Don't shoot, we're on your side
One of the most worrying aspects of radical Islam is the hold it seems to have on immigrant communities in Europe. The latest example of this was when two British citizens committed suicide bombings in Israel recently. The problems of Muslim immigrant communities in Europe are no longer just local issues, to be explained away by multiculturalists. They've become global threats.
Curiously, I can't remember any media attempts to investigate the extent of Muslim radicalism in Norway, attempts to look at what ideological, financial and organizatorial support al-Qaeda and similar organizations may be receiving from Norway. We know that a radical community exists. In the mid-90's, following a conflict between moderates and radicals, Mullah Krekar, the fanatical ex-guerilla leader, and 300-400 other Muslims, withdrew from the main mosque in Oslo and started their own, (with state-subsidies!). That mosque is now gone, but the former members are still here. Presumably the government is keeping an eye open for terrorist cells, but the issue has been ignored by the media. Despite evidence that al-Qaeda is actively supported all over Europe, Norway, apparently, is immune to extremist thinking. Must be something in the fresh fjord-air, don't you think?
So when al-Zawahiri today announced [full text] that Norway is now on al-Qaeda's list of terror targets, (along with the usuals - the US, UK and Australia), my first thoughts go to those Krekar-supporters, ideologically perfect candidates for recruitment by terrorists. Norway is no better prepared to prevent suicide attacks than any other democratic country that haven't experienced one, so there's little to do for us but hope that there is no active Norwegian cell ready to carry out the threat. The major threat is of course against our embassies and business in Arab countries, but I rather hope we don't assume that.
It will in any case be interesting to watch how his threat is received here. I worry that the reaction of the Norwegian ambassador in the United Arab Emitares, which has a significant Norwegian business presence, will be typical. He couldn't, he said on TV2 today, figure out why al-Qaeda would want to target Norway, considering our positions on the Palestinian conflict and the Iraq war. In other words: Don't shoot, we're on your side.
A better response would be: "Well of course they hate us, we're a free, democratic country, and we support the American war on terrorism, but we don't understand whey they singled out us specifically." And the inclusion of Norway with the US, UK and Australia on a list of al-Qaeda targets is odd - the only visible contribution we've made to the war on terror has been a modest force in Afghanistan. My guess is that we've been included either because of something very specific we've done in Afghanistan, or because al-Qaeda has thought of a very specific way to harm us. I don't like it either way.
Aleks Tapinsh, Riga, Latvia/Michigan | 2003-05-21 21:42 | Link
Along those lines, the last graph from a BBC article:
Our correspondent says the Norwegians are hoping al-Qaeda simply got its geography wrong but they are nonetheless taking the threat seriously.
Jan, Bergen | 2003-05-21 22:25 | Link
"or because al-Qaeda has thought of a very specific way to harm us"
I hadn't thought of that. Absolutely a possibility, and I dont like it very much. I hope our government and the PST are not as spineless and incompetent as they appear.
It is scary that our diplomants seriously think they can (and should!) appease complete fanatics like al-Qaeda. These guys hate all of us for the very crime of existing. The leftist self-loathing and ignorance of the world around them has given them this absurd idea that if we're just nice to everybody, they will be nice to us.
John Monasch | 2003-05-22 05:00 | Link
I read somewhere (sorry I forgot where) that Zawahiri probably confused Norway with Denmark. Not that this would be reason for Norwegians, or any of the ostensibly neutral countries to relax. No one should now deny the link between Iraq and al-Qaida. Terrorism is a region-wide disease. Make that worldwide. Those that want to accomodate it or negotiate with it or placate it should not be under the illusion that they will be safe. Churchill's metaphor of appearers feeding the crocodile in the hopes that they will not be eaten is perfect.
Jon Glenn, New Orleans | 2003-05-22 06:28 | Link
My own theory is that Norway was used as a code-word to let the cells know which attack plan had been ordered. I hope for your sake that I'm right.
Martin Adamson | 2003-05-22 12:13 | Link
My personal theory as to why Norway has been targetted is simply because that is where their supporters are. They know at the moment that they are most vulnerable and visible when they are on the move, especially when crossing international borders, taking planes etc so they are now being told to stay in place and carry out attacks wherever they are. Hence the recent wave of attacks in Russia (see below), Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
There is no way of second-guessing this relative to positions taken on the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else. The fact is that Al Qaeda's list of enemies is so long and so all-encompassing that they can find justifications for attacks against anyone, anywhere.
