Mutiny or Terrorist Attack?

Writer Dimitry Drobnitsky on whether the incident in Washington can be called a classic shooting

Even though U.S. President Barack Obama — and along with him some mass media — has rushed to compare the mass killing in Washington, D.C. to the shootings in Colorado, Connecticut and other places, the situation is not actually so unambiguous.

First of all, there’s the crime scene: the capital of the United States, the District of Columbia. Here, citizens are not issued any licenses to carry weapons and licenses issued in any of the other states are not valid. You may register a weapon only in order to protect your home. This is federal territory, literally rigged with law enforcement officials.

Secondly, there’s the target. In the other cities, shooters chose cinemas, malls and schools as targets — that is, only places where people had no way of protecting themselves. These are places where you are not allowed to carry a weapon, and even police officers not on duty surrender their weapons, while security guards are armed with an electroshock weapon in the best of cases. In addition, children in school and families at the cinema or shopping make easy targets and are victims by definition.

In Washington, the attack was carried out on a Marine facility — the Navy Yard. It’s one of the U.S. Navy’s strategic centers, located less than a kilometer(!) from the Capitol. Of course, the Navy Yard also has a museum (in Washington, there are museums everywhere) that serves for ceremonies, but for the most part the buildings are “institutional,” as we would say in Russia. Here you can find the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the Marine Corps Institute and one of the command centers for naval operations.

According to information from American sources, the shooting initially began in building 197, which mainly focuses on military-scientific and military-technical tasks. Needless to say, this implies high security and an appropriate level of ensuring security. City authorities confirmed that security in the building is implemented by the fleet’s own law enforcement authorities. It’s not difficult to guess that they are not janitors hired from ads. They are Marines.

Both military and civil specialists work in the building, but in order to get inside and start shooting people, you would have to get past experienced, armed security. Technically speaking, what happened at 8:30 in the morning (4:30 p.m. Moscow time) and started that horrible day in the U.S. capital was a shooting at the entrance of the building. But security was not able to deal with the attacker (or attackers). Five to seven minutes later, there were new shots on the third and then the fourth floor.

According to an unofficial version, compiled using “anonymous sources” and with the help of witness accounts, there are three suspects — all tall, strong, experienced, between 35 and 50 years old. They were all dressed in military outfits. One was shot down at the entrance of the building in the “cleanup” by a Special Forces agent and quickly identified by his fingerprints. Reports appeared that it was Aaron Alexis, “a reservist recently fired from his job.”

One of the people described by the security authorities was soon taken off the list of suspects. The Special Forces continued to “clean up” the entire compound, many streets of Washington were closed off, lessons at schools were cancelled, work at Ronald Reagan airport was suspended and the number of casualties reached 12.

To finish, a few words on the weapons that were used during the attack. After initial witness accounts — and among them many had a seasoned eye — FBI agents concluded that the suspect was using a Colt AR-15 rifle with high-capacity storage (the same kind that Obama tried to ban). However, information about the make of the weapon, legal for the civilian population to buy in many states, should not surprise anyone. The fact is that, even from an average distance, it’s practically impossible to distinguish the most widely propagated model AR-15 from its “sister” M-16, the main weapon of the U.S. military. What is more, the sound description by one of the witnesses of the crime clearly speaks in favor of a full-automatic fire with a three-round burst setting, which points toward an army weapon and not a civilian one.

In short, clearly we are not dealing with a “usual” shooting, executed by a mentally challenged young man somewhere in the middle of nowhere. This was an extremely calculated attack, completed by people who were prepared (it is possible that it will turn out that “Rambo” was alone).

It is understandable that the president wants to once more blame everything on the civilian population’s irresponsible attitude toward weapons. That is where the words “yet another shooting” came from. But the matter here is completely different. Of course, we can presume that some Marine was undeservedly (or, on the contrary, deservedly) fired, and he arrived at one of the headquarters of his former department in order to get even. But it’s one thing to arrive at a defenseless office with a rifle and something entirely different to attack a protected military base. Element of surprise? To a certain extent. But this does not change the fact that a member of the U.S. armed forces (even a former one) attacked his own headquarters, and that this attack, had it been carried out against an enemy base, would have been called bold and professional. All Obama needs now is a military strike in Washington!

The alternative is even worse: a terrorist attack. The mayor of Washington has announced that for now there is no basis to consider what happened an act of terrorism. Nevertheless, formally this is just that — terrorism. What else would you call an attack on a strategic unit that brought about many victims? In addition, a terrorist attack does not necessarily need to have external or religious roots (the FBI has an entire department dedicated to fighting so-called domestic terrorism). After the catastrophe in the consulate in Benghazi and the Boston explosions and against the background of the wiretapping scandal in the National Security Agency, today’s shooting in the headquarters of the U.S. Navy could finally shatter the faith in the current administration of the White House.

Taking this into account, Obama’s use of words is curious. He called the shooting at Navy Yard a “cowardly act.” That is exactly what George W. Bush called the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 ….

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