Orlando: Plenty of Blame to Spread Around
Orlando: Plenty of Blame to Spread Around

by Russ Wellen

The blame for the Orlando nightclub shooting starts with a homophobic psychopath and extends to corporations and states.

Well over 20 million AR-15s have been sold to American civilians.

There's plenty of blame to assign in the Orlando nightclub shooting -- to everyone but the victims. I defy anyone to find a single instance of homosexual violence against heterosexuals (try Googling that term and you will see what I mean). While some gays may find heterosexuality as "unnatural" as some heterosexuals claim to find homosexuality, they don't come to the deluded conclusion that heterosexuals must die.

Outside of self-defense, a capacity to kill, especially on the scale of Omar Mateen, presumes an inability to experience, or active disdain for, the quality of empathy. Imagination is required to feel empathy -- an ability to visualize another's experience including the pain he or she would feel if attacked. From the tactical to engineering (including bomb-making), fundamentalist extremists, whether Christian or Islamic, value ingenuity in the service of their causes. But, whether by design or because of the type of person drawn to fundamentalist extremism, when it comes to imagination and innovation, its proponents tend to come up short.

In the case of Islamic extremists, what makes this sad, besides the pain and suffering it causes its opponents, is that worshippers of the Prophet Muhammad have been at the vanguard of imagination and innovation in world history: from mathematics to astronomy to poetry. Turning the tables on Islamic jihadism for a moment, its proponents would never have developed the AR-15, one of the weapons used in the Orlando shooting, which has been called a brilliant piece of engineering.

The AR stands not for assault rifle but for ArmaLite the company that developed it in 1959. ArmaLite sold the design to Colt, which re-engineered it into the M16 for the military; it became a staple of American soldiers in the Vietnam War. Though the name AR-14 is trademarked to Colt, a number of companies made variations. From 2000 to 2010, 22 million have been produced in the United States for civilians.

It's only natural that such a popular weapon would become the rifle of choice for mass shooters from Jared Holmes to Adam Lanza to the San Bernardino shooters to Omar Mateen. Thus, of course, do the weapons companies and those who block regulation of their sales share in the blame for the Orlando shooting. Also, however difficult it may be to regulate a weapon that has saturated the market, both legal and black, at least as much blame must go to legislators who obstruct gun-violence prevention laws and the lobbyists that influence them.

G4S, the security company for which Mateen worked, is also implicated. Founded in Denmark, over the years G4S bought other international security companies, such as the U.S. company Wackenhut. In fact, the U.S. branch, G4S Secure Solutions Inc., is the new name for Wackenhut.

The New York Times reports that G4S admitted that it knew Mateen was questioned by the FBI in 2013. G4S said: "We were not made aware of any alleged connections between Mateen and terrorist activities, and were unaware of any further F.B.I. investigations."

Yet the statement did not address whether company officials had ever asked the F.B.I. why it had investigated Mr. Mateen. The company also did not respond to questions about Mr. Mateen's conduct raised by one of his former co-workers.

The co-worker, Daniel Gilroy, said in an interview on Sunday that he had expressed concerns to G4S about Mr. Mateen's demeanor when they both worked as security guards.

"He talked about killing people all the time," said Mr. Gilroy. And, as reported in another New York Times article, "had voiced hatred of gays, blacks, women and Jews." At least as troubling, according to Florida Today, "Gilroy quit after he said Mateen began stalking him via multiple text messages -- 20 or 30 a day. He also sent Gilroy 13 to 15 phone messages a day, he said." Gilroy said he believed that G4S refused to fire Mateen because he was Muslim, which presumably translates into fear of a lawsuit for discrimination.

Incidents such as Orlando are not new to G4S. In June 2012 one of its guards turned on his co-workers during a simple re-loading of an ATM machine in Edmonton, Canada and killed three of them in an attempted theft.

The next institution that shares blame for Mateen's actions can be discerned from Hillary Clinton's response after the shooting: "We need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad. That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are."

That's nice in theory, but who are those allies and partners? Foremost among them are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two leading patrons of Sunni Islamic extremist groups. If the United States truly sought to make a difference in terrorism, it would hold its relations to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan hostage until those two states agreed to stop funding and cultivating the likes of the Islamic State and the Taliban respectively. Furthermore, the United States needs to make clear to Israel that it must lift its oppression of the Palestinians, which is not only an international injustice, but, as far as Islamic extremists are concerned, one of the West's original sins against Islam and the Middle East.

In the end, it's not only one individual's psychopathy that manifested itself in homophobia and self-hatred -- developing story: Mateen may have been gay -- and the Islamic extremism that fueled it that's responsible for the Orlando shooting. It's also corporate interests -- G4S and the gun industry -- as well as unprincipled U.S. legislators and U.S. foreign policies that favor states breeding terrorism.

Courtesy Foreign Policy in Focus.

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