THE ORLANDO DEBATE AND BEYOND: MADNESS VERSES RATIONALITY IN A HIGH RISK WORLD
By: Harry C. Blaney III
INTRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS
After the tragedy in Orlando, our political leaders took to the podiums and social media to express their condolences and suggest ways to move forward. Below you will find a compilation of some of the most indicative recent quotes grouped by topic (Muslims in America, Gun Control, and Combating ISIS) with the name of the speaker noted before each quote.
Anyone who reads the words, Tweets, remarks, and speeches of those who aspire to lead our nation, including those found elsewhere on this blog, can only wonder what dichotomous universe we must be living in.
Most recently Donald Trump, as we all know, tried to use the Orlando killings to divide our nation and increase hate of the “Other.” Time and time again, he has scapegoated our Muslim citizens and proposed acts that are contrary to our constitution – to which, if president, he would have to swear support. The unforgivable statements by Trump, who has a history of bigotry, of disparaging others, of ethnic and gender discrimination, and of claiming that Obama is not a natural born citizen, now he implies that our President’s acts are maybe not those of someone who loves his country.
Trump’s accusations against Muslims – singling them out for special observation and banning coming into the country – are all the acts of bigotry and are contrary to American values and clearly illegal. President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders have all spoken about how this stance is contrary to American law and values.
With his statement below, Trump seems to support the proliferation of guns, tying himself closely to the NRA. It indicates that he has no problem with mass assault rifles, even by eliminating access by those found legally insane or incompetent, or even to potential terrorists on our “No Fly Lists.” Now there are reports of pressure on the GOP nominee to moderate that stance, and Trump announced a meeting with the NRA. After the filibuster last night, Congressional leaders said they might consider some kind of ban for those on the “Terrorist Lists” whatever that means. Nothing however on assault rifles.
The final section of quotes addresses Obama’s ISIS strategy and includes a point by point refutation by President Obama of Trump and others’ unsound views and assumptions that stem from a lack of strategic understanding of the complex national security policy landscape and ignores, above all, the cost in both American and civilian lives and treasure. It also is oblivious of the possibility that the humanitarian costs from any all-out assault on the ground in Syria and Iraq could be greater than we have so far seen. But we and other nations do need to protect the refugees and provide assistance urgently.
MUSLIMS IN AMERICA
“I want surveillance of certain mosques if that’s OK,” (Rally in Birmingham, AL, November 21, 2015)
“I think Islam hates us…[the war is against radical Islam, but] it’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.” (Interview with Anderson Cooper, March 10, 2016)
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” (Press Release, December 7, 2015)
When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.
After a full, impartial and long overdue security assessment, we will develop a responsible immigration policy that serves the interests and values of America.
We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer.
Many of the principles of Radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions.
I refuse to allow America to become a place where gay people, Christian people, and Jewish people, are the targets of persecution and intimidation by Radical Islamic preachers of hate and violence. …. It’s not just a national security issue. It is a quality of life issue.
We need to tell the truth, also, about how Radical Islam is coming to our shores.
We are importing Radical Islamic Terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system — and through an intelligence community held back by our president….
I want us all to work together, including in partnership with our Muslim communities. But Muslim communities must cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad – and they do know where they are.
This argument of labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric, and sadly, we have all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship, even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups.
That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people.
But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us.
We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.
Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith?
We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?
Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack.
It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.
We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history.
This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that.
And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.
The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won and we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.
You know, two weeks ago I was at the commencement ceremony of the Air Force Academy and it could not have been more inspiring to see these young people stepping up dedicated to serve and protect this country.
Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americans as well as millions of Muslim business people and tourists from entering our country hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror.
So does saying that we have to start special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion. It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against American Muslims and mosques have tripled after Paris and San Bernardino. That’s wrong. And it’s also dangerous. It plays right into the terrorists’ hands.
Still, as I have said before, none of us can close our eyes to the fact that we do face enemies who use their distorted version of Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. They’d take us all back to the Stone Age if they could, just as they have in parts of Iraq and Syria….
And finally, finally let me remind us all, I remember, I remember how it felt, on the day after 9/11, and I bet many of you do as well. Americans from all walks of life rallied together with a sense of common purpose on September the 12th and in the days and weeks and months that followed. We had each others’ backs. I was a senator from New York. There was a Republican president, a Republican governor, and a Republican mayor. We did not attack each other. We worked with each other to protect our country and to rebuild our city .
