in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, there occurred a horrible terrorist attack. At 2 a.m., 29-year-old Afghan-American Omar Mateen, with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in his hands and handguns at his side, charged into a “Latin Flavor” special event being held that night with more than 350 participants (among them were many homosexual, bisexual and transgendered people) and went on a shooting rampage. However, after he took hostages, he entered into a standoff with police who rushed to the scene in an action that lasted until nearly 4 a.m. until Omar was finally shot to death. According to police reports, the current casualty toll stands at 50 deaths, and 53 injured at the hands of this gunman. This mass shooting incident has caused the greatest number of casualties on American soil since the 9/11 attacks.
There is no greater loser in this incident than the domestic counterterrorist system which the government has presented with pride. Even though there is no lack of controversy within the American political forum, media and general public over counterterrorist measures, laws and specific acts – for example there are people who are not pleased with the government and intelligence agencies using counterterrorism as an excuse to expand their power and peer into citizens’ private lives, and there are people who complain about the inconvenience caused in wake of the strengthening of counterterrorist measures, “prisoner abuse in Guantanamo,” “the Snowden incident,” and even “the Apple unlocking crisis,” all of which have often led to controversy – nearly everyone will admit that since 9/11, the United States has indeed established the world’s most rigorous domestic counterterrorist network, managing to defeat a great number of terrorist plots aimed at American soil. It is because of this that not long ago, the U.S. Department of State recently issued a travel warning to U.S. citizens headed for Europe prior to the opening of the Euro Cup, saying that they are “alerting U.S. citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe” (equivalent to simultaneously hinting that “American territory is safe”). This warning gave no recognition whatsoever to America’s European allies.
At the present moment the Euro Cup is in full swing, and under the rigorous security of the French, only one group terrorist incident has occurred. This “bloody tragedy” of rising trouble on the streets is in fact only melees among each country’s fans. On the other hand, in the “safe American territory,” there has occurred a lone-wolf terrorist incident that makes one’s head hurt and pokes a big hole in this notion of safety in America. For the trust vested in the U.S. government’s domestic counterterrorism efforts, this is undoubtedly a big attack.
The occurrence of the June 11 incident also has been awkward for an Obama who has flaunted his “decisive victory” over counterterrorism, and who has been determined to reduce America’s military presence in places like the Middle East and Afghanistan on the grounds of this success. Against the backdrop of Orlando’s painful injuries, in recent days Obama has invariably avoided the topic of using U.S. ground forces, but has put great effort into playing with the idea of the “casualty-free counterterrorism” of “air strikes from double aircraft carriers” in the eastern Mediterranean, a game that might turn into a laughable and high priced affair; this kind of “avoiding the serious and pursuing the easy” method might allow American troops to be casualty-free, but it has yet to allow U.S. citizens to be casualty-free.*
Naturally, Obama has a means of spinning this that he knows like the back of his hand – interpreting this incident as a “tragedy caused by the over-prevalence of guns,” and then promoting a discussion of the importance of gun control.* In one smooth motion, this places the responsibility for this tragedy on the shoulders of those who have held up his efforts on gun control: the Republicans. After last year’s Dec. 2 massacre in San Bernardino, Obama acted the same way (indeed, in the last eight years, it only took a large incident involving guns for Obama to respond with the same script). If the details are constantly changing, will this method be able to effectively resolve these issues?
The FBI was the first government agency to label this incident a “terrorist” act, but in reality this well-known intelligence agency is sadly also one of the losers in the June 11 incident. Since 9/11, many FBI programs have come under pressure from criticism that the FBI has “infringed on freedoms,” but the FBI has nonetheless steadfastly moved forward with these controversial methods. In its defense, the reasoning has been that through these programs they “can once again take control of the situation of terrorist attacks,” “facilitate early warning,” and the FBI is acting because these programs “might increase our factor of counterterrorist security.”* Yet, in wake of the June 11 shooting, this kind of self-defense reasoning is noticeably unpersuasive. To exacerbate things further, an official with the Florida branch of the FBI admits that in truth, in 2013 and 2014, the FBI carried out two investigations on Mateen on suspicion of him being involved in terrorism, but concluding that there was insufficient evidence and that he did not pose a real threat, the FBI let him off the hook. In 2009, U.S. intelligence agencies paid no heed to repeated warnings from a Nigerian banker that “my son has inclinations toward terrorism,” with that Nigerian banker’s son turning out to be Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who nearly blew up Northwest Airlines’ Flight 253 on Christmas of that year.*
Were this predicament to occur once more, many people would face the difficult question of how intelligence agencies that are costly to support and require a large number of personnel have allowed things to end up like this? Naturally, the FBI and other organizations might all draw good fortune from bad, and as a result of this incident’s occurrence obtain even more funding and freedom of action.
