Obama’s legacy: Identity politics in the service of war

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29 July 2016

Barack Obama concluded his address to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Wednesday night by declaring himself ready to “pass the baton” to the party’s nominee and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Accounts of the address in the corporate media have repeatedly referred to the US president casting Clinton as the continuator and custodian of his “legacy.”

But what is the legacy of Obama? In its essential political terms, it consists of his having succeeded in overcoming internal divisions on the question of war that have plagued the Democratic Party for half a century. His administration marks the return of the Democrats to their roots as the premier party of US imperialism, a status the party maintained though two world wars and the subsequent Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Obama, who was swept into office on a wave of popular antiwar sentiment, will enjoy the dubious distinction of being the first president to keep the US at war throughout two full terms in office.

He has continued the wars he inherited in Afghanistan and Iraq, while launching a new one that toppled the government and decimated the society of Libya; engineering a proxy war for regime change that now includes US troops deployed in Syria; and carrying out attacks in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and beyond.

With its “pivot to Asia” and steady buildup of US-NATO forces in Eastern Europe, Washington’s military might has been increasingly directed against Russia and China, in a relentless quest for global hegemony that poses the growing danger of a third world war.

Obama’s administration will also be remembered for its vast expansion of drone warfare, targeted assassinations and kill lists, along with vicious attacks on civil liberties and the militarization of America’s police.

What is extraordinary in the face of all of this is that war was not even a subject of discussion at the convention in Philadelphia. The silence on the matter was guaranteed by the fraudulent opposition candidate Bernie Sanders, who publicly backed Obama’s wars during his campaign, and officially ended his “political revolution” by uncritically endorsing Clinton, the chosen candidate of both Wall Street and the massive US military and intelligence apparatus.

In advance of both major party conventions, there were many comparisons in the media of this presidential election year with that of 1968, with predictions that, once again, there could be violence in the streets.

While no doubt the Trump campaign has escalated the atmosphere of violence in American politics, wholly ignored in these largely superficial analogies was the core issue that brought about the violence of 48 years ago: mass popular opposition to the Vietnam War, which ended up tearing the Democratic Party apart.

The incumbent Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was unable to run for re-election because of the hostility within his own party to the war in Vietnam, expressed in support first for the candidacy of Eugene McCarthy and then for that of Robert Kennedy, who broke with Johnson on the issue.

While Robert Kennedy’s assassination was followed by the nomination of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a supporter of the war, and his subsequent defeat by Republican Richard Nixon, Vietnam shattered the ideological foundations of the old Democratic Party, based on the filthy deal that was the foundation of Cold War liberalism: lip service to social reform at home, combined with unwavering support for US imperialism abroad.

In 1972, the antiwar candidate George McGovern won the nomination and was defeated by Nixon. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party was compelled to take antiwar sentiment into account, in its political calculations, for decades after the war in Vietnam ended.

A chasm had opened up between the party’s leading personnel within the US capitalist state and the Washington think tanks, who remained committed proponents and strategic thinkers of US imperialism, and a political base, including academics and upper layers of the middle class, in which there remained broad hostility to war.

This produced internal conflicts within the party in one election after another. On the one hand, Democratic candidates were compelled to posture publicly as opponents of war, in order to retain credibility with broad sections of the party’s electoral constituency. On the other hand, the Democratic candidates sought desperately to maintain credibility with the corporate and military-intelligence establishment, which expected that the candidate, once elected, would conduct foreign policy with the necessary ruthlessness.

In the aftermath of the election of George W. Bush came the mass antiwar demonstrations of 2003, and the subsequent attempts by various pseudo-left forces to channel this opposition back into the Democratic Party.

With the 2004 presidential election, Howard Dean emerged as an early favorite, campaigning as the representative of the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” and appealing to antiwar sentiment within the party. Even after his candidacy was derailed by the party establishment and the media, John Kerry, who had supported the war, was compelled to posture as an opponent, tying himself up in political knots and handing a re-election victory to Bush.

Finally, in 2008, the decisive reason that Barack Obama won the nomination and Hillary Clinton lost it was Clinton’s vote in 2002 to authorize the US war in Iraq.

In the promotion of Obama’s candidacy, his racial background was presented, particularly by the pseudo-left, as some kind of credential for progressive and antiwar politics, even as a close examination of his political record showed that he was no opponent of militarism. His family and professional connections to the US intelligence apparatus, meanwhile, were kept out of the news.

While Obama’s election was hailed by the pseudo-left as “transformative,” what has emerged over the course of his administration, facilitated by these same political forces, has been the utilization of identity politics in the furtherance of US imperialism.

This formula was on full display at the Philadelphia convention, where identity politics—the promotion of race, gender and sexual orientation as the defining features of political and social life—was woven directly into an unabashed celebration of American militarism.

This found carefully crafted expressions in Obama’s speech, including his declaration that “our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service,” a claim that could be made on behalf of another “all volunteer” imperialist fighting force, the French Foreign Legion.

He went on to state, “When we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just… ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.”