Second point: not many people have remarked on the fact that he specifically named the two operations in Chechnya as Al-Qaeda operations. Too many commentators in the West assume that attacks against Russia, Israel, the US, Europe or India are somehow separate, disconnected events. In fact, to the enemy, they are all the same thing.
ct | 2003-05-22 13:36 | Link
These are filthy, devil-worshipping buffoons. If they show up grab an old Viking battle ax out of some museum, mutilate their filthy, devil-sucking bodies 6 different ways, stick them on poles, put them in your 'muslim' immigrant community areas and at the borders and ports, and top it off with sticking pig genitalia in their mouths. Remember: these are the scum losers of the world. It's a matter of time before western politicians get overthrown and the people of the western nations take care of business and do what needs to be done with these filthy, ignorant, resentful, devil-worshiping garbage.
Markku Nordstrom, New York/Helsinki | 2003-05-22 14:59 | Link
I wish Finland had been on that list. But, no, Finland has followed a policy of deflection: make other countries step up to the plate and take the heat.
Norway sticks to the minds of Arabs for many reasons, the most notable one being the Oslo Accord, which the terrorists despised.
In many ways, Norway is now paying the price for "meddling" in the international arena. Although I don't relish the thought of Norway being a target, it does point to the fact that even peacemakers wind up taking security risks.
But the contribution Norway has made is still worth it in my mind. Although the Oslo Accord in hindsight was flawed, it was still a step in the right direction. I hope Norway does not get dissuaded from engagement; rather, I hope, this terrorist threat will only make Norway more committed to action.
AndyM, Australia | 2003-05-22 17:07 | Link
It's almost certainly because of Krekar, but because most journalists are incompetent or devious, the media has so far failed to publicly link the two.
| 2003-05-22 17:20 | Link
Asking the question, "What action did we take to provoke them?" is the wrong question. It removes the responsibility of the threat from the Al-Qeada terrorists and places it at the feet of the Norwegian people/government.
Norway is in no way, shape, form, or manner responsible for being a target of Al-Qeada.
Al-Qeada is resposnsible.
Do not look to change Norway. Eliminate Al-Qeada.
ct | 2003-05-22 17:49 | Link
Read this thread for some thoughts on this subject from everyday Americans (OK, everyday raw meat eating Americans) -
Gill Doyle | 2003-05-22 20:07 | Link
Too many folks in Norway cheered when 3,000 died on 9/11. The attack was interpreted by many there as payback, long overdue, that validated their own jaundiced view of American Empire. Norway's inclusion on the terrorist hit-list ought to cause those folks to wonder now whether the hit-list itself is bogus. Of course Norway doesn't belong on that list. But, then, neither does America. Those in Norway who suggested that 9/11 was a "wakeup call" for America ought to ask themselves whether any country belongs such a list.
I absolutely agree with what Markku says when he says that: "in many ways, Norway is now paying the price for 'meddling' in the international arena." It's hard for folks in Norway, or any small country, to understand the responsibilities and dynamics that distinguish a large country like ours from a small country like their own. And particularly from a small country that is as prosperous and well-managed as Norway. A country of 280 million isn't just quantitatively larger than a country of 5 million — it's qualitatively different. We are beset by problems and responsibilities that Norway doesn't even have to consider. I think it's great that Norway has taken the initiative in recent years to go well beyond its old role as master of ceremonies at the annual Peace Prize banquet. Norway has put itself up there on the front lines now. (Or, at least, close to the front.) If it resists the isolationism that its pacifist constituencies urge upon the country and continues to participate fully as a player on the world stage (even when that means dropping bombs on al-Quaida targets in Afghanistan and elsewhere), then political thinking in Norway has got to grow more realistic and less ideological. If that happens, then the anti-Americanism that has persisted there for thirty years should eventually moderate. And then I'll stop complaining.
Jim, California | 2003-05-22 21:33 | Link
"...or because al-Qaeda has thought of a very specific way to harm us."
I think you may be on to something here. Isn't Norway the largest non-OPEC oil exporter? What sort of security do the North Sea oil platforms have? This is something the Norwegian government should take very seriously.