Hillary Clinton, one of the two popular candidates in the U.S. presidential election, was very cautious in the wake of this incident, choosing her words carefully as she condemned “the actions that led to tragedy.”* Yet, at the very least, she avoided using definite terms such as “terrorist,” so that even some American observers said it was as if she were attempting to place the emphasis on “homophobia” and not on “terrorism.” She is likely to have done this to avoid provoking her base supporters, and to take the opportunity to express good will to her large base of homosexual supporters. All of this bears risks: to avoid the clearly prevalent issue of terrorism might very likely offend the great number of citizens who are sensitive about security, not to mention the fact that many people already have criticized her flip-flopping and two-faced approach to the issue of terrorism. As to her performance on the matters of the Middle East while she served as secretary of state, and the responsibility she ought to bear for the spread of fundamentalist terrorism due to her record, there have been many discussions.
The biggest winner in this incident has unfortunately been the group that claimed responsibility for it, the Islamic State. However, there are clear signs that this incident was a lone-wolf attack and that the suspect Mateen was brainwashed online and is at best chalked up as a marginal player in the international terrorist network even though he cannot even really be counted among this peripheral group, his terrorist attack’s operation very likely being independently planned and carried out.
Nevertheless, prior to carrying out his violent attack, Mateen dialed 911 to proclaim his loyalty to the Islamic State group and made many pro-Islamic State group statements online. The Islamic State group naturally cannot relinquish such a great return on an investment they never made. Although they paid nothing, they are taking this all the way to bank, with media attention and “victory in battle.” Also, this attack has helped to expand the awareness of terrorism, seizing the pulpit from al-Qaida and other terrorist extremist organizations, as well as being able to supplement terrorist equipment and manpower. This is very important for the survival and development of international terrorist groups. Of course, Mateen also professed his approval and support for al-Qaida, and the terrorist organization will sadly be remiss to let go of the opportunity provided by this situation.
However, there is bad fortune lurking in good, and this cheap and ready-made opportunity also means that they need to bear a part of the imminent consequences of America’s anger.
And another victor from this might just be the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. After the incident occurred, the man who talked with a “big mouth” on the issue of counterterrorism immediately shouted out, “I called it,” and then aggressively demanded that Obama resign. The blood and life lost in Orlando led to him forget about any risk of his political incorrectness, once again proclaiming with his hate speech that Muslims ought to be banned from entering the United States. He need only project a knowing expression, and he can reap a “box office bonus.”
Moreover, the Republicans do not need to act like the Democrats, who remain silent about the terrorist nature of this incident, and Republicans may well take this opportunity to fiercely denounce the Obama administration’s counterterrorist measures as ineffective. And on account of the nature of the groups that have been harmed, and the special nature of where this occurred, a Republican party that has consistently been prickly on the issue of homosexuals might have just received a great gift – right now they do not even need to bring up the dilemma of homosexuality, they only need to continually stress “safety” and “homosexual victims” to extract a great deal of the “rainbow people’s” votes from the Democratic Party. Naturally, there has likewise been a degree of overkill on this issue, and American society as well as the electorate have both gone through “fast-foodization” and are forgetful. Emotions such as anger and sympathy come like a flood, but fly away just as fast. Things that are a big topic quickly fade away the moment they spring up. But as the issues resound beside traces of blood that have been diluted, the situation might just produce the opposite result.
*Editor’s note: These quotes, accurately translated, could not be verified.