The US military had long been a bastion of fanatical homophobia, with over 114,000 service members forced out, with dishonorable discharges, over the issue between World War II and the scrapping of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011. That allowing gays into the military would erode discipline had been an article of faith for the US command.

Central to support for changing this policy was the recognition, within both the ruling political establishment and decisive layers of the military brass, that it would prove politically useful in winning support for the military among a privileged upper middle class layer that had identified with the politics of American liberalism.

The message at the convention was explicit: “These are your troops. These are your wars. They are being fought in your interests.”

Similar issues of identity politics were employed by the Obama administration in its attempts to whip up the anti-Russian hysteria that was on display in Philadelphia. Thus, well-orchestrated campaigns were mounted around Pussy Riot and statements made by Putin in relation to gays during the Sochi winter Olympic games.

In response to the heated rhetoric at the convention, the Washington Post’ssecurity columnist wrote a piece entitled “Clinton has now made the Democrats the anti-Russia party.” He noted: “In their zeal to portray Donald Trump as a dangerous threat to national security, the Clinton campaign has taken a starkly anti-Russian stance, one that completes a total role reversal for the two major American parties on US-Russian relations that Hillary Clinton will now be committed to, if she becomes president.”

The anti-Russian campaign has been ratcheted up sharply in response to the WikiLeaks release of Democratic National Committee emails exposing the collaboration of the DNC leadership and the Clinton campaign in the attempt to sabotage the campaign of her rival, Bernie Sanders, and rig the nomination.

Clinton and her supporters have attempted to quash any discussion of the damning contents of these emails by casting their release as a “national security” issue, with the absurd charge that Vladimir Putin was the real author of the leak, aiming to subvert the US elections.

The same method, it should be recalled, was employed in response to earlier exposures of US imperialism’s crimes abroad and wholesale spying at home, with Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden bearing the consequences in the form of vicious persecution, imprisonment and exile.

Opposition to this relentless repression, as well as to war, found no expression in the Democratic convention. Needless to say, Clinton not only supported, but participated in both.

Most tellingly, a whole political layer, commonly referred to as the “neoconservatives,” which broke with the Democrats in the 1960s and 1970s and moved into leading positions with the Reagan and Bush administrations, have now come home, issuing open letters and statements in support for Hillary Clinton.

This political evolution of the Democratic Party is not merely the matter of machinations within the party leadership and the state apparatus. It has a social base within a privileged social layer that has moved sharply to the right, providing a new constituency for war and imperialism. The systematic fixation on the issues of race, gender and sexual orientation—deliberately opposed to that of class—has provided a key ideological foundation for this reactionary turn.

The convention in Philadelphia has exposed a party that is moving in direct opposition to, and preparing for a confrontation with, a growing radicalization of the American working class.

The next period, as the class struggle emerges powerfully, will see a resurgence of opposition by American workers to war.

The Socialist Equality Party is the only party campaigning to prepare and give conscious political expression to this development, fighting for the political independence of the working class and the building of a mass international movement against war based on a revolutionary socialist program. We urge all of our readers to support and build the SEP campaign of Jerry White for president and Niles Niemuth for vice president.

Bill Van Auken

WSWS

Inside Milo’s “gays for Trump”

Far-right leaders Milo Yiannopoulos, Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders gave pro-Trump, pro-LGBT, anti-Muslim speeches

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Inside Milo's "gays for Trump," virulently anti-Islam party at the RNC
Milo Yiannopoulos at the “Wake Up!” pro-Trump, anti-Muslim LGBT party at the RNC (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

The most far-right party at the 2016 Republican National Convention may have also been the most pro-LGBT.

Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos held a “gays for Trump” party late Tuesday night in Cleveland.

He was joined by far-right anti-Muslim leaders Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders. All three gave adoringly pro-Trump speeches full of anti-Muslim vitriol.

The rhetoric was strikingly reminiscent of the extreme anti-Semitism of the early 20th century, yet directed at Muslims instead of Jews. All of the speakers explicitly condemned Islam itself, not just Islamic extremism.

LGBT for Trump founder Cris Barron stressed the importance of defending “Western civilization” from the existential threat posed by Muslims.

Wilders spoke of a “war” against Islam. He proclaimed “Islam is the problem” and condemned refugees for turning Europe into “Eurabia.”

Geller joined the speakers in applauding Trump’s “ban on Muslims from jihad nations,” which she called a “logical, rational and reasonable” policy.

Milo called Trump “the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history” and proclaimed, “The left’s stranglehold on homosexuals is over.”

Not one speaker mentioned U.S. and European foreign policy and wars, instead conflating the Islamic extremism fueled by Western-backed military conflicts and the political Islamism spread by Western allies with the millennium-old religion practiced by 1.6 billion Muslims.

The speakers all also excoriated the left, which they accused of supporting Islamism and of valuing Muslims over LGBT people.

Chris Barron (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Chris Barron (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

The art used to publicize the event is a cartoon depicting Donald Trump as a superhero, joined by sidekicks Milo and Geller.

The party, which was officially named “Wake Up! (the most fab party at the RNC),” was a big event for the so-called “alt-right,” a far-right movement that supports liberal social policies and portrays itself in certain ways as libertarian, but harbors some extreme right-wing, fascistic views.

