The crime that dare not speak its name

The ugly truth is that the Orlando shooting was not an act of terror; it was a good old-fashioned American hate crime. The connection between the shooter, Omar Mateen, and radical Islamist groups appears to have been aspirational at most. Sure, ISIS accepted credit for his bloody rampage. Why not? He gave them a freebie.

Terrorism is a political act of desperation. Those who commit terrorist acts are driven by principle, however misguided. Their intent is to induce a nation state to do their bidding by frightening its populace. On 9/11, for example, al Qaeda wanted to goad the United States into invading Afghanistan where their leader, Osama bin Laden, believed we would suffer a fate similar to that of the Soviet Union—a humiliating defeat followed a collapse of our government and economic system. Fifteen years later we are still bogged down in that benighted South Asian country with no clear exit. It is only thanks to the strength and resilience of our economy that bin Laden’s expectations have not come to pass—at least not yet.

President George W. Bush, for reasons at which we can only wonder, doubled down on bin Laden’s gamble by invading Iraq and completely destabilizing the Middle East. By removing the secular Baathist government of Saddam Hussein, Bush set the stage for the rise of the Islamic State, ISIS, and the resumption of the centuries old civil war among competing radical Islamist factions. For each their own reasons, the traditional world powers have been unable to resist the temptation to perpetuate the mess they have made in the region over the past 150 years by intervening in that conflict. Faced with mighty militaries of the US, the EU, and Russia, ISIS has turned to the only weapon at their disposal: terrorism.

It is not my intent to justify attacks on innocent civilians whether committed by bands of terrorists or by drones and bombers. My point is simply that terrorism exists in a political context and has a certain logic within that context. The killing of some 50 patrons of a gay nightclub is clearly outside of that context. It is a hate crime motived as such crimes usually are by hatred and fear. Mateen appears to have fought with the demons of his own ambiguous sexuality. In the absence of rational controls on firearms he was able turn those demons on hundreds of innocent people. Do not dignify this atrocity by calling it terrorism or excuse it by blaming it on foreign ideologues. It was nothing more, or less, than the sort of radical bigotry that has been a part of the American experience from the beginning empowered by the suicide pact we call the 2nd Amendment. In the end, we cannot stop ignorance and hatred but we can disarm it. Calling a crime like this one terrorism only supports who mistakenly believe that an armed citizenry somehow contributes to our national security. The enemy here is not ISIS, it is the NRA. And it is time to take the fight to them.

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1 Response to “The crime that dare not speak its name”


  1. 1 The Smiling Pilgrim June 14, 2016 at 19:13

    I think your right there is a hate crime in this not just an act of terror. However terror and hate often go together like couples 😦


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