Who Are The Real Snowflakes?

donald trump
Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

The Supreme Court’s June 26 decision to partially uphold President Donald Trump’s March 6 executive order to block people of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. is the most recent manifestation of the fear that Osama bin Laden succeeded in creating with his September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The 9/11 attacks were the worst terrorist attacks in world history, killing 2,996 people and injuring more than 6,000 others. The World Trade Center attack in New York was the most psychologically traumatic one for most Americans because millions watched it happen on live television.

Rudolf Giuliani was New York’s mayor when it happened. The following year he visited London and toured the local museums and memorials dedicated to the 1940 Battle of Britain and the Blitz. He wanted to do it, he explained, because the toughness exhibited by Londoners in those dark days of the Second World War had inspired him in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack.

The suffering that Londoners endured during WWII was truly awful. From September 1940 to May 1941 they were bombed by Hitler’s Luftwaffe almost daily. Then from January through May of 1944 the Germans bombed them regularly again, in what came to be know as the Baby Blitz. After the Western Allies landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, Hitler unleashed thousands of  V-1 flying bombs against southern England. And in September he began sending thousands of V-2 rockets. Hitler ordered these attacks as vengeance for the Allied bombing of German cities, but he also he hoped to instill a level of terror in Londoners that would destroy Britain’s will to fight. The Nazi attacks on London killed about 30,000 and seriously injured another 50,000, but the city kept calm and carried on.

The same can be said of most Americans after the 9/11 attacks. Nothing would ever be the same again, as intensive security measures were permanently implemented across the nation. But it helped when President George W. Bush addressed Congress in a nationally televised speech on September 21, 2001, and warned Americans about succumbing to fear and hatred:

I ask you to live your lives and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat. I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here. We’re in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.

Bush simultaneously took military action against the 9/11 terrorists. In October of 2001 he launched an invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban regime that had given Osama bin Laden a safe haven. In 2003, however, he launched an ultimately disastrous war for dubious reasons against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Barak Obama subsequently won the 2008 presidential election partly due to his promises to get U.S. troops out of Iraq, and to focus on killing Osama bin Laden while destroying his Al-Qaeda Islamic extremist terrorist network. Obama’s focus on fighting terrorism paid off when on May 2, 2011, he was able to tell a national television audience that, under his direction, U.S. Navy SEALS had killed Osama bin Laden in his hideout in Pakistan.

Under Obama, U.S. military and foreign intelligence agencies also inflicted enormous damage to the Al-Queda terrorist network. But the chaos created by the Syrian Civil War and the incompetence of the new Iraqi government created a vacuum that allowed for the meteoric rise in 2014 of a new Islamic extremist group in the Middle East who called themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – more popularly known in the West as ISIS. They were different than Al-Queda, because they had an army that captured and held large portions of Syria and Iraq, which facilitated their declaration of Raqqa, Syria, as the capital of their new “worldwide” Muslim caliphate.

ISIS was also more ruthless than Al-Queda, subjecting the people in the territories it occupied to torture and mass-executions for any perceived offense to their religious rules. And they generated terror worldwide by posting videos of brutal executions on social media, while encouraging Muslims around the world to carry out spontaneous attacks against non-believers.

They succeeded in inspiring numerous Islamic extremist terror attacks across the globe, but the ones that alarmed Americans the most, as usual, were the ones that happened in Europe and the U.S.  In Western Europe, the November 2015 attack in Paris killed 130 people, the March 2016 attack in Brussels killed 32, and the July 2016 attack in Nice killed 86. In the U.S., the December 2015 ISIS-inspired attack in San Bernardino killed 14 and injured 24, and the June 2016 attack in Orlando killed 49 and wounded 58 – making it the worst terrorist attack in the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks.

President Obama responded to the San Bernardino attack, and subsequent reports of the harassment of American Muslims, by giving a speech at a mosque in Baltimore in February 2016 wherein he said:

As Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths. An attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths, and when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. We cannot be bystanders to bigotry. We have to reject any politics that targets people because of religion. We have to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld.

But Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner in the  2016 presidential election, decided to exploit the terrorist attacks.