A large yellow Gadsden flag reading “Don’t tread on me,” a common libertarian symbol, was in fact hung on the wall behind the DJ, but the speakers are people who have no problem with big government when it comes to Muslims and migration.

Unlike the so-called New Atheists, who claim they oppose all religions equally — although they reserve particular hatred for Islam and Muslims — the alt-right does not feign impartiality.

Milo mentioned his Catholicism, and Geller openly argued that Christianity and Judaism are better religions than Islam, insisting Islamic law subjugates non-Muslims while Canon and Jewish law do not repress those of other faiths.

Chris Barron, the founder of the pro-LGBT conservative NGO GOProud and the leader of the “LGBT for Trump” campaign, introduced the speakers.

Barron set the tone of the event right from the get-go, warning a “radical Islamic ideology” threatened LGBT Americans. He called it a “life or death situation.”

Barron and the other speakers blamed the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June on Islam, although the U.S.-born shooter was likely himself gay and had previously attended the club. Additionally, a former gay lover of his called it a “revenge” attack.

Trump not only supports LGBT people, Barron claimed, but also employs them, “making gay people part of the Trump empire.”

None of the speakers mentioned Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, although the Trump poster on the podium clearly displayed his name.

Protesters outside the event uniting under the name Queers Against Racism emphasized that Pence has a long history of openly opposing LGBT rights, including voting for legislation that allows business to deny services to people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

While they stood behind the Trump-Pence poster, all the speakers also stood in front of photography depicting young slim white men wearing “Make America great again” hats. These works are part of a series by art photographer Lucian Wintrich titled “Twinks4Trump.” Wintrich told Salon he will soon be having a Trump-themed gallery exhibit in New York City’s East Village.

Barron noted that the event was funded by far-right website Breitbart; Andrew Marcus, director of the film “Hating Breitbart”; and Mike Flynn, the founding editor of Breitbart’s Big Government blog, who passed away in June. Barron also thanked Fox News for its support.

Geert Wilders (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Geert Wilders (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Geert Wilders, a far-right politician from the Netherlands who has frequently beendescribed as a fascist, was the first to speak at the party.

Barron introduced Wilders as the “hope for Western civilization,” rhetoric the Dutch leader himself frequently uses.

Wilders opened his speech warning Europe has been turned into “Eurabia,” due to Arab and Muslim migration.

“Europe is imploding,” he claimed, adding it has been flooded with “jihadis.”

“It will only get worse,” Wilders insisted, because Europe’s “stupid governments” keep letting in refugees from Muslim-majority countries.

He called open borders “the worst policy ever.” He also condemned “cultural relativism, the biggest disease in Europe today.”

Wilders claimed refugees and migrants are not integrating and assimilating into white European culture, leading to a “suicide policy.”

The far-right Dutch leader stressed that the enemy is not just Islamic extremism, but Islam itself.

“Get rid of your political correctness,” Wilders declared, as the audience went wild. “Islam and Sharia law are exactly the same,” he said, warning Americans not to “allow Islam to be planted in your soil.”

He accused Muslim migrants of being behind an “explosion of crime, rape… of harassment of our daughters, of the gay community.”

“We are at war,” Wilders proclaimed and reiterated, claiming Sharia law is being implemented in Europe and the U.S.

“Islam is the problem,” he stated clearly, condemning “bullshit about ‘radical Islam.’” The audience applauded loudly, and a young man with a Trump hat on shouted, “Send them back!”

“I don’t want any more mosques in the Netherlands,” Wilders said. He proposed closing borders to Muslim refugees and migrants and deporting those in the country. Then the government should “de-Islamize” society, he said, not expanding on what exactly he meant.

Wilders called for electing new far-right leaders. “We are no longer represented,” he lamented, and boasted that his far-right Freedom Party is on the verge of taking state power, having topped the polls for a year.

“We have no alternative,” Wilders concluded. “We will win this war.”

Pamela Geller (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Pamela Geller (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Pamela Geller, a leading figure in the anti-Muslim hate movement in the U.S., was next to speak.

“Pamela has been fighting against the jihad for several years,” LGBT for Trump founder Chris Barron said as he introduced her.

In May 2015, Geller and Wilders were attacked by Islamic extremists at a “Draw Mohammad” event in Garland, Texas. Geller said the “Wake Up!” RNC party was her first public speaking engagement since the attack in Garland.

Geller opened her speech with a joke: “A jihadi walks into a gay bar,” she began, to laughs from the audience. What does he order? “Shots for everyone,” she said.

The room erupted in laughter. Geller replied, “It’s not funny, because it’s true.”

She said she supports Trump, LGBT rights and “freedom,” proudly calling the Republican Party “the party against jihad.”

Geller — who backs a presidential candidate who wants to deport 11 million people and ban refugees from particular racial and ethnic groups — went on to accuse the left of becoming “increasingly authoritarian.”

“You’ve got to love Trump, ’cause he gives them all the middle finger,” she said simultaneously. “His ban on Muslims from jihad nations is logical, rational and reasonable.”

Geller criticized more mainstream right-wing pundits like Bill Kristol. People in the audience shouted “cuckservative” (a popular insult in the alt-right) and “traitors!”

At one point, she stopped her speech to join the audience in a “Trump! Trump!” chant.

Like Wilders, Geller claimed “Muslim gangs” are raping young girls and threatening LGBT people in the U.S.

The GOP supports “equality for all,” she claimed, ensuring “no special treatment for special classes.”

“Islamophobia,” Geller maintained, “doesn’t exist; it’s a myth.”

The left, she added, is embracing Islamism. “It’s not PC; it’s Sharia,” Geller said.

In his speech, Milo Yiannopoulos reaffirmed many of the same points, with his characteristic narcissistic flair.

Barron introduced the Breitbart columnist as “the world’s most dangerous faggot.”

“It’s a war,” Milo began his speech, “a culture war.” He insisted that politicians should stop talking about economics and politics and instead talk about culture.

Milo argued that the left no longer defends LGBT rights, that it is only the right that does so.

“Radical Islam, or let’s say it, Islam” threatens gay people, he said, while the left is “welcoming a religion that wants us dead.”

Muslims are fundamentally incapable of integrating into capitalist democracy, Milo claimed, which he called “the only system that works.”

Milo, who is British, pointed to Europe as a “warning” to Americans. He said he will soon be traveling to Sweden to lead “a gay pride march through the Muslim ghetto in Stockholm.” A man in the audience shouted, “Bring bacon!”

Unlike the other speakers, who focused almost exclusively on Muslims and the left, Milo also made his hatred of journalists very clear.

“Most journalists are idiots,” he stated casually. He later swore that he is “dedicated to the destruction of liberal media.”

“I have the entire American media at my disposal,” he taunted at one point, listing the leading news outlets who had reporters at the party. “Fuck the lot of you; fuck you,” he said to the room full of journalists.

Milo accused the left of “shutting down free speech” with political correctness. To the room full almost exclusively of white people, he joked about his sexual preference for Black men, claiming they have big penises and do not know who their fathers are.

Trump is “the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history,” he asserted.

“The left’s stranglehold on homosexuals is over,” Milo concluded, summarizing the underlying thesis of the event.

Outside of the event, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, protesters could be heard chanting “8-6-4-2, if you love Trump we don’t love you!”

A few dozen people gathered for a few hours, carrying a large banner reading “Queers Against Racism.” They soon began chanting, “No more queer Muslim hate!”

Salon spoke with a protester who declined to be identified. “We heard there was a gay pro-Trump event and we were like, hell no!” she explained.

She said the demonstration was not organized by a group, but rather by a collection of individuals. The protesters were from all around the country, not just Ohio, and had convened to protest the RNC.

The protesters did not like speaking with the press, so they passed out a “Queers Against Islamophobia, Racism and Fascism” handbill reading:

“There’s nothing fabulous about racism. You can’t hide racism and Islamophobia behind gayness.

Our grief is not a catalyst for xenophobia. We will not be opportunistically used to promote Trump’s rhetoric of hate.

What happened in Orlando is a result of a homegrown culture of homophobia promoted by Trump, Pence and conservatives for decades.

Racism and xenophobia further erodes the safety of LGBTQ people, many of whom are Muslims, refugees, immigrants and people of color.

We will fight for the liberation of all people!

Only self-hating gays love Trump.”

Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at@BenjaminNorton.

One group is responsible for America’s culture of violence: men

Police officers

Melissa Batchelor Warnke

On Thursday morning, a fire alarm in the Los Angeles Times’ building went off. Fortunately, the dozens of office alarms I’ve heard over the years have always been drills or misfiring systems. For the first time, instead of begrudgingly grabbing my belongings and traipsing downstairs, I was afraid. For the first time, the thought in my mind wasn’t “drill” but “shooter.”

Americans are united in our fear of violence and divided on which members of our society are most likely to perpetrate it. Some of these finger-pointing conversations are productive; they teach us how to address and reduce violence. Some are unproductive; they are rooted in ignorance and reinforce dangerous stereotypes.

In the wake of the Orlando, Fla., shooting, some conservative politicians called for the use of the term “radical Islam” to label the violent movement with which Omar Mateen identified himself. In the wake of the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, many called for a review of violence by law enforcement against black Americans.And after Dallas, some piled on the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that the gunman was spurred to murder because he’d made reference to the group. Others use the term “black-on-black violence” to refer to the killings of poor black Americans in their communities, playing into what author Ta-Nehisi Coates has labeled “the enduring myth of black criminality.”

What we don’t talk about is how the greatest predictor of violence isn’t religion, occupation or race. It’s gender.

In the United States, 98% of those who commit mass shootings are male; 98% of theofficers who have shot and killed civilians are male; 90% of those who commit homicide by any means are male; and 80% of those arrested for all violent crimes — murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault — are male.

When that fire alarm rang at the Times’ building, the image of “shooter” that flashed through my mind wasn’t identifiably white, black, Christian or Muslim. But there was no question in my mind that person was male.

When you look at the numbers, one thing emerges over and over: Violent female offenders are unlikely to kill people they don’t know. Most mass shootings are committed against strangers, although there are notable exceptions, such as in San Bernardino. When women commit murder, their victim is a stranger only 7% of the time. When men commit murder, their victim is a stranger 25% of the time.

If women are less likely to kill strangers, could increasing the number of women on the police force reduce officer-involved killings? A 2002 study by the National Center for Women and Policing shows that, although women comprise 12.7% of sworn police personnel in urban centers, only 5% of citizen complaints for excessive force involve female police officers. The average male officer is two to three times more likely to be named in an excessive force complaint.

“That was nearly 15 years ago,” you may say. “Let’s see some newer data on the role of gender in policing.” I agree. You might also wonder whether male officers are far more likely than female ones to choose assignments in which drawing a weapon is a real possibility.

It’s a significantly under-studied area — which is why it’s so crucial to talk about the role men play in America’s epidemic of violence. We need serious, current research in order to understand why male police officers are more violent in their interactions with citizens and how the culture of policing can be changed.

There are myriad theories as to why men are nearly 50 times more likely to commit murder than women. Some neuroscientists say testosterone is directly connected to aggression and competition, attitudes that are correlated with violence. Some evolutionary psychologists say that more aggressive men have historically been able to procure more women, food and land. Some psychotherapists have argued that men are raised to suppress vulnerable emotions, which leads them to become overwhelmed and express pain physically rather than verbally. Some sociologists, meanwhile, have found a correlation between violent videogame play and increased aggression in the real world, while other studies find no strong link between these games and violent acts.

Regardless of whether there is a causal relationship, popular entertainment, such as video games and action movies, teaches men from an early age that violence is an expression of strength.

Ostensibly, the discrepancy could simply be that men are more likely to kill people than women because they are more able; a man may have the strength to beat or strangle a woman to death, whereas a woman may have the strength only to injure a man. But if physicality alone, rather than brain chemistry or socialization, were the reason that men kill at a much higher rate than women, then we would expect guns to be a leveling technology. The statistics, however, do not bear this out. From 1980 to 2014, the gender gap in gun ownership closed by 17%. Yet the rates at which men and women kill have remained relatively stable.

The reality is that we don’t know exactly why men are exponentially more prone to violence. If we are going to reduce mass shootings, officer-involved killings and the culture of violence in America, however, we need to talk about it.

Batchelor Warnke is an intern in The Times’ Opinion section. Follow her on Twitter @velvetmelvis

 

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-police-mass-shooting-men-women-gender-20160715-snap-story.html

Orlando Shooter’s Wife: The FBI Told Me Not to Tell the Media He Was Gay

SEX & RELATIONSHIPS
In an interview with Brazilian TV, the ex-wife of Omar Mateen claimed the U.S. agency told her to keep quiet about his homosexuality.

Photo Credit: Screenshot / YouTube

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation told the former wife of the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, Sitora Yusufiy, not to speak of his homosexuality or the fact that she, his family and others believed he was gay, Yusufiy’s current fiance, Marco Dias, told a Brazilian TV channel in an interview.

Dias told the Brazilian television station SBT Brazil Tuesday that Yusufiy believed Mateen was gay and that his father called him gay several times in front of her. However, “the FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media.” Since the attack, Mateen has been dubbed an “Islamic terrorist” by politicians, senior officials and commentators in the U.S. following reports he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. However, the idea that he could have been a closet-homosexual indicates that the Orlando shooting might have been a deeply felt and personal act of hate. The FBI and law enforcement in the United States have so far been pursuing the “Islamist terrorism” angle and their alleged demand from Mateen’s ex-wife to keep mum about his homosexuality suggests they want to downplay the personal and self-hating nature of the attack in favor of the Islamic terrorism-related one.

Since his attack on the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, the developing narrative surrounding Mateen’s life is that of a troubled human being who had a history of domestic violence, a struggle with his sexual orientation, as well as an inclination toward a radical version of Islam. However, in addition to recently pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group, Mateen had previously shown support for both al-Qaida and Hezbollah, who have radically different interpretations of Islam and are in fact bitter enemies. This suggests Mateen had an extremely shallow and confused understanding of Islam as he failed to comprehend the social and political differences between the different groups. Hezbollah are currently fighting against the Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups in Syria.

Furthermore, Yusufiy has told the media that her ex-husband started to emotionally and physically abuse her just months into their marriage. She said he exploded in anger and often beat her while also keeping her hostage, which led her family to “literally rescue” her from the abusive relationship and Mateen’s mental instability. To add to this a former male classmate of Mateen said he had been asked out romantically by the mass shooter, who was reported to be a regular at the Pulse nightclub, having visited it more than a dozen times over the years.

Reports also suggest the attacker used several gay dating apps and communicated with several users. Kevin West, a regular at Pulse, told the Los Angeles Times he had exchanged messages with Mateen on an app. And now, it seems the overwhelming reports and testimonies pointing to Mateen’s personal motives are forcing the FBI to pursue a different angle.

On Wednesday gay dating apps Jack’d and Grindr said they had been contacted by the FBI as part of the Orlando shooting investigation. They also said they could not provide information on whether Mateen had profiles on those sites as such details are now part of a classified investigation. A spokesman for dating app Grindr also indicated they have been contacted by authorities. In response to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News, the company announced: “We will continue to cooperate with the authorities and do not comment on ongoing investigations.” Similar attacks by troubled white men in the U.S. against minorities are rarely referred to as terror attacks by either law enforcement agencies or the media, which points to a troubling trend that links the label terror to non-white Muslim attackers only.

The Orlando massacre and the 2016 US election

A man lights a candle during a spontaneous  vigil to remember those slain and wounded at an Orlando nightclub, Sunday June 12, 2016 in Paris. Several people were draped in rainbow flags. They lit candles and took pictures as a person in head-to-toe fetish gear held up a sign saying "Proud." (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)

(AP Photo/Raphael Satter)

14 June 2016

As the staggering scale of Sunday’s massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida continues to sink in, it is impossible to ignore the fact that both major capitalist parties have lost no time in attempting to exploit this tragedy for the most reactionary purposes.

The blood of the victims has barely dried. Many questions remain about the precise confluence of religious, right-wing, homophobic and other motives that drove the shooter, Omar Mateen, who died in a hail of police gunfire. But this stopped neither the Democratic nor the Republican presumptive presidential candidate from rushing to deliver back-to-back speeches Monday arguing for an escalation of war abroad and repression at home.

Democrat Hillary Clinton declared the slaughter of 49 innocent people at the gay nightclub in Orlando an example of “the barbarity that we face from radical jihadists.” Republican Donald Trump told his supporters that the massacre was the product of “importing radical Islamic terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system.”

What information has emerged about the man who carried out the massacre has little in common with the rhetoric and prescriptions offered by the two candidates.

First of all, he was a New York-born citizen of the US, not an immigrant. Coworkers, family members and others have described him as harboring pathological hatred not only for gays, but also for African-Americans, whom he regularly referred to using the “N”-word, saying they all should be killed. This kind of racism is the stock-in-trade not of ISIS or Al Qaeda, but rather of white supremacists within the US itself, the same elements who have been responsible for many homophobic attacks.

Associates have also described Mateen as mentally ill and emotionally unstable, characteristics that apply equally to virtually all those who have been involved in such atrocities. How could it be otherwise given the profoundly abnormal, antisocial and random character of these acts?

That in the midst of the mayhem he dialed 911 to declare his allegiance to ISIS is not taken seriously by even the FBI and police as an indication of actual contact with the Islamist militia. Moreover, late Monday reports surfaced that Mateen had himself regularly visited the Pulse night club, drinking heavily there, and had been active on the gay chat and dating app Jack’d.

The wider tragedy is that this type of atrocity happens in the US with terrible frequency. Mass shootings occur literally on more than a daily basis.

Given this reality, it is not possible to understand a tragedy like the Orlando massacre merely by examining the motives of the individual responsible. When a society produces a significant number of people suffering from traumatic mental problems who then go on to commit mass murder, this can only be an expression of something deeply diseased within the society itself.

Such incidents have grown in frequency in tandem with the endless wars the US has waged abroad since the first Gulf War of 1991, as well as the unprecedented growth of social inequality.

The bloodiest of these events was the April 1995 truck bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, a deeply alienated Gulf War veteran who became involved with right-wing militia circles. That attack killed 168 people and wounded hundreds more.

Other massacres in the intervening years that stand out in terms of the death toll include:

  • Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, where two students killed 13 people and wounded 24.
  •  Virginia Tech in 2007, where a student killed 32 people and wounded 17 others before taking his own life.
  •  The American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York in 2009, where a 42-year-old Vietnamese immigrant killed 13 people and wounded four others before killing himself.
  •  Fort Hood, Texas, also in 2009, where Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, killed 13 people and wounded 30.
  •  Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where in 2012 Adam Lanza killed 26 people—most of them young children—before killing himself.
  •  The Washington Navy Yard in 2013, where a former Navy reservist killed 12 people before police shot him dead.
  •  The June 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church massacre, in which a 21-year-old white gunman killed nine African-Americans at a prayer service, saying afterwards he had hoped to ignite a race war.
  •  The Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, where, in December 2015, Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, killed 14 people before losing their own lives in a shootout with police.

Smaller incidents in which three, four or five people are killed go largely unnoticed.

Neither the politicians nor the media care to examine the social roots of this endless round of mass slaughter.

The cynical and dishonest speeches given by Clinton and Trump Monday sought not to enlighten the public as to the real nature of this problem, but rather to pollute the political environment and lower the consciousness of the American people. In essence, despite mutual denunciations, there was little difference between them.

Both speeches were designed to exploit the tragedy suffered by the innocent individuals who lost their lives, along with their families and friends, in order to legitimize a preexisting reactionary agenda. Both candidates called for “ramping up” US military interventions and bombings in the Middle East, as if the war-ravaged people of the region are responsible for the attack on an Orlando nightclub. The transparent aim is to exploit the tragedy in Orlando in an attempt to erode the antiwar sentiments of the American people so as to further not only escalation in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, but also war threats against Russia and China.

