On a nice day in July of last year, a truck bomb was set off in the government center of the Norwegian capital of Oslo.
Which, for the benefit of my readers in the USA, is in Norway.
Eight people died in the blast, and more than 500 more were injured to varying degrees. Since it was summer vacation time in Oslo, the center wasn't as full of people as it usually is, which explains the low casualty rate. The bomb itself was our good old friend ANFO (ammonium nitrate / fuel oil), the weapon of choice if you want to make a big boom for not a lot of money.
Surveillance videos showed a man walking away from the truck just before it went horribly nasty, and by reading the registration number on the vehicle the police determined that it belonged to a man named Anders Behring Breivik. An immediate search was mounted.
They were too late.
Breivik had left the area and headed for the island of Utoya, where the ruling party's youth movement was having a summer camp - boating, group activities, just clean fun for kids. When a man dressed as a police officer and carrying weapons showed up about two hours after the bombing, no one thought much of it.
Until he shot two off-duty cops who were acting as security (one of them the stepbrother of the Crown Princess).
When the smoke had cleared, Breivik had claimed another 69 lives before voluntarily giving up to police. Over the course of his shooting spree he would call out that the police were here, that everything was all right, and the kids should come out of hiding - whereupon he started shooting again.
His trial started several days ago, and one of things that surfaced as evidence was his psychological profile. It said, perhaps not surprisingly, that he was insane. Breivik immediately repudiated the study, claiming that he was most definitely not insane.
Of course, we remind ourselves that he planned and executed a killing spree, claimed that he was a crusading Knight Templar, and that he was trying to save the country from multiculturalism and "cultural Marxism." Suggesting that he's insane is a way to put some kind of rational meaning on his acts. If we can't understand his motives for shooting teenagers and trying to blow up the government, he must be crazy, right?
Timothy McVeigh wasn't crazy, and despite whatever we might think Osama bin Laden wasn't crazy either. While their world-view may seem skewed to us, they act rationally. They make their plans carefully (Breivik began planning this in the early 2000s, and one of his ideas was to kidnap the former Prime Minister and behead her on internet video), and they carry out those plans without visible rancor - and without pity (McVeigh set off his bomb at the Murrah Federal Building even though he knew that there was a day care center with small children in the structure).
So, as the trial goes on, is Anders Breivik insane?
No. He is rational according to his worldview.
How should he be punished for his acts? Well, that's a poser; Norwegian law has no death penalty, and apparently the longest you can stay in prison for any offense is 21 years. They might get around that by stringing all 77 sentences together consecutively, but even that may not fly. In this country (depending on which state you live in) he would spend every day of the rest of his life in prison, or spend an average of twenty years on Death Row awaiting execution.