President Bush went to a Muslim community center just six days after the attacks to send a message of unity and solidarity. To anyone who wanted to take out their anger on our Muslim neighbors and fellow citizens, he said, “That should not, and that will not, stand in America.” It is time to get back to the spirit of those days, spirit of 9/12. Let’s make sure we keep looking to the best of our country, to the best within each of us. Democratic and Republican presidents have risen to the occasion in the face of tragedy. That is what we are called to do my friends and I am so confident and optimistic that is exactly what we will do.
“The Muslim people did not commit this act. A man named Omar Mateen did. To blame an entire religion for the acts of a single individual is nothing less than bigotry, and that is not what this country is supposed to be about.”
“I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest. It’s not reflective of our principles not just as a party but as a country. This is a war with radical Islam. It’s not a war with Islam. Muslims are our partners. Ultimately, we ought to have the tools where we have a security test, not a religious test, a security test, and we think that’s the preferred route to go.” (CNN, June 14, 2016)
“If you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had. If people in that room had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him… right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having”
“We’re getting rid of gun-free zones. OK. We’re getting rid of them” (Speech to the NRA, May 20, 2016)
If we really want to help law enforcement protect Americans from home-grown extremists, the kind of tragedies that occurred at San Bernardino and that now have occurred in Orlando, there is a meaningful way to do that. We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents.
It is absolutely true, we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm. We should give ATF the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have.
People with possible ties to terrorism, who are not allowed on a plane should not be allowed to buy a gun. 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.
Even as we make sure our security officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we stop terrorists from getting the tools they need to carry out the attack.
And that is especially true when it comes to assault weapons like those used in Orlando and San Bernardino.
I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets and we may have our disagreements about gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few essential things.
If the FBI is watching you for a suspected terrorist link, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked.
And you shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show.
And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.
Now, I know some will say that assault weapons and background checks are totally separate issues having nothing to do with terrorism. Well, in Orlando and San Bernardino terrorists used assault weapons, the AR-15. And they used it to kill Americans. That was the same assault weapon used to kill those little children in Sandy Hook.
We have to make it harder for people who should not have those weapons of war. And that may not stop every shooting or every terrorist attack, but it will stop some and it will save lives and it will protect our first responders.
And I want you to know, I’m not going to stop fighting for these kinds of provisions.
ON ISIS STRATEGY:
For this topic, we have also included a quote by Roger Cohen, a columnist for The New York Times from his recent column titled “Orlando and Trump’s America” (June 13, 2016), to show how Trump’s vitriol and shallow analysis has even permeated the media and given solace to those that would be happy to mindlessly put American troops on the ground but do not take into account its cost and risks for possible “blowback.”
COHEN: “President Barack Obama described the shooting as “an act of terror and an act of hate.” He made clear his disapproval of gun laws. He called for solidarity. He said nothing about ISIS, or the way the Islamic State’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq reinforces the charismatic potency of its ideological appeal, disseminated from that base through the Internet. … He also said this: “To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
“Yes, to have actively done nothing in Syria over more than five years of war — so allowing part of the country to become an ISIS stronghold, contributing to a massive refugee crisis in Europe, acquiescing to slaughter and displacement on a devastating scale, undermining America’s word in the world, and granting open season for President Vladimir Putin to strut his stuff — amounts to the greatest foreign policy failure of the Obama administration.
It has made the world far more dangerous. I hope for the best but fear the victory of the politics of anger in America and Europe.”
Well I said they don’t know much because they’re not winning, I tell you this, they’re not winning for a different reason. I think Obama is hurting them… From what I hear, it’s being run from the White House. It’s all being run from the White House. I’ve spoken to certain generals— I’ll keep it quiet, highly respected people. We could knock them out fast. (Via Real Clear Politics, June 5, 2016).
“Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” (MSNBC Town Hall, March 30, 2016)
“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families” (Fox & Friends, December 2, 2015)
At the outset, I want to reiterate our objective in this fight. Our mission is to destroy ISIL. Since I last updated the American people on our campaign two months ago, we’ve seen that this continues to be a difficult fight, but we are making significant progress.
Over the past two months, I’ve authorized a series of steps to ratchet up our fight against ISIL. Additional U.S. personnel, including special forces in Syria to assist local forces battling ISIL there, additional advisers to work more closely with Iraqi security forces and additional assets, including attack helicopters and additional support for local forces in northern Iraq. Our aircraft continue to launch from the U.S.S. Harry Truman, now in the Mediterranean. Our B-52 bombers are hitting ISIL with precision strikes. Targets are being identified and hit even more quickly. So far, 13,000 airstrikes.
