I Can Do Bad All By Myself
US-based terrorists don’t need any support to commit violent acts.
Recently, following the terrible tragedy of 49 people losing their lives and scores more being injured in a nightclub in Orlando, Republican Senator John McCain, of Arizona, stated that US President Barack Obama was directly responsible for the event. Just let that sink in for a second. This is not a mere policy disagreement. This was the sitting US President being held accountable, by another prominent politician, for a guy with a history of violence killing a bunch of innocent people.
McCain, who seems to be as bound and determined as anyone in the public eye to destroy his once honorable reputation, later clarified his remarks.
Despite being totally reprehensible, McCain’s statement seems to reflect a deep misunderstanding of the very basic principles of causation. They also gloss over one of the most important aspects of this story. The shooter did not have any formal connection to any terrorist groups abroad. Let the reader also note that this was the case also in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA. Though both sets of terrorists professed to ascribe to the destructive ideology of Islamist groups that have arisen in the Middle East, neither of them had any formal connection to those groups. This stands in contrast the to perpetrators of similar crimes in Europe. In those instances, “terror cells” were in contact with, and actively getting support from, groups in the Middle East. The scariest part of the scenarios that have played out in the US is, the perpetrators didn’t need to have any material support from any terrorist groups, to commit mass atrocities. There is a reason these types of terrorists are referred to as “lone wolves.”
The only thing that the shooters in these instances shared in common with the Islamist groups in the Middle East is ideology. Unfortunately, when you make weapons of mass destruction accessible to almost anyone with some spare change, an ideology is all you need to light the fuse of the bomb that causes massive carnage. The ideology doesn’t specifically have to be radical Islamism, of course. It can be some other form of hate, such as white supremacy, as we saw in the case of the shooting at Emmanuel AME church in South Carolina. Given McCain’s reaction to the most recent shooting, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to imagine him blasting Obama for not going back in time to stop the rise of the Third Reich. After all, they were clearly the inspiration for the Neo-Nazi ideology espoused by the shooter in that scenario. Maybe McCain wouldn’t bring time travel into it, but perhaps he would blame FDR for not entering the war earlier. Either way, these things can be conveniently blamed on a Democratic President.
It’s easier to blame someone else, however far-fetched, than look at your own party’s role in blocking any meaningful legislation that would prevent these tragedies. Indolence and deflection have been the most distinguishing characteristics of how the GOP has handled these types of shootings. They have even blocked legislation to stop those who are on terror-suspect no-fly lists from obtaining assault weapons. Why would a misanthrope, bent on killing others, need to fly anywhere, though? They can stay in their own home town, build up an arsenal and eviscerate people there. They can draw on many different sources of incitement to violence. All they need is inspiration, not help. The frightening thing is, anyone with a grudge in the United States can do bad, all by themselves.
Update: The NY Times has a piece that pretty much sums things up.
American officials have said that those under surveillance in the United States for possible ties to the group usually have little terrorism expertise or outside support, which makes thwarting an Islamic State-inspired attack less like stopping a traditional act of terrorism and more like trying to prevent a shooting at a school or movie theater.
Robert Rackley is a political independent who finds himself increasingly frustrated with the childish presidential politics and obstructionist tactics of the GOP.