Orlando and Willful Blindness at The New York Times
The New York Times has an interesting profile of Omar Mateen, the Orlando terrorist who murdered 49 people and wounded more than 50 others at a gay nightclub over the weekend. In the main, the Gray Lady grapples with the profound challenge the FBI faces in striking the balance between investigating ambiguous signs of potential terrorist inclinations and clearing suspects (or “persons of interest,” as they say in the biz) as to whom the evidence seems weak.
It will take some time to draw firm conclusions about Mateen’s case. Still, FBI Director Jim Comey has been admirably open in explaining that while agents appear to have (twice) probed Mateen responsibly, the Bureau must keep exploring whether clues were missed and more could have been done.
That aside, there are two major flaws in the Times’ account, and quite possibly in the government’s self-examination of its performance.
These errors illuminate Washington’s quarter-century of consciously avoiding the proximate cause of jihadist terror: sharia-supremacist ideology.
Our opinion elites resist acknowledging this because it is drawn literally from Islamic scripture.
Drawing on an interview with Mateen’s ex-wife and on aspects of Mateen’s behavior that have been uncovered so far -- e.g., frequenting gay bars, possibly using a gay dating app -- the Times reasonably speculates that Mateen may have been gay and deeply conflicted about “his true identity out of anger and shame.”
The paper, however, steadfastly avoids asking: What could have caused such wrenching self-loathing?
After all, if he was gay, Mateen would hardly have been the first person to experience great anguish over his sexual preference, despite the fact that American culture has dramatically normalized homosexuality. Yet, those people manage to control their psychological turmoil and depression without walking into a gay club and committing mass-murder.
Assuming that the “he was gay” angle pans out, what could cause such deep conflict in Mateen that he would carry out such an atrocity?
Part of the explanation -- probably the explanation -- has to be sharia supremacism.
The Times account includes some indicators that Mateen, despite his “Americanization,” leaned toward Islamic fundamentalism: his Afghan roots, his two pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, his apparently inflated claims of acquaintance with terrorists, his sometimes discriminatory and cruel treatment of his ex-wife. We now know, moreover, that Mateen came onto the FBI’s radar screen because he was acquainted with and attended the same mosque (the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Florida) as Mohammed Abu Salha, an American fundamentalist of Palestinian descent. Salha, who had been trained by al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al-Nusra, ultimately returned to Syria and died carrying out a jihadist attack.
Yet the Times omits the possibility, reported by Fox News, that Mateen also enrolled in an online radical indoctrination course: the Islamic “seminary” run by Marcus Robertson (aka Abu Taubah), whose jihadist roots trace back to the early 1990s.
Robertson’s lectures are said to have been extremely hostile to homosexuals. In conjunction with other facts that have been developed, the “seminary” connection suggests that in recent years Mateen had immersed himself in sharia supremacism.
That is significant because of a point I stressed over the weekend -- a point the Times ignores: For over a millennium, classical sharia has endorsed the condemnation and brutal killing of homosexuals.
The Times and the Obama administration have gone to great lengths to nail down whether there was a Mateen tie to ISIS: Was he merely “inspired” by the jihadist organization with which he expressed solidarity even as he carried out his attack? Or was there -- as seems highly unlikely -- some more formal, operational relationship between Mateen and ISIS?
I do not mean to suggest that this is an irrelevant question. But it does miss a key point that Washington and the media always resist exploring: The persecution of gay people is not an ISIS thing or an al-Qaeda thing; it is an Islam thing.
More specifically, it is a bedrock of sharia law and has been since long, long before there was an ISIS.
If Mateen was deeply conflicted over his alleged homosexual leanings, it had to be because they cut so deeply against the grain of his adherence to sharia supremacism. That ideology, not “inspiration by ISIS” (or by other jihadists Mateen invoked, like the Boston Marathon bombers), is far more likely the root of Mateen’s inner rage.
The Sunni-Shiite Alliance Against Common Enemies
The second weakness of the Times report is its botching of historical alliances between jihadist groups. In a transparent attempt to minimize the Islamist ideological underpinnings of Mateen’s atrocity, the report states:
The F.B.I. director said on Monday that Mr. Mateen had once claimed ties to both Al Qaeda and Hezbollah -- two radical groups violently opposed to each other.
