Denying America’s Islamist Terror Problem Doesn’t Make It Go Away—It Makes It Worse

FBI release of Mateen 911 calls proves what media and government doesn’t want to admit

Back in June, when Omar Mateen shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando, murdering 49 innocents before the police took him out, media outlets were at pains to discount the notion he was motivated by ideology, much less radical Islam. Even though Mateen, the son of Afghan immigrants, wound up on the FBI’s radar more than once for his extremism, nothing was done to prevent that awful massacre.

As I noted at the time, Jihad Denial—meaning the unwillingness of law enforcement, the media, and politicians to acknowledge that Mateen was motivated by a violent brand of political Islam—had lethal consequences. In the months since that appalling crime, the customary diversions have been employed from the White House on down with help from the mainstream media: Mateen’s massacre was “really” about guns, or mental illness, or repressed homosexuality, or family problems.

Such efforts to deny the obvious gained traction due to media exposure, but have been blown apart by the recent FBI release of some of the calls to 911 that Mateen made during his three-hour hostage-taking and murder spree. The 17-page transcript makes abundantly clear exactly what the killer considered his motivation to be.

He repeatedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, the notorious ISIS, and its leadership. Mateen wanted 911 dispatchers to call him an “Islamic soldier,” “a Soldier of the God,” and one of the “Mujahideen” (i.e., those who wage holy war in the name of Islam). He said his killing spree was motivated by the recent death of “Abu Wahid.” In early May, an airstrike in Iraq by the American-led coalition killed Abu Waheeb, a top ISIS executioner and star of numerous gruesome jihadist propaganda videos. (It’s not clear if Mateen misstated the dead man’s name or the authorities did.)

“They should not have bombed and killed Abu Wahid,” the hostage-taker vented on the phone. When a police negotiator clearly had no idea who the dead man was, Mateen angrily stated, “Do you fucking homework and figure out who Abu Wahid is, OK?”

Read the rest at The Observer…

This Mass Murder Mystery Has Terrorism, Spies, Palestinians, Stasi and the FBI

The truth behind who really destroyed Swissair Flight 330

“We have smoke on board—I can’t see anything” were the panicked, halting words transmitted from the cockpit of Swissair Flight 330 shortly before it hit the ground. Less than a minute later came the final message from the captain: “We are crashing—goodbye, everybody.” Then the four-engine airliner, a Convair Coronado, came down hard in a forest near Würenlingen, west of Zürich Airport, where the airplane had taken off less than 20 minutes before. There were no survivors.

The crash of Flight 330 on February 21, 1970, which killed 47 people—38 passengers and nine crew—remains the deadliest terrorist attack in Swiss history. Nine minutes after takeoff, shortly after the Coronado passed 14,000 feet on its climb-out from Zürich, a bomb exploded in the rear cargo hold. As the jetliner lost cabin pressure, the flight crew vainly tried to save their aircraft. Their efforts were stymied by smoke which blinded the pilots, dooming them and their passengers.

Although the outlines of the bomb plot were uncovered within weeks of the disaster, nobody was ever arrested for this mass murder. Rumors of a cover-up have circulated from almost the beginning. Now, more than four-and-a-half decades later, new information has come to light which may dramatically alter the story of what really happened to Flight 330.

Swiss media this week is abuzz with revelations from a declassified American intelligence assessment which points the finger at one or more groups who may have assisted the Middle Eastern terrorists who blew up the Swissair jet. The truth about what befell Flight 330 appears to be far more complicated than anyone might have guessed.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Clinton Gives Too Much Credit to Putin and Trump

It’s a stretch to suggest the Kremlin leader is the godfather of some sort of global KKK

Last week Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of being the leader of the Alt-Right movement. But that wasn’t the only important issue she raised in her big speech. She also tied Trump to Vladimir Putin. Clinton termed Russia’s president “the grand godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism.” Calling the boss in the Kremlin the leader of a worldwide white supremacy movement is a big deal—particularly when the charge is made by the lady who may become our next president in less than five months.

