Deconstructing Terror

August, 2011
By Sundeep Waslekar

If Anders Breivik wanted to polarise Norway and spread hatred across Europe, his monstrous acts have resulted in exactly the opposite. The Norwegian society is united in dignity, decency and dedication to its long upheld values of peace and freedom.

The Norwegian police have placed charges against the criminal and initiated a trial behind closed doors. They understand the dangers of a public trial, which can be converted into a theatre and used by the terrorist to spread his message through the media. They believe that the security of people is more important than the pleasure of a couple of quotes in the newspapers. The Norwegian media are not interested in minute by minute coverage of either the acts or the trial. It is quite a change from the US media, which tries very hard to convince that an attack in the US makes terrorism the only problem for the whole world. It is also radically different from the Indian media, which treats terrorist attacks like a soap opera. 

The country where people unite on the basis of principles, police handle acts of terror with a sense of responsibility, and media do not compete with one another to turn the terrorist into a hero, or anti-hero, is a country where terrorism will be a rare phenomenon. 

Norway is not exceptional. About 5-6 years ago, a group of right wing terrorists had planned to bomb the Belgian Parliament. The state security services pre-empted the plot and arrested the members of the terrorist group. There was no drama. The terrorists are in jail. The Belgians are safe. 

The American response to terrorism is double faced. For much of last decade, the United States faced a serious danger from National Alliance and Aryan Nations, two organisations which wanted to annihilate Jews and also bring down the Government. The FBI monitored the activities of these groups, destroyed all financial sources of their operations, arrested underground leaders, and decimated the groups. Even today FBI keeps close watch on the followers of these groups so that they should not reorganise under new leadership. There is neither any media coverage of these operations nor any slogan shouting by American political leaders.

On the other hand, the same United States behaved exactly the opposite way while dealing with Al Qaeda. First, it failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda cells in the United States were not particularly stronger or more motivated in any respect than the cells of National Alliance and Aryan Nations in 2001. Once the attacks took place, the American society panicked. A war was announced not only on Afghanistan which had harboured Al Qaeda but also on Iraq which had no links with it. The propaganda war was even more lethal. And the US continues to live in great insecurity. About 100,000 people are now on a No Fly List for flights to the United States, and a million more on the watch list for intrusive security checks.  The US colonies are more insecure. Out of 33 large terrorist attacks in the last decade more than half have occurred in Iraq under US military protection. The countries that follow the US policies and practices are much, much worse off in terror death toll.

The internal US where FBI took concrete action without high political drama, to protect unity and freedom of the American people, succeeded in deconstructing terror. The US of Foggy Bottom and Pentagon edition where an industry of counter terrorism systems, forces, weapons, analysts, television channels flourishes, live in insecurity of the next attack every day, as do all the countries that try to mirror the US of the second variety.

Anders Breivik’s terrorism has not succeeded in making any point. However, the Norwegian response provides lessons on how to deconstruct terror. Should we respond to terrorism by turning acts of terror into politics and wars of convenience? Or should we realise that a terrorist basically tries to undermine core human values and the best way to deconstruct terrorism is to uphold humanity, peace and love as did the Norwegians, who walked in dignity, with roses in their hands, on the streets of Oslo?

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