by Arnold “Skip” Isaacs
Two days after an anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant fanatic named Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people in Oslo and on Utøya Island in an act of xenophobic terror, Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gave his country’s answer. “We are still shaken by what hit us,” Stoltenberg declared in a six-minute address to a packed Sunday service in the Oslo Cathedral, “but we will never give up on our values. Our answer is more democracy, more openness and more humanity.”
The message to Norwegians and the world, as Police Superintendent Asbjørn Rachlew expresses it, was that “Norway tomorrow will be recognizable” — that is, that the same country and society that existed before the attacks would continue to exist afterward, with the same beliefs in democratic political institutions, the rule of law, human rights, and principles of justice and fairness.
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The following summary account of the Oslo and Utøya terror attacks is adapted from the presentation by Norwegian journalist Kjetil Stormark, author of When Terror Hit Norway: 189 Minutes That Shocked the World and Private E-Mails of a Mass Murderer. The latter book contains a selection of messages sent from Anders Behring Breivik’s e-mail accounts before the attacks and additional messages expressing both support and condemnation that were sent to him shortly after his arrest. The former, as Stormark told the ACIA meeting, “is a timeline account based on more than 120 in-depth interviews with everyone from the staff surrounding the study of the prime minister to the people struggling for their lives at Utøya, and telling the tale of what happened through the eyes of those individuals.” It also tells what Stormark calls “the hidden story about what actually went wrong in the Norwegian emergency response on that particular day.”
Stormark, parenthetically, was in New York, as press counselor for Norway’s United Nations delegation, at the time of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.
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