who they really are and what they really want. gcotharn seems to be one of the only ones that correctly interpreted the post.

  26. gcotharn-

    Thank you, but I have done nothing inspiring. Your inspiration comes from God, not me.

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