Clinton’s response to the 2015 Paris attack, however, touched on the same American ideals that were recognized by Bush and Obama.

“After a major terrorist attack, every society faces a choice between fear and resolve. The world’s great democracies can’t sacrifice our values or turn our backs on those in need. Therefore, we must choose resolve. And we must lead the world to meet this threat.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s inflammatory statements about Muslim extremist attacks helped him win a narrow election victory, even though more Americans have died from domestic right-wing terrorism. And his rhetoric hasn’t cooled off since the election. This March, an ISIS-inspired attack took place in London near the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament, killing 4 and injuring more than 50. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, responded to the attack by making a statement to ease the fears of Londoners.

There can be no justification for the acts of these terrorists and I am quite clear that we will never let them win. My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today. You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.

Trump attacked Khan on Twitter for telling Londoners there was no reason to be alarmed by the increased police presence in the city. A spokesperson for the mayor responded to Trump’s tweet by saying the mayor “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet.”

Donald Trump’s abandonment of long-held American values during the election campaign, and his continuing use of fear as a political tool have done immeasurable harm to the country in innumerable ways. That’s not an exaggeration. For example, far-right groups promoting racism, hatred and xenophobia now feel legitimized. Is this making America great again?

But even more troubling, he’s shown there are a lot of American voters who are willing to sacrifice other people’s rights for their own security. I bet a lot of Londoners would call them snowflakes.

Domestic Right-wing Terrorists A Growing Threat in the U.S.

donald trump
Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

The U.S. media continues to describe the recent attack by a husband and wife team of Islamic extremists in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and injured 24 as the worst terrorist attack in the country since the 9/11 attacks. It’s a true statement, but it’s also a bit misleading because it fails to acknowledge that a lot of Americans have also been killed and injured by right-wing terrorists.

The infamous September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist attacks killed 2,977 people and wounded more than 6,000. There’s never been a single right-wing terrorist attack in the U.S. that killed that many people, but the numbers are alarming if you add them up. According to the Tuskegee Institute, for example, from 1882-1968 there were 3,446 black people lynched in the U.S.

But lynching wasn’t the only form of terror used against black people after the Civil War. The Red Shirts were white supremacist paramilitary groups that began working in the South in 1875 to suppress black voters through intimidation. They were active and successful until 1900.

And lynching wasn’t the only type of violence used against blacks by white supremacists. In November of 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, a mob of 2,000 Democratic Party white men overthrew the city’s popularly elected government and installed their own people. Republican President William McKinley refused to intervene because he wanted Southern support for Senate approval of his peace treaty with Spain following the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War. Property belonging to the city’s black people was destroyed and 15-60 people were killed. At least 2,100 blacks abandoned their businesses and properties and left the city permanently after the riot, changing the city’s population from mostly black to mostly white.

In 1919 in Elaine, Arkansas, a white mob went on a rampage that killed an estimated 100-237 black people. But the worst incident of racial violence occurred in 1921 when a white mob started a race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that killed about 300 blacks, injured 800 more, destroyed more than 35 blocks of a black neighborhood, and left about 10,000 blacks homeless.

Tulsa race riot 1921
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921 (Unknown)

Well into the 1960s there were sundown towns posting signs along roads at their town limits ominously warning blacks that they had to leave town by sundown.

More recently, on April 19, 1995, anti-government right-wing terrorists detonated a massive bomb outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, including 19 children, and wounded more than 680. On August 5, 2012 a white-supremacist killed 6 people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

In 2009 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a report that warned of the growing dangers of right-wing extremism. But it was ignored and severely criticized by conservative politicians and commentators

Last April dozens of armed right-wing militia members flocked to Clark County, Nevada, in response to appeals for help from 67-year-old cattle rancher Cliven Bundy in his dispute with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In order to avoid violence the BLM was forced to cancel the roundup of Bundy’s cattle, which were illegally grazing on public land. A subsequent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) showed that Bundy’s success in getting the government to back down had energized violent right-wing extremists.