Clinton spoke of acting to “harden our own defenses” within the US itself, by which she means an intensification of attacks on democratic rights and the utilization of police-state methods.

For his part, Trump delivered a fascistic rant in which he repeated his proposal for a ban on Muslims entering the country and his rabid anti-immigrant chauvinism, demagogically linking immigrants not only to terrorism but also to falling wages and decaying infrastructure. He charged that Muslims as a whole in the US “know what’s going on” in relation to planned attacks and would have to either “cooperate” or face “big consequences.”

Both candidates cynically posed as the best friend of the gay community in a transparent bid to corral a new constituency behind their reactionary proposals.

It was Clinton, however, who delivered the most telling—and chilling—line, invoking the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and declaring in conclusion that it was “time to get back to the spirit of those days, spirit of 9/12.”

It was in the “spirit of 9/12” that Washington launched, based on lies, the illegal war of aggression against Iraq. It was in this same “spirit” that it passed the Patriot Act, opened the prison camp at Guantanamo, set up a network of “black site” torture centers around the world, and arrogated to the president the right to indefinitely detain anyone, including US citizens, without charges or trials. Clinton supported all of these measures and now wants to cash in on the 49 deaths in Orlando to retroactively justify her own political crimes that led to the killing, wounding and displacement of millions.

To the extent that Clinton asserts as fact a direct link between the Orlando gunman and ISIS “genocide” in the Middle East—a claim that is highly questionable—it is necessary to point out her own role in the emergence of ISIS out of the social devastation and fomenting of sectarian conflict at the hands of American imperialism, with her active and enthusiastic support, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

American workers and youth must take the bipartisan reaction to the terrible events in Orlando as a serious warning of what is being prepared, no matter which party wins the November election.

Bill Van Auken

WSWS

FBI, Parents of Orlando Shooter: He’s Not A Terrorist, Just An American Homophobe

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The horrifying massacre in Orlando last night was clearly a hate crime, not an Islamic terrorist attack. Let’s dispel the right-wing narrative being pushed to promote Trump’s xenophobic agenda right now.

The shooter’s parents said it was a hate crime, and “nothing to do with religion.” One of the shooter’s former co-workers – an ex-cop – said he wasn’t surprised the unhinged homophobe committed mass murder. The shooter’s imam in Florida asserted that claiming allegiance to Daesh (IS/ISIS/ISIL) was nothing but a PR ploy by the mass murderer.

Daesh didn’t say a thing about the shootings until after American media reported a terror link, which is unusual for their planned attacks (twin bombings in Damascus that killed 20 earlier today were claimed immediately) and right now, they are taking pains not to claim prior assistance, because there just was no actual prior link.

The shooter’s “allegiance” call, made to 911 as the attack was underway, was nothing but the shooter’s self-serving but effective attempt to elevate his horrific hate crime into martyrdom. With a single phone call and nothing else, the mainstream media bought it hook line and sinker.

Daesh itself isn’t showing evidence of involvement, only celebrating the “lone wolf” in Orlando, not claiming any complicity other than actively cheerleading the misfortune of Americans.

Police and mainstream media immediately and wrongly pounced on the shooter’s declaration of allegiance to Daesh to brand the heinous attack on the LTBTQ community as terrorism, because it furthers the narrative that feeds their bottom line: fear of terrorists. ISIS couldn’t ask for a better public relations department than the FBI and the ratings jackals at CNN to transform and elevate the wife beating, gay-hating murderer Omar Mateen into a fundamentalist terrorist.

The FBI started calling the shooting of over 100 people at 2am this morning inside the “Pulse” nightclub an act of terror early in the morning, without offering any evidence. Then CNN got busy, running full screen “Terror in Orlando” graphics, too busy fearmongering to notice that Reuters is reporting that there are no links between the monstrous shooter and the Islamic State except the madman’s very own words, in one phone call made just prior to the shooting. Reuters reports this evening that:

The FBI official cautioned, however, that proving the suspected link to radical Islamism required further investigation. Three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation into the massacre said that no evidence had yet been found showing a direct link with Islamic State or any other militant group. There is “no evidence yet that this was directed or connected to ISIS. So far as we know at this time, his first direct contact was a pledge of bayat (loyalty) he made during the massacre,” said a U.S. counter-terrorism official, referring to a 911 call the suspect made on Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

That’s right, Daesh didn’t claim the Orlando shooting at all until American media reported a 911 call from the shooter. Arabic language reporters indicate that ISIS propaganda calls the Orlando shooter a lone wolf. Even the ISIS official propaganda outlet used an unusual qualifier, that of a “source to Amaq Agency” – the source obviously being American media reports. In fact, over 18 hours after the incident, ISIS hasn’t offered any evidence of prior knowledge of the Orlando shooting.

