By Hussain Abdul Hussain
The writer is Washington-based political analyst. He has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, among others.
WASHINGTON (AA) - It is mind-boggling how a government that is willing to move heaven and earth to avenge the killing of any one of its citizens, anywhere around the globe, sits back and “prays” that domestic massacres would one day stop.
The same American leaders who promise to launch a crusade against terrorism and to smoke out terrorists, the same American leaders who use exclusive military technology to strike terrorists anywhere on earth, the same American leaders who have “secret plans” to defeat Daesh and want to “take out all the oil” in Iraq, these same American leaders stand speechless as American schoolchildren are gunned down like paper targets at a shooting range.
The discrepancy in American bravado between fighting terrorism and doing nothing about domestic massacres explains all you need to know about the moral and ethical failure of a number of American presidents, lawmakers, and opinion leaders.
By now, this discrepancy and ethical failure has a name: The National Rifle Association (NRA). So powerful is the NRA’s lobbying arm that politicians do not even pretend to denounce gun violence. They simply pray and shut down gun regulation debate after each massacre committed by a white boy, saying that grievance is no time for debate.
But when the murderer is not white enough, or when the murderer hails from a Muslim-American or African-American family, all hell breaks loose, as many American politicians quickly overcome grief, and immediately promise all kinds of violence to avenge the attack, from bombing a foreign country into oblivion, to banning travel from other countries, or even demanding that the holy texts of Islam be changed and made more peaceful.
The results of the NRA’s unethical policies have been clear. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of Americans killed by gun violence stood at over 280,000, according to PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking site. The number of Americans killed by terrorism, in the same period, was 24.
Another similar factoid suggests something wrong in the American political ethos. Between Sept. 12, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2016, 47 percent of terrorist attacks on American soil took place at the hands of far-right white extremists, with 53 percent of the attacks committed by radical Islamic terrorists. During the same period, the number of attacks by far-right white American extremists was 62, dwarfing the number of attacks by Islamic radicals, which stood at 23.
Washington spends billions of dollars monitoring Muslim-Americans. President Donald Trump promised the creation of a database for Muslims in the U.S., saying that Muslims “know each other” well, and that the good ones can tell on the bad ones. Problem solved.
In fact, the U.S. monitoring of Muslim-Americans has been enhanced, compared to its monitoring of other groups of the population, since before September 2011. In his book Intelligence Matters, former Senator Bob Graham said that the FBI had received tips about Arab students who were preparing for the 9/11 attacks. The FBI got a tip from a mosque’s imam, apparently an FBI asset who hosted two of the 9/11 terrorists. The failure to act on that piece of intelligence was one of U.S. security agencies’ biggest failures that led to 9/11.
Almost all of the perpetrators of violence at American schools displayed signs that foretold their intentions to commit massacres. Yet, U.S. security agencies rarely seem interested in — or maybe never get the political command to — monitoring white communities in order to preempt such attacks.
The U.S. vigilance on terrorism is commendable and has saved American lives. Yet it remains inexplicable why U.S. security agencies cannot show similar prowess in monitoring and preempting violence by non-Muslim Americans.
It is true that non-Muslim Americans do not have names that raise red flags, such as Nidal Hassan or Omar Mateen, of the Texas and Florida attacks respectively, but that does not mean that the massacres of Adam Lanza and Nikolas Cruz, of Connecticut and Florida, were less atrocious. And whereas the crimes of Nidal and Omar were attributed to their community and its religion, Adam and Nikolas were not connected to their native communities or its faith.
As such, Nidal and Omar were labeled terrorists, on whom America spends trillions of dollars in fighting, while Adam and Nikolas were classified as mentally ill, for whom America only offers prayers.
Violence is violence, and whether it is committed by Americans of Muslim heritage or of white stock, they should be perceived in similar ways. The U.S. government should dedicate similar attention and resources to fighting both.
America has shown commendable resolve in protecting its citizens from terrorism. Yet this same America has shown inexplicable laxity in confronting killers, if they prove to hail from white communities.
Such disparity not only affects Muslim Americans, but also Americans of other non-white backgrounds, so much so that one American suggested that — in order to force Congress to regulate the massive ownership of guns among white Americans — anti-gun organizations should fund the arming of every African-American. Only when blacks are armed to the teeth, like whites, might Congress find it necessary to step up and regulate, according to some.
Such thinking springs from the way whites seem to throw their full support behind law enforcement when it comes to policing African-American communities. Yet these same white Americans suddenly lose all trust in law enforcement if security agencies are ever tasked with policing white communities. Suddenly, white Americans cry foul if the government seems to be intercepting any emails or snooping on any phone calls that might have a white American on one side of the conversation.
Congressional regulation of different aspects of violence has crossed all lines of hypocrisy. Congress seems keen to police non-white America, while refusing to police gun ownership in white America. This has created two Americas: one policed, and the other not so much. Unfortunately, however, the victims come from both Americas, the policed and the un-policed.
* Opinions expressed in this piece are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Anadolu Agency's editorial policy.