This campaign at this stage is firing on all cylinders and as a result, ISIL is under more pressure than ever before. ISIL continues to lose key leaders. This includes Salman Abu Shabib, the senior military leader in Mosul, who plotted external attacks, Shaker Wahib, ISIL’s military leader in Iraq’s Anbar Province, and Maher al-Bilawi, the top ISIL commander in Fallujah.
So far we have taken out more than 120 top ISIL leaders and commanders. And our message is clear, that if you target American and our allies, you will not be safe. You will never be safe.
ISIL continues to lose ground in Iraq. In the past two months, local forces in Iraq with coalition support have liberated the western town of Rutba and have also pushed up the Euphrates River Valley, liberating the strategic town of Hiit and breaking the ISIL siege of Haditha.
Iraqis forces have surrounded Fallujah and begun to move into the city. Meanwhile in the north, Iraqi forces continue to push up the Tigris River Valley, making gains around and now preparing to tighten the noose around ISIL in Mosul.
ISIL has now lost nearly half of the populated territory that it once controlled in Iraq and it will lose more.
ISIL continues to lose ground in Syria as well. Assisted by our special operations forces, the coalition of local forces is now… tightening around ISIL in Raqqah as well.
In short, our coalition continues to be on offense. ISIL is on defense and it has now been a full year since ISIL has been able to mount a major successful offensive operation on either Syria or Iraq.
As ISIL continues to lose territory, it also continues to lose the money that it is — that is its life blood.
As a result of our strikes against its oil infrastructure and supply lines, we believe that we’ve cut ISIL’s revenue from oil by millions of dollars per month. In destroying the storage sites where they keep their cash, we’ve deprived ISIL of many millions more.
Thanks with great work of Secretary Lew and many others here today and working with nations and financial institutions around the world, ISIL is now effectively cut off from the international financial system. Cutting off ISIL’s money may not be as dramatic as military strikes, but it is critically important and we’re seeing the results.
ISIL’s cash reserves are down, it has had to cut salaries for its fighters, it’s resorting to more extortion of those trapped in its grip. And by ISIL’s own admission, some of its own leaders have been caught stealing cash and gold. Once again, ISIL’s true nature has been revealed. These are not religious warriors, they are thugs and they are thieves.…
ISIL’s ranks are shrinking as well. Their morale is sinking. As one defender — as one defector said, ISIL is not bringing Islam to the world and people need to know that. Thanks to international efforts, the flow of foreign fighters, including from America, to Syria and Iraq has plummeted. In fact, our intelligence community now assesses that the ranks of ISIL fighter has been reduced to the lowest levels in more than two and a half years.
Even as we continue to destroy ISIL militarily, we’re addressing larger forces that have allowed these terrorists to gain traction in parts of the world. With regard to Iraq, this means helping Iraqis stabilize liberated communities and promote inclusive governance so ISIL cannot return.
With regard to Syria, it means our continued support for the fragile cessation of hostilities there. The cessation of hostilities has not stopped all or even most of the hardship on the Syrian people, the hardship on civilians. And the Assad regime has been the principal culprit in violating the cessation of hostilities.
ISIL and al-Nusra, which is Al Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, also continue to terrorize Syrians. But as fragile and incomplete as the cessation is, it has saved lives and it has allowed the delivery of some life-saving aid to Syrians who are in desperate need. And as difficult as it is, we will continue to push for a political process that can end the civil war and result in a transition away from Assad.
Beyond Syria and Libya — beyond Syria and Iraq, ISIL is also losing ground in Libya. Forces of the Libyan Unity Government are going after ISIL in their stronghold in Sirte and we’ll continue to assist the new Libyan government as it works to secure its country.
(Note: Unless otherwise noted all quotes above of President Obama come from his National Security Speech on June 14, 2016 and more recent reaction to Orlando; quotes from Hillary Clinton come from her National Security Speech on June 13, 2016, and all Donald Trump quotes are from his Foreign Policy Speech on June 13, 2016 and other statements as cited.)
WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS AND THERE IS A SECTION FOR THEM AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST.
SEE OUR NEW SPECIAL PAGE ON THE HISTORIC “BREXIT” VOTE ON BRITAIN LEAVING THE EU, THE DEBATE, AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE DECISION. WE WILL BE REPORTING “LIVE” FROM LONDON IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS ON THIS ISSUE SO STAY TUNED TO RNS BLOG FOR INSIGHTS AND ON THE SPOT REPORTS!