As evidence for this accusation, Hillary noted that Nigel Farage, the British politico who’s thrown his hat in with Trump, appears on Kremlin TV, and that the GOP nominee seems to harbor a serious man-crush on Putin. All this is undeniably true. Moscow’s preference for Trump over Clinton is no secret, and something the Russians no longer bother to hide.

That said, it’s a stretch to suggest Putin is the godfather of some sort of global KKK. The Kremlin boosts far-rightists in many countries, giving them clandestine cash and support—including in the United States. Russian intelligence backs nationalist right-wingers all over the place, especially in Europe, and some of these groups are plausibly placed in the Alt-Right.

It needs to be noted, though, that Putin is ideologically flexible, and Moscow backs leftists abroad, too. In Greece, for instance, the Kremlin has forged ties with both the far-left and the far-right, who share antipathy to NATO, the European Union, and the United States. In many Western countries, Moscow’s ties to leftists are a longstanding Cold War legacy.

Putin’s strategic aim is to harm NATO, the EU, and America’s ties with them. Ideology matters less than a perceived ability to hurt the West and its security structures. Hence the Kremlin’s willingness to get in bed with radicals of almost any ideology as long as they’re eager to play along with what Moscow wants.

Read the rest at The Observer …


Clinton’s Alt-Right Kill-Shot and Trump’s ‘One-Way Man-Crush’

It’s not every day you have two fabulously wealthy white senior citizens publicly yelling ‘Racist!’ at each other

Last week Hillary Clinton came out swinging against her Republican opponent. In a passionate speech designed to energize her base, the Democratic nominee accused Donald Trump of being a racist and white supremacist.

Mincing no words, Hillary stated that Trump has shown bias against pretty much everybody not white and male: women, blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, immigrants—you name it. Accusing the GOP nominee of “prejudice and paranoia,” and deriving his “facts” from conspiracy-laden websites, Clinton struck a nerve, since Trump spent the next couple days on defense, counter-accusing Hillary of being the real bigot in the race. It’s not every day you have two fabulously wealthy white senior citizens publicly yelling “Racist!” at each other.

This was Clinton’s kill-shot aimed at the heart of the Trump campaign:

“This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not Republicanism as we have known it. These are race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas, anti-woman—all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’”

Not many Republicans want anybody named Clinton telling them what their party “really” is, but Hillary’s accusation is serious and merits analysis. The Alternative Right—Alt-Right for short—despite being politically marginal, has made its presence felt in the Trump campaign, mainly in the form of the Republican nominee’s inflammatory retweets. Steve Bannon, Trump’s recently named campaign manager (his third) is at least an Alt-Right fellow traveler. But what actually is the Alt-Right?

Read the rest at The Observer …

Hollande Warns What Obama Won’t: Islamic Terrorism Is Real

Jihadist truck ‘bowls’ down popular seaside avenue, killing 84 people in Nice.

All of France was out to celebrate last night. July 14 is Bastille Day, the country’s national holiday. Across France—as on our July 4—friends and families congregate, enjoy a day off work and, once darkness descends, watch fireworks in a celebratory atmosphere.

That happy ritual was shattered last night in Nice, the capital of the fashionable French Riviera, where thousands of locals and visitors were gathered on the Mediterranean seaside. As 11 o’clock approached, with festive crowds thronged on the Promenade des Anglais, the chichi waterside avenue overlooked by hotels, the dwindling fireworks show was interrupted by panic, then horror.

A white cargo truck appeared, aimed at partygoers. It drove methodically along the storied street, Le Prom as locals call it, zig-zagging to take out the maximum number of people. Most of those hit by the truck had no chance to escape. The scene, recalled survivors, was “like bowling”—with innocents crushed by the huge vehicle.

“It was a cool evening,” recalled a journalist who witnessed the rampage unfold, watching in horror as the truck rammed through dense columns of partygoers. At first he thought the approaching noise was coming from people setting off their own fireworks, only realizing, as the truck approached him, what was happening: “a huge white truck was traveling at breakneck speed… moving to mow down a maximum number of people.”

