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Righteous Killing

“It was international jihadism that we feared. But what we have now is more painful in terms of a re-evaluation of ourselves.”

?Anders Romarheim, fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies, commenting on the 92 killings attributed to Anders Behring Breivik, identified as a right-wing fundamentalist Christian

Anders Behring Breivik, the man charged in Norway’s Oslo bombing and the shooting attack on a political youth camp, has been described as ”a gun-loving, highly religious Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as a threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to the cultural and patriotic values of his country.”

Presuming these initial reports accurate, he was inspired to become a mass murderer out of religious, nationalistic and political conviction. While most of us consider him warped, deranged and criminal, he may well think of his actions as righteous killing. The New York Times reports he set up Facebook and Twitter accounts days before his rampage, citing philosophers and paraphrasing Mill that “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.” He seems to claim a righteous rationale for killing. People have compared him to American Iraq veteran Timothy McVeigh who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 fellow citizens. McVeigh also cherished guns, embraced white supremacy, deplored government policies and saw himself as heroic.

Defense Fellow Anders Romarheim’s comment is telling. It is so much easier to see ‘the other,’ ‘the jihadist’ as the potential destroyer than to re-evaluate ourselves. Norway compared to the US has far better gun regulation, less crime, no death penalty, humane prisons and far less war-making. So it will be interesting to see how this perpetrator will be pigeonholed. Which of the elements named will be blamed? Will the trouble be guns or Christian fundamentalism or right-wing nationalist politics? Or simply belief in righteous killing? America is obsessed with it. Our Presidents speak righteously of “taking out” evildoers like Saddam and Bin-Laden. Righteous Killing is the dangerous belief that infects most of the world and that we deny and delude ourselves about.

Diane Christian is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo and author of Blood Sacrifice. She can be reached at: engdc@acsu.buffalo.edu

 

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DIANE CHRISTIAN is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo and author of the new book Blood Sacrifice. She can be reached at: engdc@acsu.buffalo.edu

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