FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Battleground USA: the San Bernardino Shootings and Militia Mentalities

Spectacular violence has again made its reaping appearance, a brutal but sure sign that the distinction between militia and civilian has ceased having any value in the US context. The militarisation of the society has become the most vigorous of diseases, whose greatest symptom is not so much gun ownership as the culture behind access and use.

Even as the blood of Paris seemed to be making its gruesome presence across US television screens, the fear that an ISIS-like attack might eventuate on local soil did circulated through the networks last month. Such violence did manifest itself, and, like so many ideological appropriations, it seemed inane. It was yet another addition to this annus horribilis of mass shootings – 353 in all.[1]

Fourteen people were massacred in San Bernardino’s Inland Regional Centre on December 2 by another military-styled operation that seemed chillingly reminiscent to the attacks that took place in Paris in January on Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters. There were also 21 injured. The scale was roughly equivalent; the individuals had worn masks and body armour. It was the deadliest since the Sandy Hook bloodbath of 2012.

As information trickles through, suggestions are that the couple suspected as being involved in the shootings, Tashfeen Malik and husband Syed Rizwan Farook, were “ISIS supporters,” which is hardly the same as a direct, solid link. (Not even ISIS has claimed membership for the two.) As the assailants were killed in the subsequent police chase, much of this is academic.

US investigators have tentatively suggested that one of the suspects had professed loyalty to the organisation, a morsel that terrorist experts are bound to digest with ravenous enthusiasm. Facebook, as ever, has provided the lead, with Malik posting his public declaration to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi prior to the rampage.

There is little doubt that the organisation and its various affiliates were having a gloat at the home-soil misery inflicted at San Bernardino, a point made from its Iraq-based station, al-Bayan Radio, which prayed “to God to accept them as martyrs”. At this point, ISIS is pleased to vicariously reap any reward it can get. But suggestions that radical Islam is about to unleash itself in the suburbs are, at best, fanciful.

Even retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Rick Francona, who was being happily milked for all he was worth on CNN, suggested that, “What they’re calling these two are supporters, which is kind of a lesser level.”[2] The White House has also suggested that there was “no indication that the killers were part of an organized group or broader terrorist cell.”

The violence of guns has become its own pious affirmation of a lifestyle. It is the ultimate expression of grievance and affirmation. Forget the social worker – the gun will vocalise grievance. In the San Bernardino killings, Farook’s co-workers for the environmental health department in the town were the victims.

Even as the US leads the remote bombing charge on the forces of Islamic State, it is waging a failing battle at home on the containment of a contagion that is proving antediluvian in nature. The militia mentality presumes that someone is going to nick your land, your spouse, and your belongings at any given moment. Any breach of security must therefore be countered by an exaggerated display of force, or at the very least the means to use it.

Pro-gun advocates have decided to excoriate the White House for stealing a march on the National Rifle Association. A feverishly indignant Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, observed that, “President Obama used it not as a moment to inform or calm the American people; rather, he exploited it to push his gun control agenda.” His point: California had already embraced the gun control list he had demanded: universal background checks, weapon registration, waiting periods, gun and magazine bans and broader gun categories.[3]

What then, to do? Cox sounds sensible on pointing out that Obama’s foreign policy might well have made the US less safe, but the angle taken here is more slanted. “Unlike the president, regular citizens are not surrounded by armed secret service agents wherever they go.”

Cox’s own suggestion is typical of the self-contained logic of gun ownership in the US. Gun ecology is an ecosystem: If you perish because of it, it is probably because you were not adequately armed. If a school gets shot up, arm it. If a centre holding a function gets riddled with bullets, then maybe those in attendance should have had their guns handy. “The responsibility is ours and ours alone.” Battleground USA has its own supreme, if impenetrable reasoning.

Such a train of thought is encouraged by the extravagant availability of high grade military weapons, including the legally acquired .223 calibre assault rifles, with the near 1,400 rounds of ammunition, along with semiautomatic handguns found on the two assailants. In the true nature of gun ownership ideology, even those on terrorist watch lists can purchase guns. From 2004 to 2014, the Government Accountability Office noted that over 2,000 suspects on the FBI’s own terrorism watch list were successful in their gun purchases, a success rate hovering around 90 percent.[4]

The culprit behind limiting such access? The NRA, who was also instrumental in making sure Congress got clay feet in renewing the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. In the sobering words of the GAO, “membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms under current federal law.”

In the pseudo-pioneer rhetoric of the NRA, sanctity of person is not assured by any central government but by private, and sometimes murderous, enterprise. The Indians are still circulating the wagon trains. People must be ready.

The problem with this assumption is that it also takes away from the state another sacred monopoly – that of using violence. Fittingly, Obama may direct the US armed forces to target positions in a distant country in an adventurist enterprise he falsely claims he is winning; he is incapable of directing his own citizens to restrain themselves in resolving disputes in a mass murderous fashion at home.

Notes.

[1] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/2015-the-year-in-mass-shootings-20151203

[2] http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/05/us/san-bernardino-shooting/index.html

[3] http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/12/03/no-mr-president-nra-not-blame-san-bernardino-column/76748608/

[4] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-guns-from-the-san-bernardino-shooting-were-legal-thanks-to-the-nra-20151203

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
Renee Parsons
The Supreme Court and Dual Citizenship
Eric Draitser
On Ilhan Omar, Assad Fetishism, and the Danger of Red-Brown “Anti-Imperialism”
Elizabeth Keyes
Broadway’s “Hamilton” and the Willing Suspension of Reality-Based Moral Consciousness
David Underhill
Optional Fatherhood Liberates Christians From Abortion Jihad
Nick Pemberton
Is Kamala Harris the Centrist We Need?
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Bailouts, Bernie and the Washington Post
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Blackout
William Astore
America’s Senior Generals Find No Exits From Endless War
Jeff Hauser – Eleanor Eagan
Boeing Debacle Shows Need to Investigate Trump-era Corruption
Ramzy Baroud
Uniting Fatah, Not Palestinians: The Dubious Role of Mohammed Shtayyeh
Nick Licata
All Southern States are Not the Same: Mississippi’s Challenge
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Sly Encouragement of Lawless Violence
Cesar Chelala
Public Health Challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean
March 20, 2019
T.J. Coles
Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”
W. T. Whitney
Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show
Kenneth Surin
Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist
Howard Lisnoff
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party
Walter Clemens
Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together
George Ochenski
Failing Students on Climate Change
Cesar Chelala
The Sweet Smell of Madeleine
Binoy Kampmark
Global Kids Strike
Nicky Reid
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party
Elliot Sperber
Empedocles and You and Me 
March 19, 2019
Paul Street
Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting
Jonah Raskin
Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Precariat”
Patrick Cockburn
The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit
Robert Fisk
Turning Algeria Into a Necrocracy
John Steppling
Day of Wrath
Robin Philpot
Truth, Freedom and Peace Will Prevail in Rwanda
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail