Wednesday, June 15, 2016

An American Tragedy

In the wake of the mass killings in Orlando and the twisted response by Donald Trump, President Obama's widely quoted remarks on Tuesday were sometimes characterized as a tirade.

But those impassioned words were a fraction of what he said, and came at the end of a report on a National Security Council meeting on the progress of counter-ISIL efforts.  The meeting had long been on the schedule, but as President Obama said, inevitably the available information on the Orlando shootings dominated the discussion.

No current information suggests that the American-born shooter was directed by any foreign group, though he was apparently familiar with the ideology of ISIL and other terrorist organizations principally from Internet sites.  This comports with the information news media are reporting, of a very tangled state of affair with this particular man.

The full remarks (transcript here; video here) catalog efforts, many of them successful, to destroy ISIL where it lives.  But ISIL prospers from the sense of oppression, and President Obama was justifiably angry with Trump's policies that would oppress Muslim Americans as well as deny immigration on the basis of a religion--enacting precisely the policies that ISIL could use as evidence of oppression, to stir many new converts.  (This was his focus, rather than Trump's less that subtle implication that the President is an ISIL sympathizer if not co-conspirator.)  Hillary Clinton in Pittsburgh made similar points in her direct refutation of Trump's speech (I haven't read it, but here's the Times report.)

Trump, very Republican-like, needs everyone not to know the strenuous efforts the Obama administration has made and its many successes in weakening ISIL, or else his implications would appear ridiculous.  Their charges insult not only Obama but the entire US national security apparatus, our armed forces and our global allies.

As for mass shootings that include those perpetrated by self-styled political terrorists,  there is something that can be done to substantially reduce the risk of these events.  It's something supported by police and military leaders.  From President Obama's statement:

"Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism, and stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons. Reinstate the assault weapons ban. Make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us. Otherwise, despite extraordinary efforts across our government by local law enforcement, by our intelligence agencies, by our military, despite all the sacrifices that folks make, these kinds of events are going to keep on happening. And the weapons are only going to get more powerful."

Whether the potential perpetrator is a political terrorist or a person with heavy psychological problems or both, reducing easy access to weapons that one person can use to kill and severely wound 100 people in minutes is an obvious and fairly simple move.  As was painfully obvious in President Obama's first statement on the Orlando gun slaughter, the continuing failure to do this continues to be an American tragedy.

No comments: