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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One man's freedom fighter ...

The Breivik trial has brought into focus just how easily we can park and overlook those thoughts and feelings that are inconvenient for us and do not fit with our particular ideologies. As Breivik's drama plays out, it's comfortable to be swept along in the revulsion at the horror of his acts, the inhumanity of his actions and his chilling lack of remorse. These are the proper responses to such an overwhelming human tragedy.

And there it would end, with Breivik facing the cool analyis of Norwegian law and being judged and punished for his actions. After that judgement, he will fade from the public view, or be overwritten by a new panic.

However, Breivik seems to be claiming legitimacy for his actions by calling them political acts. In this he joins the ranks of Oklahoma bomber Tim McVeigh, the Omagh car bombers, the 9/11 terrorists and legions of suicide bombers, buddhist monks, paramilitaries of all stripes - all of whom have used violence acts against others - or themselves - to effect make a political statement.

Depending on where you are standing (and this is my point), these are easy to file away as 'bad' political acts.

But what about the 'good' acts of violence? The armed forces of the so-called 'free' world roam a number of foreign territories, armed with explosives and weaponry. Their remit is pretty much the same as Breivik's - to prevent an 'unacceptable' change to our society by using violence or the threat of violence.

Yet our troops are heroes.

Our troops don't kill indiscriminately, do they? The most shallow of research will uncover a three-figure number of investigations by British military police into the murder of Afghan civilians, incuding the stabbing of a ten year old boy and the beheading of an Afghan civilian's corpse. Add to this allegations of Koran burning and the massacre of Iraqi civilians by US forces ...

'Our forces work to a government mandate', we cry. 'Like the SS did', we whisper.

Breivik will get comfortable incarceration. His victims' families will not get justice. We feel for them because they're like us. I don't condone political violence in any context. Our forces do a job that few of us would contemplate doing, to keep us safe not from violence but from change. Take away the legitimacy that their uniforms and badges give them and you have, however, men and women doing what Breivik did. In his mental landscape, he's defending an ideal. Just like us.

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