The not-so-subtle takeaway for readers is that sharia-supremacism cannot really have much to do with Mateen’s actions because Mateen seems to have been woefully confused about it.
No, the Times is confused.
To be sure, al-Qaeda is Sunni and Hezbollah (Iran’s Lebanon-centered jihadist militia) is Shiite. Uninformed analysts, perhaps looking only at the current conflict in Syria where the two organizations find each other on opposite sides, jump to the conclusion that al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are “violently opposed to each other.” The opposite, however, is actually closer to the truth: al-Qaeda and Hezbollah have had a close working alliance for a quarter-century.
This is not open to debate. It has been proved in court and in major investigations by congressional panels and special commissions. For example, in the prosecution of the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the Justice Department’s indictment expressly alleged:
Al Qaeda also forged alliances … with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.
Investigators have proved the al-Qaeda/Hezbollah alliance again and again. I’ve laid out some of the highlights several times, including in a recent National Review column:
Iran had an alliance with al-Qaeda beginning in the early 1990s. It principally included training by Hezbollah (the Beirut-based terrorist faction created and controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and such joint ventures as the 1996 Khobar Towers attack, in which 19 U.S. airmen were killed.
Toward the conclusion of its probe (and thus without time to investigate the matter fully), the 9/11 Commission learned that Iran had provided critical assistance to the [al-Qaeda] suicide hijackers by allowing them to transit through Iran and Lebanon as they moved from obtaining travel documents in Saudi Arabia (Saudi passports and U.S. visas) to training for the attacks in al-Qaeda’s Afghan safe havens.
Indeed, we now know that Iran’s assistance was overseen by none less than Imad Mugniyah, the now-deceased Hezbollah master terrorist who spent much of his life killing Americans, most notoriously in the Beirut marine-barracks bombing in 1983, and almost certainly at Khobar Towers. In October 2000, Mugniyah went to Saudi Arabia to “coordinate activities” (as the 9/11 Commission put it) with the [al-Qaeda] suicide hijackers. (See 9/11 Commission Report at page 240, as well as affidavits of former CIA officers and a 9/11 Commission staffer, here and here). Thereafter, Mugniyah and other senior Hezbollah members accompanied [al-Qaeda’s] “muscle hijackers” on flights through Iran and Lebanon.
By enabling the hijackers to cross through these countries without having their passports stamped -- an Iranian or Lebanese stamp being a telltale sign of potential terrorist training -- Iran made it much more likely that the jihadists’ applications for Saudi passports and U.S. visas would be approved, as they were. That is why, on the topic of potential Iranian [and derivatively, Hezbollah] complicity in the plot, the 9/11 Commission wrote, “We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government.”
There is, furthermore, an extensive, well-known history of alliance between Hezbollah and Hamas. The latter is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian terrorist branch, and notwithstanding its Sunni roots, Hamas has been lavishly backed by Iran’s Shiite regime.
Patently, it is not a sign of confusion about, or overstated connection with, sharia-supremacism to claim, as Mateen did, ideological sympathy with both Sunni and Shiite jihadists. The Iranian regime, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood have been expressing it for at least 25 years.
Indeed, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, one of the more notable al-Qaeda- and Hamas-linked terrorists prosecuted by the Justice Department since 9/11, was recorded at a White House rally in 2000 proclaiming:
We are all supporters of Hamas! Allahu Akbar! I wish to add here I am also a supporter of Hezbollah!
The bottom line is quite simple. Despite their differences and simmering hostilities, Sunni jihadists and Shiite jihadists enthusiastically collaborate with each other when dealing with a common enemy -- in particular, the United States or Israel. But when the common enemy is not much of a factor, they tend to turn quite viciously on each other, as they are doing in Syria (even as they continue to collude against the U.S. and Israel on the global jihad’s other fronts).
It is really not that difficult to grasp our enemies’ ideology. We just need to end the willful blindness.
We just need to accept that, if we are ever to prevail, we have to study sharia supremacism, including its Islamic roots, and see it plain.