After beginning his murderous assault on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida yesterday morning, Omar Mateen called 911 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Within hours, ISIS claimed responsibility for the massacre that left 50 people dead and 53 wounded. The body count, expected to rise, makes the Orlando shooting the most lethal terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 and the worst mass shooting in American history.
Yet hours later, in his remarks to the nation, President Obama called the shooter’s rampage “an act of terror” and “an act of hate”— but not an act inspired by the ideology of radical Islam. Instead, the president politicized the event, calling it a consequence of lax gun control laws. “This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub.” Even now, after the success of ISIS in recruiting and radicalizing thousands of individuals into the theology of violent jihad, the White House does not deviate from its posture of denial.
The president’s many allies, in politics and the media, embody the moral and spiritual poverty of modern liberalism. For over 15 years the West has faced a global network of terrorists, bound by a common ideology, committed to re-establishing an Islamic caliphate and enslaving or destroying anything that stands in its way. And yet the cultural left treats the Orlando assault as if none of this has been going on—as if religious belief played no role in the modern world, as if there was no difference between a school shooting by a young man who emotionally snaps and a suicide bombing planned and inspired by ISIS.
Consider just one example of the liberal frame of mind, from MSNBC yesterday:
CHUCK TODD: We don’t know—hate crime, terrorism…Should it matter? It’s a terrorizing situation no matter what.
TOM BROKAW: It shouldn’t matter…We don’t have any dialogue going on in America about all these mass shootings that have occurred since San Bernardino. And they’ve been going on around the country, three or more killed at a time…
CHUCK TODD: By the way, dead people are dead people. I hate to say, it all looks bad…
JOY-ANN REID: Whether it’s a hate crime or whether it’s related to international terrorism, we’re not getting to the core issue which is how easy it is to get a gun.
Here is the progressive response to the gravest threat to Western civilization since the Cold War: Dead people are dead people. The problem is not only what liberals think about the scourge of Islamic extremism. It is how they think—if, in fact, the rational act of thinking is even involved in their debased deliberations.
The problem, of course, is that the intellectual deceit of the Obama administration—the refusal to admit that a religious ideology linked to Islam lies at the center of the terrorist cancer—puts the United States at great risk. The bi-partisan 9/11 Commission Report, widely praised for its assessment of the threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates, explains why:
But the enemy is not just ‘terrorism,’ some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism…With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.
Isolating and destroying radical Islamism involves not only an aggressive military response. It requires an intelligence community that understands the religious commitments of its enemy. Instead, for eight years, the president has weakened the intelligence-gathering tools essential to preventing attacks against American citizens. Thanks to the Obama administration, our national security officials are not trained in the teachings of radical Islam. Thanks to a politically correct White House, they are failing to learn from the attacks in Tel Aviv, Paris, Brussels, Boston, and San Bernardino. ISIS and its affiliates are focusing on “soft targets” to terrorize the West—and are increasingly adept at recruiting Muslims here and abroad as foot soldiers in their unholy war.
Nevertheless, with a straight face, President Obama told the American people yesterday: “We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.” He said this even after being briefed that twenty-nine-year-old Omar Mateen was investigated twice by the FBI for links to terrorism, most recently in 2014, for ties to Moner Mohammad Ausalha, an American who went to Syria as a suicide bomber. According to an agent at the FBI’s Tampa division, the bureau concluded that “the contact between the two men had been minimal” and “did not constitute a substantive threat.” Case closed.
Exactly how much contact with individuals swearing allegiance to the Islamic State is required before our security apparatus intervenes? We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. Of course they haven’t, since this White House is too morally degraded to make such a judgment. Fifty Americans are dead, fifty-three wounded: more collateral damage in Barack Obama’s war on the truth.
Joseph Loconte is an associate professor of history at the King’s College in New York City and a senior editor at Providence. He is the author of A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918.
Photo Credit: By Orlando Police via Twitter @OrlandoPolice on Sunday morning at Pulse Nightclub.