The mass murderer was a Florida licensed security guard who held a statewide gun permit and had no criminal record, but as has happened in so many other fatal shootings he had only acquired the murder weapon – a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle – just last week. Sadly, the shooter’s former work colleagues said that they weren’t surprised to hear that Mateen was a mass murderer. Former-Ft. Pierce cop Daniel Gilroy called the hate-filled mass murderer homophobic, unhinged and toxic to the local media. Gilroy quit after the shooter sent him numerous harassing text messages and phone messages.

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The Orlando shooter worshipped at the Islamic Center of Ft. Pierce whose imam said:

“There is nothing outside the door that says you can’t come in and worship God and be here and pray if you are gay,” he said. As for the statements Mateen made about ISIS, Rahman thinks that he may have done that for publicity. He says the mosque has no ties to the terrorist organization and speaks out against them at every gathering.

Without a doubt, the Orlando shooter intentionally targeted a gay club, because LGBTQ people would be there. When NBC interviewed the shooter’s stunned parents, they did not hesitate. The shooter’s parents immediately pointed to an incident in Miami where he saw two men kissing.

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But now, this cowardly homophobe, a wife-beating, unhinged and toxic security guard has been transformed – while Donald Trump is busy doing a happy dance and tweeting about himself – from a hate-crime committing murderer, into a dangerous terrorist on a holy mission. Ignoring the hate crime, and pumping up the terrorist angle neatly fits the most familiar and mutually beneficial narrative for corporate news networks to drive viewership.  Simultaneously, the news giants’ wall to wall terror coverage pleases the alphabet soup of federal law enforcement agencies like DHS and the FBI who need to justify their fat budgets. Using the FBI’s virtually unlimited budget and expansive mandate and the old Patriot Act too, federal terrorism investigators cleared the shooter’s distant terror links. They found nothing in both 2013 and 2014.

Let’s cut though the nonsense and call this horrifying attack what it really is: the worst hate crime in American history.

FBI, Parents of Orlando Shooter: He’s Not A Terrorist, Just An American Homophobe

The Orlando Massacre: A Reminder of the Dangers LGBT People Live With Every Day

There have been scores of attacks on LGBT spaces, some of which received more attention than others.

06/12/2016 10:46 am ET | Updated 3 hours ago

STEVE NESIUS / REUTERS
Hate crimes against LGBT people haven’t dissipated since the arrival of marriage equality and have in fact been on the rise in recent years.

A Pride month night of celebration and fun — the weekly Latin Night at the popular Orlando club, Pulse, focused on Latin music, performances and dancing — turned into a morning of mass death and devastation. But the brutal reality that jarred Orlando’s LGBT community, and the entire nation, is something that LGBT people have always experienced, as gay and lesbian bars and clubs have been targeted consistently by those who harbor hate toward LGBT people.

And it’s a reminder of the animus against LGBT people that still exists, and the ever present danger with which we still live.

There have been scores of attacks on LGBT spaces, some of which received more attention than others. Eric Rudolph, also known as the Olympic Park Bomber because of his terror attack on the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996, also targeted lesbian bars, in addition to abortion clinics. In 1997, he targeted the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian bar in Atlanta, with two bombs, one of which detonated in the bar and injured five people. (The second bomb, found in a parking lot of the bar, was detonated by police without injury.) Rudolph, associated with the extremist Army of God, later pleaded guilty and said he was targeting homosexuality.

In 2014, Musab Masmari was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for setting fire to a Seattle gay nightclub on New Year’s Eve in 2013. The assistant U.S. attorney reported that one of Masmari’s friends said Masmari confided in him that he “‘burned a gay club’ and that he did it because ‘what these people are doing is wrong.’” Another person close to Masmari reportedly said he had a “general hostility towards homosexuality.” Just last fall, there were a series of unsolved attacks against gay men exiting gay bars and venues in Dallas. One man was dragged into a van, beaten with a baseball bat while being called a “fag,” and dropped off a few blocks away. During the same time period three gay bars in Dallas were vandalized as well.

And hours after the Orlando mass-shooting, it was reported that police in Santa Monica found a cache of weapons and chemicals in the car of James Wesley Howell, an Indiana man whom they said was headed to LA Pride. It was apparently unrelated to the Orlando shooting, and details were still coming in.

Hatred against LGBT people is clearly something we’ve lived with for decades, and even in these days of big victories we see a ferocious backlash playing out which is also motivated by bigotry. Many of us often take for granted the freedoms we’ve won, and certainly we don’t think twice about going out for a good time, dancing and enjoying ourselves — and we might not want to think about the dangers that still face LGBT people. And the American media, too, seems complacent; early on major news organizations reporting on this mass shooting, like The New York Times and CNN, weren’t reporting the fact that Pulse is a gay club, or were downplaying that fact — a relevant fact, especially as this increasingly looks like a terror attack or hate crime.

Hate crimes against LGBT people haven’t dissipated since the arrival of marriage equality and have in fact been on the rise in recent years. What we’ve learned from his father about the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, is that he was recently repulsed  — became “very angry” — upon seeing two gay men kissing in Miami. Whatever his other beliefs or allegiances, that bedrock of homophobia is part of what drove him to carry out a brutal mass-shooting.

This terrible tragedy is a reminder of the threat of violence against LGBT every day, and why we must always remain vigilant.