A caveat here. My sympathy still lies with not only the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families, but my many LGBT friends who’ve (understandably) been taking this attack to heart. I had hoped that we would have some sort of closure in the days that followed news about the massacre. As usual, the mainstream media of the United States sensationalized it (something that itself takes some doing). We were told in breathless tones by corn-fed newsreaders that this was the worst mass killing of Americans in history. Ummm, no it wasn’t. There was Wounded Knee. There were also the many white riots in the early 20th Century. As the Daily News’ Shaun King points out, white people wiped out the prosperous African American town of Rosewood, Florida, and killed hundreds of people of color in other massacres in places like East St. Louis and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The killing spree in Orlando was horrific, and the fact that it was ostensibly carried out by one individual is notable. But hate-motivated mass murder of people of color (the Pulse was having a Latin Night event) is nothing new in this country. Violence is as American as cherry pie, according to H. Rap Brown. For the same reason, I’m not going to fight the gun control battle here. You can look here and see what I think about this part of the story.
But the bigger story of the mystery man who blasted through 100+ people in that Orlando club is just beginning to come to the surface. I’m not a believer in ‘false flag’ theories or people who push them. But the known life of Omar Mateen is one hot mess. There’s reasonable testimony from a number of people that Mateen himself was/is gay (and even frequented the Pulse), which blows up a lot of the stories attributed to his homophobic attack on a gay bar. His first wife alleges that the FBI told her not to bring up her knowledge of Mateen’s sexuality when she spoke to media. His second wife (and widow) Noor Zahi Salman has told police she helped Mateen case the Pulse and went with him to purchase the ammunition used in the attacks. Salman may herself face charges for not alerting the police to the impending bloodbath. But according to what has been reported so far, Mateen was not actively involved with ISIS or other terrorist organizations. The CIA is admitting that there were no links between Mateen and ISIS.
And while there has been a great deal of ink spilled (or pixels expended depending on which metaphor you prefer) about Mateen’s Muslim faith (which doesn’t appear to be the motivation of his attack), there has been markedly less examination of his career in law enforcement and security operations. In 2007, he was fired from a training program for the Florida Department of Corrections for making a joke about the Virginia Tech shootings that was thought ‘inappropriate’. He was subsequently hired (and spent the rest of his working life) at G4S, a storied security and law enforcement organization with 625,000 employees worldwide. These guys aren’t mall cops–they work with governments and big companies, and their services include counterinsurgency services (a polite way of saying ‘supplying combat troops’) to countries with oil facing internal disruption. G4S did a lousy job of vetting Mateen, whose firing by Florida Dept. or Corrections didn’t invalidate his hiring. And the news that Mateen was a G4S employee sent stock in the company tumbling. Investigators can’t draw a line from Mateen to his employers in terms of causation of the Pulse attack, but investigators are going to attempt to pull back the veil of secrecy from the company’s activities in a way that may make current and future clients shy about hiring them.
But regarding the ineptitude of G4S in vetting Mateen in the first place, maybe the company had good reasons to overlook Omar’s career hiccups. Mateen wasn’t some layabout living in his parent’s basement a la Adam Lanza. And Omar’s father Seddiwue isn’t some hard-working immigrant struggling to keep his family fed by driving a cab or running a grocery. Mateen’s father was a exile player in Afghan politics, producing a local television show on Afghan politics and attempting to run for the presidency while having regular dealings with the US State Department. He’s been alleged to be a CIA asset. There was an attempt earlier this week by right-wing media to tie him to Hillary Clinton’s State Department. While Snopes has corrected the record (the photographs of Seddiwue visiting the State Department are from April of this year, long after Hillary turned over the SOS job to John Kerry), the Snopes article opens a number of other cans of worms about his activities. Specifically, how does someone like Seddiwue rate meetings in DC with the State Department and multiple congresscreatures with membership on foreign affairs and intelligence oversight committees? And one other point: Seddiwue is the person who gave the media cover in writing off Omar Mateen’s actions as those of a homophobe upset by the sight of two men kissing in Miami.That, more than anything else, has caused our very complacent media to roll over on looking into the questions surrounding the shooting.
Finally, there are now accusations that the police response was delayed and that many of the dead have police bullets in them from the botching of the rescue attempt. One of the many charges that will probably go unexamined in coming weeks. Writer and anti-racism lecturer Tim Wise wrote about the careful effort the rescuers at Columbine High School made to ensure that ‘no one white got shot’. The lack of consideration of the lives of the victims at the Pulse Latin Night point to an indifference to their lives and safety. And none of the points I’ve raised here should go toward forgetting that the socially marginalized people who were mowed down in the slaughter are still being vilified in some circles even in death. I present this picture from social media to remind us, even though the LGBT community needs no reminding.
UPDATE 6/22: I’ve received incredible response to this post. I thank you all for the clicks. However, in the four days since I put this up, more info has been uncovered. All of the articles coming out take some time to vet, but I will be posting a follow-up on Friday at the latest.