The murders in Norway are tragic, and terrorism is always inexcusable. After an initial flurry of claims of responsibility by murky Jihadist groups, Anders Behring Breivik–apparently the sole perpetrator–confessed. Within America, many progressive groups and left-wing polemicists jumped over his confession not only to condemn many terrorism analysts for their speculation that an Islamist terror group might be responsible, but also to demand the police investigate right-wing groups in Europe and the United States.
There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy here, for two reasons:
First, while Breivik cited a number of right-of-center analysts and some other pundits who are, in my opinion, too Manichean in their analysis, there was no similar lynch mob when Osama bin Laden, for example, provided Americans with a reading list of authors (Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer, Tony Judt, Jimmy Carter, John Perkins, etc.). I disagree with the arguments made by these authors, but free speech should be sacrosanct. No single madman’s actions should justify muzzling intellectual or policy debate.
Second, the Norway attack is the exception that proves the rule when it comes to mass-casualty attacks in Western Europe and the West (and, for that matter, in the Middle East as well). If progressives want to target public intellectuals whom Breivik apparently embraced and want to rally against the specter of right -wing terror, then why are the same progressives so concerned with defending Islamist front-groups and excusing Islamist terrorism or affirming it by legitimizing its motives and grievances?
Make no mistake, Breivik deserves death, a penalty he will not face in Norway’s justice system. There is no excusing his actions. Terrorism is always evil, regardless of the efforts of terrorists to justify their actions because of their political beliefs. It’s time for blogger Juan Cole and the good folks over at the Center for American Progress to take a deep breath, stop trying to score cheap political points or pursue political vendettas, and just grow up.