Until we start addressing the U.S. government's part in creating, cultivating and abetting domestic and global terrorism, we'll be no closer to putting an end to the violence that claimed 50 lives at an Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016, than we were 15 years ago when nearly 3,000 individuals were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Until we start addressing the U.S. government's part in creating, cultivating and abetting domestic and global terrorism--and hold agencies such as the FBI and Defense Department accountable for importing and exporting violence, breeding extremism and generating blowback, which then gets turned loose on an unsuspecting American populace--we'll be no closer to putting an end to the violence that claimed 50 lives at an Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016, than we were 15 years ago when nearly 3,000 individuals were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Here's what I know:
While U.S. politicians have been lecturing American citizens on the dangers of gun violence and working to enact measures that would make it more difficult for Americans to acquire certain weapons, the United States, the world's largest exporter of arms, has been selling violence to the world, equipping nearly half the world with deadly weapons and profiting to the tune of $36.2 billion.
Blowback, a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of the U.S. government's international activities, is a reality. Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA consultant, repeatedly warned that America's use of its military to gain power over the global economy would result in devastating blowback. We failed to heed his warning.
The 9/11 attacks were blowback. The Boston Marathon Bombing was blowback. The attempted Times Square bomberwas blowback. The Fort Hood shooter, a major in the U.S. Army, was blowback.
The Orlando nightclub shooting is merely the latest tragic example of blowback on a nation that feeds its citizens a steady diet of violence through its imperial wars abroad and its battlefield mindset at home, embodied by heavily armed, militarized police and SWAT team raids.
You want to put an end to the mass shootings, the terrorist bombings and the domestic extremism?
Then start by telling the government to stop creating blowback at home by stirring up wars abroad, stop killing innocent civilians as part of its drone wars, and stop policing the world through foreign occupations.
Demand that the U.S. government stop turning America into a battlefield. Hillary Clinton may be right that "weapons of war have no place on our streets," but I don't see her attempting to demilitarize the U.S. government--the largest gun owner in the nation--she just wants to take guns away from American citizens.
And while you're at it, tell the FBI to stop labeling anyone who might disagree with the government's policies as "anti-government," "extremist" and a "terrorist," because while they're busy turning average Americans into criminals, the real criminals are getting away with murder.
Omar Mateen, the alleged gunman responsible for the Orlando shooting, is the end product of a diseased mindset that has overtaken the U.S. government. It's a calculating mindset that views American citizens as economic units on a profit-and-loss ledger. And it's a manipulative mindset that foments wars abroad (and in our own communities) in order to advance its own ambitions.
Whatever Mateen's issue--whether he was "radicalized on the internet," as the government suggests, or mentally ill orhomophobic or conflicted about his own sexuality or a terrorist of the FBI's own making--he was also a victim of a government that has been at war with its own citizens for decades.
Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen, was born in New York and raised in Florida. He was employed by the military industrial complex. On two separate occasions, he was placed on the FBI's terrorist watch list, investigated, interviewed, had his case file closed and was removed from the agency's watch list.
Now what role, if any, did the FBI play in Mateen's so-called radicalization?
Was the agency so busy amassing power, pursuing non-terrorists and inventing terrorists that it failed to recognize a "lone wolf" terrorist in its midst? Or was this another case of the FBI planting the seeds of terrorism in an impressionable mind?
Neither scenario is beyond the realm of possibility.
How many times in the wake of a bombing or shooting have we discovered that the alleged terrorist was known to the FBI and yet still managed to slip through their radar?
Then again, it could be that this is yet another terrorist of the FBI's own making.
The FBI has a long, sordid history of inventing crimes, breeding criminals and helping to hatch and then foil terrorist plots in order to advance its own sordid agenda: namely, amassing greater powers under the guise of fighting the war on terrorism.
Investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson argues convincingly that "the FBI is much better at creating terrorists than it is at catching terrorists." According to Aaronson's calculations, the FBI is responsible for more terrorism plots in the United States than al Qaeda, al Shabaab and the Islamic State combined.
One method to the agency's madness involves radicalizing impressionable young men in order to create and then "catch" terrorists. Under the guise of rooting out terrorists before they strike, the FBI targets mentally ill or impressionable individuals (many of whom are young and have no prior connection to terrorism), indoctrinates them with anti-American propaganda, pays criminals $100,000 per case to act as informants and help these would-be terrorists formulate terror plots against American targets, provides them with weapons and training, and then arrests them for being would-be terrorists. This is entrapment, plain and simple, or what former FBI director Robert Mueller referred to as a policy of "forward leaning -- preventative -- prosecutions."
Whether or not the crisis of the moment--in this case, the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub--is a legitimate act of terrorism or manufactured by some government agency or other, it's hard not to feel as if we're being manipulated and maneuvered by entities that know exactly which buttons to push to ensure our compliance and complaisance.
Already the politicians are talking about the next steps.
President Obama wants to restrict gun sales to American citizens. Of course, the U.S. government will continue to increase its production of and sales of weapons worldwide.
Citing the need for an intelligence surge, Hillary Clinton wants to pressure technology companies to help the government conduct expanded online surveillance of potential extremist attackers. Of course, we already know how the government defines a potential extremist: as anyone--right-wing or left-wing--who disagrees with government policies and challenges government authority.
Meanwhile FBI Director James Comey is urging Americans to report anything they see that may be "suspicious." There's also been a lot of talk about individuals who are "radicalized through the internet." This comes on the heels of efforts by the Obama administration to allow the FBI to access a person's Internet browser history and other electronic data without a warrant.
This is the same agency that is rapidly hoovering up as much biometric data as it can (DNA, iris scans, facial scans, tattoos) in order to create a massive database that identifies each citizen, tracks their movements, connects them to relatives and associates, and assigns them threat assessments based on their potential to become anti-government troublemakers, "extremists" or terrorists of any kind.
Suddenly it's all starting to make a lot more sense, isn't it?
As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, what we're witnessing is the case being made for the government to shift even more aggressively into the business of pre-crime: monitoring all Americans, identifying which individuals could become potentially "anti-government," and eliminating the danger before it can pose a threat to the powers-that-be.
In this way, whether fabricated or real, these attacks serve a larger purpose, which is to give the government even greater powers to wage war, spy on its citizens, and expand the size and reach of the government.
The 9/11 attacks delivered up a gift-wrapped Patriot Act to the nation's law enforcement agencies.
The Orlando attacks may well do away with what little Fourth Amendment protections remain to us in the face of aggressive government surveillance.
John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and accomplishments, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom. His concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization in Charlottesville, Va. Whitehead serves as the Institute's president and spokesperson. His thought-provoking commentaries call people to action and address a wide range of contemporary issues from faith to politics and television to constitutional rights. He is also a frequent commentator on a variety of issues in the national media, as well as the editor of the award-winning pop culture magazine, Gadfly. Whitehead's book A Government of Wolves will be published in June 2013. Please visit On Target to view Whitehead's weekly video commentaries. He also blogs daily about the emerging police state at http://agovernmentofwolves.com/