Read the rest at The Observer …

Swiss Italians Say No to the Burqa

The prettiest corner of Switzerland wasn’t exactly crawling with Muslim women, so it’s worth asking what happened.

LOCARNO—Even in Switzerland, most citizens don’t think much about Ticino. It’s the southernmost of the country’s 26 cantons—roughly equivalent to American states—and the only one that’s wholly Italian in language and culture. Only half a million of the eight million people in Switzerland are Italians, and about two-thirds of them live in Ticino.

For the country’s German-speaking majority, Ticino is Switzerland’s Sonnenstube (sun porch) due to the canton’s notably brighter and warmer climate than what prevails in most of this Alpine land. South of the Gotthard Pass that has divided Teutons from Latins for centuries, Ticino’s steep mountains ring the canton at heights surpassing 10,000 feet, their peaks remaining chilly even in the summer heat that prevails on the shores of the beautiful lakes that dot the scenery.

Ticino is one of Europe’s loveliest places, combining a very Italian dolce vita with trademark Swiss efficiency. Things work here in a timely fashion as they don’t always in neighboring Italy. It’s a minor miracle that Switzerland has made Italians work like Germans—while losing none of their fine food, wine and culture. Locals aren’t excessively fond of Swiss Germans—they find them stodgy—but they look down a bit on Italians across the border too, who never can quite seem to make their trains run on time. As they do in Ticino.

That said, not much exciting happens in Ticino. The canton seldom makes Swiss headlines—much less beyond this small country. About the only noteworthy thing that happens in Locarno, the canton’s second city, situated on lovely Lago Maggiore under the Alps, is the annual international film festival every August. Since 1946, that draws movie stars and therefore press. Not much else gets the international media to Locarno.

Suddenly, that’s changed. And the issue is one of the most hot-button ones in all of Europe, indeed across the West right now: the role of Islam in public life.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Unraveling the Orlando Horror

At 2 a.m. last Sunday, the worst terrorist attack on the United States since 9/11 unfolded in Orlando, Florida. The target was a popular gay dance club packed with guests for Latin Night. By the time the horrific ordeal was over, three hours later, 49 party-goers plus the gunman were dead while 53 more were injured, many of them gravely.

The attack on Pulse nightclub has left America in shock, horrified by the reappearance of mass-casualty terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam. President Obama had been lucky before last weekend. His two terms witnessed several Islamist terror attacks inside the USA, but nothing like Orlando. The Fort Hood, Texas shooting in 2009, by a U.S. Army major, killed 13 soldiers. The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 killed only three but injured more than 250 others. Most recently, the San Bernardino, California attack last December killed 14 Americans. While all these incidents were traumatic, they pale in comparison to the Orlando horror.

The killer, responsible for the bloodiest mass murder in American history, was himself killed by police. Armed with an assault rifle and a pistol, Omar Mateen embarked on the one-way jihadist mission he must have long fantasized about. Just before commencing his slaughter of the homosexuals he hated, Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Mateen was born in New York City in 1986 to parents who immigrated from Afghanistan. To all appearances, the 29 year-old had a normal American upbringing without excessive religiosity. He had a brief marriage that failed. His ex-wife noted he was not especially religious but he did beat her frequently. After they divorced, Mateen embraced a more fervent version of Islam, including attending a mosque in Fort Pierce, Florida, several times per week. That same mosque produced a young radical, Moner Abu Salha, who died as a suicide bomber in Syria in 2014.

There had been previous warning signs about Omer Mateen. He is reported to have greeted news of the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon with unconcealed glee, something that disturbed fellow students at his high school.

Then there is the strange matter of his family. Seddique Mateen, his father, has pronounced that his son’s horrible crimes have nothing do with Islam, and he professes to have no idea what inspired his mass murder spree. However, the father has stated that homosexuals deserve divine punishment, and he has also praised the Taliban. The elder Mateen is active in Afghan diaspora politics, including hosting a satellite TV show aimed at his homeland. Bizarrely, he has sometimes claimed to be the real president of Afghanistan.