I think al-Qaeda's threat is real, and they have operatives and supporters in EVERY Western country, not just in the "usual suspects." Norway's advocacy of negotiated peace could also be seen as a sign of weakness to these simple-minded fanatics.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Hades | 2003-05-22 23:26 | Link
Or would that wreck Norway's pension plans?
Tokyo Taro | 2003-05-23 05:34 | Link
Norwegians need to ask themselves "Why do they hate us?"
So far no one has mentioned the influence of the Norwegian Australian War, except for a few brave truthtellers like Messrs. Staerk and Blair.
Miranda | 2003-05-23 15:35 | Link
Now that I have found my way here (great blog!), maybe I can ask someone to indulge in a little private investigation.
The English "Norway Post" carries a story [ http://www.norwaypost.no/content.asp?folder_id=1&cluster_id=23206 ] (if their server is down again, the text is on my blog as well [ http://quitecontrary.blogspot.com/2003_05_18_quitecontrary_archive.html#94742563 ]) about the CIA having received official permission from Norwegian authorities to operate in the country, something the Norwegian government denies.
"NP" cites a newspaper called "VG" as the source.
Since such stories are typically around for some time in certain circles before they hit the media, I wonder whether the same rumour could have reached whoever produced the tape (and this could have been anyone, a practical joke a.k.a. copycat crime, for all we know ;) )
Is it possible to check the original "VG" story? Did it appear before or after the tape?
Btw., I remember vaguely a report on Muslim extremism in Scandinavia, with Norway among the countries the reporters have taken a look at. Mid- to late 90ies, must have been French or German, but don't ask me where exactly it was published.
Gill Doyle | 2003-05-23 17:56 | Link
Miranda — in today's VG (May 23), I find this:
"SVs leder Kristin Halvorsen reagerer med vantro på opplysningene i gårsdagens VG om at utenlandsk etteretning har fått drive spionjakt i Norge etter 11. september."
Translated: "SV's leader KH reacted with skepticism to revelations in yesterday's VG that foreign intelligence agencies have been given permission to spy in Norway after 9/11."
While searching for this article, I ran into a bit of history that I'd forgotten about. In 1973, Mossad assassinated a Palestinean (alleged terrorist) in Lillehammer. Some in Norway have suggested that Mossad had Norway's permission or cooperation. (Very unlikely, I think.)
Another Norwegian paper today reports that al-Quaida's unofficial spokesman in Europe says that it is Norway's treatment of Krekar that has caused al-Quaida to blacklist the country. I don't see that it matters what the reason is. We're talking here about a group of people (al-Quaida) for whom pseudo-Islamic doctrine and fanaticism trump reason.
Bjørn Stærk | 2003-05-23 19:44 | Link
Miranda: That story appeared after Zawahiri's speach, which anyway may have been recorded weeks ago. It was denied today by the Minister of Justice, who said that Norway has continued to work closely with American intelligence after September 11, but without granting any extended privileges.
Gill: As I remember, the Lillehammer murder was a case of mistaken identity. Some poor guy got shot because he looked like a known terrorist.
Markku Nordstrom, New York/Helsinki | 2003-05-24 16:27 | Link
I remember the Lillehammer murder. If I recall correctly, the Israeli agent that shot the guy, mistakenly thought to have been a terrorist, actually returned to Norway and turned himself in to the authorities. As Scandinavian law is incredibly forgiving to murderers, the Israeli got about 10 years, of which he served only a couple, was released based on good behaviour and because he had turned himself in voluntarily, and then returned to Israel.
The Arabs were livid about this incident, and it is often cited (incorrectly) as an example of pro-Israeli sentiment. To them it is incomprehensible that sentences for murder could be so light in Scandinavia.
Miranda | 2003-05-24 16:32 | Link
Bjoern, Gill, thanks.
My point was that it is an amusing thought that whoever produced the stuff has simply picked up a rumour making its rounds in the respective circles. Whether there is substance to it or not would hardly matter.
The Lillehammer episode was AFAIK easily Mossad's most embarassing mistake: they set some rookie operatives on the poor man, their staff resources being overstretched at that time. (My main source: Simon Reeve's book "One day in September".) On the whole, the events of the early 70ies are probably less relevant: Palestinian terrorism in Europe was at that time largely secular and supported by the local extreme Left.
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