After the one-two punch, on a single day last summer, of a deadly explosion in the center of Oslo and an even more deadly shooting spree on a nearby island, the Norwegian government did what it does best: it formed a commission. This one was charged with figuring out just how one man had been able to get away with inflicting so much damage. The other day the commission finally issued its report. More than a few higher-ups seemed surprised by its honesty. Perhaps they'd expected something more like the internal police report on the same subject, which had exonerated the police and everyone else in authority. Or perhaps they'd expected, at worst, a rap on the wrists. But this report was a punch in the guts. It was, in a word, devastating. And it could hardly have been more richly deserved.
I've mentioned before that I marveled for years at the chronic lack of security outside Norway's main government building, next to which Anders Behring Breivik was able to park a vehicle packed with explosives on July 22 of last year. The report quite rightly pointed out that the attack on this building could have easily been prevented if only a few simple, commonsensical security measures – which had been officially recommended years ago – had been implemented. The report also faulted the police for their slow, feeble response to the news that people were being gunned down on the island of Utøya. The police took a long time to drive to the lake in which the island is located, and then took a long time to figure out a way to cross over to the island. They might've jumped on a helicopter in Oslo and flown to the island in a trice – but, no, their only (!) helicopter was unusable because the pilot was on vacation. Equally incredible, the Norwegian police didn't decide until a couple of hours after the Oslo bombing to close the Swedish border, just in case the bomber tried to leave the country; but their slow thinking hardly mattered, because their decision was somehow never conveyed to anybody anyway. The border did get sealed, but only because Swedish police, after hearing about Breivik's atrocities, took it upon themselves to set up checkpoints and barriers.