America just suffered our worst terrorist attack since 9/11. We need to start talking honestly about the enemy that keeps butchering Americans.
Tonight we burn illusions. A terrorist attack on a popular gay club in Orlando, Florida in the middle of the night ended before the dawn with the violent deaths of at least 50 innocents and the maiming of 53 more. This was the bloodiest terrorist attack on America since 9/11. The Pulse nightclub, something of an icon in Florida LGBT circles, was transformed into a charnel house.
The United States had been lucky, having avoided truly mass casualty terrorist incidents since that awful day 15 years ago, through a combination of luck, inept enemies, and excellent intelligence work. But the Orlando horror demonstrates that attacks on soft targets in public places can cause huge numbers of casualties, here as well as in Europe, like last November’s assaults on Paris that killed 130 people, 89 of them at the Bataclan theater, where a hostage situation resulted in a bloodbath. Something similar has just happened in Florida.
While the Paris attacks were the work of nine terrorists, plus several others providing logistical support, so far only one killer has been identified in the Orlando atrocity. While there are reports of other shooters, these remain unconfirmed, and the sole terrorist definitely involved was Omar Mateen, born in this country in 1986 to immigrant parents from Afghanistan. He was killed by police at the end of the nightmare he inflicted on Orlando.
So far, his story is shaping up as the now-customary list of jihadist clichés. The 29-year-old went from a relatively normal American life towards extremism, winding up on the radar of the FBI more than once for his aggressive beliefs. A brief marriage failed, in part because he frequently beat his wife, she claims, asserting that Mateen “was not a stable person.” A trauma like divorce leading to an embrace of jihadism is as common as can be in extremist circles.
Read the rest at The Observer …