PARIS – The mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, last weekend has so far claimed 50 lives (including the killer), with more than 50 others wounded – some seriously. It has also left at least three questions to be answered.
First, there is the issue of the easy availability of weapons of war across most of the United States. It is estimated that several million AR-15 semiautomatic rifles (the type used in the Orlando killings and by US soldiers in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) are in circulation in the US. In most US states, the criteria for obtaining one are to be at least 18 years of age (three years lower than the drinking age) and have no criminal record or obvious manifestation of mental illness.
The global anti-establishment rebellion, seen through the eyes of Ricardo Hausmann, Theda Skocpol, Yanis Varoufakis, and other Project Syndicate commentators. A majority of Americans consider possession of such weapons a basic right, defined and codified by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Indeed, Americans, having been told for decades by Charlton Heston, Wayne LaPierre, and other leaders of the all-powerful National Rifle Association that there is no better way to protect oneself and one’s family, now own more than 300 million firearms.
President Barack Obama has said and repeated what reasonable Americans understand: the stockpile of assault weapons – small in size but massive in their destructiveness – in private hands constitutes an invisible but legal arsenal. It is a time bomb of which everyone is aware. Given its ubiquity, the question is not whether there will be other killings similar to the one in Orlando. That there will be is a foregone conclusion. The question, alas, is when and where.
Second, there is the question of radical Islam and the borderless war that it has declared on the world. One can hold forth on the theme of the “lone wolf” who falls into terrorism the way others fall into bed. One can listen repeatedly to the inevitable testimony of friends and family that they did not see this coming, no sign whatsoever, that the killer had been a good son, polite to his neighbors, with no particular story that would raise suspicions.
One can also dismiss the killer’s connection to terror groups; the Islamic State (ISIS) did not own the incident until after the killer himself, in the midst of the attack, pledged his allegiance and thus put a label on his actions. (This is not so novel as many think: Italy’s Red Brigades sometimes worked in the same manner.) The fact remains that the killer frequented the Fort Pierce mosque, which has produced at least one other American who went to fight in Syria.
And here we have another confirmation of something that I have maintained since my book about the Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl and the implantation in the US of Pakistani-directed cells, which Pearl was investigating when he was abducted and murdered. It is a disquieting fact: The United States is no better protected against jihadism than other countries.
No less than Europe, the US is a prime target for fanatical Islam and its assassins. Instead of repeating like a broken record that “this has nothing to do with Islam,” it is time to admit that the US has become yet another theater in the battle between the Islam of the radicals and the Islam of enlightenment and the rule of law.
Finally, there is the question of homophobia and anti-gay violence. I have lost track of the number of US states that are suing the Obama administration over executive orders viewed as excessively “gay-friendly.” And Sunday’s bloodbath can be seen as the latest episode in a series of lethal attacks dating back at least to 1973, when 32 men whose only crime was being gay were burned alive in the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans.
In Europe, same-sex marriage laws and antidiscrimination measures have not been able to prevent exhortations to “kick some faggot ass,” to “shove them in the oven,” or, when the writer is in a good mood, to subject gays to compulsory psychiatric treatment. These are just a few of the more popular affirmations of our common humanity to be found on online social networks and, often enough, in offline settings as well.
Then there is Russia, where, under Vladimir Putin’s autocratic regime, it has never been so hard to be LGBT. Encouraged by the Kremlin’s anti-gay stance (the Russian minister of health has described gays as mentally ill) and alliance with the Orthodox Church, groups of citizens trap gays, humiliate them, force them to drink urine, openly beat them, and sometimes kill them.
What the Orlando slaughter reminds us is that gays, as a group, are among the targets – along with Jews, Christians, blasphemers, and apostates – considered legitimate by worldwide jihadism. ISIS’s manuals of inquisition have added gays to the political hit list, declaring against them the same war without mercy.
Under the regime of the self-described Caliphate, gays are to be thrown from rooftops, buried alive, stoned, tortured, and mutilated. We now know that in Europe and the US, they are to be placed before a one-man firing squad.
By Bernard-Henri Lévy