There is nothing amusing about his son, however, who developed a penchant for angry statements against gays, minorities, and others he didn’t like. He made repeated threats of violence and co-workers noticed. He was employed beginning in mid-2007 for G4S, a British multinational security company that does lots of work in the USA, including some for the U.S. Government. As a security guard, Mateen had reason to be armed and he stayed with that firm until his death, although his tenure was rocky. Complaints mounted about his troubling ways, but G4S did nothing about them.

One co-worker, who later became a police officer, repeatedly complained about violent anti-gay statements by Mateen, whom he considered “unhinged and unstable.” Mateen then began stalking that co-worker, yet G4S kept him on the job. In disgust, the co-worker resigned, believing that their employer did nothing about Mateen’s troubling behavior because it was afraid to take action due to Mateen’s religion.

It’s apparent that Mateen was able to get away with years of violent statements and threats due to a pervasive fear of Islamophobia. It even derailed the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mateen’s bizarre statements to co-workers, including claims that he belonged to an international terrorist group, got the FBI’s attention, and in 2013 the Bureau opened a formal investigation into him.

That investigation lasted ten months and included the employment of confidential informants and wiretaps on Mateen, as well as two interviews with the security guard, but ultimately closed without adding Omar Mateen to any permanent list of suspected terrorists in the United States.

The FBI ultimately concluded that Mateen was a fantasist more than a terrorist. Although he claimed to have joined multiple terrorist groups, there was no evidence to back any of that up. To top it off, the FBI concluded that Mateen was engaging in bizarre behavior due to “co-workers discriminating against him and teasing him because he was Muslim.” In 2014, the FBI opened a second investigation into Mateen and reached the same conclusion: he was a fantasist not a jihadist.

Since Mateen had no criminal record and was not under FBI investigation any longer, he had no trouble buying an AR-15 assault rifle just days before the Orlando attack. Florida has permissive gun laws even by American standards. That semi-automatic weapon did most of the killing last Sunday. Americans should be asking how anybody who had been twice investigated on terrorism suspicions was able to buy an assault rifle so easily.

But Americans must also ask why we tolerate such angry, violent behavior in the first place. A security firm where he carried a gun was hardly the place an unbalanced hater like Mateen should have been working. Fear of Islamophobia seems to have trumped fear of murder.

Although it appears unlikely that the Islamic State had anything directly to do with Mateen, they were happy to claim responsibility for his atrocity. After all, the group has encouraged followers worldwide to wage individual jihad against the “infidel” West. And they hate no one more than gays, whom they butcher at every opportunity.

The FBI has confirmed that Mateen was yet another case of online radicalization, which is commonplace in the West now. He watched ISIS videos that propagate the group’s violent, hate-filled ideology. In 2016, this is sufficient for some would-be jihadists: actual trips to the Middle East are optional.

Reports proliferate of more than one shooter at Pulse but they remain unconfirmed. Yet it is remarkable that Mateen, who had no combat experience, managed to kill 49 people all by himself, while the Islamic State attack on Paris last November that killed 130 involved nine terrorists, several of whom were veteran killers from the Syrian war.

Many questions remain unanswered. The FBI is now doing the investigation they should have done years before, including raids on Mateen’s friends and family, looking for any network that may have helped the killer. Although “lone wolves” exist they are rare in reality. Most terrorists have help from someone. We need to know the full story here.

In the meantime, President Obama has talked about hate and guns causing Orlando, omitting any discussion of Islamism or jihad. Hillary Clinton has done much the same, calling for a ban on assault weapons not jihadism (though Ms. Clinton is willing to admit radical Islam is a problem).

For his part, Donald Trump has stated he was right all along about the jihadist threat, reiterating his call for a ban on immigration from countries where terrorism is common. In effect, this means banning Muslims. This position, unpopular with American elites, may prove popular with average voters who are disgusted by what has just happened.