A short time after Bundy’s standoff began a white-supremacist killed 3 people at some Kansas City Jewish institutions. He shouted “Heil Hitler!” when he was arrested. In June a husband and wife team of right-wing terrorists killed 3 people, including two police officers, in Las Vegas. They left a swastika and a note that said, “The revolution is beginning.” Then in September an anti-government extremist shot two Pennsylvania state troopers, killing one and wounding the other. It took a massive, six-week-long manhunt to capture him.

This year a right-wing terrorist shot 10 black people, killing 9 and wounding 1, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17 in Charleston, South Carolina. He said he did it to incite a race war. And on November 27 an anti-abortion right-wing terrorist killed 3 people and wounded 9 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

There are plenty of other examples of right-wing terrorist attacks in the U.S., but these are enough to prove they are far more frequent than violent attacks by Islamic extremists. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to the American mass media or the Republican presidential candidates.

Front-runner Donald Trump, for example, suggested that the San Bernardino attackers were obviously radical Islamic terrorists because of their last names, and falsely claimed that one of their neighbors “knew what was going on” but didn’t report anything because he didn’t want to racially profile them. Unfortunately, this type of political fearmongering has been the focus of the mass media coverage of the San Bernardino attack and has further obscured the reality that domestic right-wing terrorism is a bigger danger.

Update

On August 12, 2017, a right-wing terrorist drove his car into a gathering of anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrators in Charlottesville, VA, killing one person and injuring at least 19 others.

That same day the the FBI arrested a right-wing terrorist in Oklahoma City, OK, for trying to detonate a large bomb to blow up a downtown bank building.

On December 22, 2017, a neo-Nazi teenager shot and killed his girlfriend’s parents in Reston, VA, after her parents forbid her from seeing him any more because of his right-wing beliefs.

On February 5, 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report documenting that over 100 people had been killed or injured by perpetrators influenced by the “alt-right” movement.

On April 26, 2018, the Equal Justice Initiative opened its National Memorial for Peace and Justice to remember the more than 4400 African Americans who were killed by white mobs between 1877 and 1950.

On October 26, 2018, Donald Trump supporter Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr. was arrested by the FBI for sending pipe bombs to Democratic politicians and supporters.

On October 27, 2018, an anti-Semite shot and killed 11 worshipers at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Right-wing Terrorists Treated Differently in the U.S.

Gadsden flag
Gadsden flag

Law enforcement officers in Pennsylvania are still searching the Pocono Mountains for Eric Frein, who they believe ambushed troopers at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Blooming Grove on September 12th, killing one and wounding another. Police say that Frein, who is reportedly a skilled marksman with outdoor survival skills, planned the attack and his subsequent escape for a long time. It’s been reported that Frein had a vendetta against law enforcement because he hated the federal government.

Frein isn’t the only antigovernment right-wing extremist to kill a policeman this year. In June, Jared Miller and his wife Amanda shot two police officers at close range while the cops were eating lunch in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Millers dragged the dead policemen out of the restaurant booth and covered them with a Gadsden flag, a symbol that’s popular with the Tea party movement. They also left a swastika and a note that said, “The revolution is beginning.”

The Millers then fled to a nearby Walmart where Jerad fired a shot at the ceiling to get everybody’s attention and then told all the shoppers to leave the store. Amanda then shot and killed a private citizen that tried to stop Jerad. When police arrived at the Walmart in response to 9-1-1 calls the Millers engaged them in a gunfight. Police killed Jerad and Amanda shot herself to commit suicide.

Afterwards it was revealed that the couple had previously joined supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who provoked an armed standoff in April against U.S. Bureau of Land Management agents that were executing a court order to remove Bundy’s cattle from federal land because of his longstanding refusal to follow grazing regulations or pay the $1.35 per month grazing fee.

The media coverage of the Bundy story was intense, and many reporters were sympathetic to Bundy’s groundless complaints, with the cable TV Fox News Channel crossing over the line into dangerous sensationalism. The killings committed by the Millers received less coverage, and the Eric Frein story has received even less. There would certainly be more intense media coverage if a black protestor from Ferguson, Missouri, or a Muslim immigrant assassinated a policeman. Apparently, we are at a place in American history where terrorism committed by white, right-wing antigovernment extremists isn’t considered to be that serious of a problem.

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