America’s presidential election is still almost five months away but the Orlando horror seems certain to feature prominently in the race. Although President Obama’s war on terrorism has taken place mostly in Afghanistan and Iraq, plus drone strikes in several more countries, last weekend showed that there is a home front too in the fight against the Islamic State. That is a fight no president can afford to lose.

(This article appeared in the German newspaper BILD, you can read that here.)


The Road to Orlando

A clear picture of what exactly happened in Orlando in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday is slowly emerging. While reports persist of more than one shooter, these remain unconfirmed, meaning that Omar Mateen killed more than four dozen people by himself over a three-hour period. Since it took nine jihadists to kill 130 people in Paris last November, and several of those murderers were veterans of the Islamic State’s jihad in the Middle East, Mr. Mateen appears to have been a significantly deadlier ISIS killer than usual, despite his complete lack of combat experience.

The enormity of that death toll at Pulse nightclub has something to do with the fact that Orlando police waited until 5 a.m. to send in their SWAT team to save hostages – a decision that was at odds with normal police procedures in active shooter situations and appears to have been an error that cost lives.

That said, it’s important to place blame where it really belongs: on Omar Mateen and any helpers or co-conspirators he may have possessed. Although progressives are chanting their usual mantra about gun control being the solution to jihadism, creating heat rather than light, it’s fair to ask why on earth Mr. Mateen had an AR-15 rifle after being questioned by the FBI twice about possible ties to extremism.

Just as we should ask why he remained employed with a security firm that did significant work for the U.S. Government, we should be concerned that Mr. Mateen bought an AR-15, a near-military-grade weapon that surely did the lion’s share of the killing on Sunday, just days before he became the deadliest mass murderer in American history. The legalistic answer – that he had been convicted of no crime and the FBI’s investigations into Mr. Mateen never went very far – is correct but unsatisfying when 49 innocent Americans are dead.

Read the rest at The Observer…

Talking about Orlando and Jihadism

The weekend’s appalling terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 innocent Americans, has been on my mind lately. A truly mass-casualty jihadist attack inside the United States has arrived for the first time since 9/11, as anyone properly acquainted with the Islamist terrorist threat we face knew it would. My new piece on this topic, calling out “jihad denial” as a big part of our problem, is inspiring discussion.

I took to the airwaves twice today to talk about Orlando and what is means for American security. I had a chat with Buck Sexton of The Blaze, which you can find here. I also discussed jihadism with Ben Domenech of The Federalist; you can find that here.

If you have free time, please have a listen. The discussions are a tad different — Buck’s a former spook like me while Ben is a well-known DC journalist. It’s an important topic all Americans should be discussing. Enjoy!

How to Defeat the Islamic State

We know how to crush international terrorism—we simply choose to forget what actually works.

President Obama’s not-quite-a-war against the Islamic State is about to enter its third year. That hardly any Americans know what’s it’s even called (Operation Inherent Resolve, in case you wondered) speaks volumes about how diffidently this White House has treated the issue of defeating these jihadist madmen.

Despite the fact that ISIS represents a grave threat to the Middle East and beyond, with its forces occupying significant chunks of Iraq and Syria, Obama has consistently low-balled the danger these jihadists pose to the world. While the president no longer tries to dismiss the Islamic State as the “junior varsity” of jihadism, Obama has never given this threat the attention it merits. Indeed, the president and his bloated and micromanaging National Security Council have seemed more eager to talk about how the White House is beating ISIS than doing anything concrete to actually do that.

Now we have fresh assurances that “this time is different” as Obama has committed increased numbers of special operations forces to Operation Inherent Resolve. All this comes with nitpicking debates about whether our SOF are “in combat” and if they represent “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria. This is Obama’s silly season, since it’s transparently obvious that our military special operators, with help from CIA paramilitary personnel, are very close to combat, at minimum, when they support anti-ISIS forces whose boots are very much on the ground.

Read the rest at The Observer …